Blogging at The Carpetbagger Report
I've spent this afternoon guest blogging over at The Carpetbagger Report, one of my favourite spots in the blogosphere. I may cross-post my TCR posts here at The Reaction later today, but go have a look at what I've put up there. You'll find posts on the Iranian nuclear crisis, Rush Limbaugh's drug deal, the "Nuestro Himno" controversy, and Mexico's drug decriminalization policy.Also check out J. Kingston Pierce's outstanding guest post on the "meltdown" of the Bush presidency (see here), as well as recent posts by co-bloggers Creature (on Arlen Specter and the NSA scandal) and Vivek (also on "Nuestro Himno"). Or just scroll down and check out everything we've done lately -- the last two weeks are on the main page.I'll be back with more here soon. I hope you're all enjoying the weekend.
Iran defies U.N. over uranium enrichment
This isn't much of a surprise. From the AP: "Iran has defied a U.N. Security Council call to freeze uranium enrichment and is stonewalling efforts to determine if it is developing nuclear arms, the International Atomic Energy Agency said [yesterday] in a report that strengthened Western calls for sanctions."In response, Bush said that "the world is united," which it isn't. It's unlikely that Russia and China will back sanctions (at least not yet). So what does Bush mean when he says that "the diplomatic options are just beginning"? Does he plan on negotiating with Moscow and Beijing even as he negotiates with Tehran? And, other than the U.K. and Israel, who would back a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities? Certainly not Russia and China, almost certainly not France and Germany.How did Prez Ahmadmaninejad respond to all this? With more of the same, of course: "The Iranian nation won't give a damn about such useless resolutions." (I wonder if "damn" is the literal translation.)And so it goes.
Bush Age: The Meltdown
Guest post by J. Kingston Pierce of Limbo(Ed. Note: See Jeff's previous guest posts here and here. This is a long post with many, many links, but do take the time to read it through. It's an outstanding look at the demise of the Bush presidency. -- MJWS)
Republicans used to make a big deal out of every sag and sway in President Bill Clinton’s job-approval ratings, though they had to end that practice when, after their botched impeachment coup in 1998, they realized that their own poll standings were tumbling instead of Clinton’s. Nowadays, the GOP is noticably less adamant about the significance of presidential surveys, mostly because George W. Bush is hemorrhaging support, even among Republicans. For those who missed it, the latest CNN poll finds that a measly 32 percent of Americans now approve of the prez's performance in office, while 60 percent disapprove -- a new low for Bush. CNN adds that, just a year ago, not long after Dubya’s second pricey inaugural bash, its polling found 48 percent of respondents saying they approved of the prez, and 49 percent disapproving.While Bush's public approval stats are still treading water above the historic lows recorded for his father, George H.W. Bush (29 percent in 1992), Jimmy Carter (28 percent in 1979), Richard Nixon (23 percent in 1974, only months before his resignation), and Harry Truman (22 percent in the final year of his presidency, 1952), it's obvious that whatever air of formidableness Bush once exuded has long since dissipated. There have recently been open calls for his censuring by the Senate, prominent endorsements of his impeachment (and even proposals by the Illinois, Vermont, and California state legislatures to initiate impeachment proceedings), newspaper editorials calling on him to fire Dick Cheney (though that would probably force Bush to acknowledge the error of his ways in Iraq, which he’s unlikely to do), and reported efforts by GOP candidates -- incumbents and newcomers alike -- to avoid being seen with the prez, lest his widespread unpopularity help doom them to the unemployment line after November's midterm elections. (Republican office-seekers in New Jersey might be especially wary of looking overly cozy with Bush.)Nobody takes the prez seriously any longer when he threatens to veto legislation (something he has'’t done in five-plus years), and no less than The American Conservative magazine opines that his foreign-policy efforts to spread democracy have "tainted democracy itself". Rocker Mick Jagger feels free to elbow Bush out of a luxury hotel suite in Vienna, the prez's huffy insistence that he's still in charge in the White House ("I'm the decider and I decide what's best") has been broadly lampooned by musical satirists and others, and singer Neil Young includes a call in one of his latest songs to "impeach the president for lying/And leading our country into war/Abusing all the power that we gave him/And shipping all our money out the door". (Singer-songwriter Pink takes a rather more gentle, but no less powerful approach to criticizing Bush for his actions. See the video here.)To quote the new White House press secretary, Tony Snow (in a more honest than normal moment), Bush has become "something of an embarrassment" -- a convenient and consistently fertile source of humor for late-night TV comedians.Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report suggests that Bush’s approval ratings may finally have bottomed out in the CNN survey: "The president has lost just about everyone he's going to lose; these 32 percent would probably back Bush if he personally came to their home and punched them in the face," Benen predicts. However, the numbers alone tell only part of the story of Bush's precipitous decline, writes Bob Geiger at Democrats.com. "What's more instructive," he argues, "is to look at where he started and how far he has fallen in just 18 months since the 2004 presidential election. On November 2, 2004, Bush received a 50 percent or more vote of confidence in 31 of 50 states -- 30 states if you believe he did not legitimately win Ohio. How many states give him that same vote just a year and a half later, based on April 2006 approval polls? Four" -- Idaho, Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming. Unlike Benen, Geiger contends that "it's just a matter of time before Bush goes below 30 percent [popularity] nationally".In hopes of turning things around, and regaining his insolent swagger, Bush has hired a new chief of staff and press spinner... er, spokesman. He's recruiting his father's "janitor," former Secretary of State James Baker, to find some way out of the disastrous Iraq war. He is spending billions of taxpayer dollars "on advertising and public relations contracts to counter a hostile media environment". And he's got a five-point plan for overcoming his early lame-duck status, which includes emphasizing "an extremely visible enforcement crackdown at the Mexican border" and pressuring Iran as a way to "rehabilitate himself on national security". (As a "government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon" told New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh earlier this year, Bush believes that "saving Iran" will be "his legacy" -- no matter that a nuclear confrontation there might also provoke World War III.)Oh, and Bush -- "a son of the Oil Patch," as the New York Daily News phrased it -- is even trying to convince Americans that he's some sort of petro populist. With U.S. gas prices skyrocketing (while Bush-backing Exxon Mobil rakes in obscene profits), the prez suddenly preaches about "the need for this country to get off our dependency of oil" and has called on Congress to eliminate about $2 billion in tax breaks to oil and gas companies it passed as part of last year's boondoggle energy bill. (As a "close Bush confidant" told the Daily News, "[h]e has got to be seen as a president who won’t put up with oil companies screwing the public".) And, of course, the prez's defenders both inside D.C. and on the airwaves are attacking retired military generals and others who've called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s prompt ouster, recognizing that Rummy's dismissal would be a repudiation of Bush’s bellicose policies.All of these moves are designed to make Bush relevant again, and to "reboot" his second term, as Time magazine put it recently. But, along with moving Karl Rove out of a White House policymaking role and back into his previous position as a GOP campaign strategist, they're also intended to shore up the chances that Republicans will maintain their hold over both houses of Congress after November. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, showing that only 22 percent of Americans approve of what the Republican-dominated Congress has been doing -- an 11-point drop in just the last month -- won't do anything to ease GOP fears of a Democratic takeover. And there's cause for additional concern in the latest Rasmussen Reports survey, which shows (1) that Democrats hold "a 12-point advantage over Republicans on a generic 2008 presidential ballot," and (2) that a third-party candidate "focusing on immigration enforcement issues" could actually relegate the 2008 GOP nominee to third-place status, well behind Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, or whoever else nabs the Democratic nomination.So much for Rove and Bush's dreams of a "permanent Republican majority" in the United States. Thanks to a combination of arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence on the part of the prez and his partisan minions (add "malfeasance" to that list, and you can drag Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, and Randy "Duke" Cunningham under the big tent), GOPers have gone from being masters of the universe to being scorned failures, the butts of jokes. Conservative voters, disappointed by the administration's rampant overspending and increases in the size and scope of government, aren't motivated to storm the polling booths in November. However, Democrats -- shut out by Dubya and Company over the last five-plus years -- certainly are. "If Republicans manage to hold on to their majorities," opines John Dickerson at Slate, "it will be because they have perfected the ability to use gerrymandering, pork-barreling, and other toll-keeping powers to maintain themselves in office, much like the Democrats they turned out of office in 1994".As hard as it is to believe, Bush -- with his inner circle of sycophants -- might be impervious to most of the criticism fired in his direction, whether the complaint is about his stumble-footed response to Hurricane Katrina last fall, his deliberate deceptions regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, his domestic spying activities, the cost of his Iraq adventuring ("$320 billion after the expected passage next month of an emergency spending bill currently before the Senate," The Washington Post reports "and that total is likely to more than double before the war ends"), his despotic campaign to suppress public criticism of his administration by former CIA employees, or his hypocritical leaking of classified Iraq intelligence to a New York Times reporter in 2003. As Sidney Blumenthal writes at Salon:
The greater the stress the more Bush denies its cause. In his end time he has risen above his policy and is transcending politics. In his life as president he has decided his scourging is his sanctification. Bush will be a martyr resurrected. The future will unfold properly for all the wisdom of his decisions, based on fervent faith, upheld by his holy devotion. Criticism and unpopularity only confirm to him his bravery and his critics' weakness. Being reviled is proof of his righteousness. Inevitably, decades hence, people will grasp his radiant truth and glory. Such is the passion of George W. Bush.Even if Republicans lose control of one or perhaps both chambers of Congress in November’s elections (which, Tom Raum of the Associates Press writes, "could be a political nightmare for Bush and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill," as Democrats investigate abuses by the administration), the prez, who’s convinced that God put him in the White House and told him to make war on Saddam Hussein, is confident history will recognize his greatness.Or, maybe not. If you haven’t seen it already, there’s a terrific piece in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, written by Sean Wilentz, a renowned historian and author (The Rise of American Democracy, 2005), and the director of the American Studies program at Princeton University. Wilentz writes: "Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history."This isn’t the first time Bush has been derided as one of the sorriest members of an exclusive club, the 42 (so far) men who've held the title of U.S. president. (The same has been said here and here, for instance.) And a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found last October that 41 percent of respondents were already convinced that Bush will be considered a failure "in the long run". However, the Wilentz article offers a particularly comprehensive and readable assessment of how Bush fits into the panoply of his predecessors. Remarking on Dubya’s precipitious decline in performance ratings since 9/11, Wilentz writes:
How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.Wilentz says Bush has found his place on the bottom rung of presidents for a variety of reasons: He’s squandered public trust by making "what even the conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. calls his 'high-flown pronouncements' about failed policies" and offering up the "publicly expressed view that he has made no major mistakes"; he "stampeded the Congress and a traumatized citizenry into the Iraq invasion on the basis of what has now been demonstrated to be tendentious and perhaps fabricated evidence of an imminent Iraqi threat to American security," and was openly contemptuous of Democratic help and public sacrifice in waging "a truly national struggle"; with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and a lack of fiscal prudence, he has replaced the economic surpluses Clinton left behind with onerous economic deficits ("According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions.But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined."); he has "blazed a radical new path as the first American president in history who is outwardly hostile to science -- dedicated, as a distinguished, bipartisan panel of educators and scientists... has declared, to 'the distortion of scientific knowledge for partisan political ends'".); and, finally, Dubya has expanded "the powers of the presidency beyond the limits laid down by the U.S. Constitution," asserting "that the president is perfectly free to violate federal laws on such matters as domestic surveillance and the torture of detainees" ("In those instances when Bush’s violations of federal law have come to light," Wilentz adds, "as over domestic surveillance, the White House has devised a novel solution: Stonewall any investigation into the violations and bid a compliant Congress simply to rewrite the laws.").It's a pretty devastating account of a presidency out of control -- and with the potential to make even more mischief than Bush already has, especially if he succeeds in propagandizing the country into a war with Iran. A thousand days from the end of his time in the Oval Office, George W. Bush seems finally to be paying the costs of the divisiveness, fear, lies, and extremism (religious and otherwise) that he has so successfully spread during the last five-plus years. Whether among those costs will be his neutering by a Democratic Congress, his censuring, or simply his early, defeated retreat to that estate-cum-ranch he's always visiting in Crawford, Texas, will be the subject of some historian's future book. Are you up for the job, Professor Wilentz?CRISPY DUCK: In forecasting what’s to come from Bush’s now firmly lame-duck presidency, the editors of The New Republic opine:
Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- [James] Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, [Herbert] Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.
