Saturday, November 5, 2005

The day George Bush came face to face with Latin America's revolt

By Naomi Klein. A few grafs to whet your appetite:

All of this is happening because the indigenous movement in Cauca, as in much of Latin America, is on a roll. In the past year the Nasa of Northern Cauca have held the largest anti-government protests in recent Colombian history and organised local referendums against free trade that had a turnout of 70%, higher than any official election (with a near-unanimous no result). And in September thousands took over two large haciendas, forcing the government to make good on a long-promised land settlement. All these actions unfolded under the protection of the Nasa's unique Indigenous Guard, who patrol their territory armed only with sticks.

In a country ruled by M16s, AK47s, pipe bombs and Black Hawk helicopters, this combination of militancy and nonviolence is unheard of. And that is the quiet miracle the Nasa have accomplished; they have revived the hope that died when paramilitaries systematically slaughtered leftwing politicians, including dozens of elected officials and two Unión Patriótica presidential candidates. At the end of the bloody campaign in the early 90s, the Farc understandably concluded that engaging in open politics was a suicide mission. The key to the Nasa's success, Rozental says, is that they are not trying to take over state institutions, which "have lost all legitimacy". They are instead "building a new legitimacy based on an indigenous and popular mandate that has grown out of participatory congresses, assemblies and elections. Our process and our alternative institutions have put the official democracy to shame. That's why the government is so angry."

The Nasa have shattered the illusion, cherished by both sides, that Colombia's conflict can be reduced to a binary war. Their free-trade referendums have been imitated by non-indigenous unions, students, farmers and local politicians nationwide; their land takeovers have inspired other indigenous and peasant groups to do the same. A year ago 60,000 marched demanding peace and autonomy; last month those demands were echoed by simultaneous marches in 32 of Colombia's provinces. Each action, explains Hector Mondragon, a Colombian economist and activist, "has had a multiplier effect".

Across Latin America a similarly explosive multiplier effect is under way, with indigenous movements redrawing the continent's political map, demanding not just "rights" but a reinvention of the state along deeply democratic lines. In Bolivia and Ecuador, indigenous groups have shown that they have the power to topple governments. In Argentina, when mass protests ousted five presidents in 2001 and 2002, the words of Mexico's Zapatistas were shouted on the streets of Buenos Aires.

Facing mass protests in Argentina yesterday during the Summit of the Americas, George Bush saw that the spirit of that revolt is alive and well. And although Bush didn't take up Hugo Chávez's offer to hold an open debate on the merits of "free trade", that debate has already happened in the continent's streets and ballot boxes, and Bush has lost. Consider this: the last time these 34 heads of state got together, it was April 2001 in Quebec City; it was Bush's first summit after his election, and he announced with great confidence that the Free Trade Area of the Americas would be law by 2005. Now, four years later, many of the faces of his colleagues have changed and Bush can't even get the free-trade area on the agenda, let alone get it signed.

As in Colombia, there are attempts across the continent to paint the indigenous-inspired movements as terrorist. Not surprisingly, Washington is offering both military and ideological assistance. Congress has approved a doubling of the number of US soldiers in Colombia and there has been a marked increase in US troop activity in Paraguay, worryingly near to the Bolivian border, which could move decisively to the left in upcoming elections. A recent study by the US national intelligence council warned that indigenous movements, although peaceful now, could "consider more drastic means" in the future.

Indigenous movements are indeed a threat to the free-trade policies Bush is hawking, with ever fewer buyers, across Latin America. Their power comes not from terror but a terror-resistant strain of hope, so sturdy it can take root in the midst of Colombia's seemingly hopeless civil war. If it can grow there, it can anywhere.

In other words: people power.

Pass it on

March on Gretna @ Crescent City Bridge:

"During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, people were told to evacuate New Orleans by crossing the bridge that leads from New Orleans to Gretna. The Crescent City Connection Bridge spans the Mississippi River linking New Orleans to the west bank city of Gretna. However, if you were black or in the company of blacks, you were blocked from evacuating New Orleans by armed Gretna police with guard dogs. Under orders from Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson to seal off the bridge and deny safe passage to evacuees, Gretna police officers fired shots in the direction of the crowds and held others at gunpoint.

On Monday, November 7, 2005, the progressive community will cross that bridge!

MARCH ON GRETNA!

Monday, November 7, 2005

Rally at 10:00 a.m. at the New Orleans Convention Center

March begins at 11:00 a.m.

We march with our fellow citizens displaced by Katrina to reclaim the right to cross that bridge to Gretna,and in crossing that bridge in the name of the rights to safety and self-determination, to racial and economic justice, we will keep marching until we reclaim this democracy in the elections on November 7, 2006!

NEVER AGAIN WILL PROPERTY RIGHTS TRUMP PEOPLE'S RIGHTS!

