Saturday, June 11, 2005
Increasingly, the rest of the world is telling the Bushians to -- in that fine phrase from our illustrious vice president -- "Go Fuck Yourself."
First, our major allies rejected Bushian efforts to punish an international official for challenging the Bushian lies about Iraq:
The administration signaled Wednesday that it was dropping its objections to a third term for Mohamed ElBaradei as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, effectively ending its yearlong effort to replace him with someone more amenable to American policies.Second, the nations of Latin America said NO to a Bushian effort to create a kangaroo court to attack Venezuela:
Administration officials have been acknowledging for months that they have been unable to convince any of their major allies that Dr. ElBaradei should be ousted.
American officials tangled with Dr. ElBaradei in the period leading up to the Iraq war.
In a sharp setback for the Bush administration's Latin America policy, the Organization of American States rejected a United States plan on Tuesday to create a committee to monitor the exercise of democracy in the hemisphere.Ah, Condomskeezer Lice not getting her way. How sweet it is!
Instead, the organization agreed, at a meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a declaration that attaches equal or greater emphasis to attacking poverty because of what it calls 'the interdependent relationship of democracy and social and economic development.'
...The United States professed to be satisfied with the final resolution, even though it bears little resemblance to the proposal the State Department introduced last week. The resolution does not include the element that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted it must have, a committee that would investigate troubled democracies.
Jack Clark 6:02 PM [+]
O'Reilly Kicks Arianna's Butt
It was sad to watch. Two things stand out in my mind. First, O'Reilly trotted out that tired old "We're spreading democracy in Iraq" and Arianna's only counter was that spreading democracy is not our job. The proper response would have been that we are NOT spreading democracy in Iraq, since right now there is only a US-controlled puppet government in there, and that's all we will ever allow to be in Iraq if we have our way. Second, when Arianna said many detainees at Gitmo had been arrested by mistake, O'Reilly hammered her again and again, demanding to know the name of a single one. Arianna stammered and parried. I would have said
I don't know the names of detainees in Gitmo. Why don't you, O'Reilly, tell me the name of a detainee in Gitmo who's there legitimately? You don't know their names either. What a ridiculous request. I'll get you the names if you want them of innocent people who were kept there, as admitted by our own government, but I'll have to look at the published reports. I'll bet you that there were innocents kept there, O'Reilly. How much you wanna bet?
Jack Clark 5:50 PM [+]
I love it when people making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year are said to be middle class. Middle means middle, as in, in the middle. So lets say the middle is the middle 60%. In other words, we'll divide up the population 20-60-20. The middle 60% of household incomes are middle class. Fair? I think so. So what numbers do we get?
Well, looking at the above chart, that would mean people earning from $13,478 to $79,562 are middle class.
Listen! Do you hear it?
As expected, I hear the right-wingers screaming that defining the middle as the middle 60% is too narrow. OK, let's do the middle 80%. In other words, we'll divide up the country 10-80-10. The middle class will be everyone but the bottom 10% and the top 10%. In accommodating our right-wing friends, I think that's about as far as we can go in stretching what the middle means. So what numbers do we come up with here? Well, the chart doesn't divide up the bottom 20%, but that's really irrelevant here, because the right-wingers really object to the upper figure. So what would the upper figure now be? Anyone earning $117,001 and below is the middle class. So remember that the next time the right-wing or the corporate media tries to pass off one of the wealthiest (top 10%) in the country as middle class. They try this all the time in their attempt to paint transfer of wealth to the rich as pro-middle class. No it's not. It's anti-middle class.
As Bob Herbert writes
The privileged classes, with the Bush administration's iron cloak of protection, avoid their fair share of taxes, are reluctant to pay an honest dollar for an honest day's work (the federal minimum wage is still a scandalous $5.15 an hour), refuse to fight in their nation's wars, and laugh all the way to their yachts.They don't need tax cuts or any other economic aid. They already have way too much of the nation's wealth, so much so that there's not enough left for everyone else.
Jack Clark 5:26 PM [+]
Hannity, O'Reilly Turn to Missing People & Celebrity Trial Stories
Have you noticed how The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes have gotten heavily into missing people and celebrity trial stories? Right now it's the Alabama teen missing in Aruba and Michael Jackson. Segment after segment. What on earth have those type of stories to do with political issues? After all, both programs are political talk shows. But there's a method to their madness. Most news is bad for their boss, Bush: Social Security, Iraq, economy. So they certainly don't want to have segments discussing those issues now. Better to focus on missing teens and allegedly perverted pop stars. Mark my words, if the news starts turning better for Bush, the missing people and celebrity trial stories will vanish, so more time can be spend praising Bush.
