August 31, 2005

Bush World

Corporate CEO compensation is skyrocketing up, regardless of the performance of the company the CEO runs.

Oil prices are surging up, peaking who knows where. Some say $100 a barrel.

Oil company profits are substantial. Some say obscene. Some want a Congressional investigation.

Gas prices at the pump are hurting the middle and working class in America and it will get worse.

The poverty rate is up to 12.7%, with 37.1 million Americans, a third of them children, living below the poverty rate, up 1.1 million people from the year before. This is the fourth consecutive year in a row that poverty has increased in George Bush's America. These are the latest figures from the US Census Bureau for 2004.

Here's a quote from the new Census Bureau report:

Real median household income showed no change between 2003 and 2004. Both the number of people in poverty and the poverty rate increased between 2003 and 2004.

As the inflation rate rose in 2004, the average American's real income stagnated.

Bankruptices are at an all time high.

Foreclosures are the highest ever.

Credit card debt is at an all-time high.

The national debt is at an all-time high. Each and every American owes $145,000.

The cost of education has soared and student loans are being cut.

Welcome to Bush World.

Katrina: Bush vs Clinton

Bill Clinton would already have been down there. He would not have hesitated, he would not have gone to give a speech comparing Iraq with World War II. He would not have flown to Washington. He would not have taken a month vacation, anyway. And he would be there now, walking with the people, sharing their pain, and sharing their grief. He would be a real, natural human being.

That Bush is waiting almost a week to go there is yet another reflection of his crude, lumbering nature, reminiscent of his halting, dopey response to 9/11. That he has not addressed the nation by now is shameful.

Where is our President? He is hunkered down with Rove trying to figure out what the best way is to respond to all this, so he looks good. Katrina could very well prove to be the tipping point of his Presidency.

August 30, 2005

Is Bush Government At Work Helping to Spread AIDS?

Last summer, when I met and produced an American recording for Jean Paul Samputu, the Rwanda singer and dancer who won the Kora Award (like our Grammy award) in 2003, one of the many things he told me about central Africa involved Uganda, where he has lived, off and on, for many years. He said that there was a successful AIDS prevention program underway, partly as a result of Ugandan women simply saying to men: "No condom? No sex." It has reportedly resulted in a significant reduction in the spread of AIDS in Uganda.

Now, according to the UN Special Envoy, Stephen Lewis, working on the AIDS problem in Africa, the United States is insisting that the focus of AIDS prevention be on abstinence, rather than condoms. Uganda has an AIDS prevention program based on their ABC approach: Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Condoms. Lewis has reported that the supply of condoms is drying up because of the influence of American government pressure (in the thrall of the religious right, which opposes condom use) on the Ugandan government. He says: "Over the last eight to 10 months, there's been a very significant decline in the use of condoms, significantly orchestrated by the policies of government." His concerns have been confirmed by NGOs like the US-based Center for Health and Gender Equity.

Not surprisingly, Bush mouthpieces deny all of it. At the very least, would it be fair to believe that the Bush government is NOT ADVOCATING the use of condoms?

The US vs the UN

Want to know how Bolton and the Bush government wants to make changes in the the Millenium Development Goals? Here are just a few of the changes demanded by John "Bull-in-a-China-Shop" Bolton.

From the Independent (UK)

The US vs The UN

By David Usborne in New York Published: 26 August 2005

America's controversial new ambassador to the United Nations is seeking to shred an agreement on strengthening the world body and fighting poverty intended to be the highlight of a 60th anniversary summit next month. In the extraordinary intervention, John Bolton has sought to roll back proposed UN commitments on aid to developing countries, combating global warming and nuclear disarmament.
Mr Bolton has demanded no fewer than 750 amendments to the blueprint restating the ideals of the international body, which was originally drafted by the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan.
The amendments are spelt out in a 32-page US version, first reported by the Washington Post and acquired yesterday by The Independent. The document is littered with deletions and exclusions. Most strikingly, the changes eliminate all specific reference to the so-called Millennium Development Goals, accepted by all countries at the last major UN summit in 2000, including the United States.
The Americans are also seeking virtually to remove all references to the Kyoto treaty and the battle against global warming. They are striking out mention of the disputed International Criminal Court and drawing a red line through any suggestion that the nuclear powers should dismantle their arsenals. Instead, the US is seeking to add emphasis to passages on fighting terrorism and spreading democracy.
Very quickly, Mr Bolton has given the answer to anyone still wondering whether his long and difficult journey to New York - President George Bush confirmed him to the post after the US Senate was unable to - would render him coy or cautious. Far from that, he seems intent on taking the UN by the collar and plainly saying to its face what America expects - and does not expect - from it.
To the dismay of many other delegations, the US has even scored out pledges that would have asked nations to "achieve the target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product for official development assistance by no later than 2015". All references to the date or the percentage level are gone in the Bolton version.
Passages that look forward to a larger role for the General Assembly are gone. Rejected also is a promise to create a standing military capacity for UN peacekeeping.
This show of contempt from Washington and its new envoy comes at a time when Mr Annan has been severely weakened by allegations of widespread corruption, fraud and nepotism. The White House is aware, for example, that Mr Annan himself could be further undermined when investigators into corruption in the oil-for-food programme in Iraq issue their final report, probably just days before the summit itself, due to be held from 14 to 16 September.
more article:

Guide to the differences in approach Millennium goals

What the UN wants
Specific references to the UN Millennium Development Goals which set targets to be achieved by 2015 on issues such as poverty, education, disease, trade and aid
What the US wants
References to the Millennium Development Goals systematically removed and replaced by vague references to the reduction of poverty, and a promise to reinforce the trend
The likely outcome
Unlikely to reach agreement. Developing countries will fight hard to keep references to Millennium Development Goals which were agreed by all UN members in 2000

Foreign aid

What the UN wants
To re-state development goals calling for wealthy countries, including the US, to contribute 0.7 per cent of their gross national product to aid
What the US wants
Deletion of all references to 0.7 per cent figure. Wants to link further increases to good housekeeping - and further liberalisation of markets
The likely outcome
Hard to see how there can be a compromise

Climate change

What the UN wants
Concerted global action to address climate change. Further negotiations to look beyond 2012 by broadening Kyoto agreement to include greater participation by developing and developed nations
What the US wants
Stresses energy efficiency and development of new technologies, and rejects global action plan. Rejects assertion that climate change is a long-term challenge that could potentially affect every part of the world
The likely outcome
Could be compromise, as US is prepared to recommit to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Nuclear disarmament

What the UN wants
An appeal to the five nuclear powers - Britain, US, France, China and Russia - to take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament
What the US wants
To shift focus to halting the spread of the world's deadliest weapons. Will not specifically recommit to working towards nuclear disarmament, although will recommit to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The likely outcome
Difficult to envisage agreement after negotiations on a five-year review of the NPT broke up in May without a result

International Criminal Court

What the UN wants
Commitment to end impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law, including genocide, by co-operating with the International Criminal Court
What the US wants
No reference to International Criminal Court, whose statutes the Bush administration controversially withdrew from in 2002
The likely outcome
No agreement. America is out in the cold on this one, although the commitment of a number of other states to the court has been wavering under US pressure


What the UN wants
Help for developing countries to join the World Trade Organisation
What the US wants
Insistence that countries seeking to join the WTO must be willing and able to undertake WTO commitments. Baulks at "facilitating" entry of developing countries
The likely outcome
Big fight, with developing countries clamouring for access to markets. Probably no agreement

August 29, 2005

Katrina Watch

Regardless of the level of destruction, watch for George Bush and his handlers to make substantial propaganda hay of Katrina. Normally, one would think that a President ought to be extremely responsive to such a national disaster, and, by all rights, he ought to.