Often, it is difficult to know when a president has entered the state of political purgatory known as "lame duck" status. For this president, the question is no longer whether, but how lame...READ MORE: "If Past Is Prologue, George Bush Is Becoming An Increasingly Dangerous President," by John W. Dean (FindLaw); "Bush's Thousand Days," by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (The Washington Post); "Stuck with Bush," by Bob Herbert (The New York Times); "It's Official: I Now Pity George Bush," by Trey Ellis (The Huffington Post); "Oilman in Chief," by Frank O’Donnell (TomPaine.com); "No Longer Sitting Pretty" (The Nation); "Crisis of Leadership" (The [Liberal] Girl Next Door); "A Prius in Every Pot," by Maureen Dowd (The New York Times); "The Death of a Presidency," by John K. White (History News Network); "The Long War Posture," by Gregory D. Foster (The Baltimore Sun).
After this November's midterm elections, the Bushies will be one of the most pathetic species in the popular imagination: a collection of political sharpies with no more campaigns to scheme over. It's the political equivalent of an aging Hollywood starlet... with bad skin... and a weakness for Ho Hos. Maybe they’ll still trot out some of their favorite tricks for old time's sake -- say, a constitutional amendment counting a gay voter as three-fifths of a straight voter, or a campaign accusing Democrats of operating a secret terrorist cell from the House cafeteria. But their hearts won't be in it. It's all the more depressing when you realize this is the best-case scenario. Should the Democrats retake Congress, the end of the Bush era will consist of little more than fending off subpoenas and inventing new ways to say, "I don't recall."
"We have a thousand days to get the job done," incoming White House honcho Josh Bolten recently told his staff, apparently hoping to instill a sense of urgency. To which we can only respond: Have a thousand days ever looked longer?
Xenophobia's red glare
By Vivek Krishnamurthy
One of the most distressing aspects of the debate raging in the United States right now over immigration is the mildly xenophobic tone that some of the principals (who should know better) have been starting to take. Such as President George W. Bush. This afternoon, his eminence weighed into the blazing row over the Spanish version of The Star Spangled Banner being recorded by a number of top Latin pop artists, stating in typical monosyllables that he thinks "people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English. And they ought to learn to sing the anthem in English."
Perhaps they should learn English, but what's so wrong about bringing the national anthem to the people, in whatever language they speak? Since when did America become an ethnic nation defined in terms of a dominant linguistic group, rather than a land built on the grand ideas of freedom and liberty? (After all, the Founding Fathers toyed with the idea of making German the official language so that the linguistic memory of English tyranny would be erased from the young nation.)
I think there can be no greater compliment than for the members of the most disadvantaged group in American society, who are denied the benefit of most American laws, and yet strive to achieve the "American Dream" through the sweat of their brow, seek to embrace the ultimate symbol of the American civic community -- even as large swathes of this immigrant nation want to close the door behind them. I urge you all to listen to Nuestro Himno, and indeed to translate the national anthem into whatever language you speak, so that the Star-Spangled Banner can be a standard under which all Americans unite.
This is what happens to a president when their approval ratings scrape bottom. From the Associated Press:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said Thursday he is considering legislation to cut off funding for the Bush administration's secret domestic wiretapping program until he gets satisfactory answers about it from the White House.
"Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress at the moment," Specter, R-Pa., told the panel. "If we are to maintain our institutional prerogative, that may be the only way we can do it."
Specter said he had informed President Bush about his intention and that he has attracted several potential co-sponsors. He said he's become increasingly frustrated in trying to elicit information about the program from senior White House official.
The amendment amounted to a warning to the White House from a powerful but frustrated Senate chairman.
Sounds good, right? But wait, if this amendment were to reach the floor, how would Specter vote?
"I'm not prepared to vote for it myself," Specter told reporters.
Huh? It's all game of smoke and mirrors for these guys. While I'm glad Specter spoke up (if you can call it that), and that he is trying to hold the president's feet to the fire, it's all talk and no spine. Specter should be screaming about the overreaching-illegality of the program. A program that should have been shut down from the start.
And while we are at it, let's stop calling it a program. It's not a program, it's a criminal act.
*Just in case. Just FYI. The F**d in F**d this! is Fund. Get it, Specter wants to cut off funding... oh never mind.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
Just another day in the life and death of Iraq III
Rummy and Condi went to Baghdad to support new Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's efforts to form a government, but the news still wasn't good: "A sister of Iraq's new Sunni Arab Vice-President was killed Thursday in a drive-by shooting in Baghdad, a day after the politician called for the Sunni-dominated insurgency to be crushed by force." Her bodyguard was also killed.Nor was it good for two members of the so-called Coalition of the Willing: "In southern Iraq, a bomb hit an Italian military convoy [yesterday] morning, killing four soldiers -- three Italians and a Romanian -- and seriously injuring another passenger."I wonder if Rummy and Condi have any clue. No... I don't. Rummy in particular seems disturbingly delusional. Here's the Post: "One purpose of this joint trip was to get the sometimes conflicting military and political operations in sync for the transition to a permanent Iraqi government." Okay, and all the violence? "Asked how the Iraqi government should eliminate the militias that have terrorized the populace, Rumsfeld appeared to suggest it was a relatively easy task." Right. I'm sure it's like -- oh, I don't know -- brushing your teeth. Sistani may be urging Maliki to deal forcefully with the militias, but the violence, the new normal, isn't about to go away anytime soon.Do you understand that, dearest Secretaries?