Jack Clark 5:08 PM [+]
Rather than encouraging elections after the fall of Saddam, the Bush Administration hired a North Carolina company called Research Triangle International (RTI) to appoint new political leaders for the country.
Only after Sistani threatened them did the Bushians relent and allow elections to take place. Tell your right-wing pals this the next time they say we are spreading "democracy" around the world.
For the princely fee of $427 million dollars, RTI implemented a policy they called (and this is not a joke) "selections not elections." They would invite everyone in a particular community to attend a meeting. At the meeting, the company would pick the new government making sure to reserve a specific number of seats to Iraqis from each of the country's major ethnic and religious groups - Sunni Arab, Shia Arab, Turcoman, Kurd, and Assyrian/Caldenian Christian.
Under RTI, Iraqis were required to organize on the basis on their ethnic and religious background.
Imagine, if a similar plan were implemented in one of America's more diverse cities. Imagine if a foreign company came to San Francisco to pick a new government and said: "Okay, we need 8 white heterosexuals, 5 gays, 5 Asians, 3 African-Americans, and 3 Latinos." People in San Francisco would have no choice but to organize on the basis of their race rather than ideology. Is it any wonder, then, that after this January's election Iraqis organized themselves on sectarian grounds?
Jack Clark 4:52 PM [+]
To suggest that sustaining programs like Social Security, which protects working Americans from economic risk, should have priority over tax cuts for the rich is to practice 'class warfare.' To show concern over the growing inequality is to engage in the 'politics of envy.'
Ah, the G word, the object of all worship by the Bushians. No, not God, Greed. Everything the Bushians do is designed to either transfer wealth from everyone else to the rich, or, to distract everyone else from the fact that said transfer is being accomplished.
...Never mind that straw man, the politics of envy. Let's try to do something about the politics of greed.
Jack Clark 4:48 PM [+]
[W]hat keeps Africa poor [is] not a lack of political will but the tremendous profitability of the current arrangement. Sub-Saharan Africa, the poorest place on earth, is also its most profitable investment destination: It offers, according to the World Bank's 2003 Global Development Finance report, "the highest returns on foreign direct investment of any region in the world." Africa is poor because its investors and its creditors are so unspeakably rich. If you understand global economics -- which is really colonialism in another form -- much of what happens in the world will make more sense to you.
The idea... that the resources of the land should be used to benefit the people of that land...lies at the heart of every anticolonial struggle in history, from the Boston Tea Party to Iran's turfing of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Abadan. This idea has been declared dead by the European Union's Constitution, by the National Security Strategy of the United States of America (which describes "free trade" not only as an economic policy but a "moral principle") and by countless trade agreements. And yet it simply refuses to die.
You can see it most clearly in the relentless protests that drove Bolivia's president, Carlos Mesa, to offer his resignation. A decade ago Bolivia was forced by the IMF to privatize its oil and gas industries on the promise that it would increase growth and spread prosperity. When that didn't work, the lenders demanded that Bolivia make up its budget shortfall by increasing taxes on the working poor. Bolivians had a better idea--take back the gas and use it for the benefit of the country. The debate now is over how much to take back. Evo Morales's Movement Toward Socialism favors taxing foreign profits by 50 percent. More radical indigenous groups, which have already seen their land stripped of its mineral wealth, want full nationalization and far more participation, what they call "nationalizing the government."
Jack Clark 3:57 PM [+]
Friday, June 10, 2005
A powerful consensus is building for a doubling of aid to Africa among the world's heavyweight donors, except the United States, a divide that is likely to come into sharp relief this week when Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain arrives in Washington to meet with President Bush.
"Doesn't fit our budgetary process" What the heck does that mean? What he really meant to say was, "We don't give a crap that everyone else wants to save millions of lives. We need to finance instead more tax cuts for multi-millionaires." And then to top it all off, Bush will still insist that he is on a "compassion agenda." Yes, just like domestically he has proven to be such a "compassionate" conservative. It's truly enough to make one sick, and it certainly does me.
Mr. Blair, America's closest ally, hopes to shake loose more American aid for Africa. He is expected to ask Mr. Bush on Tuesday to join the leaders of other rich nations in forging a kind of Marshall Plan for Africa; Mr. Blair has called the continent's deepening poverty "the fundamental moral challenge of our time."
Britain is far from alone. The European Union has found its collective voice on global poverty, too. Its 25 member nations agreed unanimously on May 24 to almost double assistance to poor countries over the next five years. Japan this week reaffirmed its pledge to double aid to Africa in just three years.
