Samurai Revolution

I just finished watching Kudo Eiichi’s Samurai Revolution Trilogy (not to be confused with Samurai Rebellion) – 13 Assassins, The Great Killing, and Eleven Samurai. All three films are available on Kanopy, should you have access through your local library. If not, you can probably get them through the Criterion Collection.

Eiichi’s three films share many commonalities, but interestingly differ in approach and style.

13 Assassins (1963) revolves around a plot to kill an evil daimyo, who rapes the wife of a samurai and then cruelly murders her husband. One of his retainers commits suicide in protest, but the affair is covered up because the daimyo is the Shogun’s younger brother and will soon be elevated to a powerful position.

The Council of Elders is instructed to “act with discretion” by the Shogun, but one of the men cannot abide the disgraceful behavior and the certain chaos that will accompany the daimyo’s rise. He therefore secretly summons one of Japan’s most formidable samurai and convinces him to lead a suicide mission to slay the evil lord.

In 13 Assassins, the heroes are competent and brave. Their plan is well-crafted and executed, and justice is clearly on their side.

Their main nemesis, as is so often the case, isn’t really the daimyo himself, but his chief retainer and bodyguard, who matches wits (and ultimately swords) with the leader of the samurai band. Despite his distaste for his lord’s behavior, he serves loyally to the end.

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A great film, and my favorite of the bunch.

The Great Killing (1964) tells the story of a samurai conspiracy to stop the ascent of the Elder Councilor, who has maneuvered himself into a position of great power. Soon the Shogun will retire, and the Councilor’s puppet is set to be installed as his successor. Many samurai perceive this to be a great injustice and the Councilor to be evil, and so they plot to kill him.

Unfortunately for them, their conspiracy is uncovered and they are hunted down and rounded up. Many of them are tortured for information. One of the protagonists, a loyal vassal, is confused for a conspirator. His wife is slain and he is captured, but then escapes and winds up joining the plot.

Notably, it is a woman (who comes across as strong and self-possessed; not the typical demure Japanese flower you might expect) who recruits him to the cause.

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Ultimately the last holdouts of the rebellion, who are notably flawed and even evil in their own ways, decide to strike at the puppet Shogun-to-be, as he is the easier target.

Their attack is clumsy and uncoordinated, in contrast to that of 13 Assassins. The assassination breaks out into a disorganized brawl, and each member of the conspiracy is killed before he can accomplish his objective.

In the end, it’s a samurai who wasn’t even involved in the plot who goes berserk at his friend’s death and slays the target before being cut down himself.

There’s a great analysis of this film to be found here.

This one wound up being my least favorite of the three. It’s dense, confusing, and only one of the protagonists winds up being sympathetic. In a way, it’s kind of an anti-samurai flick.

Eleven Samurai (1967) takes kind of a middle path between the other two (good synopsis here). Once again a cruel and unjust daimyo is protected from his behavior by his relationship to the Shogun. After trespassing upon the territory of the neighboring fief and murdering a fellow lord, things are hushed up and the facts altered. It is proclaimed that his lands were rudely encroached upon and a stray arrow struck the offending lord. As punishment, the slain lord’s fief is to be dissolved and his clan abolished.

Of course a plot is crafted by the victimized fief to take their revenge. Notably, one of the men who was to join the plot dies of an illness, and his sister takes his place (another interesting strong woman type role).

Somewhat similar to 13 Assassins, the heroes in this tale act like heroes. They’re mostly competent, brave, and loyal. They’re also fairly skilled fighters. Unfortunately for them, their well-laid plans keep being thwarted, and their final attack winds up being an impromptu attempt to catch the lord before he is able to reenter his territory.

The final scene is action-packed. Several of the assassins, cut and dying, throw themselves upon a fire to ignite gunpower they’ve stashed in their clothes. Another of the samurai hurls daggers (darts?) at foes. Of course there’s swordplay, too.

In the end, the original conspirators are all killed accomplishing their mission. The lone survivor is a ronin who joined their cause along the way.

The thing that struck me most about Eleven Samurai was the lack of that samurai fatalism in the leader of the group. He admonishes his men more than once, saying that their lives are his to spend as he will, but that they should not be so willing to throw their lives away. Although he accepts the likelihood that they will all die, he also seems to allow for hope that some of them may survive.