WE WILL MARCH FOR FREEDOM IN NEW ORLEANS, USA! WE WILL MARCH FOR CIVIL
RIGHTS ON NOVEMBER 7, 2005!

AND WE WILL KEEP MARCHING, ADDING TO OUR NUMBERS, UNTIL WE TAKE BACK
AMERICA ON NOVEMBER 7, 2006!

Welcome from the People's Hurricane Relief & Oversight
Committee
, Community Labor United, New Orleans
Network
, The People's
Institute
the Gulf Coast Solidarity & Justice Tour,
Rebuilding Lousiana Coalition,
ColorofChange.org, Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, Common
Ground
, and the Young People's
Project

Ein Reich! Ein Fuhrer! Ein GOP!

Or, how Missouri Republicans stopped worrying and learned to launder their white hoods and robes in Oxyclean:

According to the Sunday Nevada Herald, the Vernon County Republicans hosted a reception last Thursday evening in Nevada, MO. The meeting was attended by State Senator Chris Koster, Rep. Barney Fisher, Judge Jerry McBeth, and Tera Elliot, one of Governor Blunt's appointees, who all spoke.

According to the news story, a youth group from the Church of Israel sang "God Bless America" and "The Star Spangled Banner."

Is anyone else surprised that Missouri Republicans would be associating with a group so prominently tied to white supremacists and anti-Semitics? The Church's leaders also have ties to David Tate, who murdered a Missouri State Trooper and Eric Rudolph, the infamous bomber.

Here is background on the founder of the Church of Israel, Dan Gayman.

And here is an interview with Gayman's son from the Intelligence Report, a project of the Southern Law Poverty Center, which tracks hate groups.

And here is an extensive blurb from a 1999, St. Louis Post Dispatch story:

Scott Stinson opened his worn Bible and began reading Scripture aloud. His glaring eyes showed his frustration with a society he says ignores the truth God established for the world.

Stinson's world consists of more than 700 acres of wilderness and a newly built church near tiny Schell City on the western edge of Missouri. His church is part of the Church of Christian Identity, which considers white people superior to Jews and nonwhites.

Missouri has become a hotbed for the Christian Identity movement, whose members include Buford O. Furrow Jr., the white supremacist accused of killing a postal worker and wounding five people at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles.

When Furrow surrendered Wednesday, he reportedly said he wanted "this to be a wake-up call to America to kill Jews." A prosecutor said Furrow confessed to killing a Filipino-American postal worker because he was not white.

Other Christian Identity members are tied to the recent arsons at three synagogues in Sacramento and other violent crimes.

Stinson's church -- it's called the Church of Israel -- looks more like a serene YMCA camp than a breeding ground for radical, racist thought. "I'm not some dumb hick," Stinson said last week. "The conclusions I've drawn are considered politically incorrect by the thought police of today. We are branded with a stigma. We've been called white supremacists walking around with Adolf Hitler."

Source: Firedupmissouri.com, which broke the story.

Friday, November 4, 2005

The GOP class war: the latest from the front lines

I'll simply offer up what Hunter summarizes with minimal comment:

This is just sick.

The Senate approved sweeping deficit-reduction legislation last night that would save about $35 billion over the next five years by cutting federal spending on prescription drugs, agriculture supports and student loans, while clamping down on fraud in the Medicaid program. [...]

The focus now shifts to the House, where the Budget Committee voted 21 to 16 yesterday to approve a more extensive bill saving nearly $54 billion through 2010 with cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, student loans, agriculture subsidies and child support enforcement. The House measure would allow states to impose premiums and co-payments on poor Medicaid recipients for the first time.

So, hey, it's tough times in America. To pay for Katrina, and the Iraq War, and these massive deficits, we all need to pull our weight, right? Tough economic conditions mean tough choices, we all have to accept some sacrifices.

Well, not really. Because there's a more fundamental reason for these 35 billion dollar cuts. It's because the next budget item to be taken up will be another 70 billion dollar tax cut.

As AMERICAblog previously pointed out, yesterday's WaPo article by the same author marks the House version as even more biting:

The food stamp cuts in the House measure would knock nearly 300,000 people off nutritional assistance programs, including 70,000 legal immigrants, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. [...]

About 40,000 children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price school lunches, the CBO estimated. [...]

A separate House measure would scale back federal administrative aid to state child-support enforcement programs, saving the federal government nearly $5 billion over five years but potentially cutting child-support collections even more. [...]

Still another House provision would roll back a court-ordered expansion of foster care support, denying foster care payments to relatives who take in children removed from their parents' homes by court order. That provision would reduce the coverage of foster care payments to about 4,000 children a month and cut $397 million from the program through 2010, the CBO said. [...]

So I'm not sure exactly how much more evidence is required towards the point that Republicans simply want poor children to go to hell.

