Archive for August, 2007

Framing conservatism: Profits over healthy children

Friday, August 31st, 2007

The outrages just keep coming: instance after instance where the Bush Administration has sold out the health and welfare of the American people in order to protect corporate profits. And what’s probably the saddest part of the whole sordid affair is how hard it is to work up even of modicum of surprise as each new atrocity is disclosed.

My first Framing Conservatism post 10 days ago was about the disclosures over how the Bush Administration had actually fought efforts — on behalf, in part, of China, of all patrons — to assure that no lead paint is used in the toys our kids play with.

Now there’s this:

(Washington Post) HHS Toned Down Breast-Feeding Ads

In an attempt to raise the nation’s historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

So here we go again: Given a choice between working to improve the health of America’s children or fighting to protect the profits of corporate America, conservatives always come down squarely on the side of profit: let the babies be damned.  This, of course, is the true face of those often discussed right wing family values: conservatives care a lot about who’s having sex with whom; but when it comes down to protecting American families where it really counts, they always seem to have other priorities.

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Don’t discount the Justice Department’s Gonzales probe

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I suspect that a lot of people had an instant, “Yeah, right,” reaction when they first heard that the Inspector General of the Justice Department is investigating Alberto Gonzales’s misleading testimony before Congress.  Given past experience, only a fool would not be at least a little skeptical.

But don’t be too surprised if this turns out to be a good deal more than a toothless PR exercise.  There are still a lot of fine public servants at the Department of Justice, including, of course, many lawyers working in the career service.  And I will guarantee you that a bunch of these folks are furious over the way Gonzales has pissed all over their department’s reputation.

Up to this point in the Bush Administration, all too often the political hacks at Justice have held inappropriate sway over criminal investigations, and there’s no reason to think the administration’s basic game plan has changed: but the ability of the Bushies to manipulate the process has almost certainly diminished now that the spotlight is on them and many of the top politicos are heading for the hills.  As a practical matter, it would probably be impossible at this point for any political appointee to successfully derail an active investigation into the former AG’s conduct.

Believe it or not, I actually won’t be that surprised if I wake up some morning to discover that an indictment has been handed down or even a plea agreement reached.  It could happen without our ever having known that a criminal investigation, as such, had even formally been opened.

It may not happen: but it’s not nearly as long a shot as some people may believe.   

Update: Related to the point that there are still many fine lawyers serving at Justice, see this post by Scott Horton.

Thank you, Republican Governor Perry

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I had seen the stories that Texas was getting ready to execute the getaway driver in a botched robbery turned homicide.  Obviously, he deserves to pay dearly for his crimes, and he will.  But to impose capital punishment under those circumstances would be an abomination.

Thankfully now that will not be happening, at least in this case.

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Tucker Carlson: Smiter of “evil” — the multiple choice test

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, that ultimate Alfa Male himself, Tucker Carlson, recently did a little bragging on TV about the time he and a pal beat up a gay man who “bothered him” in a public restroom.  I actually heard the exchange live, and can attest from firsthand experience that it was, to say the least, a little creepy.

Now, first, go to Media Matters to watch the video (there’s also a transcript).  They have also posted a rather odd explanation sent in by the Tuckinator himself, wherein he “explains” that he wasn’t gay bashing at all, but, to the contrary, heroically (if you can call going to get a buddy to help you rough someone up heroic) defending himself against a sexual assault.

Having viewed the video, now please answer the following multiple choice question:  Is the Bow-Tied Avenger,

Number (1): a gay bashing predatory freak who needs to be locked up forever for the protection of the public at large;

Number (2): a homophobic coward who thinks he can impress people with his Macho Manhood by, shall we say, creatively “writing” a story that portrays himself facing down an evil gay person (meaning, of course, that he should be forever barred from our television screens for dishonesty); or,

Number (3): a heroic defender of virtue who single-handedly (with the help of a friend) brought down an evildoer, and, thus, should be held up as an example to our children as a hero to be emulated.

Choose one of the following answers:

a. Number 1 is true;

b. Number 2 is true;

c. Number 3 is true;

d. Oh, for Pete’s sake, Tucker Carlson couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag even if he did have a friend helping him.
 

Question of the day: Why are Republican senators coming down so much harder on Craig than Vitter?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Sen. David Vitter violated the law and proved himself to be a shameless hypocrite by patronizing a prostitution ring.  The Senate GOP Caucus rallied to his side.

Sen. Larry Craig violated the law and proved himself to be a shameless hypocrite by soliciting gay sex in a public bathroom.  The Senate GOP Caucus turned on him like a pack of mad dogs.

Why the difference?  Is it homophobia or just politics? 

My take: homophobia may play a small part, but mostly this comes down to the fact that Vitter is lucky enough to represent a state with a Democratic governor, meaning that if he were to resign the GOP would lose the seat.  Craig isn’t so lucky: Idaho is not only one of the reddest states in the union; it also happens to have a Republican governor.

Republican politicos may hate gays (or at least pander to those who do), but they hate losing power more.

So, what do you think?

Important Update: I’m on a very poor on-again-off-again connection today (hopefully it will be fixed soon).  I may be approving comments too quickly (trying to get them up before I lose net access again).  NOTHING, I REPEAT NOTHING, which smacks of, or which might be construed (even if unintended) as having an anti-gay tone will be posted from this point forward, period!

We don’t do hate at The Last Chance Democracy Café.


