Okay, so I haven’t posted in a while. School has been rough. I figured I’ll give you the roundup of the biggest news and opinions that happened in the last few months rather than a narrow issue on one topic this time.
- The Democrats (see synonyms: spineless, craven, unprincipled) caved in to George Bush’s illegal National Security Agency wiretapping program that breaks the FISA law regulating domestic wiretapping by passing a law legalizing its existence: The Protect America Act 2007 . This law didn’t need to be passed, and it is the fault of the Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid that they even put Bush’s bill up for a vote. The ACLU calls them sheep, and I’d agree.
- The Democratic Congress has a worse approval rating than George W. Bush. However, unlike Bush who still has popularity in his own party, Democrats and independents are pretty sour on the Democratic Congress too. Caving into the president on the war and wiretapping and everything else.
- Middle class disappearing in America. The San Francisco Chronicle piece is about how California is dividing into a rich educated class and a poorer immigrant service class. I remember one California schoolteacher telling me, “How am I supposed to buy a house in California on this sort of salary?”
- “Why don’t people of color get involved with the environment,” asks a black author.
- Labor Day was yesterday, and people are starting to pay attention to the election. I’ll do an issue on the candidates later, but for now look at Hillary’s FOX News connection.
- As you might have heard, Sen. Craig of Idaho is resigning because he was soliciting sex in a Minnesota airport bathroom from a cop in June. Meanwhile Sen. Vitter of Louisiana has been seeing a prostitute in Washington many, many times, yet is not pushed to resign by his GOP colleagues. Glenn Greenwald points out the nonsense of the “religious right” so focused on “family values” by anti-gay politics when divorce causes more damage to American families than gays do. And divorce is more common in South than it is in the North, with Massachusetts having the lowest divorce rate in the country. It’s also more common in religious people than among atheists and agnostics (link provide religious breakdown divorce rates).
- The United States is the most heavily armed country in the world with 90 guns for every 100 people. More than half of all guns manufactured annually are bought in the United States. I didn’t get that impression from watching City of God….
- Suprime mortgage shit hit the markets. I dunno what it means, but American financial regulation is crap and usually involves bailing out rich people while regulators looked the other way.
A mess of course, but here are some of the messiest messes.
- The General Accounting Office says that the meaningless “benchmarks” put into the Iraq funding bill this year will mostly not be met. Right now it looks like 11 of the 18 will not be met and violence has not significantly been reduced. And it looks like 30% (180,000) of the guns we delivered to Iraq can’t be accounted for and probably are in the hands of the insurgents. Looks like they will kill our soldiers with our own money and weapons.
- The latest talk is that the United States might support a coup by the first Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi (i.e., the one we picked) to replace the current Shi’ite/Kurd government run by the idiot Nouri al-Maliki. The current Iraqi government is mostly made up of Shi’ite religious parties that allied as the United Iraqi Alliance in the 2005 election. Moqtada al-Sadr’s faction has withdrawn from the group as well as the Sunni parties and the coalition is wobbly right now. However note this statement: “According to Allawi’s published program, the parliamentarians would not only appoint a new government but also suspend the new constitution, declare a state of emergency and make the restoration of security its priority.” He even hired a Republican lobbying firm (run by the Mississippi governor) to press the case in Washington. Bringing freedom to the Middle East indeed.
- Refugee crisis in Iraq. 4 million people have been displaced from the war (out of 25-30 million people in Iraq) and the UN has asked for help supporting the huge number of refugee in Jordan and Syria. Translators working for the United States have not been helped out in getting refugee status (they are under a huge threat of being killed by insurgents) and are probably the most screwed.
- The Nation interviewed 50 soldiers about the treatment of Iraqi civilians and documented the human rights abuses that commonly occurred during the war. The house raiding section is interesting because it shows how most of the raids they do are useless and based on bad intelligence. Iraqis would rat on neighbors to “settle scores” with people they didn’t like.
- 7 soldiers have written an op-ed called ” The War as we Saw it” for the NY Times showing the hopelessness of continuing the war including militia infiltration of the Iraqi Army.
- The oil law has not been passed by the Iraqi government. The law is one of the “benchmarks” set by Congress. It has the good provision of sharing Iraq’s oil wealth to all areas, not just the north and south, but Iraqis will be violently against the part that allows Iraq’s oil industry to be privatized and sold off to foreign companies. For all Bush has done to Iraq, he hadn’t tried privatizing the oil… until now.
- War profiteering in Rolling Stone. Corruption that Bush refuses to prosecute.
- The British leave Basra. Full withdrawal soon?
There’s no real rush to write about Texas politics since the Legislature won’t meet again until January 2009. But this year’s legislature was, of course, a useless joke that accomplished nothing for a polluted, uninsured, and fast-growing Texas. Undoing the train wreck of the 2003 session (the first GOP Legislature since Reconstruction) is done piece by piece and much too slowly. Disasters started in 2003 and still not fully fixed are the cuts in Children’s Health Insurance Program (150,000 kids cut), the Trans-Texas Corridor, electricity and tuition deregulation. And the effort to get rid of Speaker Tom Craddick (since 2003) also hasn’t resolved itself.
- The Texas Observer has a post-session issue reviewing the failures. The editorial is a good place to start. Nothing was done on tuition deregulation which has skyrocketed tuition and does nothing to improve the standing of our (now-majority) minority population.
- 400 executions and a commutation. Really, can we stop now?
- Israel has made Shimon Peres president. An interesting reason why Olmert did it was to undermine his rival, Foreign Minister Tzipi Lipni, by making Peres a super-foreign minister. But Lipni was right about invading Lebanon, bad idea.
- I just read Jimmy Carter’s book on Palestine, “Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.” I was pretty impressed and learned quite a bit about the daily life of Palestinians (stuff like, for every terrorist attack by Palestinians, something like 14 Palestinians have their houses bulldozed). It’s a quick and good summary of the situation. The term apartheid I think is getting to be more and more appropriate for the treatment of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Even the Arab Israeli citizens do not have the same rights as Jewish Israelis. Check out this NPR interview with Carter.
- Is the omerta in the American media on criticizing on Israel cracking? The London Review of Books published an article on the “Israeli lobby” by Harvard professors that got the Israel “right or wrong” crowd in a fury. They pressured universities and venues to cancel talks on the topic, making more of a media stir about it. Its a joke that I can read more criticism of Israel in Haaretz than on American TV (a point made by Carter).
- The Palestinians poorer than ever. The economic boycott of the elected Hamas government has backfired and impoverished hundreds of thousands, and Hamas has now run the secular Fatah Party of Yassir Arafat out of the Gaza Strip, peaking their triumph by throwing a Fatah security chief out of a window in the mini-Palestinian civil war this year. Hamastan and Fatahstan anyone?
- Peasant fashion in South America. The election of the first Indian president in Bolivia has made it okay for the European-descended population to start wearing native American clothing. When Evo first visited world leaders wearing an alpaca sweater, people laughed and Bolivians were ashamed. Now its hip.
- Ethiopia celebrates Y2K, seven years after the rest of us.
- Don’t eat swordfish; catching it kills everything else in the sea.
- Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India, cool article in National Geographic.