Hunter also makes the point that the elitists who are satisfying their own fetishes for additional tax cuts for themselves on the backs of the rest of us aren't merely indifferent to the rest of us but are openly hostile. The toppers have no qualms about insider trading and so-called white collar crimes, but the remote potential that someone without access to fancy stockbrokers might end up with a dime or more than they "should" have is something that gives them heartburn as they try to enjoy their caviar.

One a somewhat related note, check out A Zombie Empire by Madman in the Marketplace.

An "elected" dictatorship?

Found at Earthside are snippets of two recent columns that sum up the bleak present and future faced by those of us living in the US:

Link: Faith and Fraud | Jonathan Schell/The Nation

A factitious picture of the world built up by the Bush Administration over its five years in power is now going to pieces before our eyes. Great jagged spikes of reality, like the crags of the iceberg that ripped open the staterooms of the Titanic, are tearing into it on all sides. The disrespected world of facts, an exacting master, is putting down this governmental insurrection against its ineluctable laws. ... Perhaps that's why, in a more recent discovery about the Bush officials, they turn out to have had a minimal interest in actually running things. Many have noted that the Administration had no plan for running Iraq. But it took the federal response, or lack of one, to Hurricane Katrina to show that the same might be true of the Administration's approach to the United States. ... It has turned out that the Republican Party, which has long seen government as "the problem," not "the solution," is uninterested in governing. But if a "government" ceases to govern, can we call it a government? If a "supermarket" sells no food, can we call it a supermarket? We all keep referring to the "Bush Administration," yet administering seems to be the last thing on its mind. These disclosures bring a new question to the fore: If the Bush outfit is not governing, what is it doing? The answer comes readily: It wishes to acquire, increase and consolidate the power of the Republican Party. At home the GOP is to become a "permanent majority for the future of this country," in the words of former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay, now also indicted, and abroad the country would be the imperial ruler of the globe. ... And then, bright and early Monday morning, he nominated right-wing Judge Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, in a trumpet call to rally his right-wing political army. As John Yoo, a right-wing former Bush Administration Justice Department official put it, "With this nomination, Bush is saying 'Bring it on!'" No one would talk reality to Bush. He would fight the truth-tellers, and the truth they would tell him, to the end.

Link: Secrets and Shame | Bob Herbert/New York Times

Ultimately the whole truth will come out and historians will have their say, and Americans will look in the mirror and be ashamed. Abraham Lincoln spoke of the "better angels" of our nature. George W. Bush will have none of that. He's set his sights much, much lower. The latest story from the Dante-esque depths of this administration was front-page news in The Washington Post yesterday. The reporter, Dana Priest, gave us the best glimpse yet of the extent of the secret network of prisons in which the CIA has been hiding and interrogating terror suspects. The network includes a facility at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe. ... The individuals held in these prisons have been deprived of all rights. They don't even have the basic minimum safeguards of prisoners of war. If they are being tortured or otherwise abused, there is no way for the outside world to know about it. If some mistake has been made and they are, in fact, innocent of wrongdoing - too bad. As Ms. Priest wrote, "Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long." This is the border along which democracy bleeds into tyranny. ... I had a conversation yesterday with Michael Posner, executive director of Human Rights First, about the secret CIA prisons. "We're a nation founded on laws and rules that say you treat people humanely," he said, "and among the safeguards is that people in detention should be formally recognized; they should have access, at a minimum, to the Red Cross; and somebody should be accountable for their treatment. "What we've done is essentially to throw away the rule book and say that there are some people who are beyond the law, beyond scrutiny, and that the people doing the detentions and interrogations are totally unaccountable. It's a secret process that almost inevitably leads to abuse." Worse stories are still to come - stories of murder, torture and abuse. We'll watch them unfold the way people watch the aftermath of terrible accidents. And then we'll ask, "How could this have happened?"

Food for thought

Some thoughts on Islam and feminism that I've encountered recently that I merely wish to highlight. Enjoy!

Islamic Feminist Revolution (from the blog No Capital):
More evidence that the notion that we progressive Westerners have to impose equality on all those backwards other people around the world is nothing more than a load of arrogant, convenient crap:
Marching under the banner of a new "gender jihad", Islamic feminists from around the world this weekend launched what they hope will become a global movement to liberate Muslim women.

The meeting, which drew women from as far apart as Malaysia, Mali, Egypt and Iran, set itself the task of squaring Islam with feminism. That meant not just combating 14 centuries of sexism in the Muslim world, participants said, but also dealing with the animosity to Islam of many western or secular feminists. They insisted that many of the fundamental concepts of equality embraced by feminism could also be found in the Qur'an.
The Prophet Mohammed as Feminist (from a blogger named Ductape Fatwa), has even more food for thought, with commentary and links to further commentary on Islamic feminism. He has more to say recently here.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Why on earth would you vote for these clowns?