Likewise he grieves when his young wife kills herself in a show of loyalty to him (sometimes the wives of samurai would commit seppuku to follow their husbands in death), and exclaims that she needn’t have died.

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There’s a lot about these three films to process. They’re still rattling around inside my mind, anyway.

-Bushi

bushi

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The All-Too-Real Split Between SF and F, a Rebuttal

  • by Gitabushi

…Here I come.
Walking down the street
I give the craziest takes to
Everyone one I meet!

PC is putting his SF&F thoughts on a new blog, for branding reasons.  I originally tried to leave this response over there, but my browser was choking on the wordpress log-in.  What the heck, yanno? Let’s have dueling posts on this topic.

as you wish

Here goes:

Okay, we’ve had this discussion before, but I’m going to disagree again, even if means retrenching the battle lines we’ve fought so many times.  I actually think you have some new points, but I have some new counterpoints, too.

I think David Brin has a point. Not as much of one as he thinks, but a point.

I think SF&F doesn’t and shouldn’t really matter to the reader. But I think it does and should matter to the writer.

You have to know what you’re writing, and why.

Sure, there are some space operas like Star Wars that can be re-written as fantasies, and probably vice versa, but they wouldn’t satisfy the audience.

Because when I think of all the fantasies and all the science fiction stories I’ve read, I have noted that science fiction is about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and fantasy is about extraordinary people…who sometimes are just dealing with ordinary things, like revenge, and rejection from parents and/or being orphaned, or things like that.

Speculative Fiction is really about exploring what it means to be human. Science Fiction tends to be things like, how much can we distort Person and still be human. Fantasy tends to be things like, how much can we distort Reality/Environment and still remain human, and/or how much does power distort humanity versus merely amplifying the baser instincts.

Sure, there are exceptions. Frodo is really just an ordinary person who does great things, as Bilbo was, really. But every non-hobbit in that story was a singular example of something 10 standard deviations above the mean.

Star Wars was both good *and* clearly science fiction when it was just an average farm boy who helps destroy an enemy aircraft carrier with an atomic bomb capability. (Force isn’t magic, it’s *psionics*. #Duh). But it got worse, disappointed many of its audience, and became fantasy when it became a mundane estranged family relationship story. Not that “becoming fantasy” means “gets worse”, but it started as SF, and so got worse the farther it got away from SF and more into mysticism and fate and seeing the future and stuff.

Okay, that explains they difference.

But why does it *matter*?

Because if you are a writer, think of your story. Should it be SF or Fantasy? It depends on who the main character is, what you want him to do, how you want him to change. If you want him to be just an ordinary kid with some exceptional abilities that he can use under duress to save a bunch of people, then you should write a Heinlein juvie fiction SF&F story. If you wan to write about someone who seems normal, but is *really* the heir to some huge power, or huge wealth, or huge kingdom, and he’ll spend his time dealing with office politics, then you are probably better off writing a fantasy.

If you want to write about a humanoid race that thinks differently than human, but just as well, you’re probably going to write science fiction. If you want to write about a humanoid race that is pretty much fully human in intent, motivation, love hate, etc., just go ahead and write a fantasy.

If you want everyone to have the same tools and powers and opportunities, and just one person has the drive, insight, or persistence to benefit from it, you’ll probably use a SF setting. If you want someone to have access to special tools, powers, or opportunities that aren’t available for general use, then you’ll probably write a fantasy.

Yeah, Arthur C. Clarke said that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Well, Arthur C. Clarke was wrong, and if he’d thought it through just a *little* bit more, he’d have realized it. And if he disagrees, he can come here and post his disagreement.

…okay, that was supposed to be for humorous effect.

The thing is, I think Orson Scott Card nailed it when he said that if you include magic, for it to be interesting, there must *always* be a price to using it. Or else, it’s just unlimited power and that’s boring.

But with technology, there is no price. The price was paid in the development, or in the working out of how to use it without destroying society.

Going back to Star Wars, the Force was fine when it was psionics and there was no price. It became magic when the price was having to struggle with the dark side, maybe cut yourself off from human affections, etc.

There is no price to learning to play guitar except that time it takes to work on muscle memory. But if you sell your soul to the devil to get good…

…that’s the difference between science fiction and fantasy. The reader just wants a good story. But if you want to write a good story, you need to know which you are writing, and stick to it.