In this case, however, watch for the little things that make it appear how heroic Bush is in all this, how much of the commander-in-chief he is. The photo-ops are fantastic. Bush will come "storming" back from his 5 week vacation.

Karl Rove is salivating over how much of a diversion Katrina might potentially be from the daily plague of failures that besets this President. He will exploit it as far as possible.

Bolton's First Monkey Wrench

John Bolton, America's new Ambassador of Monkey Business at the United Nations, has thrown his first monkey wrench into the works.

There is a 36-page draft UN plan that will be presented to a conference in September that outlines large and significant changes as part of the biggest overhaul of the international organization since its founding over 50 years ago.

John "The Bull in the China Shop" Bolton has called for a halt to the whole thing and is demanding that 750 changes be made to the 36-page draft. Not 75 changes, not a few changes, not some suggestions, but 750 changes.

Read about it here.

August 28, 2005

"Critical Votes Loom for Hill Republicans"

When the Washington Post publishes a story like this one, it's easy to understand how people might think the Washington press lives in a cocoon, inside the beltway, in a self-absorbed world unconnected to the rest of us.

The poor Republicans on the Hill are tormented and agonizing over all the cuts they have to make in Medicaid, student loans, farm price supports, and food stamps. Writer Jonathan Weisman feels their pain.

And to make matters worse, these poor Republicans are being forced to do this by their own hand -- they passed legislation earlier this year that leaves them no choice. It's all so difficult and "tough," somewhat reminiscent of Bush's favorite phrase "it's hard work."

According to the Post, "For years, the party has embraced the rhetoric of small government while overseeing legislation that has helped boost federal spending by more than a third since the GOP took control of Congress 10 years ago. Now, Republican lawmakers will be faced with the tough votes needed to slow that growth and enact the first cuts in entitlement spending since 1997."

Reading the story, one might conclude that it's all about them. They have to cut student loans. They have to cut Medicaid. They have to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and exploration. They have to cut food stamps. They have to cut farm price supports. It's all so painful for them.

Not one word anywhere about the pain that students, and farmers, and America's elderly are feeling, but hey, aren't the Republicans doing the right thing? The Post doesn't seem to think its readers deserve to know why the Republicans are doing these painful things.

Not one word about tax cuts for the rich, and the resulting adverse effects on social spending.
Not one word about Iraq and the hundreds of billions wasted there, and how Americans are directly suffering, as a result.
Not one word about the bloated Defense Department and Homeland Security Department budgets which are sucking the American people dry.
Not one word about shrinking corporate taxes, and shrinking corporate pensions and health benefits, all of which directly hurt the working and middle classes.

The story goes into some detail about appearances and how the Republicans will be perceived, and how the Democrats will use certain GOP cuts to attack the Republicans, and how the Republicans are doing some little legislative corrections to make sure they are not perceived as hurting the poor, and how the Democrats will attack them anyway. It's all so unrelentingly pathetic and ingrown, devoid of any connection to real people's lives. It's all about them.

Uncritically, with no context or discussion of the possible relationship, the Washington Post says this: "Record high gasoline prices should ease passage of legislation to open Alaska's Arctic wilderness to oil drilling, a move that environmentalists have thwarted for decades."

In that one sentence alone, might we not have a much clearer understanding of why we are being robbed blind by higher gas prices? If nothing else, higher gas prices make for a very convenient excuse for oil companies to get their way on an issue they have been fighting environmental groups and their Congressional supporters for decades. But the Post reports this with a straight face.

Had the story been written about where the real pain will be felt, and about how the American people are continuing to be taken by these Congressional fakers, the headline would have read:

"Congress Prepares More Pain for the American People"

At least, Jonathan Weisman didn't write about his pain.

August 27, 2005

How Do We Actually Get Out Of Iraq?

While many progressives and liberals agree that America must get out of Iraq, there is not alot of agreement on just how we can do it.

Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and Democratic Presidential candidate in 2004, offers his suggestions about how we actually get out of Iraq in the Washington Post yesterday (Friday, August 26, 2005).

Kevin Drum, in his Washington Monthly Political Animal blog, offers this in response to Clark:

CLARK AND IRAQ....As an admirer of Wes Clark, I read his proposal for Iraq in today's Washington Post with interest. Clark is opposed to setting a date for pulling out, and after the usual litany of criticisms of Bush adminstration policy he offers a plan of his own. Here are the highlights:
The United States should form a standing conference of Iraq's neighbors....public U.S. declaration forswearing permanent bases in Iraq.
On the political Kurdish vote on independence, a restricted role for Islam and limited autonomy in the south. And no private militias....Monies promised for reconstruction simply must be committed and projects moved forward.
On the military side....train police and local justices....Canada, France and Germany should be engaged to assist....must return primarily to the tried-and-true methods of counterinsurgency....Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters....Over time U.S. forces should be pulled back into reserve roles and phased out.
Unfortunately, I agree with Matt Yglesias: none of this really seems very doable:
Would Iraq's neighbors really want to cooperate in such a venture? "[N]o private militias" would, of course, be fantastic, but how do you achieve that? "Ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency should be recruited to assist as interpreters," but do ten thousand Arab Americans with full language proficiency want to go? You get the general idea.
Still, since the administration's current approach seems almost guaranteed to fail, Clark's plan is at least worth a try. Regardless of the details, though, I continue to think that any plan that doesn't include firm goals and deadlines — even though I recognize they wouldn't always be met — is less likely to succeed than one that does have them. That's Management 101.
So: we should implement Clark's plan, or something similar, but we should make the plan credible by attaching firm public metrics to it and insisting that we measure our success against them. I wouldn't hire a contractor to install a new kitchen without goals and schedules. Why does anyone think we should fight a war with less?

August 26, 2005

The American Legion Sounds Like the Communist Chinese Central Committee

Both George Bush, who never fought for his country, and the American Legion, with a membership consisting of some men and women who have fought for their country, seem to have no clue what the men and women who have died fighting for their country have died for.

In Idaho, at a speech on Wednesday, August 24, George Bush seemed to be saying that only Americans who agree with him are worth recognizing and praising, and that Americans who disagree and protest are not worthy and that their very citizenship is in question.

Here is what Bush said:

There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war. And here in Idaho, a mom named Tammy Pruett -- (applause) -- I think she's here -- (laughter) -- knows that feeling six times over. (Applause.) Tammy has four sons serving in Iraq right now with the Idaho National Guard -- Eric, Evan, Greg and Jeff. Last year, her husband Leon and another son, Eren, returned from Iraq, where they helped train Iraqi firefighters in Mosul. Tammy says this -- and I want you to hear this -- "I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country. And I guess you couldn't ask for a better way of life than giving it for something that you believe in." America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts. (Applause.)