The GOP, of course. Seriously. Near as I can figure, folks (at least the sane ones) don't vote for GOP politicians because of the party's stance on equality or the near-fetishism of its leaders regarding violating personal privacy. Rather, it's been a perception that the GOP's leaders are "fiscally responsible" and "vigilant on matters of national security." To say that the perception is false is a tremendous understatement. In terms of the latter, we find Bu$hCo floundering badly in two different military theaters (Afghanistan and Iraq). That same administration sees little wrong with blowing the cover of covert agents in order to settle political scores (and its enablers in Congress seem more than willing to go along). Since the White House declared its vague "war on terror" terrorism has actually been on the increase worldwide. Once solid allies have distanced themselves from us. Violations of international laws with regard to torture sure haven't helped. You get the picture. Oh, I have my share of ire to direct towards the so-called opposition party as well, primarily for cowardice and lack of leadership demonstrated by a majority of its members. The bottom line, though, as that our current deficits in terms of national security are ones spearheaded by the GOP. They own the mess they've made.

In terms of the GOP and fiscal responsibility, I can sum it up in three words: there is none. Latest evidence of fiscal insanity:
Washington, D.C. - President George W. Bush and the current Administration have now borrowed more money from foreign governments and banks than the previous 42 U.S. presidents combined.

Throughout the first 224 years (1776-2000) of our nation's history, 42 U.S. presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions according to the U.S. Treasury Department. In the past four years alone (2001-2005), the Bush Administration has borrowed a staggering $1.05 trillion. ... Read all.

You read that right. Guess who's left holding the bag when the bill comes due - and believe me, the bill will come due. The priorities of this White House (with assistance from its own partisan cohorts in Congress) have been badly misplaced: tax cuts for the wealthiest coupled with massive expenditures on a war that was both unnecessary and illegal count for a lot of the apparent need to borrow so much.

GOP = borrow and squander "conservatives".

Here's what the GOP leadership REALLY thinks of its "base"

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.

Link.

A Pan-European Leftist Party in the Making?

Found this tidbit at the European Tribune:
I don't have time to comment at length unfortunately, so I'll just highlight some salient points from the Guardian article:


Lafontaine and the new Linkspartei he leads are moving on the European stage. The party was one of the organisers of the first congress of a new political animal: the European Left party (ELP). Some 360 people attended its congress in Athens at the weekend. These ranged from significant players on the European scene, such as the Party of Communist Refoundation, Romani Prodi's radical partner in the Union, the coalition that hopes to unseat Silvio Berlusconi in April next year, through to small parties like the Estonian Communist party who were excited "to be part of something big", as its delegate Sirje Kingsepp put it.

Seems like a pleasingly international effort.


What they had in common was a commitment to the renewal of the left and to the idea of a common European strategy. Absent were orthodox and nationalist communist parties, notably the communist parties of Portugal and Greece.

(emphasis mine)

Sounds familiar?


The intention is to create a European political actor and identity - something more than the political blocs in the European parliament which are essentially groups for politicians pressing national concerns. One member of the executive speculated that at the next European elections, parties would field candidates under the logo of the ELP as well as their own, and possibly exchange candidates across borders.

This is potentially very exciting and should tell us all that our ideas for Eurotrib are at the cutting edge right now and this is the time of opportunity.

You can learn more at the European Left website. Definitely something I'd like to keep an eye out on.

Quotable

Found on Avedon Carol's always cool blog, The Sideshow:
The 2000 election was like the Stonewall Riots for the rightwing. They can now go out in public without their hoods, chanting: We're here, we're bigots, and we hate you.

A stern warning to Oklahoma from Colorado

Beware of TABOR. What is TABOR? It is an acronym for "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights," and Colorado was the flagship state for TABOR starting in 1992. A brief rundown on the Colorado experience:

In 1992, Colorado adopted a state constitutional amendment - dubbed the “Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights” or TABOR - that limits the annual growth of Colorado’s state budget to a strict formula. Annual growth in their budget must be less than the annual growth of population plus inflation.

Conservative groups are pushing for similar limits across the country. Stateline.org reported in March, “The states considering TABOR-like amendments this year are Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin.”

Yesterday, right-wing columnist George Will opined, “Tabor has been spectacularly successful.” If he means that it has successfully gutted Colorado’s ability to provide basic public services, he’d be right.

Colorado has the nation’s seventh-highest per-capita income. But according to data from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

  • Colorado ranks 47th in K-12 education funding as a share of state income.
  • Colorado ranks 50th in the nation in on-time immunization rates.
  • The share of low-income individuals enrolled in Medicaid is lower than in all but five other states.
  • Colorado has eliminated its affordable housing loans and grants program.
  • Due to underfunding, court hearings that are required by statute to occur within two days of a filing routinely take 30 days.

Colorado’s story should be a warning to all those states now considering TABOR amendments.

