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Archive for the ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ Category

The president’s new budget proposal follows the classic conservative formula of increasing subsidies to the military-industrial complex (by allocating billions of dollars towards the war effort) while slashing domestic programs aimed at aiding middle and lower class Americans.

The president’s budget, much unlike his rhetoric, is the best indicator of administration beliefs and priorities. To that end, this budget didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know– welfare for the rich, ‘tough love’ and ‘responsibility’ for everybody else.

From ThinkProgress:

On Jan. 31, President Bush headed to Wall Street and acknowledged for the first time that income inequality exists in America: “The fact is that income inequality is real. It has been rising for more than 25 years.”

But apparently, he’s not quite ready to do anything about it. Bush’s 2008 budget cuts crucial aid for America’s middle class:

– “$77 billion in funding cuts for Medicare and Medicaid over the next five years, and $280 billion over the next 10.”

$223 million in funding cuts (4 percent decrease from this year’s levels) to the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

– “$4.9 billion, or 8 percent, cut in education, training, employment and social services” grants.

$100 million cut for Head Start, which provides child development services to economically disadvantaged children and families.

– “$2.4 billion cut in community and regional development grants — which often provide funding for low- and middle-income communities — to $16.5 billion from $18.9 billion.

$400 million — 18 percent — cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, “which provides $2.2 billion to help people pay heating bills this year.”

$172 million — nearly 25 percent — cut in funding for housing for low-income seniors.

While Bush forgot about the middle class in the new budget, he made sure to look out for the wealthy. As the Tax Policy Center notes, “People with incomes of more than $1 million would get tax cuts averaging $162,000 a year (in 2012 dollars) in perpetuity.”

— Igor Volsky

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Democracy Now is reporting that “a new poll from WorldOpinion.org has found seven out of ten Iraqis want a US withdrawal within one year. Just ten percent favor the Bush administration’s stated policy to withdraw troops only as the security situation improves.” Thus, if we are to respect Iraqi democracy and national sovereignty we have no choice but to yield to the Iraqi opinion. True democracy transcends purple fingers; elections are a part, but not the whole of democracy. And so long as America disregards Iraqi opinion, (and the demands of Iraqi politicians) national elections will continue to serve as a venire for American power.

Our media rarely includes Iraqi voices in debates about withdrawal from Iraq; our esteemed politicians craft their Iraqi policy with little consideration for Iraqi opinion. According to FAIR’s study of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, “at a time when a large proportion of the U.S. public already favored withdrawal from Iraq, “stay the course” sources outnumbered pro-withdrawal sources more than 5-to-1. In the entire six months studied, not a single peace activist was heard on the NewsHour on the subject of Iraq,” and only one Iraqi source, Ahmed Chalabi, discussed American withdrawal.

If we invaded Iraq to spread democracy, as proponents of the war suggest, then our refusal to yield to Iraqi opinion and withdraw sabotages our objective. And at a time when a majority of Americans and Iraqis favor American disengagement, the media continues to echo Bush doctrine. To hear from the occupied is to learn of the consequences of American foreign policy. To listen to the Iraqi perspective is to disrupt American ambition in the region. Our media demonstrates remarkable contempt for democracy, self determination and freedom; in this, they reflect the administration.

— Igor Volsky

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The United States cast the only veto against a UN Security Council resolution “condemning the military operations being carried out by Israel…particular the attack that took place in Beit Hanoun” and “condemning also the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel.” John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, criticized the resolution for not “display[ing] an evenhanded characterization of the recent events in
Gaza…” Which “recent events” was Bolton referring to? It’s hard to know.

Bolton may have been thinking of the morning of November 8th when Israel killed 18 civilians, “most of whom were asleep in their beds when their homes were struck by shells fired by Israeli forces,” in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun. Or he may have been describing the period between November 2nd and November 7th when “more than 53 Palestinians were killed during the Israeli military siege of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, and many more were wounded.”

