Political MoJo

Police chief accused of denying CPR to gay man

From Poverty Barn comes the news that in Welch, West Virginia, Police Chief Bobby Bowman has been has been accused...

| Thu Mar. 2, 2006 10:49 PM EST

From Poverty Barn comes the news that in Welch, West Virginia, Police Chief Bobby Bowman has been has been accused in a federal lawsuit of impeding a rescuer from saving the life of 43-year-old Claude Green, who died of a heart attack in June. According to Green's friend, Billy Snead, who performed chest compressions on Green, Bowman ordered him to get away and said that Green was HIV positive.

"He was a police officer so I got out the way. I assumed he would help. I didn't want to be a hindrance," Snead said. "He also told the ambulance drivers that he was HIV positive and to be careful."

Bowman denies that he he refused Green CPR and calls the accusation a "boldface lie" (obviously, he meant a "bald-faced lie"). Rose Saxe, an attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project said that Bowman's alleged actions not only contributed to Green's death (he died half an hour after arriving at the hospital), but also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Says Saxe: "It's hard to say what was more shameful: that Chief Bowman assumed Claude Green was HIV positive solely because he was gay, or that Bowman was so ignorant about HIV that he felt you couldn't safely perform CPR on an HIV positive person."

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Media Offices Stormed in Kenya

Last night close to a hundred hooded men armed with AK-47s stormed the Standard Newspaper's central office in Nairobi, Kenya,...

Thu Mar. 2, 2006 3:21 PM EST

Last night close to a hundred hooded men armed with AK-47s stormed the Standard Newspaper's central office in Nairobi, Kenya, destroying papers and temporarily halting production. The raid, which was carried out simultaneously with one on the Kenya Television Network, involved the destruction of printing presses, the burning of thousands of newspapers and the beating of staff members. The Kenyan government, considered democratic, has previously accused the Standard of inventing stories on several occasions.

Corruption has raged through the Kenyan government as of late, and the media has fostered political tension by calling into question a series of secret meetings between Kenya President Mwai Kibaki and his main opponent, former Environment Minister Kalonzo Musyoka. The article on that secret rendezvous, published Saturday, led to the detention of three Standard reporters yesterday. After divulging all they knew, and asked to reveal their sources, the journalists were instructed to wait for further instructions "from above."

Information Minister Mutahi Kagwe says he knows nothing about the raids, yet earlier in the week he had threatened government intervention if publications continue their "misreporting and misrepresentation." As he put it: "If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it." The police now admit to the raid, calling it a "sweep" to gather evidence important to national security.

Why Hate Heating Assistance?

Fred Clark makes a very good point here. You'd think that pro-corporate Republicans like Joe Barton, Dick Cheney, and George...

| Thu Mar. 2, 2006 2:09 PM EST

Fred Clark makes a very good point here. You'd think that pro-corporate Republicans like Joe Barton, Dick Cheney, and George Bush would be all in favor of low-income heating assistance programs, like LIHEAP, that allow poor families to buy oil to heat their homes—because ultimately that money just ends up in the pockets of Exxon and Shell executives. It's corporate welfare, only it actually does some good on the side. Republicans should be all over that, right? Guess not—Congress still refuses to fund the program at the necessary levels, despite record high heating costs this winter, forcing families to rely on Venezuela for heating oil aid. The joy of seeing people freeze to death, apparently, outweighs the joy of helping everyone's favorite oil companies out.

Also, if the GOP really wanted to lower costs for programs like LIHEAP—which, when it comes down to it, only amounts to a percent of a percentage point of the federal budget anyway—the party could support federal proposals to "weatherize" old homes, by plugging up leaks and making old homes more heat-efficient. Everyone's utility bills will be lower in the long run, and Congress could spend less on aid. Again, this too would achieve a core Republican goal—reducing spending—and do good things. But no. Too sensible, apparently.