Retro Arcade Gaming

  • by Gitabushi

This weekend, I took my kid back to college in Huntsville, Alabama.  While there, we stumbled across the Rocket City Arcade, where they offer a host of classic arcade games that you can play all day for just $10.

It had been a long day of driving, and so we only played for about an hour. But it felt like even that hour was well worth the money spent.

One precondition was they had to have Joust, and they did.

joust

It took me a little time to get the game skills back, but by the fourth game, I got 64k points and set the high score for the game. I’m really not sure why no one plays it, because 64k points wasn’t that tough to get.  I think in my heyday I must have broken 100k points, because 64k points included making it past just one survival wave and one egg wave, and I think i can remember making it to at least 3 egg waves previously.

The thing I love about Joust is there are no patterns to learn at all. No way to memorize a method or route that lets you beat the AI, or even puts you in a good position, like you can with games like Pac Man or Super Mario Brothers.  Your flapping works against gravity based on your rate of taps, and it is impossible to hold a perfectly rock-steady altitude.  Left and right are possible, but it often takes some finesse to zero out your lateral motion.

There are some places where you can hang out that make it more likely to kill the bad guys, but holding position there is tough, and if you camp there, they’ll get you.

Great game. Highly recommended.  Probably my favorite game of all time, although Karate Champ is also very good.

The arcade also had a great old Star Wars game, where you shot tie fighters before making a trench run. As the game got tougher and faster, with more defending fire directed at you, the trick was to use your blasters to hit the defending fire and stay alive; shooting the enemy was only a secondary goal.

I got to try Donkey Kong, and made it to the 3rd level pretty easily. Got to do a few driving games, which are always fun.  One game I loved, but only saw once, was a stunt driving game.  You did jumps, loops, etc., and the game had some feedback that helped you feel you were actually driving the car doing the stunts. I’d pay good money for an original game in good condition to have the chance to play that and get good at it, but that is apparently not my fate.  It might have been Atari’s “Hard Drivin'”, now that I’ve taken a moment to search.  I thought I remembered green vector graphics, rather than the CRT graphics of “Hard Drivin'”…but the description of showing a replay of your crash sounds familiar, and the gameplay sure seems familiar, too.  Memory is a funny thing.

But that wasn’t one of the games they had.  They did have, however, The Simpsons, and Crystal Castles (boring) and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Several shooting games, but those weren’t as fun.  I usually died in seconds, and only got anywhere by hitting “continue”.  My kid and I had some bonding/fun on one of those for about 10 minutes.

They had a modern update to Rampage, which sucked. Different versions of Street Fighter, which was always best in the original Street Fighter 2 edition, before all the special moves just got stupidly complex and powerful. They had some Galaga types. They had Commando, and I died too quickly to want to try to get back any of that game’s muscle memory skills.

All in all, it was a fun trip down memory lane for me, and a chance for my kid to understand what gaming used to be like.

Doing a quick search, I’m seeing that several places combine retro games with bars. I didn’t look deeply enough to see if you still have to pay for the games. If you pay bar/pub prices for drinks, plus a quarter per game, it doesn’t seem worth it to me.  There’s one in the DC area; I might try it.

But playing the game has convinced me that I will probably will purchase an Arcade1UP Rampage machine, as it includes Joust and Gauntlet. Rampage is okay. Gauntlet is actually kind of fun.  I’ve played a pretty good Gauntlet emulation with my kid on the PS2, and the ability to just hit “continue”, with the loss of limitation of needing to drop a quarter in, makes the game much less fun.  “Red Warrior Needs Food, Badly” is a sentence that sends chills down your spine if you have already given the machine your last quarter.

The system also has Defender, which is perhaps the most masochistic game Williams ever invented.  But that is a game that might be enhanced by eliminating the necessity of quarters: it might actually now be feasible to practice to the point of actually getting good at it.

What classic arcade game was your favorite? Which do you miss? If you missed out on the era, which do you wish you’d gotten to try?

BREAKING: GOP Rep Chris Collins Arrested for Impersonating a Democrat

  • by Gitabushi

The FBI announced the arrest of GOP rep Chris Collins on 8 August, for the typical Democrat politician activity of insider trading.

“This is unacceptable,” said Demcorat Nancy Pelosi, who has used her political position to amass a fortune of over $29,000,000 off of an annual salary of just over $100k.