I don't think Bush can possibly explain how "a better way of life than giving it for something that you believe in" is better than living a peaceful life in a free country. But his message is clear. For Bush, there are the good families and the bad families. Cindy Sheehan's poor son is part of a bad family. America doesn't live in freedom because of Sheehan and her son, but because of people like the Pruetts. Here is what Bush had to say about Sheehan: "She doesn't represent the view of a lot of families." Nuff said...Bush shoots first, asks questions later...Cindy Sheehan and her bad family are history. Doesn't he have a clue about what's happening out here? Or he does, and simply doesn't care?

In Salt Lake City, the Commander of the American Legion, in his address to that organization's convention, basically said that protesting the Iraqi war should not be permitted. I'd like to suggest to this pinhead that his organization is not called the Communist Legion or the Nazi Legion, but the American Legion. I'd like to remind him that the dead Americans who are not able to be living members of the American legion died precisely so that Americans can oppose the war and can oppose their government. What kind of an idiot is leading the American Legion? Is there any member of the American legion who's going to stand up and have some spine and correct this nitwit?

Here is what he actually said, from Editor & Publisher:

"The American Legion will stand against anyone and any group that would demoralize our troops, or worse, endanger their lives by encouraging terrorists to continue their cowardly attacks against freedom-loving peoples," Thomas Cadmus, national commander, told delegates at the group's national convention in Honolulu.

The delegates voted to use whatever means necessary to "ensure the united backing of the American people to support our troops and the global war on terrorism."

In his speech, Cadmus declared: "It would be tragic if the freedoms our veterans fought so valiantly to protect would be used against their successors today as they battle terrorists bent on our destruction.”

He explained, "No one respects the right to protest more than one who has fought for it, but we hope that Americans will present their views in correspondence to their elected officials rather than by public media events guaranteed to be picked up and used as tools of encouragement by our enemies." This might suggest to some, however, that American freedoms are worth dying for but not exercising.

These people aren't Americans. Real patriotic Americans don't talk like this, and they don't think like this. This is a totalitarian mentality. It's the kind of behavior we used to expect from Soviet Communists. It's the kind of thing we hear in the news out of Communist China. Who are these people and where did they come from? Has there been a slow anti-American, anti-democratic infiltration of the American Legion?

The American Legion does not see that an American can support the troops and respect their sacrifices, and still oppose the war, criticize the shame of the lies that brought us to that war, and condemn the chickenhawk President who told those lies.

What the American Legion proposes is the kind of blind allegiance that veterans around America should condemn. It's reminiscent of another blind allegiance that brought the world a war that killed over 20 million people.

August 25, 2005

Canada Feeling the Effects of Its Bully Neighbor

When it comes to being neighborly, the United States government, as manhandled and abused by George Bush and his gang of miscreants, is anything but. It certainly doesn't pay to be our neighbor to the north, Canada. There are no such thing as special favors or extra perks because Canada is our neighbor. We treat them just like everyone else. In fact, we may even treat them more harshly because their natural resources are so close right next door.

All you have to do is look at how our government behaves toward Canada on issues of trade like beef, water, steel, and softwood lumber. Simply put, we are bullies. We stampede the NAFTA agreement into reality and then, when it suits us, we ignore it.

Here's an example of how injurious NAFTA is to Canada: The American company, United Parcel Service, under one insane NAFTA clause, is now suing the Canadian national postal service because it believes the Canadian postal service is interfering with UPS' business in Canada. That's just about as crazy as Al-Queda suing the Department fo Homeland Security because it is interfering with Al-Queda's activities in the US. What it amounts to, of course, is a simple American corporate power grab in a foreign country, using what is really a corporate vehicle to do it, NAFTA. CAFTA is no different in its corporate impact.

The dispute between Canada and the US regarding Canadian lumber exports is just as bad. Despite NAFTA rulings in favor of Canada against the punitive tariffs that the US slapped on it for its softwood lumber imports into the US, the Bush administration is continuing its hardline and refusing to lift the tariffs. Here's the latest editorial about this issue from the Toronto Star.

One thing is certain. If the Bush regime feels it is in the interest of its corporate clients to continue to be a bad neighbor, it will do so religiously.

August 24, 2005

Smorgasbord of Sleaze, Part III

The US government has rejected an independent report that says there is no evidence that Iran has been working on nuclear weapons. How reminiscent is that? The US insistence that Iraq was developing nuclear arms was proven false by every independent investigation prior to the invasion, bu the US government persisted, even to the extent of using a completely phony report of Iraqi purchase of enriched uranium from Niger. Why should the Bush government behave any differently when it comes to Iran, one of the axis of evil countries?


Pat Robertson, that shining example of Christian love, has called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela.


Remember the promises of debt relief to poor countries made by the G8 in Scotland? They turn out to be a crock.


When the White House announced Bush's summer reading list, they did so seriously, as if most people would actually believe the Orwellian propaganda that it was. They really do want us to think that this empty vessel of a President is really a scholarly sort who reads thick books on history and science.


Lance Armstrong took a 17-mile bike ride with Bush and never said a word about Iraq. Just after he won his historic seventh Tour de France, this is what he had to say about Bush's Iraq war: "The biggest downside to a war in Iraq is what you could do with that money. What does a war in Iraq cost a week? A billion? Maybe a billion a day? The budget for the National Cancer Institute is four billion. That has to change. Polls say people are much more afraid of cancer than of a plane flying into their house or a bomb or any other form of terrorism." Was keeping silent about anything political in nature the trade-off for his having a chance to bike with the Prez and then praise him for his physical prowess? Whatever the deal, Lance Armstrong's reputation just took a big hit in my book.


August 23, 2005

Bush Braggadocio Has No Limits

Bush is a consummate braggart. At the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City yesterday, he let loose again with more of his exaggerated muscle-flexing, his bragging bloviation, and his appeals to the basest instincts of the American people.

He bragged that his administration has increased veteran's benefits more in his first four years, than Clinton did in his entire eight years. Of course, what he did not mention is that his Iraq war, with almost 2000 dead American soldiers and 11,000 American wounded, is the reason he has had to raise veteran's benefits. And he also didn't mention that he has raised veterans benefits only after being dragged kicking and screaming by the Republicans in Congress, as well as veterans organizations. He also didn't mention that in the previous eight years the only major conflict the United States engaged in (Bosnia) resulted in no American soldiers being killed.

Wrapping himself in the flag yet again, he just had to thank the VFW for supporting the flag desecration constitutional amendment passed by the House of Representatives and now waiting in the US Senate. Why not a constitutional amendment protecting copies of the US Constitution from being burned in protest, or copies of the Declaration of Independence, or copies of the Bill of Rights? Before he died, my father, who was a company commander in WWII and liberated a concentration camp in Wels, Austria, was appalled when this amendment was first proposed. He said: "My men died in France, Germany, and Austria defending the right of Americans to burn their flag in protest of anything they want." Why is it that chickenhawk fakers like Bush and Cheney are the ones who wrap themselves in the flag so easily?