But when President Bush was asked this week about Mr. Blair's effort, as well as a British proposal to raise money for development on capital markets, he replied, "It doesn't fit our budgetary process."
The president hastened to add that he hoped to advance a "compassion agenda" when Mr. Blair plays host to leaders of the Group of 8 industrialized nations in Scotland next month, but any new Africa pact would certainly be weakened without American support.
Jack Clark 9:55 PM [+]
Thursday, June 09, 2005
According to a poll, most Americans believe that the United States spends 24 percent of its budget on aid to poor countries; it actually spends well under a quarter of 1 percent. As Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University economist in charge of the United Nations' Millennium Project, put it so well, the notion that there is a flood of American aid going to Africa "is one of our great national myths."In other words, 99.75% of the federal budget is not foreign aid for poor countries. Now why is it that the American public is, like on so many issues, so misinformed about how much aid we give to poor countries? Obviously the "liberal" media is not doing a very good job of presenting the facts to the public. And more importantly, the right-wing propaganda machine has been yelling and screaming for at least the 40 years I can remember about all the money we "waste" on foreign aid. The clever propagandists on the right don't actually lie and say "we give 24 percent of our budget to poor people." No, they just complain about it so much that people assume it must be that high a percentage. The right-wing distorters never tell their audiences what a miniscule portion of the budget it represents. So no one would suspect that greedy, let-the-poor-die-I-need-a-bigger-tax-cut right-wingers would complain so long and hard about a less than one-fourth of 1% expenditure.
The United States currently gives just 0.16 percent of its national income to help poor countries, despite signing a United Nations declaration three years ago in which rich countries agreed to increase their aid to 0.7 percent by 2015. Since then, Britain, France and Germany have all announced plans for how to get to 0.7 percent; America has not. The piddling amount Mr. Bush announced yesterday is not even 0.007 percent.
Jack Clark 9:54 PM [+]
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
[T]housands of American families might find it harder to qualify for financial aid this year and might be asked to contribute more money toward the cost of college because of changes to a complicated federal formula they barely know about, much less understand.While I'm much more concerned for the far more vulnerable poor, maybe members of the middle class will wake up and realize that their pittance of a tax cut compared to the rich is more than offset by other increased costs, like this one. Remember -- the Bushian Prime Directive is transfer wealth from everyone else to the rich, and use hot button cultural issues to distract everyone else from the fact that this reverse Robin Hood wealth transfer is occuring.
Taken together, these changes, some based on overly optimistic predictions of inflation, have required families to count a greater share of their incomes and assets toward college expenses before becoming eligible for financial aid. As a consequence, tens of thousands of low-income students will no longer be eligible for federal grants; middle-class families are digging deeper into their savings; and some colleges are putting up their own money to make up the difference.
Jack Clark 9:09 PM [+]
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Here's a great, succinct letter to the New York Times I totally agree with about why we should work to see the draft -- this time universal with no exemptions -- brought back:
To the Editor:As I never get tired of saying, when Jenna and Barbara are stationed in Baghdad and Tikrit, I'll shut my mouth.
You say, "There should be no thought of reinstating the draft" ("The Death Spiral of the Volunteer Army," editorial, May 29). I disagree.
The universal military training obligation that faced young men before introduction of the all-volunteer army was both a democratizing influence on American society and a meaningful check against the possibility of imprudent military initiatives.
Fighting wars is a very unpleasant business that should not be left primarily to those for whom civilian life does not offer any better opportunity.
When the country's security is genuinely at risk, why should the most privileged members of society - those with the most to lose - be exempt from the sacrifices that need to be made in its defense?
And when the nation's security is not genuinely at risk but political leaders want to wage war anyway, the difficulty of conscripting the children of relatively well-to-do, relatively well educated, relatively influential parents can have an important and constructive influence on policy.
We got into Vietnam using volunteers, and we got out after middle-class moms, terrified at the prospect of seeing their sons drafted and killed in that senseless conflict, started protesting.
Tallahassee, Fla., May 31, 2005
Jack Clark 10:06 PM [+]
In case any Bushians start lying about how "Saddam wouldn't let the inspectors back in so we had to remove him," here are the facts:
In November 2002, Hussein let UN inspectors back into Iraq where they searched dozens of sites – including some suggested by U.S. intelligence – but found no WMD.Indeed, as Randi Rhodes always points out, the U.N. was actually in the process of destroying some of Saddam's missiles which exceeded (by a few miles!) their allowable range when the U.S. told the inspectors to get out, we're going to attack.