Vive la France?
Pardon my Anglophilia, but I always find it amusing when the French get up on their pedestal and proclaim their world-historical superiority (or at least their pretension to superiority). They do that periodically, as you may know, often when they're feeling ignored, when they sense that history has passed them by, when they need to feel good about themselves. And, really, can you blame them? History has largely passed them by, they're largely ignored outside of Europe (where all they have left is to try to boss their way around the E.U., and, after last fall's riots and this spring's protests, they surely can't have much of a positive self-image anymore.So, yes, they're back, according to Chirac, as we discover at Guardian Unlimited: "The French president, Jacques Chirac, yesterday unveiled what he hopes will be his great legacy to France's struggle against the global dominance of the US: a series of technological projects including a European search engine to rival Google.Oooh. Can you feel the excitement? Here's more: "The project was one of six unveiled yesterday by Mr Chirac. A plan for delivering high-quality television to mobile phones, a project for refineries to turn cereals into chemicals, a new light train system, and diesel and electric cars are to be part-funded by the Agency for Industrial Innovation, set up by Mr Chirac. German companies and scientists will work with French industry on the projects."All of which means what exactly? That France intends to compete with Silicon Valley entrepreneurship, with the culture of Intel and Cisco, with the spirit of progress that drives so much of American life, through high-profile, government-sponsored efforts compete with America. As if government heavy-handedness can possibly rival the innovative aspirations of the high-tech dreamers who built Silicon Valley and who populate it, and many other places like it, today.How French.It's not that I object to the technology itself. The search engine seems a tad redundant, but there'd be nothing wrong with a bio-refinery, an automatic metro, energy-efficient buildings, and new hybrid vehicles. It's just that the spirit isn't really one of innovation but of nationalism. The French are known for their obnoxious cultural and intellectual nationalism, but now they're veering desperately into technological nationalism.But, then again, is this really about technology? One wonders. Is it not really about France's historical slide into mediocrity and obscurity, about France's fragile sense of self in a global community that no longer cares about the story of 1789 and France's self-glorified history on the world stage? Is it not really an implicit admission, however unintended, that France has already lost?
How much has the Iraq War cost?
$320 billion?Here's some perspective: "Even if a gradual troop withdrawal begins this year, war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to rise by an additional $371 billion during the phaseout... When factoring in costs of the war in Afghanistan, the $811 billion total for both wars would have far exceeded the inflation-adjusted $549 billion cost of the Vietnam War."Lovely.
Bush's immigration problem
See, however much I dislike Bush, I must admit that I don't regard him as evil incarnate. In his heart, he's probably a lot like his father: sensible, pragmatic, and fairly moderate. His extremism, such as there is any, lies in his rabidly pro-business approach to the economy. The problem is that as president he seems to have been pushed to the right by 9/11 and the escalation of the war on terror, by highly influential figures in his own administration, such as Cheney and the neocon foreign policy cabal, and by a conservative movement that has grown more and more extreme and that has largely taken over the Republican Party.Consider illegal immigration: "President Bush generally favors plans to give millions of illegal immigrants a chance at U.S. citizenship without leaving the country, but does not want to be more publicly supportive because of opposition among conservative House Republicans, according to senators who attended a recent White House meeting."This is one issue where Bush clearly finds himself at odds with hard-line conservatives, be they in Congress, the base, or the blogosphere. As I put it at the One America Committee last month, "Bush faces challenges from anti-immigration radicals within his own party, the xenophobic nationalist wing of the GOP". I don't necessarily support the guest-worker solution that he and others have floated, but there are intelligent, compassionate voices on both sides of the aisle, Democrats and Republicans alike, responsible officials who are working to find a solution.It doesn't surprise me that Bush personally favours a plan that would ultimately provide citizenship to illegal immigrants. But what political capital does he have left? He may yet try to work for a bipartisan solution, but he knows that his legacy is very much tied up with the fortunes of Congressional Republicans, with their successes and failures in this November's midterms. And that means that he'll likely continue to pander to the xenophobic nationalists even as his heart tells him otherwise.Oh, you think I'm setting up conservative straw men? Consider what these key figures of the conservative blogosphere have had to say in response to this:Captain Ed: "We knew that Bush has always been more of an open-borders politician than any true conservative on immigration. Most of us hoped to get the border fence and truly credible security on the southern border as a minimum once he came to office, and figured we would have to give way on some sort of compromise on the status of those already in the country as a trade-off.Michelle Malkin goes even further. She calls this "a White House betrayal".This is what Bush has to contend with. It's Morrissey and Malkin, but it's also Tancredo and Sensenbrenner and Frist, not to mention millions and millions out in the Republican heartland -- without them, without those who put Bush over the top in '04, Republicans don't stand a chance in November.It's almost enough to make you feel sorry for the president. If only for a split second.
Truce and democracy: An update from Nepal
From the BBC:
Nepal's Maoist rebels have announced a three-month unilateral truce, after street protests forced the country's monarch to restore parliament.
The Maoists had earlier said King Gyanendra's move did not go far enough towards meeting their demands.
Opposition groups allied to the Maoists however welcomed the king's offer and called off weeks of massive rallies.
The Maoists, who have been waging a decade-old insurgency, said they now want to see a new constitution formed.
I'm sure Nepal can do without the Maoists. Truce or no truce, let's hope democracy takes hold: "The Nepalese parliament is to reconvene for the first time in four years on Friday."
