Political MoJo

Compassionate Conservatism Declared Dead Six Years Too Late

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 3:33 PM EDT

The Washington Post notices that President Bush doesn't talk much about poverty anymore, hasn't actually done much about poverty during his tenure in office, and that basically his brand of "compassionate conservatism" is sort of a sham.

Well, no kidding. We didn't have to wait until this year to realize that. This should have been abundantly clear back in 2000. All one would've had to do was note that Bush, as governor of Texas, supported a $250 million cut to kindergarten funding while cutting property taxes by $1.2 billion; tried to raise the eligibility threshold in the state's Children's Health Insurance Program, which would have dropped 200,000 of the 500,000 children eligible (only to be thwarted by Texas Democrats); and used large budget surpluses in 1997 and 1999 to cut taxes rather than fund programs that had been underfunded for years—despite the fact that his state, under his watch, ranked at the very bottom of most poverty measures.

So yes, when Bush started making "heartfelt" noises on the campaign trail about helping the poor, he was just trying to win votes from gullible moderates. Unlike Ezra Klein, I don't believe Bush has ever cared about poverty. He worked with Ted Kennedy to pass No Child Left Behind because he wanted to be known as the "education president" and do something grand and sweeping, not because he had some heartfelt interest in improving public schools. Molly Ivins, who has followed the man's career longer than most journalists, had it right when she wrote that when it comes to seeing how his policies affect people, Bush just doesn't get it, and never will.

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The Boyfriend Crisis

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 3:26 PM EDT

In its July issue, Esquire gets its boxers in a twist over what editor David Granger calls "the looming crisis in manhood" [sorry, article not online]. No, not the growing ranks of men who wear black shoes with tan suits and don't recognize Tom Hanks as the "official man of American men", but the so-called "boy crisis" (short version: after centuries of getting high test scores, boys are coming in second to uppity girls). In rehashing the stats that supposedly confirm the emergency, the glossy notes that for every 58 women in college and grad school, there are only 42 men. Which prompts this somber conclusion: "That means one in four female students can't find a male peer to date." Esquire's worried about a collegiate sex ratio skewed in favor of straight guys? Things really must be serious...

Last Domestic Detainee Released -- 5 Years After the FBI Concluded He Was Innocent

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 3:14 PM EDT

The U.S. war on terror has robbed hundreds of innocent people of years of their lives. (See for example Mackenzie Funk's recent report for Mother Jones about the emblematic case of one innocent man, a Tajik, scooped up in Pakistan on suspicion of terrorist activities and held for two years in the legal black hole of the U.S. War on Terror—in four prisons and three countries.)

After 9/11, of course, large numbers of people--1,200 mainly Muslim men--were swept up in this country, too, and held in detention centers. No terrorists among them. Yesterday brought yet another grim milestone in our journey from Sept. 11: the release of the last of these detainees--an Algerian air force lieutenant who spent just under five years in captivity even though the FBI concluded in November 2001 that he had zero connection to terrorism.

The man is applying for political asylum in Canada, and the Washington Post quotes the executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees as saying, "Obviously, there is enormous relief. But I am extremely bitter that five years of a person's life can be taken away."

For more, see Mother Jones' full coverage of U.S. detainee policy here.

GOP Needs More Than Rhetoric on Civil Rights

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 1:16 PM EDT

"Bush moves to heal old wounds," runs a headline in the Boston Globe today, describing the president's appearance, after five straight no-shows, at the NAACP's annual conference. Admitting that his party hasn't exactly endeared itself to African Americans, he told his audience "I want to change the relationship."

A good editorial in USA Today points out how much work that will take.

Healing the rift — and bringing his party along — will take more than words, particularly in advancing civil rights. In 2000, Bush promised to make civil rights enforcement a "cornerstone" of his administration. He has done better than some critics contend, but no one could argue with a straight face that he kept that vow.

From protecting voting rights to preventing job discrimination, Bush's Justice Department has failed to provide the enforcement power that such delicate programs need to survive.

The department's civil rights division, for example, signed off on a Georgia voting plan and a Texas redistricting map that later were blocked by the courts for discrimination against minority voters. And the department's position in a case involving retaliation against a female worker who filed a discrimination claim was so weak that the Supreme Court rejected it, 8-1.

After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, leaving thousands of poor African-American residents homeless and jobless, Bush promised "bold action" to confront poverty with "roots in the history of racial discrimination." But that pledge, too, dissipated quicker than a summer squall.

California OKs Stem Cell Research Funds

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 12:35 PM EDT

This is more like it! From the San Francisco Chronicle

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger authorized $150 million in loans to the state's stem cell agency one day after President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

The governor's action Thursday quadruples the amount of money available in the state to begin research on stem cells, which scientists believe hold extraordinary promise to cure diseases. It also carries political benefits for Schwarzenegger, who has distanced himself from the deeply unpopular Republican president.

"With one stroke, the governor has energized stem cell research in California," said the president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine "This is the new frontier in biomedical research, and the United States needs to be working in it. California will become a surrogate for the nation's efforts." And the governor himself said: "We can no longer wait to fund this important research." Good for him.

PLUS: Though Bush's veto will hold back a lot of important work in the field, Forbes reminds that "Stem cell research is alive and well at a host of small companies and academic laboratories in the United States."

PLUS PLUS:"Illinois's governor announced yesterday he was diverting $5 million from the state budget for stem cell research, despite repeated objections from state legislators." (AP)

Stem Cell Side Effects=WMD?

| Fri Jul. 21, 2006 12:20 PM EDT

Over on NPR, Congressman Dan Lundgren is allowed, in an unchallenged piece of commentary, a few minutes of complete doublespeak on the stem cell debate, in which he claims that embryonic stem cell research (in addition to being a mortal sin, natch) would result in tumors and other side effects straight out of X-Men.