“I can’t believe he would do such a thing,” said Democrat Mark Warner, who used used his knowledge of federal telecommunication law and policies and industry connections gained while staffing for Democrat Chris Dodd to make a fortune of more than $90,000,000 by brokering mobile phone franchise licenses.

The FBI went on to say, “If he’d chosen to caucus with Democrats, we wouldn’t have batted an eyelash, like the fact that Diane Black only non-government employment was as a registered nurse for a handful of years, yet still ended up with just short of $46,000,000 in personal net worth. But getting rich while in office as a Republican?  That’s not allowed.”

The FBI spokesperson went on to note that the accepted reality is the richest Republicans in Congress all made their fortune in business before running for office, whereas the Democrats almost all became rich from investing and other financial moves made based on knowledge and contacts gained from so-called public service.

“If he’d merely revealed TOP SECRET information, including the true names of undercover CIA agents, or ran a huge, fraudulent slush fund built from selling US influence to the highest bidder, or sent $1,700,000,000 in cash to help known terrorists fund deadly activities, we’d probably have looked the other way,” said the agent. “At least, if he were a Democrat, that is.”

“We know that this seems pretty minor when compared to the corruption of spying on political opponents, punishing their participation in politics, or even just leaving a US Ambassador to die, lying about it on TV, and then covering it up with a rigged commission, but the Law is the Law, no one is above the law, and we will enforce the Law on anyone,” the FBI agent stated. “Except Democrats, of course.”

When reached for comment, former FBI Director James Comey said, “It’s a shame he’s a Republican, you know? If he were connected to the Clintons, the FBI might have used the “No reasonable prosecutor would risk getting suicided by the Clintons by bringing a case against them” dodge. I mean, it’s not like lying to the FBI *really* matters, right?  What matters to the FBI is lying while obstructing the Democrat agenda.  But with the Democrats hoping to take back the House so they can present Articles of Impeachment against President Trump, there’s no way the FBI would pass this up.”

Tom Delay called in to say, “I really wish then when I was House Majority Leader, I had gotten a bill passed that would have ended the general immunity Democrats have to any/all laws on the books, but hindsight is 20/20.”

Bushi vs Samurai

Every once in a while someone asks us what a “bushi” is.

Aside from that obvious answer, it’s a Japanese word. We had a somewhat interesting Twitter thread yesterday on the topic. Feel free to click on one of the conversation boxes to navigate the whole thing.

The short answer is that “bushi” means warrior. Sometimes it’s interchangeable with “samurai.”

The longer answer is that…it depends who you ask.

I decided to do a little scouring of the J Internet, to see what the natives say. Here’s one Japan-informational blog that addresses the question:

日本人にも答えづらい「侍」と「武士」の違い – (Even Difficult for Japanese to Answer: The Difference between “Samurai” and “Bushi”)

I’m not going to attempt a line-for-line translation of this article, as it would take a lot of time and my translation would no doubt be rather crude. But let me summarize. My notes are parenthesized in red.

1. Mrs. M (presumably the author of this blog) says that there are many questions foreigners want to ask Japanese people, one of which is the difference between “samurai” and “bushi.”

The answer, she asserts, is that most Japanese people don’t know and so there are very few people who can clearly answer this.

But Mrs. M’s explanation is this:

From the Edo period (~1603-1868) onward, the basic distinction was that samurai were sword-toting martial arts masters. Bushi were samurai who served a lord.

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In historical dramas, she notes, townsfolk call anyone with a sword “samura-san,” not knowing if they’re a ronin or the retainer to some lord.

From the Heian period (~794-1185) on, however the distinction changed with the times. The original root for the word “samurai” was “saburau,” (meaning “to serve”). “Samurai” referred to those employed to protect holdings like nobles’ estates or temples. 

“Samurai” occupied a lower social rank in the earlier periods.

In high school textbooks, the Heian period marks the emergence of the term “samurai.”

And so it’s not incorrect to say that samurai are the same as bushi. The distinction between the two differs (or even disappears) depending upon the time period in question.

In the context of the Edo period, however (if I understand this correctly), samurai were retainers to lords, but were not considered to be “employed.” Bushi, on the other hand, also worked for lords but were basically hired soldiers. The famous Shinsengumi (imperial secret police force) was comprised of “bushi,” not “samurai.”

By the end of the Edo period, anyone disciplined and determined enough to obtain a sword and learn how to use it could become a samurai.