Bush, Chertoff Warned Before Katrina

New video footage shows that Bush was briefed on the probable disaster that could result from Hurricane Katrina, including busted...

Wed Mar. 1, 2006 8:11 PM EST

New video footage shows that Bush was briefed on the probable disaster that could result from Hurricane Katrina, including busted levees, before the storm struck. The video also shows Bush not asking a single question during his final briefing before the hurricane hit. The footage, obtained by the Associated Press, shows

in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster…

.A top hurricane expert voiced "grave concerns" about the levees and then-Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren't enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome. "I'm concerned about their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe."Just five days later the levees had burst, and Bush stated that he didn't think anyone had any idea that that could happen.

Predicting the Insurgency

The latest scoop by Knight-Ridder's Jonathan Landay and Warren Stroebel has been linked around quite a bit: U.S. intelligence agencies...

| Wed Mar. 1, 2006 6:35 PM EST

The latest scoop by Knight-Ridder's Jonathan Landay and Warren Stroebel has been linked around quite a bit:

U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.

Among the warnings, Knight Ridder has learned, was a major study, called a National Intelligence Estimate, completed in October 2003 that concluded that the insurgency was fueled by local conditions - not foreign terrorists- and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.

The reports received a cool reception from Bush administration policymakers at the White House and the office of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, according to the former officials, who discussed them publicly for the first time. Okay, so Rumsfeld and the people in the White House are fools. We knew that. And however wrong our intelligence agencies may have been about various things over the years, this is yet more evidence that they were always considerably less wrong than the civilians—hacks, one might call them—in the Bush administration. We've known that too.

But here's a question that doesn't really get answered in the piece. What could Rumsfeld or anyone else have actually done if they had taken the reports seriously? Was there a window of opportunity in October 2003 when the U.S. military could have shut down the Iraqi insurgency, with a change of tactics or whatnot, if only Rumsfeld had just listened to the NIE? Or was it just that the insurgency was inevitable and unstoppable and no amount of forewarning by U.S. intelligence could have changed any of that? I certainly don't know, and it's an important question, at least for those debating whether the occupation of Iraq was a catastrophe because it was a good idea that was completely bungled in the execution (as many a disgruntled hawk now believes) or because it was a bad idea that was bound to fail from the start.

Demographics and Patriarchy

Philip Longman makes a somewhat novel argument in Foreign Policy this month. He notes that population growth rates in the...

| Wed Mar. 1, 2006 6:03 PM EST

Philip Longman makes a somewhat novel argument in Foreign Policy this month. He notes that population growth rates in the industrialized world are slowing down, because families aren't having enough kids these days. Eventually populations will shrink in many countries—it's already happening in Japan. But Longman argues that, in most of these countries, what he calls "patriarchal" families will still reproduce faster than their godless liberal counterparts. So the world of the future will "disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm." More kids will come from socially conservative families, basically.

Longman thinks that this explains why America is becoming more conservative; the right-wingers are having more babies. "Among states that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, fertility rates are 12 percent higher than in states that voted for Sen. John Kerry." Well, maybe. But probably not. Even granted that conservatives tend to have more kids than liberals, that doesn't mean that the kids all stay conservative. Polls in the United States show that every generation tends to be more liberal than their parents, at least on social issues. George W. Bush may be president, but the country as a whole is far more socially liberal than it was, say, thirty or twenty years ago. (Really.) So it's not clear that demographics are necessarily going to lead to "religious revivals and a rebirth of the patriarchal family [rebirth? did it ever die?]" all around the industrialized world. But Longman's argument's worth reading all the same.

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Stalemate on Darfur

When we wrote last week about Darfur, the UN was talking about taking over peacekeeping duties from the African Union...

Wed Mar. 1, 2006 3:06 PM EST

When we wrote last week about Darfur, the UN was talking about taking over peacekeeping duties from the African Union there. Now top UN officials are claiming that the African Union is backing away from the plan. The Sudanese government has opposed UN involvement, and has helped fuel anti-UN sentiment around the continent, with other African leaders expressing concern that outside involvement will only cause more violence in the region.