The Bush administration reacted to the negative WMD findings by instigating war hysteria inside the United States. The UN inspectors were ridiculed as incompetent; Bush’s domestic critics were called traitors; European allies urging patience were denounced as the “axis of weasels”; French wine was poured into gutters; and “French fries” were renamed “Freedom fries” in flag-waving diners across America.
As Bush’s followers were lusting for war in March 2003, however, UN inspectors were citing good cooperation from the Iraqis as the search for WMD continued. The inspectors’ greater obstacle soon became Bush’s insistence on an invasion.
“Although the inspection organization was now operating at full strength and Iraq seemed determined to give it prompt access everywhere, the United States appeared as determined to replace our inspection force with an invasion army,” the UN’s chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, wrote in his memoir, Disarming Iraq.
Despite the UN inspectors’ negative WMD findings and Bush’s failure to win a war resolution from the UN Security Council, Bush launched the invasion on March 19, 2003. After three weeks of fighting, U.S.-led forces toppled Hussein’s government and Bush’s popularity ratings soared.
For weeks, the U.S. triumphalism from the Iraq victory trumped any lingering questions about the invasion. But as Iraq slid into chaos and insurgents began to kill American soldiers, Bush started reconstructing the war’s history to justify his actions.
On July 14, 2003, Bush said about Hussein, “we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”
In the following months, Bush repeated this claim in slightly varied forms. On Jan. 27, 2004, Bush said, “We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution – 1441 – unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in.”
Though the U.S. national press corps had witnessed Blix’s UN inspections of Iraq and certainly knew that Bush’s historical revisionism was false, American reporters failed, repeatedly, to challenge Bush’s account.
Jack Clark 9:38 PM [+]
Monday, June 06, 2005
The ”war on terror”, identified in Amnesty International's annual report as a new source of human rights abuses, is threatening to expand to Latin America, targeting indigenous movements that are demanding autonomy and protesting free-market policies and ”neo-liberal” globalization.
They obviously all have WMD's, have strong ties to Al Qaeda, and were behind 9/11, just like Saddam. It would be hilarious, if not for the fact that many innocent people will continue to die as a result of these phony counter-terrorism operations to come.
In the United States ”there is a perception of indigenous activists as destabilizing elements and terrorists,” and their demands and activism have begun to be cast in a criminal light, lawyer Jose Aylwin, with the Institute of Indigenous Studies at the University of the Border in Temuco (670 km south of the Chilean capital), told IPS.
Pedro Cayuqueo, director of the Mapuche newspaper Azkintuwe, also from the city of Temuco, wrote that the growing indigenous activism in Latin America and Islamic radicalism are both depicted as threats to the security and hegemony of the United States in the ”Global Trends 2020 - Mapping the Global Future” study by the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC).
NIC works with 13 government agencies, including the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), and is advised by experts from the United States and other countries. Cayuqueo described the report as ”a veritable x-ray” of potential ”counterinsurgency scenarios” from now to the year 2020.
Jack Clark 8:35 PM [+]
The decree did not appear to pacify demonstrators. May such militant action against the forces of starvation and exploitation be underaken all over the world! AMEN to that.
Indian groups, labor federations and antiglobalization organizations demanding state control of the energy industry and a new constitution continued blocking Bolivia's highways on Friday. La Paz, the commercial capital, remained isolated.
"This decree has no head or feet," Julio Pabón, a leader of Fejuve, a leading antiglobalization group, said by telephone from El Alto, an indigenous city just southwest of La Paz. "It just tries to distract the marches we have going on all over Bolivia. We will continue. We have a full blockade on."
...Much of the anger has been directed at Congress, which is seen as corrupt and beholden to Bolivia's elite and multinational corporations. Waves of protesters have repeatedly tried to take control of Congress in recent days.
...The anger against the elite has been palpable in Bolivia. Indian demonstrators have gone so far as to throw rocks at shops in affluent districts and rip ties off of businessmen they accuse of being part of the white elite.
UPDATE: More late-breaking, good news: Bolivian president plans resignation
Jack Clark 7:34 PM [+]
This reads like a movie story, but it's true:
One year ago, Mrs. Ngilu, the Kenyan minister of health, was visiting a rural hospital when a woman outside stopped her. The woman held in her arms her son, 9 years old, sick with swamp fever from bad drinking water. The unconscious boy was covered in blood boils. The mother had brought him to the hospital but had no money, so the doctor refused to treat him. On most days, her story would end there: the boy would die, like thousands of other children who die every day in Africa of preventable and treatable diseases. But luck was with her.OK, enough of an excerpt. Go to the article to read the rest. It should be made into a movie! (Unfortunately, such a film wouldn't yet have a happy ending, because of the greed of those of us who already have too much.)
