Monday, February 09, 2004

American Suicide?

The Washington Monthly has just published a very important article in my opinon. Titled Creative Class War by Richard Florida, the piece details the impact Bush and the Radical Right's culture war on the most creative sectors of our population is having on the willingness of foreign scientists and other highly skilled people to immigrate to the US. It also describes the harm paranoid immigration policies are doing to the ability of the best foreign graduate students to attend American universities, damage that has already led to the shut down of major research projects.

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on knowledge rather than brute strength, those dominating our nation have come to worship strength and fear knowledge. One likely outcome if these policies are not reversed is that the scientific and technological breakthroughs of the future will be more likely to happen in Europe and Canada than in the US.

Florida is the Heinz professor of economic development at Carnegie Mellon University and the author of The Rise of the Creative Class.

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Truth and the Culture War, Georgia Style

Right wingers love to complain that we don't teach enough history. I agree - so long as it is real history. But our agreement turns out to be pretty superficial. Here is how the state of Georgia wants high school American history taught, according to Joseph Jarrell's report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Teachers "will spend two or three weeks discussing the foundation of our country, with the remaining time devoted to studying events from 1876 to the present. Gone is any mention of the Louisiana Purchase or Lewis and Clark. There will be no discussion of Indian removal and the Trail of Tears.

"Students probably will not be remembering the Alamo; it won't be a topic of discussion in Georgia's high schools. Daniel Webster and Henry Clay will be omitted, as well as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and the Underground Railroad.

"Search in vain for discussion of the Civil War; that topic is off limits. In a course entitled 'American History,' students will not study our most devastating war. There is no mention of Fort Sumter, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee or anything else associated with those years."

The proposed cut off in knowledge from the Founding to 1876 says it all.

Ignorance of the Civil War period is particularly important in the South. There the Religious Right and their allies do all they can to claim the Confederacy was more true to the principles of 1776 than was the North. The old Confederacy was in many ways their ideal of what a conservative should approve today - states 'rights' and a utter repudiation of liberalism. Therefore Georgia's students should never read what the Confederacy was really about.

What was it about? In 1861, Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy, contrasted the ideals of the Declaration of Independence with those of the Confederacy:

"The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. . . . These ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of the races. This was an error. . . .

"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its corner stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition.

"This, our new governmant, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

The real unAmericans are men like John Ashcroft, Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond, and others who do their best to perpetuate the lie that the Confederacy stood for anything at all worth salvaging in a decent world. If the rightwingers in charge of georgia today have their way, the lie will be strengthened by ensuring young Georgians never learn about the treason of their ancestors, ancestors venerated by today's leaders.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Is This Man Sane?

John Ashcroft has taken legal analysis to unsuspected lows in his opposition to a proposal by several Congressmen to repeal parts of the so-called "Patriot" Act. In the New York Times for January 30, Ashcroft claimed the result of such legislation "would make it even more difficult to mount an effective antiterror campaign than it was before the Patriot Act was passed. . ." This passage came from a letter Mr. Ashcroft wrote to Senator Orrin G. Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Taken literally, Ashcroft is arguing that the rest of the "Patriot" Act actually weakens our capacity to fight terrorism from what it was before the act was passed. Only these supposedly key parts undid the harm contained in the rest of the act, and then further strengthened us in our capacity to fight terrorism. This argument is surreal.

It also suggests that Ashcroft is either suffering from an impaired memory, or treats truth with the same respect as his boss.

As we now know, government agencies knew all we needed to know to prevent 9-11. the problem was not lack of power before 9-11, it was lack of competence on the administration's part about what to do with the power it already had.

Medicare Lies

Our site has listed many many lies George Bush and his cronies have told the American people. Because war seems to cause a decline in any country's collective IQ, those most fervently equating patriotism with doing whatever dear leader says have been very very slow to catch on. But some of America's conservatives, the worst offenders in this respect, are beginning to see that this man and all he really stands for are as alien to their principles as he is to liberalism.

The latest example concerns Medicare reform and the deficit. Only two months after the medicare reform and welfare-for-the-pharmaceutical-industry bill was passed, the White Hiouse admits its estimate for its cost is one third more than they claimed. That means the deficit will be around $520 billion (and rising) instead of the $477 billion as originally claimed.

Before it was passed, Bush and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, along with other key administration figures, assured doubtful Republicans that the actual cost would be close to the Budget Office's estimate of $395 billion. The measure passed narrowly, and many conservatives who should have known better said the administrations assurances on its costs were key to their finally voting for it.

Bait and switch.

Like the American people as a whole, they were misled. Will they have the strength of character to do anything about it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Conservatives and Liberals for the Constitution and Against the Patriot Act

I have argued on our web site that the Bush reginme is as anti-conservative as it is anti-liberal because, at bottom, underneath the rhetoric wrapped in the flag, it is deeply anti-American. Bit by bit, both groups are awakening to this fact. The Boston Globe today has a important story on the growing movement at the local level against the Patriot Act and its pretensions of political royalty and citizen subservience.

Monday, January 19, 2004

How the U.S. Can become a One Party State

Over at the American Prospect, Robert Kuttner has an important article on the Radical Right threat to American democracy, and the very real possibility that we are evolving into a single party state, Mexico style, even as the rest of the world becomes steadily more free.

read it!

