Thursday, May 31, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Wayne was, in reality, a draft dodger. America’s archetypal soldier was in fact a chicken hawk. He was a cheerleader and champion of militaristic patriotism and combat he had never experienced. Wayne had “other priorities” during WWII—achieving superstardom (and saving his neck) was more important than defeating fascism. Much like Vice President Dick Cheney, who sought numerous deferments during the Vietnam War, Wayne was the quintessential war wimp.
According to Pilar Wayne, her husband “would become a ‘superpatriot’ for the rest of his life trying to atone for staying home” during WWII. Like Wayne, the current crop of GOP chicken hawks are great actors, overcompensating for their previous patriotic failings (draft dodging, etc.) by sounding the jingoistic battle cry for a new generation of working-class sons and daughters to go to war. Or, as George W. Bush did in a priceless moment of Hollywood flourish, dressing up in a flight suit to declare a failing and deadly war in Iraq a “mission accomplished.”
Saturday, May 26, 2007
The Congress of the United States intervenes to extend into a televised spectacle the prolonged death of a woman in Florida. The majority leader of the Senate, a physician, pronounces a diagnosis based on heavily edited videotape. The majority leader of the House of Representatives argues against cutting-edge research into the use of human stem cells by saying that "an embryo is a person... We were all at one time embryos ourselves. So was Abraham. So was Muhammad. So was Jesus of Nazareth." Nobody laughs at him or points out that the same could be said of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or whoever invented the baby-back rib.
And, finally, in August, the cover of Time—for almost a century the dyspeptic voice of the American establishment—clears its throat, hems and haws and hacks like a headmaster gagging on his sherry, and asks, quite seriously: "Does God have a place in science class?"
Fights over creationism—and its faddish new camouflage, intelligent design, a pseudoscience that posits without proof or method that science is inadequate to explain existence and that supernatural causes must be considered—roil up school districts across the country.
The president of the United States announces that he believes ID ought to be taught in the public schools on an equal footing with the theory of evolution. And in Dover, Pennsylvania, during one of these many controversies, a pastor named Ray Mummert delivers the line that both ends our tour and, in every real sense, sums it up: "We've been attacked," he says, "by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture."
And there it is. Idiot America is not the place where people say silly things. It's not the place where people believe in silly things. It is not the place where people go to profit from the fact that people believe in silly things. Idiot America is not even those people who believe that Adam named the dinosaurs. Those people pay attention. They take notes. They take the time and the considerable mental effort to construct a worldview that is round and complete. The rise of Idiot America is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of intellectual elites that Richard Hofstadter deftly teased out of the national DNA forty years ago. Both of those things are part of it. However, the rise of Idiot America today represents—for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power—the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a preacher, or a scientist, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.
In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut, and the Gut is a moron, as anyone who has ever tossed a golf club, punched a wall, or kicked an errant lawn mower knows. We occasionally dress up the Gut by calling it "common sense." The president's former advisor on medical ethics regularly refers to the "yuck factor." The Gut is common. It is democratic. It is the roiling repository of dark and ancient fears. Worst of all, the Gut is faith-based.
Correspondents say the document hints at a looming struggle over the issue of climate change at the G8 summit, to be held on 6-8 June in Heiligendamm, Germany.
Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to use Germany's presidency of the G8 to secure a major climate change deal, including:
--Agreement to slow the rise in average temperatures this century to 2C
--A cut in global emissions by 50% below 1990 levels by 2050
--A rise in energy efficiency in power and transport by 20 percent by 2020.
Greenpeace Director John Sauven described the US position as "criminal".
"The US administration is clearly ignoring the global scientific consensus as well the groundswell of concern about climate change in the United States," he said.
