Either you think — or else others have to think for you

How Now, Grown Dow? Republicans say the stock market is at a record high. Eh, not really

And serious investors don’t even use the Dow as much of a benchmark. According to Dow Jones, between Exchange-Traded Funds, mutual funds, and other products, “more than $47 billion” is invested in assets tied directly to the index. That’s a tiny figure. The S&P 500, whose constituents represent 80 percent of the overall market, is a much more accurate gauge of general market performance. According to Standard & Poor’s, some $1.26 trillion in assets is indexed to the S&P 500. Its breadth likewise makes it a much more popular benchmark for investors of all kinds. And when you look at the S&P 500, it’s clear that the stock-market recovery is not as broad as the Republicans would like you to think. Though it has recovered substantially from its 2002 low, the index is still off nearly 10 percent from its 2000 peak. As for the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100, which has about $186 billion indexed to it, it would have to nearly triple in order to set a record high. So, the claim that “the stock market” is at an all-time high simply doesn’t match most investors’ experiences.

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The distinction between the performance of the Dow and that of the other market indices is a perfect metaphor for the economy under Bush. Assume the stock market represents America. The Dow components—the tiny minority of the richest—are putting up record numbers, while the masses are struggling to do as well as they did in the late 1990s.

Variety isn’t exactly a paragon of accurate reportage, but the general jiest of the story is true.

According to the Weinstein Co., NBC’s commercial clearance department said in writing that it “cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.”

It is not that no ads can be bought, according to the story some ads have been bought and appeared on NBC affiliates. Still there is a level of censorship by way of putting up hurdles. eRiposte has a good though not complete record of various major media outlets showing a clear hostility to certain ads and programing. Some of it from conservative sources, but most of the censorship was directed at the left of center. A Republican blogger suggested that it was all a publicity stunt, while he offered no evidence ( a tale taled mark of the red ruffled conservative blogger), it is possible that the more road blocks that media outlets put up to the publicity of the Dixie Chicks documentary “Shut Up & Sing ” the more attention the documentary will get. While it will preach to the choir of people that still believe in the Bill of Rights over an arrogant frat boy with a fake ranch, it may give the independents pause to go and see the film. It looks as though Republicans that only o speak up for free speech when it comes to cartoons poking fun at Islam would learn their lesson about taking cheap shots at Democratic leaning entertainers. Limbaugh may have played a big role in winning the Democrats a congressional seat from Missouri and the conservative leaning national media may have created a huge audience for a documentary by some uppity women that dared to practice their right to free expression.

A Country Ruled by Faith

The right wing in America likes to think that the United States government was, at its inception, highly religious, specifically highly Christian, and even more specifically highly biblical. That was not true of that government or any later government—until 2000, when the fiction of the past became the reality of the present. George W. Bush was not only born-again, like Jimmy Carter. His religious conversion came late, and took place in the political setting of Billy Graham’s ministry to the powerful. He was converted during a stroll with Graham on his father’s Kennebunkport compound. It is true that Dwight Eisenhower was guided to baptism by Graham. But Eisenhower was a famous and formed man, the principal military figure of World War II, the leader of NATO, the president of Columbia University—his change in religious orientation was just an addition to many prior achievements. Bush’s conversion at a comparatively young stage in his life was a wrenching away from mainly wasted years. He joined a Bible study culture in Texas that was unlike anything Eisenhower bought into.

Bush was a saved alcoholic—and here, too, he had no predecessor in the White House. Ulysses Grant conquered the bottle, but not with the help of Jesus.

Wills also gets into the battle with terrorism as The Faith Based War, the Right’s war on science, and faith based justice. The world didn’t begin to see anything resembling real social or criminal justice until it became fact centered rather then faith centered. One can understand why the Right would welcome the return of faith based justice, no facts required.

Either you think — or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you. – F. Scott Fitzgerald