Vice President Cheney, a few days ago in a speech before another veterans group, compared himself to George Washington and these times to the darkest days of the American Revolution. In this speech to the VFW, Bush links 9/11 and his Iraq war to "the shores of Normandy and the snows of Korea." He proves yet again Samuel Johnson's apt adage that "patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."

Samuel Johnson elaborates fittingly: "Let us take a patriot, where we can meet him; and, that we may not flatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain, from those which may deceive; for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the constituent qualities; as false coins have often lustre, though they want weight." (in the Patriot, 1774)

August 22, 2005

Duct Tape and Tire Inflation

Washington's answer to chemical and biological attacks was to advise Americans to use duct tape on our windows. Now, the answer from Washington regarding what we can do about high oil prices is to inflate our tires properly.

In a silly, thin piece entitled Politicians Have Little to Offer To Ease Anguish of Gas Prices, we are informed that no one in Washington really has any answers to our oil supply and price problems, and that we should travel less, inflate our tires properly, and carpool. Is this really news? Does anyone in the United States believe anymore that Washington is really interested, much less capable, of solving our energy problems?

Does the Washington Post actually think it's going to get any reasonable or creative answer from the usual suspects like the Heritage Foundation, or a Republican Congresswoman from Kentucky who is whining that it's costing her too much to fill up her SUV? What about Senator John Kerry's suggestion that George Bush take a harder line with Saudi Arabia? Right, like that is really going to happen. Maybe next time he and the new King hold hands, Bush can whisper in his ear something about taking it easy on us.

Republican of New York, Vito Fottella, wants to make sure there is no price gauging going on, despite the fact that the oil companies profits are bloated, and despite the fact that no previous investigations have ever found any price gouging. Surprise, surprise. I suppose it all depends on what one views as profit gouging. How much is too much? It's only our money anyway. And besides, Bush and Cheney don't have to pay for gas, or home heating oil, or propane, or diesel, or kerosene. When Vito is told, nope, no price gouging, that will end his quest for an answer on behalf of us citizens. he will have done his job.

In response to one proposal to roll back the gasoline tax (a mere 18.4 cents per gallon), someone from AAA points out that there is no guarantee the oil companies would pass even that small savings on to the consumer. No kidding?

And finally we have another Republican, Rep. Bob Beauprez from Colorado, who offers this lie: "I wish I could say there is a quick fix, but there is not...everybody is feeling the pinch."

Telegram to Bob -- NOT everyone is feeling the pinch. This kind of "pinch" is felt mostly by the millions of low-wage families who live on the edge of financial ruin on a daily basis. For them, it's not a pinch, but a whack in the head. Bob and his friends who drive Lexus and Cadillac SUVs, and who pay $100,000 a year dues to belong to country clubs, don't feel the pinch.

The Washington Post gives short shrift to the one group it talked to that might have offered more insight to its readers than their rogues gallery of Republicans did. Brendan Bell, an energy analyst for that group, the Sierra Club, is quoted as saying: "The big problem is we did not make the right decisions 10 years ago."

How much you want to bet that Brendan Bell actually spelled out what those bad decisions were, but that somehow the Post ran out of room to list them?

August 21, 2005

Bush Supports Islamic Law in Iraq

Although it's not the lead story in the New York Times, nor is it the lead in the story, it's now clear that the Bush administration, through its Ambassador in Iraq, has brokered a deal to allow Islam as the state religion in Iraq, and as " 'a primary source of legislation' in the new Iraqi constitution, with the proviso that no legislation be permitted that conflicted with the 'universal principles' of the religion. The latter phrase raised concerns that Iraqi judges would have wide latitude to strike down laws now on the books, as well as future legislation."

The NY Times also reports that Ambassador Khalilzad "backed language that would have given clerics sole authority in settling marriage and family disputes." This would, of course, cancel out current Iraqi laws that give women far greater rights now, at least on the face of it.

Does it surprise anyone that this American administration which prays for and works toward fundamentalist religious law in the United States, would not also support fundamentalist religious law in Iraq? Despite the fact that one is Christian and the other Islamic makes little difference in the social, cultural and economic effect.

CNN on the "Bomb Hunt"

With dramatic voice, the announcer sets the tone for the next story: following CNN's Alex Quade as she and her cameraman accompany a special detachment of Marines on the hunt for IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). This special squad is trained to root out and find IEDs and their triggermen (the guys who push the buttons to detonate the bombs) before they are used to kill American soldiers or other targets. It's an exciting story.

But one part really makes me wonder. An American Marine is trying to explain to an Iraqi civilian the dangers of his driving fast and is trying to tell him, in English, to slow down. The Marine is using hand motions to show a steering wheel and then he pushes his hands down and says slowly "Slow down." The Iraqi is shaking his head, not understanding a word.

Why is it that Marines, who I presume have been in Iraq for weeks or months, don't have even rudimentary Arabic language skills, especially in light of the fact that this team engages Iraqi civilians all the time. At the very least, why haven't these men been issued simple English-Arabic dictionaries? How can the commanders in the field expect them to enter Iraqi neighborhoods, look for Iraqi or other Arabic-speaking bombers, and not have even the most basic knowledge of how to say things like "SLOW DOWN?" Wouldn't it be safer for the Marines and the Iraqi civilians if the Marines knew how to say "slow down?"

On a lighter note, as part I of the piece finishes, Alex Quade is talking to a Marine about a suspected triggerman who turns out to be a sheperd, the Marine reports is only tending his flock of "sheep." As he says this, the camera pans along a whole row of goats.

August 20, 2005

Chickenhawk Cheney Compares Iraq to American Revolution

Vice President Dick Cheney, master draft dodger and chickenhawk extraordinaire, the guy who had "other priorities" when we were fighting the evil empire in Communist Southeast Asia, has firmly recommitted the United States to "victory" in Iraq. Of course, he can't describe what victory in Iraq means, because he doesn't actually have the slightest clue, and never has had the slightest clue.

This verbally flatulent, blowhard old man who is ready to send every last son and daughter (below a certain economic level, of course) to die or be maimed in Iraq, spoke to a gathering of combat veterans and said that winning the Iraq war is "critical to the future security of the U.S." Here was this mean-spirited warmonger lecturing combat veterans, hardly his equal (they are, by far, superior Americans) about war and victory. They should have tarred and feathered him.

In a crowning bit of historical Orwellian idiocy, Cheney actually compared the current situation to the "darkest days" of the American Revolution, "when the war was going badly and ragtag rebels were ready to go home until George Washington rallied them." Cheney said: "They stayed in the fight, and America won the war...From that day to this, our country has always counted on the bravest among us to answer the call of duty."

That Cheney would draw comparisons of himself and George Bush with George Washington is an insult to our history and to every American with a bit of honor and self-respect.

I would be willing to bet everything I have that had Dick Cheney been alive during the Revolutionary War, he would have been loyal to King George, and he would have taken his sorry ass up to Canada to wait until the royals won.