In any case, the only things ‘unbalanced’ are the casualties and Bolton’s concern for Israeli but not Palestinian life. When Palestinian rockets land in Israel, leading to some injuries but not resulting in any casualties inside Israel since June, Bolton condemns the Palestinians for conducting “an act of terrorism.” Israel kills 350 Palestinians since June, more than half of them civilians and Bolton regards their deaths as the unintended consequences of “legal Israeli military operations.”

— Igor Volsky

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From USA Today:

Concern about leftist victories in Latin America has prompted President Bush to quietly grant a waiver that allows the United States to resume training militaries from 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The administration hopes the training will forge links with countries in the region and blunt a leftward trend. Daniel Ortega, a nemesis of the United States in the region during the 1980s, was elected president in Nicaragua this week. Bolivians chose another leftist, Evo Morales, last year.

Note the ahistorical nature of this report. Throughout the 1980s the United States trained Latin American armies in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua (among others) to secure a stable investment environment for American businesses and prevent popular social/democratic uprisings from toppling Washington-friendly leaders. In 1986 the World Court reprimanded Washington for arming and training the Nicaragua Contra forces.

In The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America the International Court of Justice ruled that the United States was guilty of “unlawful use of force,” illegally mining Nicaragua’s harbors and violating international law by supporting Contra guerrillas in their war against the Nicaraguan government. The Court ordered America to pay reparations to Nicaragua; we refused (claiming that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case).

Today, President-elect Ortega (who was President of Nicaragua from 1985-1990) is dangerous in two respects. (1) Ortega could decide to serve the Nicaraguan people (among the poorest on earth) instead of Washington, in which case he’s an extremist and (2) Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela could serve as examples for other popular struggles in Latin America, prompting other nations to renounce Western neoliberalism and imperialism.

USA Today doesn’t tell us any of this. The paper bends over backwards to avoid reporting on American crimes. We may have forgotten; the Nicaraguan people have not.

— Igor Volsky

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Thoughts on Robert Kaplan’s “We Can’t Force Democracy” | In “We Can’t Force Democracy,” author Robert Kaplan urges the U.S. government to maintain ‘normality’ in the Middle East. Dictators are condoned for their ability to sustain national stability; they are to be supported– the future is uncertain, a successor could prove to be a destabilizing force. Robert Kaplan is asking America to continue its tradition of maintaining a stable business environment for American investors; markets for their goods (or in today’s world, labor for its production).

I’m reminded of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. After the first Gulf War, Friedman wrote that the

war was, instead, fought to restore the status quo. And, as every American policymaker knows, before Mr. Hussein invaded Kuwait he was a pillar of the gulf balance of power and status quo preferred by Washington. His iron fist simultaneously held Iraq together, much to the satisfaction of the American allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and it prevented Iranian Islamic fundamentalists from sweeping over the eastern Arab world. It was only when the Iraqi dictator decided to use his iron fist to dominate Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that he became a threat. But as soon as Mr. Hussein was forced back into his shell, Washington felt he had become useful again for maintaining the regional balance and preventing Iraq from disintegrating.

Saddam Hussein was kept in power (on purpose) to preserve stability in Iraq. After all, Saddam did use the ‘iron fist’ (massacring the Shiites and the Kurds) we needed to maintain ‘normality.’

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President Bush, on 8/1/05, congratulating King Abdallah on assuming the Saudi throne:

“On behalf of the United States, I congratulate my friend, King Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, on assuming the Saudi throne and the position of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. We wish Saudi Arabia peace and prosperity under his leadership. I have spoken today to the new King, and the United States looks forward to continuing the close partnership between our two countries.” [Emphasis added]

But “close partnership” is an understatement; Professor Juan Cole places the Saudi-American relationship in a historical context.

 

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Last week, the Veterans Affairs Department announced that its health care costs had risen faster than expected, “forcing the agency to shift money among accounts to cover the shortage.” On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved $1.5 billion in emergency funds for VA health care programs.

“[Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim] Nicholson told lawmakers Tuesday that the administration had vastly underestimated the number of service personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who would seek VA medical treatment. The estimates had been based on outdated assumptions from 2002, he said.”

David Gorman, the executive director of Disabled American Veterans discusses the funding shortfall and the politicization of veteran healthcare and services. [Listen to interview]

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