Ultimately the best answer, by Edo standards, is that bushi were warriors for hire who served a lord. Samurai were experts of the martial arts who served (but were not hired by) a lord. If you’re talking about other time periods, the answer is much less clear.

This is a simple explanation from one Japanese blogger. I admittedly have no idea about her level of expertise, so take this as you will. Still, interesting topic.

-Bushi

bushi

Site Spin-Offs

Well, it’s happened!

pcbushi.com will remain the Homeland. There is only one place where bushis may be hatched and reared, and this is it. I must admit, though, things have become somewhat diluted. We’ve got fiction, political commentary, movie write-ups, musings on video games, book reviews, thoughts on various stringed instruments…

As this place has grown, I think it’s become a bit snug in certain places. Therefore, while we’ll still be writing here about a variety of things (aka rambling almost incoherently about nonsense), we’ve sewn the seeds for two new, more narrowly dedicated sites:

Bushi SF/F – focusing on my writing and on scifi and fantasy topics

Kaiju Bushi Stuff – a dumping ground for Kaiju’s mad, brilliant fictions

Please update your bookmarks or website block lists accordingly.

-Bushi

bushi

Evaluating and Debating Presidencies

  • by Gitabushi

I was a little excited when I saw this article by NeoNeoCon. Finally! Someone would talk about the shenanigans that go on when arguing about Presidents, debating who is to blame and who gets credit for economic developments, etc.  When I read the article, I was disappointed.  She hit some good points, but her approach was vastly different from what I was thinking.  So I guess I have to do it myself.

seal sea dog animal
This is the typical image I got when I looked up “Presidential Seal” in the free photo library, so we’ll just have to struggle through together. Photo by karsten madsen on Pexels.com

First of all, I hate the phrase “on his watch.”  It’s lazy analysis.  “Bush is to blame because it happened on his watch.” “Russian occurred on Obama’s watch.” No.  I mean, yes, that’s a factual statement, but it implies a causation that is not necessarily there. Equally as bad is arguing that a President “inherited” some aspect, good or bad.  Yes, there are some lagging indicators, and a President’s actions do carry on beyond their term.  But most people use it to deny giving credit to someone they dislike, or avoid giving blame to someone they admire.

Furthermore, I dislike the trend of blaming or crediting a President for everything that happens.  Sure, it’s easy to just blame/credit the President, and I think that’s why people like doing it: it’s easy.  The reality is we are governed by a government split into three branches.  The President only heads one branch, and the bureaucracy is so large and unwieldy, the reality is a President’s control is tenuous at best, and we should treat it as a fourth branch of government. Even with the formal branches, a President has extremely limited input to the Judicial Branch, and is given an often passive role when it comes to interacting with Congress.

On the other hand, a President has a few advantages:

  • the single government office that the entire nation elects.  The President has a mandate that even a Senator from California doesn’t have.  This is balanced somewhat by the House of Representatives, which provides more fidelity on the Will of the People via smaller districts and elections every two years.  The balance of these two expressions of the Will of the People mean that a POTUS should have a huge mandate in their first two years, but following Congressional elections add nuance and chip away at the edges of a President’s mandate.
  • the Bully Pulpit.  Being a singular head of a Branch means that a President doesn’t have to compromise with anyone to promote his views or his policies, can criticize the other branches, or even social developments, from a single person’s perspective.  As the most visible, singular, and sole nationally-elected official, citizens care more about what a President says, promotes, discourages, etc., than any other single official…and the news media follows suit. There is an incredible potential to push an agenda without creating one word of policy vested in the Office of the President

However, that doesn’t mean a President is all-powerful.  We credit a President too much for many things that happen in the United States. A President doesn’t control the economy, and certainly cannot prevent normal economic cycles. The President doesn’t set spending levels, or taxation levels.  The President can *propose* his preferred policy, and can use his Bully Pulpit to put pressure on Congress to pass it, but he doesn’t control legislation.

So let’s take a look at how people poorly and/or deceptively evaluate Presidents.