Yes, criminal is a good way to describe it. Ignoring massive scientific evidence--as usual--the Bush regime is willing to sacrifice the well-being of billions of people to protect its cronies in the oil industry. Big Oil is fighting tooth and nail against doing anything about global warming, and in fact is spearheading a disinformation campaign that is spreading lies about the nature of the problem. (You can check it out for yourself here.) The U.S. produces about 25% of the world's greenhouse gases. China, the other big polluter, won't do anything substantial if we don't. Thus, the Bush right-wing Republican position is effectively destroying the international effort to slow or reverse the effects of warming, effects which are indisputably tied to human activity. Once again, the Oil Men in the White House have proven that when it comes to the lives of ordinary people, they still don't give a damn.
You shouldn't be surprised.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Friday, May 18, 2007
Troops don’t need bigger pay raises, White House budget officials said Wednesday in a statement of administration policy laying out objections to the House version of the 2008 defense authorization bill.
The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.
The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.
Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”
You see, the White House says the wonderful benefits package that the military provides will close the gap. Some might disagree with that, in light of the disgusting treatment of our troops at the hands of Halliburton. And others might point out the many troubles plaguing the VA. But hey, it's the Bush Administration. They wouldn't lie, would they?
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Klein should also look here, where some of Broder's most out-of-touch and obtuse observations are collected -- including:
* Broder's 2005 canonization of Bush ("the quest for freedom . . . is a central purpose of his administration");
* his November, 2004 criticisms of Bush critics for what he said were misguided concerns that the Bush presidency was radical ("he will have to work within the system for whatever he gets. Checks and balances are still there");
* his November 1, 2004 proclamation that the country likes Bush personally far more than Gore and Kerry and that "the country is truly conservative";
* his April, 2003 decree that "there is little the Democrats can do to shatter the reputation for strong leadership Bush has built, and not much their presidential candidates can do to win equal reputations for themselves";
* his May 2003 confession that "I like Karl Rove" followed by a very moving reminiscence of the quality time he was able to spend with Rove in Austria when (just like the ordinary people): "Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution and I were assembling a cast of American politicians to address a group of 40 emerging political leaders from Western Europe, the former Soviet bloc, Asia and Africa, I suggested we invite Karl Rove to be one of the instructors";
* his October 2002 "report" where he explained how Don Rumsfeld personally invited him to the Pentagon to explain how Iraq is such a grave threat, and at the meeting, Rumsfeld "pulled out a pencil and drew me a simple chart -- a downward sloping line tracing the erosion of Iraq's conventional military strength in the decade since the Gulf War, and an upward sloping line showing its growing store of WMD - weapons of mass destruction." Based on Rumsfeld's crude and condescending scribblings, an obviously flattered Broder pronounced: "Rumsfeld left me with the impression that he is aware of the risks of war with Iraq, but confident they can be handled." And finally:
* his October 2002 attack against protestors trying to stop the Iraq War with meetings in Iraq: "It was all too reminiscent of Jane Fonda in Hanoi or antiwar protesters marching under Viet Cong flags."
In sum, Broder has propped up one of the most unpopular and corrupt presidencies in history, all after he spent years waxing hysteric over a deeply popular President and a sex scandal that Americans by and large thought was petty and inconsequential. Time and again, David Broder is on the wrong side of every critical political issue. His judgment proves again and again to be worthless and misguided. And his opinions could not be any more detached from the "ordinary Americans" he thinks he represents.
Friday, May 04, 2007
By comparing the results of foreign students and American students on tests administered in both nations, and then examining the American students' scores on the U.S. NAEP [National Assessment of Educational Progress], it is possible to reliably estimate how well foreign students would perform on the NAEP.
And it turns out that only one-third of those high-flying Swedish kids would be considered proficient readers; the NAEP figure for U.S. fourth-graders was 29 percent. The great majority of the remaining countries would have fewer proficient students than the United States. Using the NAEP standard, no country comes close to having a majority of proficient readers.
Under the NAEP standard, Singapore is the only nation in the world to have a majority of its students be proficient in science, and that by a scant 1 percent. Only a handful of countries would have a majority of students proficient in mathematics.