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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Bush To Cut Homeland Security If Reelected
Don't let George W. Bush fool you. Early childhood education, homeownership and homeland security are not important issues to this president. In the event that Bush is reelected he plans to begin slashing the federal budget for the "Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration, the Transportation Department, the Social Security Administration, the Interior Department and the Army Corps of Engineers." It's clear that all of his "strong leadership" campaign rhetoric is nothing more than rhetoric. He doesn't believe in any of it. As soon as he is a lame duck president he plans to cut and run to his right wing. Let's not let it happen.
"The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program was funded at $4.7 billion for the fiscal year beginning in October, enough to serve the 7.9 million people expected to be eligible. But in 2006, the program would be cut by $122 million. Head Start, the early-childhood education program for the poor, would lose $177 million, or 2.5 percent of its budget, in fiscal 2006.
"The $78 million funding increase that Bush has touted for a homeownership program in 2005 would be nearly reversed in 2006 with a $53 million cut. National Institutes of Health spending would be cut 2.1 percent in 2006, to $28 billion, after a $764 million increase for 2005 that brought the NIH budget to $28.6 billion."
So you think this may not be a big deal? They aren't major programs or anything, right?
Homeland Security is also on the chopping block. Funding would drop by $1 billion for fiscal year 2006 according to the administration's plans.
"Despite [administration] denials, this memorandum confirms what we suspected all along," said Thomas S. Kahn, Democratic staff director on the House Budget Committee. "Next February, the administration plans to propose spending cuts in key government services to pay for oversized tax cuts."
"But with the budget deficit exceeding $400 billion this year, tough and painful cuts are unavoidable, said Brian M. Riedl, a budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Federal agencies' discretionary spending has risen 39 percent in the past three years. "I think the public is ready for spending cuts," Riedl said. "Not only does the public understand there's a lot of waste in the federal budget, but the public is ready to make sacrifices during the war on terror."
Someone tell Mr. Riedl about reality. The reason we have a massive deficit is because of the $1.3 trillion tax cut that has done nothing but line the pockets of the rich. Without that we would be running surpluses which could provide health care for the uninsured, or being more realistic for the current Republican president, cutting vital programs that help poor Americans, children and the elderly.
Furthermore, Bush created the deficit! It shouldn't use the deficit as a reason to cut education, housing and health funding. And it certainly shouldn't make hypocritical claims about "making sacrifices during the war on terror" when Homeland Security is losing its funding. The nascent department is already underfunded. It cannot afford to lose the handful of port security inspectors that it is struggling with now. Homeland Security needs more funding, not less. For an administration running on security and defense, cuts to Homeland Security just show how much they don't care. To Bush it's better to have tax cuts for wealthy campaign contributors than to defend Los Angeles Airport, New York Harbor and the Washington, D.C. mall. Hypocrites.
This is just bizarre. Trent Lott is now advocating the very tactics that have earned the American military scorn from around the world (link via Kevin Drum). Several soldiers have been court martialed for their behavior and the top general in Iraq has been reassigned. But to the former Senate Majority Leader the raping and beating of prisoners is OK.
"Frankly, to save some American troops' lives or a unit that could be in danger, I think you should get really rough with them," Lott said. "Some of those people should probably not be in prisons in the first place."
"When asked about the photo showing a prisoner being threatened with a dog, Lott was unmoved.
"Nothing wrong with holding a dog up there unless it ate him," Lott said. "(They just) scared him with the dog."
"Lott was reminded that at least one prisoner had died at the hands of his captors after a beating.
"This is not Sunday school," he said. "This is interrogation. This is rough stuff."
Unbelievable. It's more than "rough stuff." It's illegal and barbaric.
Now we're holding hostages? After just reading a letter from a Marine in Iraq who spoke of how honest Iraqis who work for the Iraqi security forces are being threatened by the insurgent fighters by using their families as blackmail, coming upon this story about American tactics that sound uncomfortably similar is not something I expected.
"In a little-noticed development amid Iraq's prison abuse scandal, the U.S. military is holding dozens of Iraqis as bargaining chips to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender, according to human rights groups. These detainees are not accused of any crimes, and experts say their detention violates the Geneva Conventions and other international laws. The practice also risks associating the United States with the tactics of countries that it has long criticized for arbitrary arrests.
"In the 1970s and '80s, Washington frequently criticized the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries for making arbitrary arrests and for using relatives to exert pressure on fugitives and political prisoners. In its latest report on human rights conditions around the world, the State Department singled out several countries -- including Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Syria -- for using such tactics to pressure people to surrender or to force confessions.
"By adopting similar tactics in Iraq, experts say Washington risks losing a moral high ground. "It makes it difficult for the U.S. to criticize other countries," Quigley said, "when it undertakes detentions of this sort that so clearly exceed what is permitted by law."
This practice needs to end now. It may not be official policy, but that doesn't matter. We can all see the damage that the prisoner abuse scandal has gotten us into in Arab countries. Public support for the U.S. has probably dropped from 3% to 1% as a result. When we're at that kind of level, we can't afford mistakes of any kind - policy or not.
On several occasions in the past few months I have linked to an article by Will Saletan in which he methodically dissects Bush's every statement and contradiction. He seems to be a master of separating the rhetoric and parsing of the English language from the truth and from reality. Saletan's latest piece, about Bush's speech from Monday night, is no different.
"In press conferences, TV ads, and interviews this year, President Bush has manifested a series of psychopathologies: an abstract notion of reality, confidence unhinged from facts and circumstances, and a conception of credibility that requires no correspondence to the external world. Tonight, as he vowed to stay the course in Iraq, Bush demonstrated another mental defect: incomprehension of his role in history as a fallible human agent. Absent such comprehension, Bush can't fix his mistakes in Iraq because he can't see how—or even that—he screwed up."
Saletan may come off as harsh, but it's really just his uncanny ability to see that strand of swagger and disconnect that makes Bush so irritating in his leadership and profoundly simple in his understanding of the complex and important issues of our time. Saletan nails it:
"Bush's ignorance of his part in the tragedy infects everything he says. "The swift removal of Saddam Hussein's regime last spring had an unintended effect," he observed tonight. "Instead of being killed or captured on the battlefield, some of Saddam's elite guards shed their uniforms and melted into the civilian population. [They] have reorganized, rearmed and adopted sophisticated terrorist tactics." Note the passive construction. The mistake isn't that Bush failed to prepare for guerrilla tactics commonly adopted against occupiers. It isn't even a mistake; it's an "unintended effect." The cause of that effect is Saddam's "swift removal," not Bush or anyone in his administration who engineered the removal."
"Bush further boasted, "At my direction … we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to defend their country." To a reflective person, "accelerate" means we could have done this faster but didn't. That's a crucial mistake, given that we're running out of time. But to Bush, acceleration just means things are getting better."
Bush really just does not get it. He speaks of "hope" so often in reference to the Iraqis, that he fails to see that hope is all that guides his policies. Reality speaks a much different language.
A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert recently uttered this whopper in a poor attempt at pity:
"It's extremely difficult to govern when you control all three branches of government."
Don't you feel sorry for them?
On another note, it's great to see that Republicans can finally admit that the Supreme Court is a partisan organ of government. We saw it blossom in full in 2000 with Bush v. Gore where traditionally conservative, states-rights jurists became activist unwilling to let a state decision stand in a state matter. Now Hastert's spokesman speaks the truth.
If Republicans are struggling so horribly much with governing when they control every branch of government, perhaps it's time for a change. Democrats are more than willing to get America back on a prosperous path.