August 18, 2005

More Evidence of Bush Irresponsibility and Incompetence

History has a way of making fools of those who ignore it or try to rewrite it. George Bush is no exception. More clear evidence sheds light on just how much the Bush administration ignored the advice of its own experts.

Well before the invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration was repeatedly warned by officials at the Department of State that too much attention was being paid to the operational execution of war plans for Iraq, and not enough attention was focussed on the policing and human rights responsibilities inherent in such an invasion and in its aftermath.

These newly released documents reflect a kind of White House/Defense Department know-it-all attitude that is now being brought up short by the realities of its lack of planning. Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush ignored the advice at their own peril, and that peril is now eminently present.

August 17, 2005

Praxis of Evil

The Washington Post has a bad habit of understatement. Here's another example from today's edition, a story about Bush's "axis of evil" fixation. Here's the opening:

"President Bush's campaign against what he once termed the "axis of evil" has suffered reverses on all three fronts in recent days...."

Well, while I am not certain what the Post writers mean by "recent days," I think anyone who has been following the news with any attention over the last months would probably conclude that the reversals in Iraq have been ongoing for some time now, probably going all the way back to Bush's "mission accomplished" foolishness. Some might also conclude that, no sooner were the words out of Bush's mouth about the axis of evil, that Iran was already having private talks with the Iraqi leadership about all kinds of things that would make Bush squirm, had anyone known or told him.

And as far as North Korea is concerned, no one in their right mind could possibly think that any of our threats against them are anything other than bluster. Is there any strategic thinker in Washington who actually believes the US is prepared to go to war with North Korea? Other than some neocon numbskulls?

More from the story:

"These are difficult issues," national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley said in an interview last week after the Iran and North Korea setbacks. "They're going to take some time. But the main thing is to keep the international community focused."

Sounds like Bush's "this is hard work" stuff. Given the way the US is behaving in the international community, what is Hadley smoking if he thinks we can keep the international community "focused" on our "axis of evil" when it's the international community that seems to be focused on the US as the whole wheel itself.

And then this gem:

"The present course cannot be followed forever," said David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter who helped coin the "axis of evil" phrase in the 2002 State of the Union address to target countries believed to be developing weapons of mass destruction. "The president made his statement -- that he will not permit that -- so now he has to find a course of action. In Iraq, the president said he will see the job through. The job's not through, and we'll see if he'll follow through on that."

Yes, Bush said it in 2002, and now it's 2005 and Frum is suggesting that the President needs to "find a course of action." Frum, however, is not really sure the President can "follow through on that." It's nice to know someone is finally thinking about a course of action. Reassuring, isn't it?

I am not sure how Frum could be "one" of the people "who helped coin the "axis of evil" phrase. Were those three words actually devised by a group? Someone came up with the word "axis", someone else thought of the word "evil", and a third contributed the word "of", and it all kind of fell together? Sounds like people are trying to run from responsibility for coining the phrase, now that it turns out to be a target of scorn.

Frum goes on:

Frum said he sometimes worries that Bush has become a captive of a status quo bureaucracy. "The Bush administration since 9/11 has been again and again fighting to escape gravity, fighting to escape the weight of the way things have always been done," he said. "Things are now coming to a decision point, and we'll know soon."

We'll know soon? Wait a minute. I thought the President has been exercising so much so that he can make those "crisp decisions" he talks about (see my previous piece in this blog "Staying Healthy"). And now, on one of the biggest issues facing the world, "Things are now coming to a decision point, and we'll know soon?" Excuse me while I swig some Maalox.

Iraq is a debacle. Iraq is solidifying its ties with Iran. And North Korea now has support from South Korea for the development of civilian nuclear power.

Praxis is most commonly defined as "habitual or established practice or custom." But it also a synonym of "daily grind," "hang-up," "routine," "ritual," "vogue," and "second nature."

Bush's axis of evil has become a praxis of evil for Iraq, Iran and North Korea. And in the process, they have spit in George Bush's eye. And he can't do a thing about it.

August 16, 2005

Staying Healthy

Look, I know it's pretty easy to make fun of this President's attention to his health and exercise, but let's face it, we all would like to do more of the same ourselves. And our doctors tell us to do exactly what Bush is doing not only at his age, but at all ages, to stay healthy, to continue to think clearly, and to maintain our optimum fitness and weight. I don't begrudge him his health. In fact, I envy him and wish I had his commitment.

Of course, the only problem is that it doesn't translate into "the hard work" he is always talking about, and it doesn't seem to help him think more clearly either. He takes more vacations than any President in modern memory, and he seems to nap alot, somewhat like Ronald Reagan, although for different reasons.

His way of expressing himself doesn't improve because his heart is healthier, or his brain has blood pumping through it at a healthy pace. He still stumbles over his words, and has a significantly difficult time expressing his ideas (unless, of course, they are written in big bold letters for him by Karl Rove and his minions). For instance, here's the recent way he talked about himself in the third person, maintaining his health: "I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy, and part of my being is to be outside exercising."

This past Saturday's Presidential schedule, as described by the White House, included "an evening Little League Baseball playoff game, a lunch meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a nap, some fishing and some reading." Jon Stewart, with a wink in his eye last night, asked rhetorically "how'd that (the reading) get in there?" Reading is part of the healthy image Rove projects for Bush. He not only has a healthy body, but a healthy mind. Of course, he probably was scheduled to read his schedule for the next day (more bike riding, some brush cutting, another meeting of some kind, some more fishing) which is all "part of his being", and all of which help him make all those "crisp decisions" he needs to make.

So, let's lay off him on this one, folks. I mean do we really want some unhealthy, sedentary President who raises working people's wages, establishes and preserves social security for all Americans, creates worthwhile, good paying jobs, protects worker's rights, and does battle against real evil, instead of lying about a phony war?

August 15, 2005

"We Don't Care" is The Republican Mantra

This is conservative, nationally syndicated radio host Mike Gallagher shouting "We don't care" at Cindy Sheehan near the Presidential compound in Crawford, Texas.

What is it that they don't care about?

The fact that her son died in Iraq?
The fact that the President lied about Iraq?
The fact that almost 2000 Americans are dead in Iraq, and over 13,000 wounded in a war that had nothing to do with fighting terrorism?

Or could it be they don't care about the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead and wounded who don't get counted, and who people like Gallagher never mention?

Thanks to Yellow Dog Blog.

August 14, 2005

Rice and Rosewater

US Lowers Sights on What Can Be Achieved in Iraq

is the headline of a Washington Post story, Sunday, August 14, 2005. Here is a translation and explanation of what the story actually says.

The First Sentence

The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

What was originally and publically intended to be achieved in Iraq by the Bush administration was the overthrow of badboy and so-called terrorist supporter Saddam Hussein (the one thing we actually did accomplish), and the elimination of his weapons of mass destruction (which everyone now knows was the lie upon which the invasion was based). Beyond that, there was no post-war plan other than the Rumsfeld and Cheney pipedreams of Iraqis welcoming American troops with "rice and rosewater," a traditional Arab greeting. The one thing Rumsfeld and Cheney did know, that the invasion represented a potentially huge strategic military and oil benefit for the United States, went unspoken. In fact, when Rumsfeld was asked directly about the oil connection, prior to the invasion, he just lied bald-faced about it.