Among other things, the UN's special envoy for Sudan, Jan Pronk, said that "there has been talk" that Sudan will become the "same situation as Iraq a couple years ago"—i.e., that an insurgency will appear to fight the intervention force, or that al-Qaeda will become more active in the region. Just days ago, Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir warned that Darfur would become a graveyard for any military force entering the region without Sudan's permission.

It's questionable how long the African Union can remain effective in Darfur. A larger intervention force will be needed not only to stop the Sudanese militias that continue to carry out genocide, but also to enforce negotiations between Darfur and a president who demonstrates a lack of regard for his own citizens. Today the United States will hand the rotating Security Council presidency over to Argentina. That leaves a month before the seat goes to China, which has significant oil and trade interests in Sudan and is extremely unlikely to take any sort of lead in halting genocide there.

Under Their Thumb

Via the Guardian, the Stones sex it down. When the [Rolling] Stones make their Chinese debut next month, they will...

| Wed Mar. 1, 2006 2:21 PM EST

Via the Guardian, the Stones sex it down.

When the [Rolling] Stones make their Chinese debut next month, they will succumb to government pressure by dropping Brown Sugar, Let's Spend the Night Together, Honky Tonk Woman and Beast of Burden from their playlist, an associate told Reuters.

The Chinese ministry of culture told the band in 2003 that these four songs -some of the most sexually explicit in the band's repertoire - were unacceptable. ...

It has been a long time coming. The British band has been in talks about playing in China since the late 1970s, when a concert was denied by a government concerned about "spiritual pollution" from western culture.

Scientists enlist cruise ships to collect oceans data

Speaking of the ocean, AP reports: Scientists are enlisting cargo ships to measure water temperatures, ocean currents and even the...

| Tue Feb. 28, 2006 7:40 PM EST

Speaking of the ocean, AP reports:

Scientists are enlisting cargo ships to measure water temperatures, ocean currents and even the height of clouds in the hope of revealing the oceans' secrets.

Peter Ortner, chief scientist with the Atlantic Ocean Marine Laboratory of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that in order to address questions such as the changing path of the Gulf Stream scientists need more than the few years of data most missions can provide.

The long-term data that commercial ships can yield is what has been historically so difficult to obtain and what the latest project hopes to achieve.

And did we mention that the current issue of Mother Jones has a special report on the fate of the oceans?

How Medicare Wastes $80 Billion a Year

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Research has just put out a new, and easily readable, report...

| Tue Feb. 28, 2006 7:13 PM EST

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy and Research has just put out a new, and easily readable, report arguing that the Bush administration's 2003 Medicare bill will essentially "waste" $800 billion over the next decade because it was so poorly designed. Among other things, Republicans in Congress refused to allow Medicare to use its buying power to bargain down the price of drugs—something that is down in virtually every other industrialized country around the world—which would have saved $600 billion over ten years.

Not only that, but this route would have been much simpler too—all Congress would have had to do was to establish an add-on drug benefit to the existing Medicare program. As Baker notes, the bill was deliberately structured to "ensure that multiple private insurance companies would provide the benefit rather than Medicare." It was great for those insurance companies; bad for everyone else.

It's a good paper, although I suspect Congress could wring even more savings from Medicare if it really wanted to. Baker is only comparing the current program with a more ideal program that would have Medicare run things (saving billions in administrative costs) and bargain down the price of drugs. But you could also eliminate the $86 billion in subsidies that the government is paying to prevent companies from shifting costs onto the government—a mostly ludicrous provision and "pure windfall" for many companies—as well as the $6.4 billion over the next decade to subsidize health savings accounts. A lot of that money could be used to expand the current drug benefit and still have savings left over. In fact, that's exactly what the House Democrats have been proposing all along, and it's a pretty good start.