Rove testifies again and again and again and again -- that's five times, if you're counting
From the Post: "White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove sought to convince a federal grand jury yesterday that he did not provide false statements in the CIA leak case, testifying for more than three hours before leaving a federal courthouse unsure whether he would be indicted, according to a source close to the presidential aide."Around the blogosphere:Political Animal is rightly suspicious: "So: did Rove really forget [about his phone conversation with Time's Matt Cooper]? Or did he lie and then correct his testimony only when he knew he was about to get caught?"Shakespeare's Sister thinks the game's up: "My spider sense is telling me Rove’s about to have his ass handed to him. Ostensibly, this fifth appearance is to allow Rove to clear up lingering questions, but his track record doesn’t lead me (or any other cognizant being, I’ll wager) to believe that he will be totally forthcoming this time, either, since he’s obviously as guilty as sin."Firedoglake "reconstruct[s] Rove’s history of testimony".Taylor Marsh sums things up nicely: "What this illustrates is the penchant for the president and his people to shade the truth. Karl knows that the presidency of George W. Bush can't handle the truth. It would be too damaging. Besides his boss has his own problems with getting the truth out. George W. Bush still hasn't told the American people the truth about Iraq, his vice president's energy task force meetings, how the Dubai port deal went down, the NSA illegal spying debacle, the black site secret prisons, and a whole host of other topics. It's taken Karl Rove 5 times, count them, five, to get the truth straight and he's still not done and this is only one issue. It will take the rest of our lives to finally get the fifth and sixth versions of the truth from George W. Bush on all the issues he's fibbed. As for Deadeye Dick, we'll never get the truth out of him."The Carpetbagger Report offers an intriguing possibility: "On a related note — and I'm really just throwing this out there for discussion sake — Rove was more or less demoted last week, losing his policy coordination responsibilities. The official line was that Rove would shift his attention to the midterm elections, but he was probably going to do that anyway. Is it possible that Rove shed some of his duties because he expects to be indicted?"See also TalkLeft, Booman Tribune, The Next Hurrah, Bark Bark Woof Woof, Midtopia, and Balloon Juice.
The Beijing-Abuja oil axis
This is truly alarming:
China has secured four oil drilling licences from Nigeria as President Hu Jintao continues his week-long tour of Africa, his second in three years.
In exchange China will invest $4bn (£2.25bn) in oil and infrastructure projects in Nigeria.
China will buy a controlling stake in Nigeria's 110,000 barrel-a-day Kaduna oil refinery and build a railroad system and power stations.
Nigeria, Africa's top oil exporter, has long been viewed by China as a partner.
That partnership could turn out to have serious ramifications for American and European security. After all, China is clearly trying to set up shop in Africa, forging alliances with resource-rich countries like Nigeria.
Do we have any doubt that China will eventually be a global power to rival the United States? At the very least, we should be anticipating, and preparing for, that future.
Iran to share nuclear technology
With whom? Does it matter? Sure, especially when another Madman of Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, makes this provocative announcement in the Sudan (think Darfur, think al Qaeda -- not good). Said Khamenei: "Iran's nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country. The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists."Is this just more Ahmadmaninejad-like bluster "ahead of the Friday deadline by the United Nations Security Council for Iran to suspend its sensitive uranium enrichment activities"? Perhaps. Is it just more leverage to bring to the bargaining table? Perhaps. More, is Iran serious that it will hide its nuclear program in the event of sanctions or strikes? Perhaps (although much of it is no doubt already hidden from the prying eyes of the IAEA and foreign intelligence services).Bluster it may be, but it cannot be ignored. If Iran's looking to make a deal, it'll want a lot in return for abandoning its nuclear aspirations. If it's not, how are we to deal with its hidden nuclear program? And, beyond that, if this latest threat is real, how are we to deal with, say, a nuclear Sudan?
Hurricanes and the peril of global warming
According to CNN, leading experts have concluded that "[t]he record Atlantic hurricane season last year can be attributed to global warming". That included Hurricane Katrina (see left). Others disagree, some "[attributing] the warming to natural cycles".Regardless: "Whatever the cause, computer projections indicate the warming to date -- about one degree Fahrenheit (half a degree Celsius) in tropical water -- is 'the tip of the iceberg' and the water will warm three to four times as much in the next century," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.In my view, given the inconclusive evidence and the disagreement among experts, shouldn't we err on the side of caution and take global warming seriously? It may not be the only cause of more and stronger hurricanes, but it's likely a cause. At the very least, how can it be ruled out as a cause? Besides, there are other consequences to global warming besides more and stronger hurricanes. Clearly, we ignore this problem at our own peril.For more on global warming, see here and here. For more on the relationship between global warming and hurricanes, see here.
Jane Jacobs (1916-2006)
Jane Jacobs, the great urbanist and social activist, has died at the age of 89. She lived not too far from me in the lovely Annex neighbourhood of Toronto, and this great city owes much to her generous influence. So do cities worldwide. I don't agree with everything she had to say on every topic she explored, notably Quebecois separatism, but she was truly one of our greatest and most humane advocates for a fuller, richer existence amid the din of modern life. She will be missed.See nice pieces on her life and writings in The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star. See also The New York Times.
Fox News is America's Pravda
Honestly, can you believe this shit? You just have to laugh, and laugh some more, at the whole "fair and balanced" thing. A free press is a cornerstone of American democracy, a key safeguard of liberty, but there's nothing free about this:
Fox News commentator Tony Snow has decided to accept the White House press secretary's job after top officials assured him that he would be not just a spokesman but an active participant in administration policy debates, people familiar with the discussions said yesterday.All you really need to know about the relationship between Fox News and the Bush White House is that Snow has gone from Bush I speechwriter to syndicated columnist to Fox News radio and TV host to, now, Bush II press secretary.Fox News is this White House's "official" media outlet. The Soviet Union had one. Indeed, all dictatorships do. What does that say about the Bush presidency?Remember that when you watch or listen to Fox News, if you really must, you're not getting the Truth or any sincere attempt to discover the Truth, nor impartial journalism, nor anything in the way of a free press, you're getting Bush's "truth".If that doesn't concern you, you may want to seek professional help.
Hold the gas
I'm not sure if this is a Sign of the Apocalypse or a Sign of the Renaissance, but it's a sign of something:
A method of creating super-nutritious but flatulence-free beans has been developed by scientists.
Beans are a cheap and key source of nutrition especially in the developing world, but many people are thought to be put off by anti-social side-effects.