After confirming with the rural hospital's sole doctor that he indeed had turned the boy away because of money, an angry Mrs. Ngilu put the boy and his mother into the ministry car, ordering the driver to take them to the large regional hospital two hours away. "I held the boy in my arms," Mrs. Ngilu recalled. "His blood was all over me."
That night, the health minister boarded a small plane back to Nairobi. The plane flew into a storm, buffeted by high winds. Convinced that everyone aboard would die, the passengers started talking about what they would do differently in their lives if they lived. Mrs. Ngilu said: "I would want to die knowing that I changed something. That while I was health minister, I actually changed things."
Two days after the plane landed safely, Mrs. Ngilu made an announcement that took the entire government, including the president, by surprise, since she had not bothered to consult anyone. Kenya, she said, would offer health insurance to every Kenyan.
Across the country, a firestorm erupted. President Mwai Kibaki asked her to withdraw her pledge, Mrs. Ngilu said. She refused. Members of the cabal of ministers who backed the president clashed publicly with Mrs. Ngilu, as did much of the local business lobby, who fretted they would be forced to provide health insurance for their workers. The complaints were justified: how in the world could a country like Kenya provide universal health insurance when 56 percent of the population lives below the poverty line? Some nine million people are so poor they can't even afford food every day.
Mrs. Ngilu pressed on. Appearing in villages, she urged people to demand care when they showed up at their rural hospitals. "Just defy them," she said. "Don't wait until you die. Carry your voter card and demand that they treat your children."
Jack Clark 3:31 PM [+]
Here's part of the great reply in the form of a Letter to the Editor that Amnesty made to the Bushian torturers:
To the Editor:The Bushians allowing inspection of torture centers? I think not.
President Bush's characterization of Amnesty International's criticisms of United States human rights abuses as "absurd" is ironic (news article, June 1).
If our reports are so "absurd," why did the administration repeatedly cite our findings about Saddam Hussein before the Iraq war? Why does it welcome our criticisms of Cuba, China and North Korea? And why does it cite our research in its own annual human rights reports?
...Instead of attacking us, President Bush should insist upon a truly thorough, independent investigation of those who tried to circumvent global prohibitions on torture, and he should open all detention centers to scrutiny by independent human rights groups.
Only then will the world be able to judge whether it is Amnesty International or the president whose perspective deserves to be called "absurd."
William F. Schulz
Exec. Dir., Amnesty International
New York, June 1, 2005
Jack Clark 3:16 PM [+]
Sunday, June 05, 2005
I guess the old saw "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer" will have to be modified to "The ultra-rich get much richer, the rich get a little more rich, and the poor get poorer." Maybe too verbose! In any event here's a choice tidbit from the article:
From 1950 to 1970, for example, for every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162, according to the Times analysis. From 1990 to 2002, for every extra dollar earned by those in the bottom 90 percent, each taxpayer at the top brought in an extra $18,000.Just the way the "soak the poor" Bushians love it.
Jack Clark 10:29 PM [+]
In his endless series of pukey peons to globalization, Friedman promises that free trade, an end of regulation, slashing government welfare and privatization of industry will lead to an economic nirvana. Good ol' Greg Palast, pointing out the utter idiocy of what Friedman writes. Read the whole article. Here's another choice excerpt:
Yet, all he and his globalization clique can point to as the free market's accomplishment is the murderous competition between workers across borders to cut their wages for the chance to work in the new digital sweatshops.
Friedman praises the New India, freed of the shackles of Old India's socialist welfare state. I've seen the New India: half a billion people in dirt huts supporting a tiny minority's right to shop in air-conditioned malls. It is a Fritz Lang film in Hindi.
The computer wizards of Bangalore (in Karnataka) and Kerala are the products of fully funded state education systems where, unlike the USA, no child is left behind. A huge apparatus of state-owned or state-controlled industries, redistributionist tax systems, subsidies of necessities from electricity to food, tight government regulation and affirmative action programs for the lower castes are what has created these comfortable refuges for Oracle and MicrosoftIsn't it funny how things are often the exact opposite of what hucksters like Friedman claim?
...What made this all possible was not capitalist competitive drive (there was no corporate "entrepreneur" in sight), but the state's investment in universal education and the village's commitment to development of opportunity, not of a lucky few, but for the entire community. The village was 100% literate, 100% unionized, and 100% committed to sharing resources through a sophisticated credit union finance operation.
This was the communal welfare state at it's best. Microsoft did not build the schools for programmers -- the corporation only harvested what the socialist communities sowed.
Jack Clark 10:23 PM [+]