Today Atrios reports on the latest outrage against honesty and integrity by Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Well, Jim, on the Wesley Clark issue, you know, a four- star supreme allied commander of NATO, how much do you worry about a debate between Wesley Clark and President Bush?
JIM DYKE, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RNC: Well, the first thing you have to do is win the primary, obviously.
And what we've seen in the last week is sort of a shifting in General Clark's positions. He was for the war. He testified in front of Congress and, in fact, gave very compelling testimony, which this week he suggested we took parts of. So maybe it'd be a good idea if we put the whole transcript of the testimony up. We don't want to misrepresent him.
But I think anybody who reads that would have trouble pulling from that a compelling case against the war.
BLITZER: Has Wesley Clark, Donna, gotten a free ride so far? Have people not scrutinized his words as closely as, shall we say, Howard Dean?
BLITZER: Let me let Carlos weigh in on the General Clark phenomenon.
CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLIITAL ANALYST: Well, I want to say several things.
One, I think what Jim and the RNC have done is brilliant. I mean, they've...
DYKE: Thank you, Carlos.
WATSON: ... inserted themselves in the Democratic campaign very early. They ran -- or, they didn't run, but the Club for Growth ran an ad here in Iowa which was part of what ultimately stemmed some of Howard Dean's momentum here.
And again, part of the reason why they're weighing in on Wesley Clark and on Howard Dean and on John Kerry is to weaken all of these candidates, because I think the RNC is smart enough to know this is still an evenly divided country, you know, the red states and the blue states. And Jim knows that Wesley Clark would be a formidable competitor. And Karl Rove has said as much.
BLITZER: Go ahead and respond, Jim.
DYKE: I think the reason we weigh in is almost as sort of a fact-check operation. I mean, if Wesley Clark comes out and says he opposed the war from the beginning and there is testimony of him moving in that direction, we think it's worth pointing out. We think it's worth pointing out when candidates take positions that are in direct contrary to fact.

With thanks to SFC Scott Fanetti for locating them, the myths of Clark's inconsistency has been fully debunked here and here and here.

Clark's testimony can be read here.

We were thinking of replacing Blitzer's card with that of another media bully. But performances like this will keep him in the deck!

Ever since Fox won its battle to claim the constitutional right to lie on the public airwaves, there is no barrier to media dishonesty any more.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

More Craven Service to the Corporate Elite

Dennis Hastert is upset about how Canada treats Americans seeking to buy perscription medications there. He wants "U.S. action to bring about changes in Canada's prescription drug price control policies." which he claims are unfair to U.S. residents. His solicitude is touching.

All Canada does is allow American citizens to buy drugs there more cheaply than they are allowed to here in the U.S., at least so long as they do not thereby use up Canada's supply of medicine. Hastert finds this unfair to us.

But what is not unfair are attempts by American drug companies to exert control far beyond simply selling their products to willing buyers, which I always thought the market was about. Tamsin Carlisle of the Wall Street Journal reported that "Drug maker Pfizer Inc., New York, earlier this month demanded in a letter to Canadian drug wholesalers that the wholesalers limit their dealings to retail pharmacies preapproved by Pfizer."

This exercise in something rather less tha free trade was not all Pfizer wanted. "As a condition of doing business, the company also directed Canadian wholesalers to implement 'customer flagging, order screening and related procedures' and to report back to Pfizer on customer orders. Several other big pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Eli Lilly & Co., have said they will limit sales of patent-protected medicines to Canada over concerns that the drugs are being re-exported to the U.S."

Whether it be this kind of behavior, airlines forbidding the resale of tickets, or other abuses by the corporate elites that dominate this country, I await libertarians finally catching on that the power of big businesses is not the same thing as relations betwqeen ourselves and the corner market.

Hastert is not a representative of the people of his Illinois district, he is a representative of the corporate elite, wherever they are.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Patriotism, Bush Style

When Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA operative was leaked as retaliation for her husband's telling the truth about the Bushies' fictitious claim that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium in Africa, it took George W. Bush over a month to tell us he was personally concerned that this damaging leak took place.

When Paul O'Neill reported embarrassing information about Bush on television, less than a day later the Treasury department asked for an investigation into the absurd possibility he had leaked classified material.

What merits classification, Bush style, is what protects his image, not what protects our country's well being.

One wonders how long it will take conservatives who love their country rather than slogans to finally reject this dangerous hypocrite. One wonders whether there is any Republican politician whose professions of patriotism amount to more than pious posturing.

The Radical Right and their allies have been the most vociferous opponents of any constitutional protection of a right to privacy. Everyone's perdsonal records are the proper business of government, at least when it is serving their agenda. But their views sure change when they are asked to walk their talk.

Consider Rush Limbaugh as a prime example of this hypocrisy. Kieth Olberman writes on MSNBC:

"Yesterday, the ACLU filed a friend-of-the court brief supporting Mr. Limbaugh’s argument that the seizure of his private medical records was illegal, and Limbaugh gratefully accepted the ACLU’s help.
"His attorney Roy Black said he and Limbaugh quote 'are pleased that the ACLU has filed a motion' and added the seizure was, 'also a threat to everyone’s fundamental right to privacy.'"

A few months earlier Rush's views on this right were rather different. On August 22nd, 2003, Olberman reports Limbaugh said:

“I warned you about this ever-broadening interpretation of the so-called right to privacy. It’s not a ‘right’ specifically enumerated in the Constitution or Bill of Rights.”

But on December 23rd, 2003, when the government was investigating him, rather than someone else, this spokesperson for the mentally lazy, intellectually challenged or ethically unhinged said:

“Now they need my medical records, my private medical records to find out if I’ve committed a crime called doctor shopping? They now have to invade my privacy to learn whether I have broken the law?"

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