Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Democracy Now: Lior Halperin, James Carroll, Juliet Schor debates Marc Landy on Condi

HUD Secretary Turns Down Contractor Who Criticized Bush
Meanwhile, Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary Alphonso Jackson is coming under scrutiny after he revealed he cancelled a proposed deal with a government contractor who made critical comments of President Bush. According to the Dallas Business Journal, Jackson said the contractor had been selected for a government advertising contract. But the contractor was ultimately not selected after he told Jackson he didn't like President Bush. Jackson said: "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe." In response, Democratic Congressmembers Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Henry Waxman of California called for a full investigation of Jackson's contract decisions. In a letter to Jackson, the Congressmemembers wrote: "If this account is accurate, your comments and actions were improper and most likely illegal. Federal contracts should be awarded based on merit, not on whether a contractor likes or dislikes President Bush."
US Peace Activists Travel to Tehran
Twenty-two US citizens have traveled to Iran to promote peace between Washington and Tehran. "(We are here to promote) understanding between our peoples so that our governments don't get us into a situation where we go into a Conflict," said delegate member Dave Robinson, Executive Director Of The National Catholic Peace Movement."We're here to learn about Iran firsthand so that we don't succumb to the enemy building and demonising that's going in the United States at the moment."
Uncovered Letter Says Yale Society Stole Geronimo's Remains
In other news, a Yale historian has uncovered a letter that supports the theory that Yale's Skull and Bones society stole the skull of Native American leader Geronimo. According to legend, Skull and Bones members -- including Prescott Bush, President Bush's grandfather -- dug up Geronimo's remains from his burial plot in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.. The letter, written by a Skull and Bones member in 1918, says group members took skull and other remains and buried them in their Yale clubhouse.
Controversial Nevada Bomb Test Delayed
In Nevada, a controversial bomb test that has drawn the opposition of local Native groups has been delayed at least three weeks. Members of the Western Shoshone tribe filed suit last month to prevent the military from setting off a 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil bomb that would generate a mushroom cloud over the Nevada deserts. Tribe members say the blast could let loose radioactive material and threaten their well-being.
President Bush's Approval Rating at 31%
President Bush's approval rating has reached a new low -- 31%. That figure matches the lowest rating of the presidency of his father, George H. W. Bush, and is the third lowest approval rating of any president in half a century.
The above five items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Davy, Shawn, End Zone, Tori and LyndaDemocracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for May 10, 2006

- Republicans Reach Agreement on Controversial Tax Bill
- HUD Secretary Turns Down Contractor Who Criticized Bush
- 44 Countries Join New UN Human Rights Commission
- US Peace Activists Travel to Tehran
- Quartet Says It Will Resume Aid to Palestinians
- 17 Killed in Tal Afar Suicide Bombing
- Controversial Nevada Bomb Test Delayed
- President Bush's Approval Rating at 31%
- Yes Men Pull Off Halliburton Hoax
Brandies University Takes Down Palestinian Youth Art Exhibit Mounted by Israeli Jewish Student

An art exhibit at Brandeis University featuring 17 paintings by Palestinian youths was removed by university officials last week, after several complaints from students. We speak with the Israel Jewish student who organized the exhibit and the director of Brandies University's International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. [includes rush transcript]
House of War: James Carroll on the Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power

We speak with James Carroll - one of Boston's best-known writers - about his new book, "House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power." In it, Carroll examines the growth of the military industrial complex since World War II and his personal connection to the Pentagon.
Should Boston College Award Condoleeza Rice An Honorary Degree? A Debate