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War with Iran: the uncrossable line

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

This isn’t a post for pretty words or clever slams: this is the time for plain talk.  So let me say this as plainly as I can to our Democratic representatives and senators: this time there will be no excuses.  If the Democratic Congress doesn’t do everything in its power to prevent Bush from launching another war, this time against Iran, as far as the party’s rank and file is concerned, the jig will be up.  You will be dead to us.

And no, I’m not talking about sitting on our hands, or bolting the party.  I’m talking about taking you down.  Mark my words: if congressional Democrats allow Bush to lead this country into yet another catastrophe because they’re too afraid of their own tails to fight back, all bets are off.

The beating of the neocon’s war drums grows louder by the day: the time for fence sitting is over.  Congressional Democrats, where will you stand on the issue of war with Iran?  Or perhaps the more pertinent question: Will you stand at all?

Think it over carefully, Democrats: the rage constituents recently directed against Rep. Brian Baird in Oregon for his troop withdrawal flip-flop was nothing compared to what you’ll face.  And, yes, I know, in the first weeks after the attack, there may be some let’s rally ‘round the president reaction (although don’t count on it), probably even some early declarations of victory, but none of it will last.  And as the full dimensions of the damage such an attack will do to this country become apparent, people are going to get ugly, really ugly.

There will be no such thing as a safe district.  Primary opponents will pop up like dandelions in the summertime.  

Realistically, whatever the Democratic Party does, they may not be able to stop Bush from another joyous leap of faith into disaster.  But this time they damn well better try — something they’ve woefully failed to do up to this point. 

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Look, Ma, I’m an economist!

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

I’m not actually an economist, of course — and unlike, say, George Will, I don’t even play one on television.  But even as a non-economist, I have no trouble seeing the devil hiding in the recent “good” economic news about income and poverty.  For example, census numbers show that income is up!  Well, yeah, it’s up a little, as in, very little — and even then most of the increase is because more people are working longer hours, rather than from rising wages.

But wait, there’s even more good news.  It seems that for the first time since George W. Bush rode into town, the poverty rate has actually gone down.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Economic Inequality 101.  Today’s lesson: how the rich get richer while the rest tread water.  We begin with a little closer look at all this good news: after years of significant economic growth, now, finally, just as the economy shows signs of slowing down, a few tiny crumbs from these “good times” may actually have begun to fall into the laps of average Americans.  During this same time, of course, the wealthiest of Americans have made an absolute — obscene really — killing.

So what happens when the economy goes to shit, as appears increasingly likely to happen fairly soon?  (I know, this stuff is just too easy, isn’t it?)  What will happen, of course, is that the working class and especially the poor will be hurt very badly, particularly through unemployment. 

And what of the wealthiest of the wealthy?  They may get hurt too — a little.

So there you have economic inequality in a nutshell: in good times, ordinary Americans benefit very little, while the superrich benefit a great deal; during bad times ordinary Americans get hurt a lot, while the superrich get hurt a little.  And so bit by bit the nation’s wealth is transferred from the many to the few.

Seriously, you should take some time to appreciate the majesty of it all.  You’re seeing history in the making here — the death of the American middle class.

Ayad Allawi: the next great neocon fu*k up?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

There are growing indications that the befuddled citizens of Neocon World are settling on Ayad Allawi, the former CIA asset and interim prime minister, as their preferred candidate for the job of Iraqi strongman.  Allawi, of course, is doing his part to fan the flames, even to the absurd degree of retaining an American PR firm to build his image as potential Iraqi leader here in the US.

Congressional Democrats (and Democratic presidential candidates) have predictably, if witlessly, been doing their part to advance this lunacy by jumping onto the dump-Maliki bandwagon.

The problem with this American-Allawi lovefest, of course, is that Allawi has no real constituency inside Iraq: so it’s unlikely he could win an election there.  But then we’re not really talking elections anymore, are we?  No, we’re talking good old-fashioned coup here.  You see, that whole “let’s build a democracy in Iraq to be a shining example for the whole Islamic world to follow” thing has lost a little of its sparkle in Neocon World, whose denizens seem to be increasingly pining for a return to the strongman days of yore.

So would an Allawi coup work?  Not a chance.  At least not unless we’re prepared to use US forces to prop him up indefinitely in the face of a broadening civil war.  Allawi is a secular Shi’ite.  The Iraqi armed forces, such as they are, are largely made up of members of religious militias.  It’s hard to be a military dictator when you don’t control the military.  But since Allawi isn’t well liked in Iraq, he has only one possible source of firepower. 

You got it: we have met Allawi’s army and they are us!

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Success in Afghanistan!

Monday, August 27th, 2007

We may not have rebuilt the country like we promised we would.  But we’ve sure helped jumpstart its agricultural production.

(NY Times) Afghan Opium Crop at Record High

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 27 — Opium cultivation in Afghanistan grew by 17 percent in 2007, reaching record levels for the second straight year, according to a United Nations report released Monday.

Despite a $600 million American counternarcotics effort and an increase in the number of poppy-free provinces to 13 from 6, the report said the amount of land in Afghanistan used for opium production is now larger than the amount of land used for coca cultivation in all of Latin America.

Afghanistan now accounts for 93 percent of the world’s opium, up from 92 percent last year, the report said.


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Monday, August 27th, 2007

Another day, another homophobic politician caught being gay. 

The Religious Right really does need to toughen up its entrance exam.


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