The experience for Coloradans was apparently bad enough that on Tuesday they voted to suspend TABOR for five years. A summary:

Colorado voters went to the polls yesterday (November 1st) and voted in a 5-year suspension of their "Taxpayer's Bill of Rights" (TABOR), the strictest government spending limitation in the country, thus foregoing $3.7 billion in tax refunds and repudiating, after twelve years, spending-cap legislation championed by Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union, two groups founded by Grover Norquist, the architect of President Bush's tax cuts, who once boasted that his goal was to “reduce [government] to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” Colorado's TABOR had also been championed by the conservative Heritage Foundation which had dubbed it "the envy of the nation." Right-wing political commentator George Will only last month called it "spectacularly successful." Obviously Colorado voters, who voted by a 53% to 47% margin to suspend it, disagreed. So did Republican Governor Bill Owens, a Norquist disciple who helped pass TABOR in 1992, but who joined forces with Democrats to defeat it yesterday. "It means we can join 49 other states recovering from the recession, we can make up some of the cuts," said Owens, adding, "I did what I thought was right, and Colorado is going to be the better for it."

A bitter $ 8 million ad campaign was waged for and against "Referendum C," as it was called. Conservative groups are not taking their defeat gracefully, fearing that cap-spending legislation pending in other states including California (with strong backing by Governor Schwarznegger), Kansas, Ohio, Maine, Nevada, Arizona and Oklahoma may be facing a similar fate. Anti-Tax forces accused voters of caving in to government pressure and succombing to "tax grabs by politicians afraid to make tough decisions," calling Owens, once considered conservative presidential timber, "a traitor to his party."

The relevance to Oklahomans is clear: currently there is an initiative proposal that is circulating in our state that would put TABOR on the ballot next November. Compared to Colorado, we are a relatively poor state with public services that are already chronically underfunded. The mentality behind TABOR is elitist - although it may be dressed in populist language. What folks like Norquist and his cronies want us to believe is that funding public services is bad. These folks view the services we likely take for granted as a "beast" that must be "starved" or "drowned." On the contrary, the money we taxpayers spend on our state's public services is best viewed as I see it as an investment. Good roads foster commerce. Properly educated children and adults have opportunities opened to them that in the long run benefit all of us in terms of better paying jobs and so forth. Yeah, it might be nice to occasionally see a check for $50 or so bucks in the mail if the state's coffers truly overfloweth, but let's ask how worthwhile that would be when faced with, say, a $1000 - $2000 increase in your kid's college tuition because the state had to cut its university's budgets, or the extra money spent on car repairs due to roads that fall into a state of disrepair. I can tell you right now that for any of us who are already on the edge financially, that we couldn't afford the extra hidden costs that TABOR would bring. As it is now, working families are finding it increasingly difficult to send their kids to the nearby state college or university. Any semblance of a public university would vanish under TABOR. What it would do to the K-12 system, to the state's infrastructure, etc., I can only imagine.

Okie Funk has offered plenty of info on TABOR that you can use to educate yourself. We can learn from Colorado's experience (which is one I wouldn't wish on Oklahoma or on any other state) - let's not repeat their mistake.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Clearing Up Misconceptions...

David Niewert takes on some of the mythology surrounding the term "fascism," offering a lengthy and well-written reality-based rejoinder:
Of course, as I just got done explaining a little bit ago, the conservative charge that fascism was a leftist phenomenon is a rightist attempt at David Irvingesque historical revisionism. There is not a single serious historian of either fascism or World War II who does not consider it a right-wing phenomenon: its anti-liberalism and anti-socialism were its defining characteristics, regardless of the rhetoric adopted by early adherents and leaders. Remember Robert Paxton's description of the political space that the fascists occupied in obtaining power:

In sum, fascists offered a new recipe for governing with popular support but without any sharing of power with the Left, and without any threat to conservative social and economic privileges and political dominance. The conservatives, for their part, held the keys to the doors of power.


The key historical fact underlining this debate is that fascism never was just a European phenomenon. It may have originated in America (Paxton identifies the Ku Klux Klan as the first real iteration of fascism in the era of mass politics), and certainly there were fascists in America in the 1920s and '30s (see, e.g., not just the Klan but also the Silvershirts), all of whom were aligned to the right, sometimes (as in the case of the America First Committee and Charles Lindbergh) with mainstream conservatives.

For that matter, of course, there are still genuine fascists and proto-fascists with us today. They go by such names as the Aryan Nations, Christian Identity, or National Socialist Movement. And they're all aligned, politically, to the far right. Their spinoffs, such as the Patriot/militia movement, were all right-leaning movements with substantial interaction with mainstream conservatism, as I've documented at length. Indeed, the militia movement's own bastard brainchild -- the Minutemen -- is now being ardently adopted by a variety of supposedly mainstream Republicans.
Definitely check out the rest.