Bush certainly did not have any clue about what could happen. His understanding of the complex web of religious, political, and economic conflicting interests was rudimentary, at best. And he had people around him who served him and prepared him poorly.

The Second Sentence

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

Just at the exact time we are all waiting for the interim Iraqi governing council to complete its draft of a new Iraqi constitution, we have unnamed American officials saying that they do not expect to see a "model" democracy in Iraq, whatever that is. Do they mean a "model" democracy like ours? What are these jokers talking about anyway? Our political democracy has been whittled away so much it is barely recognizable, and we have never had an economic democracy in this country, in any event.

So just what are they talking about? They are letting us in on a secret they have known all along. There simply won't be any kind of democracy in Iraq, because there is no way we can impose one, nor is there any way we can sustain one with American troops. And despite the best efforts of the current Iraqi elite, there certainly is no way a democracy can be jury-rigged in a country that is so at odds with itself.

And look what happened to all those high hopes about Iraqi oil serving the Iraqi people in rebuilding the country. We are admitting now that it will not happen. It didn't matter whether you opposed the war or supported it, we all hoped that this Iraqi national treasure would help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people and contribute to its renaissance.

American officials admit that not only will their oil not help the Iraqi people, but we Americans cannot help them create a safe and secure society, to boot.

The Third Sentence

What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

What timetable? There was never a plan, so just what is this "senior" official talking about? What does "process of absorbing the factors of the situation" mean? Simply put, it means facing the reality of our mistakes, incompetence, and silly expectations. What does "shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning" mean? Exactly the same thing -- we goofed and now we understand.

Here is some of the reality that the Washington Post enumerates:

-- 50% to 65% unemployment;
-- many of Baghdad's 6 million people go without electricity for days in 120 degree heat;
-- barbers won't shave men anymore because religious extremists murder them;
-- religious militias police large parts of Iraq.

In helping to rewrite history, The Washington Post writer actually says:

The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.

This was NEVER an initial goal, in part, or otherwise. This was a post facto declaration by Bush trying to weasel his way out of the lie he told that was the original goal.

Here's more.

U.S. officials now acknowledge that they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shiites to create a special status.

Amazing. After all our decades-long experiences with the Kurds, we didn't know how strongly they feel about their "special status", much less how they feel about independence? I spent a little time (in the early 1970s) with Mustafa Barzani, one of the founders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and it only took me a few minutes to understand the depth of the Kurdish desire for independence. What the hell kind of US officials could misread that? Has Bush replaced everyone with idiots?

And we have this:

"We are definitely cutting corners and lowering our ambitions in democracy building," said Larry Diamond, a Stanford University democracy expert who worked with the U.S. occupation government and wrote the book "Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq."
"Under pressure to get a constitution done, they've lowered their own ambitions in terms of getting a document that is going to be very far-reaching and democratic. We also don't have the time to go through the process we envisioned when we wrote the interim constitution -- to build a democratic culture and consensus through debate over a permanent constitution," he said.

Fancy that. Someone in the Bush administration apparently imagined the Iraqi people having the capacity for building "a democractic culture and consensus": 1) directly in the aftermath of decades of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian rule; 2) in the absence of a long-term, underground democratic resistance; 3) in the absence of any history or tradition of democracy, pluralism, and freedom; and, 4) in the absence of any semblance of economic or personal safety.

The piece ends on a low note.

The Iraqi economy was bad before we invaded, but much, much worse after we invaded. Wayne White, former head of the Iraq intelligence team for the State Department, admits that the US permitted most of the economic and industrial resources of Iraq to b e destroyed or looted in the immediate aftermath of the war. In light of that fact, he concludes: "In order to get out earlier, expectations are going to have to be lower, even much lower. The higher your expectation, the longer you have to stay. Getting out is going to be a more important consideration than the original goals were. They were unrealistic."

August 13, 2005

Like Mother, Like Son

Thanks to Michael at Public Domain Progress

The quote is real. It's from March 2003, when she was interviewed on ABC, and when there weren't as many body bags.

I had technical problems with my uploads on August 10 and 11, and then we went away for my birthday. The problem seemed to fix itself, and when I returned this evening, and saw this photo piece, I was so impressed I had to share it.

This is also the best sniveling photo of Barbara's son I have ever seen. It reveals the little snotty boy that he is. Also thanks to Michael.

August 10, 2005

Profits At The Pump

Oil prices were at $45 in September of 2004.

Oil prices rise to $62, because the Saudi King dies.

The next day, oil prices rise to $64, because of "widespread security and supply concerns."

You can be certain of one thing: there will always be good reasons why oil prices go up.

But don't worry, the four big oil conglomerates (there used to be many more) are not having a hard time making money during this critical period. Here are their most recent profits:

BP – up 165%
Chevron-Texaco - up 294%
Conoco-Phillips - up 44%
ExxonMobil - up 125%

I wonder if there is any connection between these enormous profits and all the "good" reasons oil prices go up? I know there are, indeed, many reasons why oil prices do actually go up, but it is truly obscene how the oil companies profit so hugely from other people's losses, struggles, and budget crunches.

August 09, 2005

Civil Liberties = Ignored Liberties

The civil liberties board that Congress ordered to be set up to protect American citizen's basic rights in an era of the Patriot Act and its intrusive provisions has not even met yet. Worse, Bush provided a mere $750,000 in funding (which Congress increased to $1.5 million). Christopher Shays (R-CT) was candid about the board when he said "It's not a priority for the administration."

Providing Halliburton and hundreds of other corporate donors with war profits is a priority. Creating a huge intrusive Homeland Security bureaucracy is a priority.
Protecting corporations from personal bankruptcies is a priority.
Limiting corporate wrongful death and injury liability is a priority.
Shielding big PHARMA from competition and accountability is a priority.
Supporting the largest oil company profits in history is a priority.
Giving tax breaks to the rich is a priority.
Cutting veteran's benefits is a priority.
Reducing assistance to children is a priority.
Protecting the homophobes of the world from gay marriage is a priority.

Protecting the civil rights of Americans is definitely NOT a priority.

August 08, 2005

More Foxes Than Chickens

The Bush record on appointing foxes to guard governmental henhouses is consistent and persistent. Regulatory agencies are particularly juicy targets for Bush since they represent the kinds of government programs that the Bushies hate most. For instance, if he had his way, the Environmental Protection Agency would not have been created in the first place.

Here's an article which describes three more foxes being appointed by Bush to the EPA henhouse. Remember Philip Cooney, the White House lawyer (not a scientist of any kind) who doctored in scientific reports that were sent to the President? When Marcus Peacock, who has already been confirmed by the US Senate to fill the second in command spot at EPA, was asked about this practice, he did not hesitate in endorsing it. Peacock has been at the Office of Management and Budget studying whether "the cost of environmental regulations is justified by their benefit to the U.S. economy." Wonder what his conclusions have been...