A Venezuelan team says fermenting beans with certain friendly bacteria can cut the amount of wind-causing compounds, and boost beans' nutritional value.
By the way, "[f]latulence is caused by bacteria that live in the large intestine breaking down parts of food -- such as soluble fibre -- that have not been digested higher in the gut". Good times.I don't know. I like beans. All kinds. Always have. But the so-called "anti-social side-effects" just haven't been that severe. At least not severe enough to turn me against beans. Unless I didn't notice, of course.But I suppose I'll eat the new beans. Whatever works.
Accountability? With these double standards?
Today's must-read of the day comes once again from the incomparable Murray Waas, who asks this key question: "Is there a double standard on leak probes?"Given what Republicans like Pat Roberts have been able to get away with, and given all the fuss about the supposed Mary McCarthy leak (which she denies), the answer is a resounding YES: "[R]ank and file intelligence professionals now have much to fear from legitimate and even inadvertent contacts with journalists, while senior executive branch officials and members of Congress are almost never held accountable when they seriously breach national security through leaks of information."Accountability is not a word, or a concept, one would associate with this White House. Not that that's some great revelation or anything.For more, see here. And here. And here.
Rethinking feminism: Poverty and health care
Guest post by Aspazia of Mad Melancholic Feminista(Ed. note: I'm extremely pleased to welcome Aspazia to The Reaction as a new guest blogger. Aspazia, who writes a wonderful blog called Mad Melancholic Feminista, is, by her own admission, a philosophy professor in rural Pennsylvania and a feminist activist. Indeed, her blog offers "a feminist analysis of what it means to live in the Prozac Nation". Intriguing, no? Aspazia is an excellent writer, and, whether she's addressing present-day issues like poverty and health care within a feminist framework, as in this post, or defending her beloved Continental philosophy against its critics (see here), her blogging consists of what I would call thought-posts. I encourage you to take the time to read this one, the first of what I hope will be many here. And I encourage you to check out Mad Melancholic Feminista regularly. -- MJWS)**********
I imagine that over the next few weeks I will be exploring what I think are the challenges for feminists in this new century. This past year I have devoted a lot of time to rethinking not only what feminists need to do politically, but also how Women's Studies programs need to change to remain relevant to this generation of students we are teaching. I don't yet have a plan for how I will be addressing these issues in my posts, but today I will focus on health care, reproductive rights, and poverty.A month ago, I decided to transfer all of my OBGYN care to Planned Parenthood. I want Planned Parenthood to get my money and continue to stay in business in this small county, and so I gave up some of my privilege to basically attend a free clinic to get my yearly exams and birth control. I am not going to pretend that this has been an easy decision, or that I don’t consider switching back to the clean, sparkling, and less crowded office of my old gynecologist.Sitting in the waiting room of Planned Parenthood, when you have never had to spend time in such a setting for health care, is unsettling. I had an appointment at 4, and didn’t get into see the nurse practitioner until 6. Furthermore, the waiting room is rather dingy, with dilapidated furniture, low lighting, and packed with all the residents in my county that I would never have occasion to meet, talk to, or spend time with. Planned Parenthood is one of the most popular providers to the migrant population here. They do not perform any abortions at our clinic site, but rather spend a lot of time offering affordable health care to men and women in Adams County. Half of the patients sitting with me in the waiting room spoke no English, a third were young girls who already had children or feared they were pregnant, and the last third were men.I sat in my chair, listening to the conversations around me, mainly teenage girls with dead-end jobs, and two children, talking about their loser boyfriends who drank too much and didn’t help out with the kids. These young women were the age of many of my students, but clearly were never encouraged to attend college, especially the private college where I teach. These women were poor: they were raised in poverty and likely to continue the cycle. They had probably dropped out of high school once they got pregnant, and were now likely to raise their kids in the same environment they grew up in. Almost all of these young women were church going folk, and none of them were self-proclaimed feminists. They were at Planned Parenthood because that was the only health care provider they could afford. Moreover, they were likely to be treated with some dignity there. At least two young women, perhaps students at my college, came in to get birth control and the difference between them and these young mothers was stark. In fact, these young mothers shot angry glances at the well dressed, blonde, bejeweled, young, college women coming in for pills, especially when one was sweetly playing with one mother's little boy.When I finally got in to see the nurse practitioner, the first question she asked me was why I was coming here to get my pap smear. "For solidarity," I said. She lit up, patted my back, and then proceeded with my exam. She apologized for the wait, and I dismissed it as no big deal. Of course, I hated it, but I was trying to consciously question my economic and race privilege and thereby force myself to live what I teach my students. I ask my students to work in agencies like Planned Parenthood, with this population of local residents almost every year, and yet, I don’t put myself in the same situation I ask my students to be in. So, this was "putting my money where my mouth is".The health care, however, was excellent. Having a feminist nurse practitioner talk to me about the negative reactions I might have to the form of birth control I use (the Nuva-Ring) was amazing. No other doctor had taken the time to go over all of these issues with me in such detail before. She was also human; she seemed interested in my life, my goals, and my health. While my other gynecologist was efficient and had a pristine office setting, he had never talked to me for more than 5 minutes before.I have chewed on this experience for over a month, and wanted to write about it to start thinking more about what I think should be the priority issues for feminists in this day and age. And, while having the right to control one’s fertility is paramount, I also think that we should be striving in general for better health care information and access for all of our citizens. While I have participated in or read numerous debates on health care all over the blogosphere, at dinner parties, or with my students, nothing will ever bring this point home to you until you put yourself in the same situation as the poor in our country. If you are someone who argues that we should set up "medical savings accounts" or that we should pass more of the cost of insurance onto the “consumer” rather than the employer, then sit for a few hours in a clinic or hospital E.R. room and pay attention to the kind of health care available to the poor in this country. You don’t have to go to Guatemala on a church missionary trip or volunteer with Doctors Without Borders to see what crushing poverty does to the self-esteem and thereby future life chances of people. That kind of crushing poverty is right here in our communities.Young girls and boys grow up without any well care visits, without the nutrition they need, and for certain, without any knowledge of their bodies. If you add on top of that school programs, targeting precisely this population -- which is lower income White, African-American, Latino, and around here a Russian immigrants -- with the misinformation of abstinence only programs, you are guaranteeing an even harder life for these