If I had a nickel...

for every damned credit card come-on that my wife and I receive in the mail, I'd be able to buy a new car, cash on the barrel. Every day, for what seems like an eternity, we get the slick adverts from the various predatory lenders, such as Capital One and MBNA. Clearly I am far from alone. A guy with a blog called Corporate-Alien has a similar complaint, and a handy pdf form letter that you can send back in those accompanying postage-paid envelopes. Looks like it's time for me to go back to doing a little direct action - this time aimed not at the bs that gets posted on college bulletin boards but at the junk mail flooding our own mailbox.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Quotable: Freudian Slip Edition

While fuming about the Democrats' move, Santorum [R-PA] was trying to say that it had something to do with Democrats' fiscal discipline. He said:

"...They just don't get that we're trying to do less with with more. They just don't get it..."


Source. I'd say that aptly describes the last decade-plus of GOP control. They're doing less with more: less for the American people while burdening the American people with more debt.

Scam?

The Legacy of Arlen Specter:
I never had any doubt that Arlen Specter would push through a nominee that would overturn Roe as long as he had some cover. That is, as long as the nominee wasn't clearly on the record as wanting to overturn Roe he could hold his nose and close his eyes and pretend.

However, with his participation in the Pennsylvania Casey decision, Alito's made his views pretty clear. The real question now becomes will Arlen Specter's final legacy be to help orchestrate the overturning of Roe?

Here's what the Inquirer wrote last year when they endorsed him
The Inquirer believes Specter should get another six-year term. Preserving the legality of abortion plays no small part in this decision. Sometime in the next four years, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee will very likely find himself in the pivotal role of scrutinizing at least one new Supreme Court nominee. Assuming that Republicans are in charge of the Senate, it would be better to have the chairman's seat filled by Specter, who says Roe v. Wade is "inviolate" as the law of the land. If Specter loses, next in line among Republicans to be chairman is Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who opposes abortion rights.

It's time to see if the guy has any actual principles or if the "moderate pro-choice Republican" thing he's milked his whole career was just a scam.
I'm betting on the latter. That's one bet I'd be happy to lose, though.

Hypocrisy

From Billmon:
Two words for all the right-wing yahoos out there who want to pretend the GOP machine would never stoop so low as to slime an Italian-American nominee for alleged Mafia ties: Geraldine Ferraro.
During the 1984 election, for instance, the Wall Street Journal editorial pages ran a story rejected by the newspaper about alleged connections between Geraldine Ferraro and the Mafia, based on her husband's business dealings.

There's one standard that the right-wingnut elitists apply to themselves and an entirely different standard that they apply to everyone else.

Priorities

Via Okiedoke:

Our elected representatives in Washington may not be able to get anywhere close to a majority willing to cut pork in the bloated federal highway bill. But they seem to have other more popular ideas on ways to reduce pork, and chicken, and beans, and potatoes, and …

With more than 38 million Americans too poor to buy adequate food, the US Congress has begun to take away the food stamps many of them receive.

The Republican majority on the House Agriculture Committee has approved budget cuts that will take “food stamps” away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children.
-
The White House proposed the restriction earlier this year.

Perhaps there are good reasons for the cuts, what with the booming economy and low prices from free trade and all.
The action came as the US Government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can’t afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of seven million in five years.

The number represents nearly 12 per cent of US households.

Well, surely Oklahoma is the exception having adopted right-to-work and given business so much in tax breaks and other incentives. Let’s check a USDA report on hunger released this month:
Hunger 2002-2004

State Rank
OK 1

We hold that ranking thanks to an increase of 2.3% in hungry Okies since 2000.

I give up. Maybe the cuts are just plain wrong.

As mentioned previously, this is beyond the realm of being penny-wise and pound-foolish to just plain and simple foolishness. This is your GOP Congress presumably at work. I can hardly wait for these clowns to vote themselves another pay raise.

Populism on the rise in Latino America

Said it before, I'm sure: those of us with populist leanings in the US can learn a thing or two and draw some inspiration from the rise of populist governments and movements in South and Central America. There's some hope that by the end of the year Bolivia may become the latest government to go populist:
LA PAZ, Bolivia, Oct 31 (Reuters) - He has rallied Bolivia's coca farmers against U.S.-led eradication efforts and helped lead anti-government protests by indigenous groups that have unseated two presidents in two years.

But opposition leader Evo Morales is now closing in on the office he has helped force others to flee.

Opinion polls show the leftist congressman holding a narrow lead in an upcoming presidential election. Scheduled for Dec 4, the election could be delayed due to political bickering over Congressional seats.

If elected, Morales would be Bolivia's first Indian president and add South America's poorest country to a regional political shift leftward that has seen leftist leaders rise to power in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela.

[...]