The two other guys are just as bad, if not worse. The list of wretched Bush appointees continues to grow, and the American people continue to be shafted by this corporate lapdog we call our President. Pretty soon, there will be more foxes than chickens.

August 07, 2005

"Brain Blinks"

Jonathan Chait, in the LA Times, writes about the way George Bush thinks, in a piece entitled How Bush thinks: intuition over intellect. In Bush's case, I believe the word intuition, which I usually interpret as a rather positive attribute, doesn't serve him well, and, in his case, actually ends up being bad judgement or knee-jerk reaction.

Chait uses Bush's recent statement about the baseball player Rafael Palmiero as an indicator of Bush's "intuition" -- namely, how Bush, in spite of strong evidence to the contrary, will stick with Palmiero's denial of steroid use in a sort of stubborn consistency which, on its own, projects Bush's brand of cowboy independence and manly loyalty that transcends truth. It's akin to Bush's habit of quickly coming up with pet names for people around him, like "Turd Blossom" for Karl Rove. It's Bush's kind of intuitive quick study that he has practiced almost all his life.

Chait also talks about Bush's quick fix on President Putin of Russia, and his persistent allegiance to him through thick and thin. Irrespective of Putin's smothering of democracy, Bush is his eternal pal. And, according to Chait, it's based largely on Bush first encounter with Putin, when he learned that, like Bush's mom, Putin's mother also gave him a cross when he was young. It also tells you something of the centrality of Bush's Christianity when he considers his reactions to people. He and Rafael Palmiero have prayed together, no doubt.

Bob Burnett wrote about Bush's thought process and called it "brain blinks." He explores Bush's "thinking" on the National Missile Defense (NMD) system:

A classic example of the Bush decision-making process can be seen in his advocacy of the National Missile Defense (NMD) system. On February 15th a NMD test aborted when an interceptor missile failed to get out of its silo, the latest in a series of debacles that stretch back to the inception of the program. (The technical challenge of quickly discriminating between multiple potential targets has proved beyond the capability of modern technology; there have been no successful tests conducted under realistic conditions.) Despite this woeful track record, the Bush Administration continues to move forward with a multi-billion-dollar deployment of a system that doesn't work now and, most likely, will never meet its objectives.
Bush "logic" propels NMD's deployment. A dissection of the President's rationale reveals a pattern, the same process involved in actions such as the war in Iraq or the "reform" of Social Security. The typical Bush decision is one-third pragmatism, another third obstinacy, and a final third "blink." The pragmatic part stems from the political reality that continuing to build NMD is good for major Republican aerospace donors, such as Raytheon and TRW. Similarly, the war in Iraq may be bad for America, but it is good for Halliburton. NMD is a neo-conservative article of faith, and Bush and his advisers are true believers. Despite dramatic evidence to the contrary, they stubbornly hold on to the major Neo-con tenets, such as: Star Wars will make us safe; Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; cutting taxes is good for everyone; and war is peace. The final ingredient in the Bush rationale is "blink," seat-of-the-pants reasoning. Malcolm Gladwell argues that instantaneous decisions are best formed out of years of experience. In other words, it's okay to reach quick decisions, but there should be an underlying "seasoned" process. The problem with most of Bush's "blink" decisions is that there is no evidence of this foundation. What we see, instead, are snap decisions wrapped in authoritarian rigidity. Once Bush locks onto a solution to a problem, he won't consider any other alternatives. For example, while North Korea has nuclear weapons and a missile-delivery system, the Bush Administration assumes that NMD will protect the American mainland and, therefore, remains closed to all but military solutions to solve the danger of the rogue nation. The US refuses to participate in real diplomacy.

Is it good for my donors, is it an idea put forward by the good guys, and do I think it's a neat idea? Three compelling reasons in Bush's thinking about issues. And through all of his decision-making processes, whether it's finding more ways to reward Halliburton, or cutting the taxes of the rich, or taking away veteran's benefits, or sending American men and women to their deaths, George Bush sleeps well every night.


Here's one of George Bush's latest declarations on an issue (in this case, reacting to the warning from Al-Zawahiri, the al-Queda number two man) demonstrating Bush's stubborn attachment to his undying contention that al-Queda and Iraq have been linked, all along, since before 9/11:

The comments by the number two man of al Qaeda make it clear that Iraq is a part of this war on terror, and we're at war. In other words, he's saying, leave. As I have told the American people, one, that people like Zawahiri have an ideology that is dark, dim, backwards. They don't trust -- they don't appreciate women. If you don't agree to their narrow view of a religion you'll be whipped in the public square. That's their view, and they have tactics to help spread that view. In other words, they've got goals. They want to spread that point of view throughout the world, starting in the broader Middle East. And part of their goal is to drive us out of the broader Middle East, precisely what Zawahiri said. In other words, he's threatening. Crawford, Texas, August 4, 2005

Bush's statement that "they don't appreciate women" is classic Bush thinking, his "intuition" at work. Only real men (unlike gays, and abortionists, and tree-huggers, and Volvo-drivers, and Democrats, and terrorists, and any man who opposes the war in Iraq, and well, you know who they all are) really like women.

August 05, 2005

John and Jane, Bedfellows?

Do long-term bedfellows have an effect on each other's thinking? on their political philosophies? especially if they are both lawyers and married to each other?

These are the questions Lisa Bloom asks about John Roberts and his wife Jane Sullivan Roberts, the bedfellows in question.

It seems that Jane has been pro bono counsel to Feminists for Life of America (FFLA) for ten years now, and also served as executive vice president on the board of directors at one time.

So what positions does FFLA take and why should Jane's inimate involvement with them matter in deciding whether her husband should be on the Supreme Court of the United States?

FFLA believes abortion is a cause of breast cancer.

FFLA opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide, and does not think people ought to have the right to decide when they want to die.

FFLA sided with the feeding tube crazies on the Terry Schiavo issue.

The FFLA website tells a horrible story about a woman who writes about when she was a 12 year old victim of sexual abuse and incest. But the real horror story comes after, when she tells how she was abused by the people at Planned Parenthood, who are portrayed as uncaring, cold, baby killers. The story is reprinted from The American Feminist, which just happens to be the quarterly journal of FFLA.

But FFLA stakes its main feminist claim based squarely on the issue of abortion. It IS the litmus test.

Jane Sullivan Roberts has been giving everything in her life, professionally and personally, this litmus test. No doubt she has tested her husband. My bet is that he has passed with flying colors.

So, does her long-term, intimate involvement with FFLA matter when Senators consider the questions they want to ask John Roberts in his confirmation hearings? Lisa Bloom thinks it does. So do I.

John Roberts is a remarkably stealthy candidate, a man Dick Cheney vetted in early May, and a man George Bush spent enough time with to know. These men do not appoint someone they are sure of. They just aren't saying. And if asked, I believe John Roberts will prevaricate.

This man will be around a long time on the Supreme Court helping to decide issues vital to a huge number of Americans in the coming decades. Among other things, he will be responsible for deciding whether abortion is criminalized, whether millions of elderly baby-boom Americans are kept alive on feeding tubes, whether rape victims can have abortions, and whether impregnated children who are victims of sexual abuse and incest have rights.

