As hurricane season began in earnest, Ray Nagin, who famously declared New Orleans a "chocolate city," began his second term as mayor. What better time to appreciate the way George Clinton, America's should-be poet laureate, has funked up politics?
As UNGASS +5 winds down, a coalition of over 70 civil society organizations from around the world are denouncing the meeting as a significant step back in the global fight against AIDS. The 2006 Declaration, which will be ratified by the General Assembly this afternoon, "recognizes" that $20-23 billion are needed per year, but fails to set hard targets for funding, treatment, care or prevention. Moreover, the document euphemistically refers to "vulnerable groups" but refuses to name them.
"Vulnerable groups such as intravenous drug users, sex workers and men who have sex with men have been made invisible in this document," said Aditi Sharma of ActionAid International.
African activists in particular are irate that their governments retreated from specific targets on treatment (reaching 80% by 2010) that were agreed to at the Abuja Summit in Nigeria just three weeks ago. South Africa and Egypt are both signatories to the Abuja Declaration, but they -- along with the U.S. -- worked behind the scenes to eliminate funding and treatment targets. "The final outcome document is pathetically weak. It is remarkable at this stage in the global epidemic that governments cannot set the much needed targets," said Sisonke Msimang of the African Civil Society Coalition.
If left-liberal bloggers have any influence on the Democraticparty, they should use their muscle right now to block a grotesquesellout--handing Republicans an odious victory on the inheritance tax.
Giving the GOP its way would hand a fabulous reward to thecountry's wealthiest families but, worse than that, create a $1trillion hole in future federal revenue. If this happens, forgetabout universal health care or other major social reforms andpublic investment that Democrats are promising to pursue.
Yet leading the rush to appeasement is Senator Max Baucus ofMontana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee andthe party's number-one Quisling. Baucus tips over easily tooutrageous deals with Republican tax-cutters. Back in 2001, hesold out on Bush's reactionary tax reduction package. Now he isworking to organize a rump group of Democratic senators for"compromise" on the estate tax. That is, give the Republicansponsors most of what they seek and, in the process, cripplepossibilities for the future.
When the former chief spokesman for Attorney General John Ashcroft says that Alberto Gonzales' subpoenaing of reporters is "â€¦ the most reckless abuse of power I have seen in years," it should make us all snap to attention.
This isn't exactly coming from a standard-bearer for the civil libertarians.
And yet, Mark Corallo, whose public relations firm currently represents Karl Rove (also striking that the top Presidential advisor should now need a PR agent), made this and similar statements in an interview with the New York Times and in an affidavit filed on behalf of two San Francisco Chronicle reporters.
Like radical Islamists and American interventionists, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's The Caged Virgin and Irshad Manji's The Trouble With Islam Today express great concern for Muslim women. But the trouble is not necessarily with Islam.
With or without a comprehensive immigration bill, a working-class
immigrant Latino movement is emerging--allied with progressive
groups--that could reverse a tide of xenophobia and make significant
There's been a media frenzy lately on the shortage of nurses in this country. It's justified; this is a serious public health problem. If you've ever been hospitalized, you've probably noticed that nurses work harder and are often more involved in your care and more knowledgeable than doctors. Seven years ago my father fell into a coma after getting a bone marrow transplant in a fancy research hospital. The doctors gave up on him, and told us we should pull the plug "when we felt ready"; luckily we didn't feel ready, because an enterprising nurse fiddled with the machines a bit, and saved his life. (We still don't know exactly what she did!) Now his health is excellent. He rides his bike every day, enjoys his grandchildren, writes poetry and just retired from his day job. If that nurse hadn't been there --or had been too busy and over-worked to pay attention to him --he'd probably be dead.
Our federal law-makers, in their wisdom, have devised a cheap solution to the nursing shortage: import nurses from other countries. There are serious drawbacks to this strategy. For one, the problem is global. Some of the countries exporting nurses to the U.S. -- India, for example -- are themselves experiencing a nursing shortage. Luring nurses here is just going to worsen the problem for those countries, weakening already-fragile Third World health infrastructures. Secondly, importing new workers won't improve the work conditions in the health care industry. If nurses aren't treated with the respect they deserve, the hard-working, talented folks from India will eventually burn out, too. A study released in March by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) found that increasing nurses' pay was "the most direct way" to solve the nursing shortage. IWPR also found that unionization helped to raise the nurses wages, and to improve nurse/patient ratios. Granted, the study was funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which organizes health care workers, but I've found IWPR reports to be rigorous regardless of funding.
Another clear solution is to improve education opportunities for young working-class women. Reporting an article on vocational education in New York City in the late 1990s, I met girls who were training to be beauticians because they'd dreamed of becoming nurses, but the nursing classes had been cut. As beauticians, they'll be lucky to earn salaries above the poverty line, and will likely take home less than a third of what they'd make as nurses. I love getting my nails done as much as the next person, but we do need nurses more than we need manicurists.
Cultural conservatives, who have been busy of late trying to claim that the rebellious songs of The Who are other rock groups are really right-wing anthems, have misread America's tastes in a major way when it comes to the Dixie Chicks.
Conservative politicians, pundits and political writers -- from Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston to Media Research Council president L. Brent Bozell and bloggers by the dozen -- couldn't wait to trash Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Robison for releasing a new album that refused to make nice with President Bush and the thought police who screech "shut up and sing" every time a musician expresses an opinion.
The Dixie Chicks have for the past three years taken more hits than any other musicians because, ten days before Bush ordered the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Maines told a cheering crowd at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire theater: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."
The University of California has thrown its weight behind an
antisweatshop initiative on campus logowear, proof that conscientious
consumers can humanize the forces of global capitalism.
The US occupation of Iraq is spiraling out of control.
Just when it seems like America couldn't be any more unpopular in Iraq, and around the world, comes the word Haditha. A horrific massacre, and an even more despicable cover-up.
The new Iraqi ambassador to the US, Samir Al-Sumaidaie, claims Marines killed his cousin, a second year engineering university student, in a separate incident in Haditha, his hometown. "I believe he was killed intentionally," Al-Sumaidaie told CNN on Sunday. "I believe that he was killed unnecessarily. And unfortunately, the investigations that took place after that sort of took a different course and concluded that there was no unlawful killing."
It seemed right that John Kenneth Galbraith had the last word at his memorial service.
"My father's last book was devoted to the destructiveness of war, the unimaginable cruelty of war" Peter Galbraith told the 1000 friends, colleagues, family members who gathered in Harvard University's Memorial Church on a warm Wednesday afternoon to remember the life of a great public intellectual, economist, thinker who was also a man of generous heart and exceptionally independent mind and spirit. "'War remains the decisive human failure," Galbraith wrote. As his biographer Richard Parker said, "He knew when to fight and what he would fight for, but hated war and the men who sought or encouraged it, whether in Vietnam forty years ago or the middle East today."
He was a man who despised how the military-industrial complex had so terribly skewed America's priorities. Words he wrote for John F. Kennedy's first Inaugural address, at a time when Cold War orthodoxies rode high, resonate today. "We must never negotiate out of fear, but we must never fear to negotiate."