"I think people are getting used to the idea that Evo could be our next president," said insurance company worker Mario Perez in the capital, La Paz, underscoring how Morales' popularity has slowly spread to middle classes.

The son of a highland peasant and a one-time coca farmer, Morales carries a message that is reverberating with Bolivia's poor Indian majority: nationalizing the country's gas industry and challenging Bolivia's free-market economic policies. He has also invoked racial imagery in urging Bolivians to choose their first indigenous president over European-descendants who have led the country for decades.

Bolivia has been hit by anti-globalization demonstrations in recent years. Popular revolts by indigenous and union groups demanding a bigger share of the country's vast natural gas resources have toppled two presidents.

Morales -- a self-confessed follower of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez -- has appealed to that popular anger on the campaign trail, also vowing to legalize growing of coca -- used to make cocaine -- as part of what he calls the building of a "new country governed by the majority."

"The Aymaras and Quechuas have awakened and we're going to recover our political power," Morales, 45, said recently, referring to two of Bolivia's largest Indian groups.
No doubt that if Morales manages to win his bid at election, he'll face a hostile US White House and Congress - think of that lovely euphemism "regime change" that will be used to excuse US sponsored coup and/or assassination attempts. Of course there will always be some hatemonger on the US mass media airwaves advocating assassination of Morales - after all he's a "commie" and undoubtedly those indigenous Indian peoples are somehow Islamofascists, so offing him (and maybe a few injuns for laughs) is the "Christian" thing to do. Better cue up the mic, Pat Robertson for the follow-up to your anti-Venezuela tirade.

Speaking of Venezuela, Eli gives this summary of some of its recent successes:
How can you tell a real revolution from a coup or a fake revolution? When the government in question wants the population to be educated so they can participate in running the country:
"This Friday, coinciding with the 234th anniversary of the birth of Simon Rodriguez [one of Bolivar's tutors], Venezuela was declared a territory free of illiteracy and is the second country after Cuba to attain that condition in Latin America...teach[ing[ close to 1.5 million Venezuelans to read and write in a little over two years."
Of course, restructuring the economy to benefit the people is also a good sign:
"Firmly in power and his revolution now in overdrive, President Hugo Chavez is moving fast to transform Venezuela's economy by bucking free-market planning with what he calls 21st-century socialism: founding state companies, seizing abandoned private factories and establishing thousands of cooperatives and worker-run businesses.

"The populist government is reorganizing the country's colossal oil industry, taking a bigger share from private multinationals. Planners are reorganizing the banking system, placing stringent restrictions on lending while creating state banks. Venezuela is also developing a state-to-state barter system to trade items as varied as cattle, oil and cement as far away as Argentina and as near as Cuba, its closest ally.

"'It's impossible for capitalism to achieve our goals, nor is it possible to search for an intermediate way,' Mr. Chavez said a few months ago, laying out his plans. 'I invite all Venezuelans to march together on the path of socialism of the new century.'"

What's the literacy rate here in the US? I'll bet all five cents of my life's savings that it's nowhere near 100% Why? We've allowed our public education systems and our public libraries to go to pot. Too many of us have bought the right-wing kool-aid that funding schools and libraries is an expense that ought to be minimized, rather than to view their funding as an investment in our collective future. Indeed, education is an investment that would pay huger dividends over the long haul than, say, wars waged by Oval Office fiat. On a similar note, let's turn to public health, which Bondad has written about in a blog post titled Public Health: Cheaper, Longer Life, Fewer Dead Kids:
One of the right's primary arguments against a single-payer national health system is it will be more expensive than private insurance. They argue against another federal program. What they have not recognized is all other countries that have public health plans are actually cheaper than the US as expressed in expenditures per GDP and per capita. In addition, public health systems in some cases provide better overall health service as measured through an increased life expectancy.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tracks member state's health systems. They issue an annual study on the cost of health care and the overall effectiveness of the various systems. In their latest report on the US, they note of member countries, only the US, Mexico and Korea rely primarily on private health insurance to provide medical care. The median amount of GDP spent on health care of 29 countries has fluctuated between 7.9 and 8.4 for 2000-2003. For 2000-2003, US health expense as a percentage of GDP was 13.1%, 13.8%, 14.6% and 15% respectively - by far the highest total of all countries. Germany was the next most expensive country and their totals for the same years (2000-2003) were 10.6%, 10.8%, 10.9%, 11.1%, respectively. So, as a percentage of GDP basis, the US spends between 34% and 75% more as a percentage of GDP than countries that rely primarily on public funds to provide health service.

The OECD also breaks health expenses down into amount spent per capita. For the last four years (2000-2003), the median per capital expense for 29 OECD countries ranged from $2010 to 2248. Over the same years, the US once again spent more than any other OECD country, with figures for 2000-2003 of $4539, $4888, $5287 and $5635. Over the same time, Switzerland ranked second in per capita expenditures and Germany third. It's important to notice that the US's private health care system routinely spends at least twice as much per person than other countries with public health systems.