folks. Rather than being treated with the same dignity that many of us can expect due to health insurance, middle class income, and white privilege, these young children grow up being reminded daily that no one cares about them: whether that be their neighbors, their government, their educators, their physicians (if they even have any), or their employers.Just sitting in a depressing waiting room of a health clinic (let me note, however, that thanks to Kate Michelman, Planned Parenthood does a reasonably good job creating settings that enable their patients to feel they are being treated with dignity more than other clinic providers) gives you a sense of what these children grow up expecting about how life is, how others will treat them, and what they deserve. It doesn’t look good.Sure, I am bound to hear from commenters, and perhaps from some of my former students, who will give me a lecture on "personal responsibility". Fine, you know what, I support and embrace "personal responsibility," too. But where I part company with many of the personal responsibility crowd is that I recognize that much of what we have, who we are, and where we are going has been the product of others who have invested in us, cared about us, and given us the opportunity to see a bright future. While I could go on and on judging these young women for getting pregnant so young, or the young men who irresponsibly impregnated them, and for all of them giving up on a better future, what exactly would I be accomplishing?The fact is that these young women and young men need our attention, our resources, and a sense that we give a damn about them as much as we do children born to the kind of privilege that I was born into. Yes, ultimately, we are the product of many choices that we made. But, to make good choices in life, you need good information, you need to be given a sense that you matter or that you have value. Churches are certainly places well equipped to do the latter work. And, thank goodness many churches do actually fulfill Jesus’ mission to care for the poorest among us. But many other "Christians" in this day and age would rather blame the victim, and deny them the help they need, justifying this behavior by calling these young people "sinners" or "wicked". Certainly this rhetoric is a helpful way to blind us from our own complicity in their poverty.I started this with the intention of tying this into what I think the future of feminism should look like. And my bottom line here is that feminists need to care about poverty (and believe me, I know that many of us do). They don’t just need to care about poor women, or the poor women who have had to degrade themselves by becoming "exotic dancers" or who have been raped or molested. Certainly we do need to care about these women. But we need to reach out and work with those who we might have dismissed in the past as "the patriarchy" or "conservatives" to fight the poverty that is right in our backyards and likely to turn our "1st World Nation" into a populace that is simply not literate enough to maintain a democracy.We need to invest in all of our citizens, and fight the labels, rhetoric, and bigotry that justify our continued mistreatment of the poor. Perhaps more of us need to give up some of our privileges in order to ensure that more of us get the basics. We need to be open to all solutions for getting good health care to every citizen, and not allow partisan bickering to divide us. I know that we can transcend politics, especially if we start in our local communities.The risk here for many feminists is that we would be neglecting the specific agenda already laid out. But, I am sorry, I just don’t believe that feminist politics -- whether we are talking about NOW or Feminist Majority -- are going to be effective until they give up the old paradigms, and the old political rhetoric, and start attracting more men and women to participate in their activism.We may need to rethink how we sell our message, what we call ourselves in the public realm, and how we frame our issues. If we don’t do this, we are simply inefficacious. We are sacrificing good works for purity of message.
Big news on the CIA leak front, according to Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff of Newsweek:
A former CIA officer who was sacked last week after allegedly confessing to leaking secrets has denied she was the source of a controversial Washington Post story about alleged CIA secret detention operations in Eastern Europe, a friend of the operative told Newsweek... [C]ontrary to public statements by the CIA late last week, McCarthy never confessed to agency interrogators that she had divulged classified information and "didn't even have access to the information" in The Washington Post story in question.Okay... so... now what? Read the whole piece. Apparently much, most, or perhaps even all of the story may have come from "unclassified sources," not a CIA leak. (See also the latest at CNN.)**********Steve Soto: "Don’t be surprised if McCarthy’s firing last week was a political hit by this administration because she was a Kerry supporter and was a holdover from the Clinton Administration." Nope, wouldn't surprise me at all.
The madman of Tehran 2
Ahmadinejad's at it again. According to the AP, he said today that Israel is a "fake regime" that shouldn't "continue to live".Lovely, huh? I realize he's playing the nationalism card for a domestic audience, but what is one to make of a nuclear Iran that makes such overt threats against Israel?(For past Ahmadmaninejadisms, see here. How's that for my neologism of the day?)
The sinking presidency (32%)
A new poll indicates that more and more Americans are finally coming to their senses:
President Bush's approval ratings have sunk to a personal low, with only a third of Americans saying they approve of the way he is handling his job, a national poll released Monday said.What more is there to say? See The Left Coaster, AMERICAblog, The Next Hurrah, The All Spin Zone, and Battlepanda.20s -- here we come!
In the telephone poll of 1,012 adult Americans carried out Friday through Sunday by Opinion Research Corporation for CNN, 32 percent of respondents said they approve of Bush's performance, 60 percent said they disapprove and 8 percent said they do not know.
George Bush: From Savior to Antichrist
By The (liberal)Girl Next Door
Yes, I believe that Bush is the worst President in history for all of the reasons Sean Wilentz points out in his article “The Worst President Ever?”, but Bush’s stance on global warming, his failure to do anything at all to change our course and his ruthlessness in stifling research and suppressing scientific findings on the subject, could very well be the biggest.There is a sense among us rational folks that Bush’s Fundamentalist Christian base are enthralled by him and believe him to be the one who will usher in the End of Days and have therefore supported his ignorance and rejection of all things scientific, especially climate change, because the sooner the Earth dies, the sooner they get to be hoovered up to spend eternity at their Lord’s feet. But some of them are beginning to question the sanity of such of move, and that perhaps Bush isn’t God’s messenger on Earth after all. As I’ve pointed out before (see here), if Fundamentalists follow their own crazy logic, they should easily come to the conclusion that Bush is, in fact, the Antichrist, but I guess even following their own internal logic is a challenge.About a month ago I wrote about a group of Evangelicals breaking with the President on climate change. It seems that some Evangelicals have started reading their Bibles and have been reminded that we are supposed to be caretakers of the Earth and God may not look so kindly on those that did nothing to protect it. Personally, I think that’s a silly reason to care about global warming, but as long as it works, I have no complaints. Now, in addition to Evangelicals, the business community is growing concerned about Bush’s ostrich approach to science. I guess they’re beginning to realize that a massive die off of coastal peoples will likely have a negative impact on their profit margin. Clearly things are bad when GE starts asking the Senate for carbon regulations!
Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, will be released next month, and he may have found the perfect time for the message he’s been trying to convey for decades. It’s possible that this movie will catch fire, not just with environmentalists, but also with mainstream Americans who are waking up to the reality that we have reached a critical time and that protecting the Earth is directly tied to securing a future for our children. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the trailer (see here) was enough to ruin my day. I hope the movie does well because it will give Americans a chance to see a glimpse of an alternate history. As far as I know, the movie isn’t about what a great President Al Gore would have been, but the thought will still likely run through the minds of those who watch it. How could we have allowed Bush, an incompetent man with regressive ideas, to run our country at a time when courage, ingenuity, and forward-thinking were so critical?The word impeachment evokes strong feelings and memories for many Americans. The impeachment of Bill Clinton was seen by Democratic and Republican voters alike as being “politically motivated” and the whole Watergate mess is something Americans would much rather forget, so it’s not surprising that the country is divided over whether or not Bush should be impeached. I’ve often wondered what the numbers would look like if the question were posed to voters in another way. “Would you rather not have Bush as President if he could be removed from office by magic?” I bet there’d be near total support for that! To have this Presidency simply erased would be a dream come true for the Left, and something the Right would probably welcome (well, except the top 1% that have seen their fortunes grow exponentially over the last five years). That way, they wouldn’t have to have any ownership in what they have unleashed on the rest of us, a solution that fits in perfectly with their whole philosophy of abdicating responsibility and handing it over to dictators and God.Unfortunately, magic won’t get us out of this mess and hopefully slight of hand, otherwise known as electronic voting, won’t keep us on the road toward making it worse. I am an optimist by nature, but living under the thumb of the Bush regime has all but beaten the sunshine out of me. I’m still holding on to that last little bit though, trying desperately to find at least one small thing each day that provides some small scrap of hope that things are turning. Today, it’s that profit-seeking companies may have found that their future depends on ours, and that those who believe in God may decide to protect “His” creation. It’s not much, but that’s how it goes in Bush’s America.
(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)
Brzezinski on Iran
Okay, here's another must-read, an op-ed in the L.A. Times by former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. He gives "four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities". Essentially, "an attack on Iran would be an act of political folly, setting in motion a progressive upheaval in world affairs".Make sure to read the whole piece, but two passages stand out for me:-- "There is unintended irony in a situation in which the outrageous language of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (whose powers are much more limited than his title implies) helps to justify threats by administration figures, which in turn help Ahmadinejad to exploit his intransigence further, gaining more fervent domestic support for himself as well as for the Iranian nuclear program."-- "For now, our choice is either to be stampeded into a reckless adventure profoundly damaging to long-term U.S. national interests or to become serious about giving negotiations with Iran a genuine chance. The mullahs were on the skids several years ago but were given a new burst of life by the intensifying confrontation with the United States. Our strategic goal, pursued by real negotiations and not by posturing, should be to separate Iranian nationalism from religious fundamentalism. Treating Iran with respect and within a historical perspective would help to advance that objective. American policy should not be swayed by the current contrived atmosphere of urgency ominously reminiscent of what preceded the misguided intervention in Iraq."The problem is, it is being so swayed by many of the same warmongering policymakers who dreamed up the Iraq War. How exactly do we get around that problem?
Bin Laden on tape, Canada at war
Well, there's another bin Laden tape. Maybe:
A newly broadcast audiotape believed to be from Osama bin Laden slams the West for cutting off funds to the Palestinian Hamas-led government and calls on al Qaeda followers to fight a proposed international force in Sudan.Uh, shouldn't we have caught this guy by now? (Sorry: snark, snark, snark.) This just shows yet again how completely insane this guy is (assuming it's him) -- and just what lies he'll tell to bolster his cause. Surely he knows there's no such "war" against Islam? Or am I giving him too much credit? (For more, see Steve Clemons.)And in case you weren't aware, Canadian forces are now fully engaged in Afghanistan, facing Taliban rocket attacks and suffering serious casualties. We, too, are at war. But should we be?
In the tape, aired Sunday in part on Arabic-language TV network Al-Jazeera, the speaker repeatedly blasts a "crusader-Zionist war" against Islam, citing other activities in Chechnya and Somalia.
In response to the Mary McCarthy leak story, Glenn Greenwald has another must-read post on "treason by association" -- see here.Conservatives in the news media and the blogosphere are "screeching," but: "[A]s I detailed yesterday, there is a slew of leaks of classified information from the Bush White House -- not decisions by the President to declassify information and then release it to the public, but anonymous pro-Bush disclosures by executive branch officials of information which is still classified, and which is released selectively and for plainly political ends. Leaking classified information is one of the principal tactics of the Bush White House and -- as demonstrated -- its closets political allies. Thus, if we are going to embrace a framework where not only the leaker but the leaker's political comrades and professional associates are considered suspect, there aren't many people in the Bush-loving world who will be free of suspicion."No wonder Democrats see a double standard at work. (Besides, Ms. McCarthy has a solid reputation as a career intelligence analyst.)This is not necessarily to excuse the leak, but the hypocrisy on the right is as blatant as ever.**********For more, see Informed Comment, Talking Points Memo, The Mahablog, Taylor Marsh at Firedoglake, and Alternate Brain.