There will be no filibuster. He will sail through. And Jane Sullivan Roberts will whisper in his ear when the time comes.

August 04, 2005

Historically Black Colleges - A Different World, A Different Legacy

Graduation rates at the 80 or so historically black colleges are at an alarmingly low rate, and the reasons are complex.

Black American culture traditionally values family, moral values, hard work, and racial pride, but it doesn't have the same deep legacy that whites have when it comes to college educations.

This doesn't mean that a college education has not been valued in black America. In fact, the very reason the 80 or so historically black colleges exist is because of the historical discrimination by traditionally white colleges and universities against blacks throughout American history. Even today, we still fight about it.

Samuel Freedman writes about all this in a piece in the New York Times.

He points out that a large number of black students never graduate from these historically black colleges (not many more do so from state institutions), and that large percentages of black students are ill-prepared to even begin college. Even though free remedial programs with free books are offered for these incoming students, many do not even attend. This is the way the director of Texas Southern's academic center, Dr. Jacqueline Fleming, describes the problem:

WHY don't they attend? That's the question of the decade...The single biggest factor is a lack of motivation. Their world is BET, ghetto rap, going to school dressed like you're going to a club. They're here because their grandmother said to be here, or because their parole officer said it was this or jail.

The financial condition of the historically black colleges works against them in every aspect of their efforts. Just in one area, endowments, these institutions are working at a huge disadvantage. For instance, "Texas Southern has an endowment of $6 million; across town, Rice University has $3 billion. The best endowed historically black institution, Howard University in Washington, ranks 132nd in the nation with $371 million, according to a survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers."

The article ends with a story about how one college President is reaching out to the corporate world for help. But it will take more than corporate contributions to address this problem. And it will not be faith-based organizations that solve it either.

It will take a national re-dedication to the civil rights movement, supported by a US administration committed to solving the problem, and at a level that goes way beyond throwing money at it.

August 03, 2005

Christians on the March

Doctor Senator Bill Frist has angered fundamentalist Christian groups to the extent that they are not even inviting him to Justice Sunday II, even though it's being held in his home state of Tennessee. Frist's newfound position on stem cell research (he now favors it) and his compromise with Democrats on nominees have really irritated the uncompromising wing of the Christian Republican Party.

Justice Sunday I, as you may remember, was that lovely judge-bashing event last April which featured Doctor Senator Frist sitting at the right hand of KKK-enabler Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. Apparently, Frist was even asked by his own minister to reconsider addressing the event, but if he did, at least to help reduce the divisiveness of the event. He didn't.

Well, Frist won't have that problem this time, because he isn't wanted. He is the cause of divisiveness himself. He has committed the crime of not being in perfect alignment with the dictates of born-again Christian political dogma. If you are not 100% (and I mean 100%, buster) you can just go to hell. (Thanks to BagNotes for the photo of Frist, looking very alone.)

It should be noted that Doctor Senator Frist raised more money, in the first half of 2005, for campaigning than any other candidate, from either party. It will be interesting to see what effect his recent deviations from Christian-right maximalism will have on his money raising in the next six months. I predict it will be a significant increase.

George Bush, who is not up for election again, is 100%. He has no apparent reason to continue to pander to the ossified thinking of the Christian right. And boy, does he ever pander. Yesterday, in comments made at an interview he gave with select reporters from newpapers around the country, Bush endorsed the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools. He wants to make sure our kids are more confused than ever. What does this tell us? Bush actually believes this stuff.

August 02, 2005

Carrying a Big Stick and Speaking Loudly

Regardless of his failed Senate confirmation process, in spite of his obvious personal failings, and despite his professional arrogance and uncompromising views, the United States now has John "The Bully" Bolton has our Permanent Representative to the United Nations. George Bush, by making a recess appointment of Bolton, proves his disdain for the democratic process and Senate precedent, once again. What's good for the Republicans when they were out of power is not good for Democrats when they are out of power.

Here's how Scott McClellan responded to questions at yesterday's White House Press Briefing when asked:

Q So Senate confirmation really makes no difference in how he carries out his job?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think it's clear to everybody that he had the majority support of the United States Senate. But, unfortunately, a handful of Senate Democrats were intent on using partisan tactics to delay the nomination from receiving an up or down vote on the floor of the Senate.
Q How do you square that, Scott, with the opposition from folks like George Voinovich?
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me keep going on the first row, and then I'll come back to you, Carl.

Oops, let's not talk about any pesky Republicans who think Bolton is a disaster.

And then when it comes to his personal behavior, we have this:

Q A lot of people say that he was very sharp with subordinates and that he was tough and too hard on them. Does he intend to moderate his behavior in this new job?
MR. McCLELLAN: A lot of people that have worked very closely with Ambassador Bolton recognize that he is someone who brings a results-oriented approach to the position. If you go back and look at people who know him well -- like former Secretary of State Baker, former Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick -- they recognize that he will be a strong advocate for the priorities that we want to see at the United Nations.

"Results-oriented" is now an officially nice way to say kicking ass. "Results-oriented" is the equivalent of chasing people down hotel corridors, yelling at them, and banging on their doors at all hours to get them to do what you want them to do. It will be interesting when he first loses his temper. Will he take his shoe off and bang it on his desk, a la Nikita Khruschev.

Bolton revealed his pathologically angry and, quite scary, side when he spoke on a panel about the United Nations (scroll down to The Bolton Scream).

But, in the end, as one reporter at the White House Press Briefing yesterday put it, Bolton begins his tenure as a "lame duck." Just how much impact he can have is questionable. He will, most certainly, be greeted with a cool diplomatic respect by most members, not the warm greetings for an American UN representative of a time gone by. If, however, he quickly pushes an agenda that tries to bully the Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as the Secretary-General, then he will be quickly isolated and contribute further to the diplomatic and political estrangement on the world stage.

Despite our very big stick, if we also speak loudly, nobody will listen.

August 01, 2005

"When they leave the country, everything will collapse."

So says Iraq's Minister for Human Rights, Ms. Aida Osseyran.

In an interview in the German newspaper Tageszeitung , Ms. Osseyran talks about the "disappeared," women's rights, education, and women in the parliament.

Here is what she says about the women who are currently serving in the parliament: "...right now most of the women in the Iraqi Parliament are members of fundamentalist Muslim groupings. These women don’t know anything but the Koran, and they misinterpret it."

This Just In!!!! The Old Media is Dead!!!!

I am glad that Cenk Uygur has discovered that the "old media" is dead. While most in the blogging world have known this long before there were blogs (I have a friend who stopped watching this mainstream drivel sometime during the Reagan years), it is heartening that more and more columnists, analysts, and liberal talking heads are discovering that the mainstream media is filled with silly little dog and pony shows like Meet the Press, owned by right-wing corporate media giants, hosted by corporate courtesans, and populated by knee-jerk mouthpieces of corporate media power. That millions of Americans still watch these shows and bob their heads is what is really scary.

I have a modest proposal. Every liberal/progressive spokesperson, talking head, analyst, and columnist simply refuse to appear on any of these shows. Perhaps the American people would get wise to their one-trick pony shows and eventually turn them off from boredom.