So, the US spends the most on health care. Our system must provide some incredible benefits! Actually, the US benefits are below median for all OECD countries. In 1990, the median life expectancy of males and females for all OECD countries 75.5 years, while the US' number was 75.3. In 2000, the OECD median life expectancy was 78 and the US's was 76.8. In 2003, the OECD's number was 78.5 and the US' was n77.2. For the years 2000-2003, the OECD's infant mortality rate as expressed as number of deaths per 1000 decreased from 5.1 in 2000 to 4.3 in 2003. In contrast, the US' numbers increased from 6.9 in 2000 to 7 in 2003. So, in OECD countries, people are living longer and fewer kids are dying.

Countries with public health insurance spend less per GDP and per capita on health expenses, they live longer, and fewer infants die. That sounds damn good to me, but then again I like facts instead of faith.

OECD Link

In these dark days, such talk is thoroughly politically incorrect, but necessary. To a large degree, conservatism as it has been idealized struck me as penny-wise and pound-foolish and in practice merely foolish and we're reaping the consequences. Chavez' Venezuela is one example of a nation considerably less wealthy than the US that has been able to do right by its people. What they've done, no doubt on a shoestring, could certainly be replicated in what is ostensibly the wealthiest nation on the face of the earth, right?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Let's see, if nominating the incompetent crony for SCOTUS doesn't work...

then perhaps nominating someone with fascist inclinations will:
ALITO WOULD OVERTURN ROE V. WADE: In his dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito concurred with the majority in supporting the restrictive abortion-related measures passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in the late 1980’s. Alito went further, however, saying the majority was wrong to strike down a requirement that women notify their spouses before having an abortion. The Supreme Court later rejected Alito’s view, voting to reaffirm Roe v. Wade. [Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 1991]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW RACE-BASED DISCRIMINATION: Alito dissented from a decision in favor of a Marriott Hotel manager who said she had been discriminated against on the basis of race. The majority explained that Alito would have protected racist employers by “immuniz[ing] an employer from the reach of Title VII if the employer’s belief that it had selected the ‘best’ candidate was the result of conscious racial bias.” [Bray v. Marriott Hotels, 1997]

ALITO WOULD ALLOW DISABILITY-BASED DISCRIMINATION: In Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, the majority said the standard for proving disability-based discrimination articulated in Alito’s dissent was so restrictive that “few if any…cases would survive summary judgment.” [Nathanson v. Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1991]

ALITO WOULD STRIKE DOWN THE FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) “guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one.” The 2003 Supreme Court ruling upholding FMLA [Nevada v. Hibbs, 2003] essentially reversed a 2000 decision by Alito which found that Congress exceeded its power in passing the law. [Chittister v. Department of Community and Economic Development, 2000]

ALITO SUPPORTS UNAUTHORIZED STRIP SEARCHES: In Doe v. Groody, Alito agued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home. [Doe v. Groody, 2004]

ALITO HOSTILE TOWARD IMMIGRANTS: In two cases involving the deportation of immigrants, the majority twice noted Alito’s disregard of settled law. ...

Bu$hCo had to throw some red meat to the wingnut base after the previous nominee debacle. This guy is a proto-fascist's wet dream come true. He's openly hostile to privacy rights, and by extension to women's reproductive rights. Unlike the previous stealth nominees, this guy's got a paper trail: stealth he ain't. This nomination battle appears to be the real showdown that the right-wing has been jonesing for all this time. We'll also get to see just how effective the Dems can be as an opposition party. Their track record hasn't exactly been stellar, so far, and my expectations are pretty low as a result. Hopefully, I'll be pleasantly surprised for once.

Anniversaries

There are anniversaries, and then there are anniversaries:

Lest we get too caught up in this year's 100th anniversary of Einstein's special relativity theory, it should be noted that 2005 also marks the centennial of Sigmund Freud's theory of vaginal orgasm.

Freud's idea didn't cause a revolution in our understanding of the cosmos, but it did set off a debate that rages to this day. Now, a new genetics study and a book on the evolution of female orgasm may help bring a new understanding of this complicated reflex.

Freud proposed that female pleasure and orgasm should center on the reproductive tract. He was aware that many women experienced orgasm through a small but ultrasensitive organ known as the clitoris but dealt with this by declaring such orgasms "infantile." Any woman who didn't transfer her center of sensitivity to the vagina he labeled as frigid.

Via Our Word. The rest of the article is worth reading. When I teach a course on human sexual behavior, inevitably I have to discuss Freud, and his theory of vaginal orgasms (the short story: he got it wrong). I will give him credit for broaching the topic of sexuality, which Victorian-era Europe and America treated with way too much timidity. Thankfully, there is much better research and theory now than there was back then.