George H. W. Bush was POTUS from 1988 to 1992. In the early 90s, the US economy contracted. This was blamed on Bush, which, in my opinion, was unfair.  Sure, it happened on his watch. Moreover, it was likely triggered by Bush agreeing to sign a bill into law that raised taxes.  So, yes, he did it. However, the recession itself was inevitable, sooner or later. If the tax hike hadn’t triggered it, something else would have. Moreover, raising taxes is a *Democrat* policy, and it was passed by a Congress controlled by Democrats.  Even worse, the economy had recovered before the end of Bush’s term, but because there is a great deal of fuzziness and arbitrariness about when a recession begins or ends, the news media was able to falsely claim we were still in a recession, and that it was fully Bush’s fault, right up until that dishonesty helped Bill Clinton defeat Bush.

Continuing on, Clinton is not only erroneously credited with fixing the Bush Recession, he is also somewhat inaccurately credited with reducing the number of people on welfare and with an extremely hot economy (sometimes called the dotcom economy or the dotcom bubble).  Yes, both those things happened on his watch. Yes, he even signed the welfare changes into law, and it was the result of his deliberate triangulation on the issue, to deal with the mandate the Congressional Republicans had earned by winning a majority.

But the obvious success and benefit to the US in these policies are used to credit Bill Clinton himself, and in his status as a Democrat President.  The argument is, Bill Clinton presided over the economic recovery, got people off of welfare, and led the nation into the internet age.  Since his term, every good economy and period of low unemployment is compared to Bill Clinton’s dotcom economy, and rightfully so: they were excellent numbers. The argument continues that Bill Clinton was/is a Democrat, so if you want a great economy, low unemployment, and people off of welfare, you must vote for Democrats.

Well, no.

There is nothing magical about Democrats or Republicans.  What matters is the *policy*, regardless of who enacted it.

Welfare Reform is, at heart, a Conservative policy, not a Progressive one.  Progressives throw money at problems, Conservatives set up consequences and demand individual effort to obtain benefits.  Forcing people to actually and earnestly seek work to continue to receive welfare ended up with more people in the workforce because the policy prevented the “discouraged job seeker” phenomenon, and prevented recipients from living comfortably on the dole.  The dotcom bubble was also a Conservative event: it took over our economy because there were no taxes for items purchased on the internet: a tax moratorium is now proven to stimulate economic growth and increase employment. But Conservatives want lower or eliminated taxes; Progressive policy is to raise taxes whenever/wherever you can get away with it.  If Democrats had free reign, they would have imposed taxes on the internet from the beginning.

The lesson from this is, if you want to grow Space Commerce, do you announce that you will fund exploration and development with a fairly high corporate tax rate on all space activities?  Or do you announce a moratorium regarding any/all taxes on revenue derived from space commerce?  Obviously, the latter.  And just as obviously, that is a conservative policy, and runs counter to Progressive policies.

So let’s look at President George W Bush. What does he get blamed for, and get credit for, in my view?

Well, 9/11 occurred before he had his security team fully in place.  Moreover, the US Govt was hampered in its ability to detect the terrorist plot due to “walls” preventing information flow between different federal government agencies, and those “walls” were put into place by President Clinton, on the advice of his prominent advisor Jamie Gorelick.  Maybe you can’t blame Clinton, but you clearly can’t blame W, either.  Reports that “he was warned” are silly: the “warnings” were vague, and no action could have been taken without severe violations of the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution. Sometimes bad things happen because of chance. Other times, bad things happen because an enemy has a successful plan that exploits weaknesses.  That’s what happened with 9/11.

Bush should be credited, however, for the improvement of the economy following 9/11. From 2003 to 2006, the US economy was pretty much the equivalent of Clinton’s dotcom economy.  And it came about due to Bush pushing for tax cuts back in 2002. But if you want to credit Congress instead, I won’t argue with you. The important thing is that the Conservative policy of tax cuts stimulated the economy.  As such, we shouldn’t elect a President because a Democrat or Republican President is better for the economy, we should vote for and elect a President who promises to cut taxes wherever possible, and finds ways to cut other stealth taxes (like federal govt regulation, and fees, etc.), because reducing the costs of doing business improves the economy.

But at the same time, Congress was spending like a drunken sailor.  Porkbusters emerged to try to fight back against GOP Congress-led pork barrel earmarks.  You can blame the GOP Congress for doing this, and you can blame W for signing the spending bills that included the pork barrel spending, but you can’t use that as an argument to vote for Democrats, because increased spending is, at worst, a *Progressive* policy…and at best, a bipartisan one.  Democrats who campaign on Republicans running up the deficit never cut spending…they find new things to spend on, arguing that fed govt spending improves the economy, and then they raise taxes to close the deficit, which kills the economy and makes things worse.  Republicans who campaign on Democrats running up the deficit will cut some spending, and make abortive attempts to cut other spending, but apparently will not cut spending, over the protests of the Freedom Caucus and Tea Partiers in the GOP, and with the RINOs gleefully joining with Democrat Congressional minorities who chortle about getting what they want with the GOP taking the blame.