Last week, Boston College announced that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice would be speaking at this year's commencement ceremony on May 22nd where she would also be receiving an honorary law degree. Over 200 faculty members have signed a letter in opposition. We host a debate between two Boston College professors on both sides of the issue. [includes rush transcript]
Iraq snapshot.
Chaos and violence.
But apparently those days over because Condi Rice is confident and Jalal Talabani (president of Iraq) is issuing statements on the need to stop the killings (1,1000 Iraqis, according to Talabani, in the month of April -- BBC says 1,091). Yeah, that'll end the conflict.
Meanwhile, back on planet earth . . .
RTE updates the death toll on the Tal Afar bombing yesterday, from 17 dead to at least 24 currently with the "US military" saying at least 134 wounded.
 Australia's ABC and AFP report that the "coalition-run Fort Suse prison" has seen five Iraqi "terror suspects" break out.  On a similar topic, the Iraqi parliment, that's supposed to be on track and moving forward, hit a stumbling block today "over who should head the oil ministry."  Now didn't you just know oil was going to be involved?
Though bombs, car bombs or otherwise, are no longer uncommon in Iraq, CBS and AP report that that a bus was targeted not only by "gunmen" but that the "gunmen" went on to plant "a bomb aboard the vehicle" which killed at least eleven and wounded at least four.  The BBC notes that the bus "reportedly" carried "employees of a state-run electricity company." RTE places the death toll at at least 12. The attack on the bus took place near Baquba.  In Baquba, Lt. Col. Kanan Hassan and two of his body guards were killed, Reuters notes.
In Baghdad, "Defense Ministry press office employee" Mohammed Musab Talal al-Amari died when his car when assailants ambused his car and opened fire.  Also injured in the gunfire was a pedestrian. The Associated Press notes the killing of "two traffic" police officers, a taxi driver and a civilian.  A roadside bomb took the life of one Iraqi soldier.  And corpses continued to turn up -- today thirteen were discovered("signs of torture").
A victim of a roadside bombing, US soldier, is Cal Perry's entry point in a report he does on the conditions army medics face in Iraq.He estimates the American troop wounded at "roughly 17,500."  (17,869 is the figure that Iraq Coalition Casualties gives.)
The Associated Press notes that road side bombs took the life of at least one and wounded at least three.
Highlights?  We're going with three.  Immigration, abstinence and gas bags.  (Gas bags from the chat & chew circuit.  You're eager to scroll down, aren't you?)  First up,
Francisco notes Jesse Jackson's "Let's Deport Immigration Myths" (Chicago Sun-Times via Common Dreams):
In the red-hot debate over immigration, myth too often takes the place of truth. It is time to step back, take a deep breath and reflect before we react.
The truth is often distorted in ways that feed our divisions. For example, many contrast this generation of immigrants with the Europeans who came at the beginning of the last century. That generation, we are told, came legally, whereas this generation is coming illegally. That generation learned the language, whereas this one is writing the national anthem in Spanish.
But as Michael Powell of the Washington Post reports, this is mostly nonsense. Until 1918, the United States didn't even require passports -- the term "illegal immigrant" had no meaning. New arrivals merely had to provide their identity and find a friend to vouch for them. Customs officials tried to weed out the lunatic or those infected with disease or "anarchism." The Mexican-U.S. border was then unguarded and crossed freely. When finally passed, immigrant quotas exempted northern Europeans and Mexicans.
And all the same fears that exist now existed then. There was a huge backlash against German, Irish, and Italian immigrants. White Protestant reformers warned that they weren't learning English, that they were drunks, dissolute, lazy. Commentators warned of the "mongrelization" of the "white race." Conservatives warned that immigrants were importing European class warfare into America.
All those fears turned out to be unfounded. The immigrants by and large were immensely hardworking. They learned English and assimilated. Their energy helped fuel America's rise in the 20th century. And the fears this time are likely to be similarly unfounded. The children of today's immigrants are learning English. The newcomers are by and large hardworking. If they are competing at low wages now, they are also at the center of drives to raise the minimum wage and to organize low-paid workers.
The war on immigrants is one more aspect of Bully Boy's war on intelligence.  (Informed people might not frighten as easily.)  Mia notes Sharon Smith's "Abstinence Backfires" (CounterPunch):
One of the Christian Right's most cherished ideological victories since the 1990s has been the dominance of federally funded "abstinence only until marriage" programs now taught to millions of teenagers across the country.
New evidence, however, suggests that these same programs have contributed to soaring rates of unplanned pregnancies, out-of-wedlock births and, yes, abortions among women who are young or poor.
Abstinence education was not an invention of the Bush administration but was quietly tucked into Clinton's 1996 welfare reform bill-dangling federal grants for abstinence-only programs to cash-starved states-funded with $97 million in 1999 and rising to nearly $170 million last year.
Ironically, teenage contraceptive use had nearly doubled during the Reagan era, when comprehensive sex education-including contraception instruction-still remained the norm.
In contrast, U.S. law now requires federally funded sexuality education to inform teenagers that ''sexual activity outside the context of [monogamous and heterosexual] marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.''
These programs do not let the facts stand in the way of traumatizing teenagers from developing a remotely healthy attitude toward their own sexuality.
And it's not the Bully Boy alone that keeps so many uninformed.  It's takes a lot of gas and a lot of windbags.  Billie notes Roger Bybee's "Review of 'Take It Back' By Paul Begala and James Carville" (Democratic Underground):
Beware of Washington Beltway insiders masquerading as streetfighting men.
While attempting mightily to deliver a road map to victory, Democratic consultants Paul Begala and James Carville, in "Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future," offer a souped-up version of the same tepid, timid, Clintonesque politics that has left the Democratic Party wandering in the wilderness. The book's key bit of strategic advice is highly revealing:"We're asking interest groups--some of the most powerful organizations on the left--to back off a bit."
In reality, Begala and Carville's term "interest groups" is code for the majority of rank-and-file Democratic voters who stand far to the left of most Democratic congressmen and recent presidential candidates in opposition to US imperial adventures like Iraq, the outsourcing of US jobs, and for a single-payer healthcare plan. By slyly suggesting that the party's Left is simply composed of impatient unions, feminist, civil rights, anti-war, and environmental groups who insist on weighing the party down with unpopular baggage, Begala & Carville seek to avoid dealing with the gulf between corporate-funded Democratic officeholders and their constituents eager for a party that fights for their interests.
Seeking to enforce artificial unity in the name of electing Democrats--whether it is a principled progressive like Russ Feingold or a conservative, contributor-appeasing Joe Lieberman--to defeat the Republicans' collection of money-grubbing moralizers and neo-con war-mongers, Begala and Carville continually slide over difficult questions in their book. As Carville recently told Newsweek, "The American people are going to be ready for an era of realism. They've seen the consequences of having too many 'big ideas.'"
Clearly, readers of Take It Back will not be overwhelmed with "too many big ideas." Yes, Take It Back contains much useful material on the stunning greed, arrogance, and incompetence of the Bush administration. But it largely comes up empty on the basic choice facing the party: will it continue to play to big campaign contributors on issues like job outsourcing and privatization of public services, or will it seek to re-bond itself with an increasingly restive and alienated base that seeks a party of conviction and commitment?
I'll again note, Jon Stewart wasn't just directing his comments at Tucker Carlson that day on Crossfire
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