Despite Rep. Lundgren's intimations to the contrary, tumor growth is a problem bedeviling adult stem cell researchers, too. This shouldn't be surprising—with either adult or embryonic stem cells, scientists are dealing with, and manipulating, cell growth and death and division. All very complicated stuff, which is why a lot of research is key.

But I'd pay attention to this "tumor" meme. It has the feeling of "mobile weapons labs" to me.

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Take Your Time, Condi. (End Timers' Take on Lebanon)

Thu Jul. 20, 2006 9:09 PM EDT

Bombs are falling over the Middle East, and the doomsday-ers of the Rapture Ready/End Times message board are giddy—the blood-dry spell in the holy land is finally over (cursed peace process!) and the prophesized destruction of Israel is, apparently, nigh. Harper's Ken Silverstein got to the site before it shut down for "database maintenance" (a little heaven packing?) this afternoon:

Praise God! We are chosen to be in these times and also watch and spread the word. Something inside me is exploding to get out, and I don't know what it is. Its kind of like I want to do cartwheels around the neighborhood.

* * *

In another thread, someone brought up the fact that the kidnapping of the first Israeli soldier that started this whole thing was on June 25th and if you count from that day to August 3rd.......it is *EXACTLY 40 days!!!!!* I find that to be a HUGE coincidence.

* * *

A question just popped in my head. Do you think children of around say 7 or 8 (but before the age of accountability) that have been indoctrinated up until that time by their parents religious beliefs will be raptured? . . . For example, would a 7 year old muslim be raptured? I know G-d will do right but I was just wondering everyone's thoughts. I hate to think of kids being left here.

* * *

Got that dancing feeling on the inside of me.

* * *

This is the busiest I've ever seen this website in a few years! I have been having rapture dreams and I can't believe that this is really it! We are on the edge of eternity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

* * *

Whoa! I can sure feel the glory bumps after reading this thread!

* * *

I too am soooo excited!! I get goose bumps, literally, when I watch what's going on in the M.E.!! And Watcherboy, you were so right when saying it was quite a day yesterday, in the world news, and I add in local news here in the Boston area!! Tunnel ceiling collapsed on a car and killed a woman of faith, and we had the most terrifying storms I have ever seen here!! But, yes, oh happy day, like in your screen name, it is most indeed a time to be happy and excited, right there with ya!!

* * *

I am excited beyond words that the struggle of this life may be over soon and I can finally be FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!

* * *

This is so exciting....I'm having a hard time believing this is 'real'!

Vouchers: The new New Math

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 8:20 PM EDT

Last Friday, the Department of Education released a report showing that students attending public schools generally did as well as or better than comparable students in private schools.

According to the New York Times:

That report examined test scores of 700,000 fourth and eighth graders at public schools and those of 25,000 private school students. It found that when students of like economic, racial and family backgrounds were compared, public school students did as well as or better than those in private school in fourth grade reading and math and in eighth grade math. The exception was eighth grade reading, in which private school students did better.

Then on Tuesday, the Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, joined congressional Republicans in their proposal to spend $100 million on vouchers.

Asked about the DOE's own study, "Ms. Spellings, at the news conference, called the report's sample small and its results ''basically inconclusive.'"

Hmmm. I'm no statistician but…

Few Editorials Find Fault With the Bombing of Beirut. Say What?

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 8:13 PM EDT

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Lebanese civilians are overwhelmingly the victims of Israeli attacks, the U.N. concludes there are ground (on both sides mind you) for war crimes prosecutions, and few editorials find fault with the bombing of Beirut! Here's Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher:

While it's not surprising that nearly every editorial page in the U.S. has offered support for Israel's right to retaliate against Hamas and Hezbollah, it's a disgrace that few have expressed outrage, or at least condemnation, over the extent of death and destruction in and around Beirut -- and the attacks on the country's infrastructure, which harms most citizens of that country.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed in Lebanon, dozens of bridges and part of Beirut's airport destroyed, power stations and ports short-circuited. Latest reports put the number of refugees at half a million, with thousands of Americans waiting for evacuation.

Amazingly, criticism of the extent of Israel's bombing -- and its policy of collective punishment -- has actually decreased as the carnage has mounted. (Italics added)

This is unbelievable. Read on at E&P. (Photo: AP/Wide World Photos)

PLUS: "With Israel's bombardment of Lebanon, the fighting in Gaza has been largely overlooked. But people continue to die daily in the territory with 103 Palestinians killed so far, and Palestinian fighters continue to fire rockets into Israel." (AP)

Is Lebanon in for "Prolonged Instability"?

| Thu Jul. 20, 2006 6:59 PM EDT

A few brief comments on the war in Lebanon. This article by Michael Young in Slate and this piece in The Jewish Week both make what seems to be the most crucial point: Israel simply cannot disarm—or even significantly weaken—Hezbollah through military force alone. Hezbollah is massively popular among the country's large Shiite minority, its rockets are hidden in thousands of homes across southern Lebanon, and even the upcoming "limited" ground offensive by Israel looks like it will be about as effective at uprooting Hezbollah as the flattening of Fallujah was at crushing the Iraqi insurgency. In other words, not at all.

So it's hard to imagine what the end result will be. Presumably Israel will cease its offensive at some point. Lots of civilians will be dead. Hezbollah will still exist, it will still have many of the 13,000 rockets it had before the war began, and it will likely be more popular than ever. The much-weakened Lebanese government isn't likely to confront Hezbollah now (especially if its army ends up fighting alongside the militia while trying to repulse an Israeli ground invasion). An international peacekeeping force might be deployed on the southern border, but if Hezbollah keeps its missiles hidden and refuses to disarm, then this gets us nowhere. No wonder Young predicts that "Lebanon is in for prolonged instability."