This really needs to get fixed, but that’s an argument for another day. The point is that the spending doesn’t stay high because of the President, and sometimes it stays high due to GOP defections joining with Democrats to make a virtual Democrat majority.  And there are plenty of times the GOP just plain embraces spending.  But it is worth noting: the GOP has a vocal minority against the excessive spending, and that vocal minority has been growing over the last decade.  There is no minority among Democrats, vocal or otherwise, that is willing to consider spending cuts at all. In an even more stark disparity, GOP voters get fed up with spending to the point that someone like Dave Brat can surprisingly defeat a leading GOP Representative based purely on spending issues.  Not only does that never happen to Democrats, the opposite does: a prominent Democrat Representative gets defeated in the  primary by someone who advocates the nearly-unlimited spending of Socialism: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

So when it comes to the deficit, ignoring parties and personalities, the lesson is clear: tax cuts grow the economy, excessive spending causes deficits, and while you might struggle to force the GOP to cut spending, Democrats will always push to raise both spending and taxes.

Continuing on, W gets blamed for the 2006-2017 recession. But I think if you look closer, you see a few things: First, Democrats took over Congress in 2006. They won by pushing an end to the failed war in Iraq.  However, by the time they took office, W’s “Surge” had actually won that war, and Iraq was relatively peaceful. So Democrats began talking down the economy and increased spending and regulation. That primed things for a downturn.  The trigger for the crash, however, was clearly caused by encouraging banks to lend money to riskier borrowers. W was to blame for not vetoing the Democrats bills that weakened the economy.  But he actually pushed back against the devastating lending encouragement; in fact, Democrats called anyone racist who opposed that social justice policy.  Thus, the crash was caused by Progressive policy. If you think I’m being too vague, it’s to keep this shorter. I could write 4-5 pages just on how Democrats caused the crash.

W is also to blame for signing TARP.  But please be clear: it wasn’t Bush’s policy, and it *certainly* wasn’t a Fiscal Conservative’s policy.  It was, from start to finish, a Progressive policy.  It made things worse.

I agree that Obama can’t be blamed for the job losses that occurred “on his watch.”  However, I think he also cannot blame W for the economy he inherited, because he voted for the policies that crashed the economy as a Senator in 2006.

Moreover, Democrats blame W for the deficit because the deficit started to climb under W. Again, you have to look at who controlled Congress and the nature of the contributing policies.  The deficit reduced every year under W after 9/11.  The economic hit of 9/11 make those deficits understandable.  The deficit reduction continued even after Bush’s tax cuts (indeed, I think it was *because of*) and despite the spending in Iraq. The deficits didn’t start to grow again until Democrats took control of Congress and started passing policy that damages the economy.  So W can be blamed for not vetoing, but that should make it clear: the blame lies with *Progressive* policy, not the party of who was POTUS at the time.

Even worse, Democrats wanted lots of new spending, because their ideology, against all available evidence, still erroneously believes govt spending helps the economy.  So Congress refused to give Bush the 2009 budget to sign. This was because it was so stuffed with pork, even W might have vetoed it. Plus, they believed it was usher in an era of prosperity, and didn’t want W to get credit.  So they delayed delivering the bill until Obama was POTUS.  Once that huge spending increase was set as the baseline, Democrats dropped the regular budgeting order and just forced Continuing Resolutions so they would never again have to face voters with votes for their ruinous levels of spending. And after deliberately arranging for Obama to be the one to get credit, when it didn’t work out as they hoped, they churlishly give W the blame for the increased spending…I guess depending on ignorance of when the 2009 spending bill was actually passed, and who signed it.

Okay, that’s a bunch of paragraphs of narrative, but it is all to set up this explanation: I also think you have to credit/blame a POTUS for what they promise and predict.

For instance, Obama campaigned on the notion that he knew what was wrong with the economy, and would fix it immediately.

Okay, we can allow for campaign exaggeration.  But after being elected President, he predicted recovery the first summer.  When it didn’t happen, he blamed Bush for the economy he inherited.

No. If you claim to know what the problem is, predict you can fix it, and get the policy you want, you now get the blame.  He spent his entire two terms blaming Bush for anything that didn’t work out like he wanted.

This is wrong.

Likewise, Obama and his sycophants predicted all sorts of disaster under Trump. Some said the stock market would *never* recover.  Obama himself mocked Trump by asking Trump if he had a magic want to magically make the jobs come back.  When Obama’s anemic economy never broke 3% growth, Obama and his sycophants said this was the new normal, and the US would never see growth above 3% again.

As such, no one should be allowed to claim Obama gets the credit for the economy under Trump.  It is stupid.

If your predictions for the economy are completely wrong, then you lose all credibility to blame or credit at all.

Again: Trump enacted *Conservative* policy: he reduced all sorts of federal govt regulation, reducing the cost to doing business. He also clearly telegraphed that he wouldn’t add unexpected, onerous new regulation, so businesses could plan for growth without worrying about painting themselves into a corner.  This was one thing Obama clearly did wrong: Obamacare was a whole bundle of uncertainty.  Businesses had no idea how much costs would increase from year to year. And to keep the health system from catastrophic failure cause by Obamacare, Obama unilaterally (and probably in violation of the US Constitution) delayed implementation of many of its aspects.  But all that really did was increase the uncertainty of the business climate.  Then when Obama started pushing diversity/identity issues, it frightened companies about the possibility of arbitrary increased costs at any moment.

As a result, Obama didn’t just preside over the worst recovery in the history of the US, he arguably caused it.

The argument that W ruined the economy so badly that it caused the slow recovery is ridiculous.  In the history of the US and economics in general, the worse the economic downturn, the quicker the recovery.  Economic cycles are *always* long/slow/mild or quick/short/deep.  Obama’s economy was not. The decline was rapid and deep, and then stunningly anemic in recovery.  And it was due to uncertainty in the business climate from policy advocated and/or enacted by Obama.

The penultimate point I want to make is that Trump promised he would create an environment that would boost employment for blacks in specific and minorities in general. Okay, okay he claimed he would create jobs for blacks.  But as you hopefully realize by now, Presidents don’t create jobs. They merely help create an environment conducive or adverse to economic growth.  But with the reduction of taxes, reduction of fed govt regulation, and attempt to reduce spending, Trump has encouraged a business climate that has significantly increased manufacturing jobs, energy sector jobs, and pushed unemployment for blacks and Hispanics to record lows.  Since this is what he predicted he’d do, he gets full credit for it.

The final point is a word about gas prices.  Again, a POTUS doesn’t have direct control over gas prices. It’s a complex pricing system, with inputs coming from OPEC, US domestic production reacting to barrel prices, barrel prices reacting to expectations of future surplus or future shortage, summer driving demands on gas, refinery availability (impacted by flooding and hurricanes), and fuel mixes that change based on season and geography.

But, just like how a POTUS can impact the business climate to encourage or discourage expansion and hiring, a POTUS can impact whether the speculators think there will be surplus or shortage in the future.  One of the ways is by signalling a willingness to tap the strategic oil reserve. Another way is by pushing to lower the federal gas tax. Another is by signalling willingness to approve additional drilling locations.

In every case, Obama signalled that he didn’t care about low prices, and wanted so badly to reduce CO2 emissions and boost “green” energy, that he was unwilling to do anything that made fossil fuels more available.  This caused higher prices.  In contrast, W signalled willingness to allow drilling and tap the strategic oil reserve.  Prices remained high due to uncertainty worldwide about how terrorism and war in the middle east might impact oil availability.

Add to this, China’s economic growth has stimulated a sharp increase in their demand for petroleum, which increases global demand, which increases prices.

I’m not going to go so far as say we should blame Obama for high gas prices on his watch but give Bush a pass.  There is more that Bush could have done. There were many things that were out of Obama’s control.

But I do think the differing attitude, policy, and revealed intent should indicate whether each should get credit, blame, or tolerance.

And this is how I evaluate Presidents, and how I think everyone should evaluate Presidents. Some tribalism will always be a part of the evaluation, based on your preferred policies.  But rather than making arguments based on the party you like, you should analyze the policies that brought about the results you like, and then advocate for the candidate/POTUS you prefer based on your preferred outcomes.  This should result in a lower level of tribalism.