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Britons go to the polls May 3 to vote in local elections that will have a sizeable impact on the way that Tony Blair's ten-year premiership ends. Blair, who has been Prime Minister since May 2, 1997, has promised he will step down from the post before this year's Labour Party Conference, due in September. I've spent several weeks in the UK since early March-- and was back there again early this week. In much of the country, people just seem eager for him to go, and quickly. But he has hung on and hung on.
His decision to join President Bush in invading Iraq in 2003-- and the slavish support he has given to Bush ever since then-- are the main cause of this disaffection.
Now, Labour looks set to do very poorly in next week's local elections, and that performance is expected to bring Blair's Labour colleagues to the point where finally they tell him that-- for the sake of the party-- it is time for him to go. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown now looks more secure than ever to replace Blair as head of the party (and therefore, also of the government.)
How much appeal does an anti-Alberto Gonzales appeal have with grassroots Republicans?
A lot, if John McCain's political calculus is to be trusted.
On the day that the Arizona senator relaunched his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the presidency, McCain pronounced himself to have been "very disappointed in (the Attorney General's) performance" before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Rush Limbaugh has obviously learned nothing from the outrage and anger unleashed by Don Imus' unfortunate "nappy headed ho's" remark. Never one to shy away from unfunny "humor", Limbaugh recently played a song parody on his radio show in which an Al Sharpton impersonator (played with stereotypical gusto) sings a song filled with idiotic assumptions about black people and dripping with ignorance called "Barack the Magic Negro".
Perhaps this kind of garbage (set to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon") is someone's cup of tea. Limbaugh does have millions of listeners and they do adore of much of what the man says. Whether he's lampooning former President Clinton's daughter or suggesting Michael J. Fox is exaggerating the effects of his Parkinson's disease. So I don't expect his listeners to desert him over this. What does surprise me is that Vice President Dick Cheney among other major conservatives is still a regular guest on Limbaugh's show and I don't anticipate the kind of repudiations that Don Imus received over his transgression from him or anyone else on the right with regards to Limbaugh.
It is true that Imus was chided because he was on a national cable news network and was perhaps less associated with being a provocateur than Limbaugh. But I still think Cheney and his ilk should refuse to appear on Limbaugh's show from now on. I wonder, will there be any outcry? Are people becoming so desensitized to this now that they just don't care about the inevitable phony apology and/or Al Sharpton protest. I'd like to see calls for Limbaugh's removal not just from the black community but from the supporters of the president and vice-president who are not racist, who don't find "jokes" like "Barack The Magic Negro" funny.
Last January 16th, a car bomb blew up near an entrance to Mustansiriya University in Baghdad -- and then, as rescuers approached, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the crowd. In all, at least 60 Iraqis, mostly female students leaving campus for home, were killed and more than 100 wounded. Founded in 1232 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustansir, it was, Juan Cole informs us, "one of the world's early universities." And this wasn't the first time it had seen trouble. "It was disrupted by the Mongol invasion of 1258."
Just six weeks later, on February 25, again according to Cole, "A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives." The bomber in this case was a woman.
In terms of body count, those two mass slaughters added up to more than three Virginia Techs; and, on each of those days, countless other Iraqis died including, on the January date, at least thirteen in a blast involving a motorcycle-bomb and then a suicide car-bomber at a used motorcycle market in the Iraqi capital. Needless to say, these stories passed in a flash on our TV news and, in our newspapers, were generally simply incorporated into run-of-bad-news-and-destruction summary pieces from Iraq the following day. No rites, no ceremonies, no special presidential statements, no Mustansiriya T-shirts. No attempt to psychoanalyze the probably young Sunni jihadis who carried out these mad acts, mainly against young Shiite students. No healing ceremonies, no offers to fly in psychological counselors for the traumatized students of Mustansiriya University or the daily traumatized inhabitants of Baghdad -- those who haven't died or fled.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich has now filed his three articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney, and the Ohio Democrat is clearly serious about the holding the vice president to account for manipulating intelligence to fabricate a threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, manipulating intelligence to fabricate a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda, and openly threatened aggression against Iran absent any real threat to the the United States.
On Tuesday afternoon, Kucinich explained his initiative at a Capitol Hill press conference that he began by delivering the following statement:
Pultizer Prize-winning author David Halberstam, who has died in an automobile accident at age 73, was one of America's most thoughtful critics of media excess and abuse. The Powers That Be, his 1979 account of the rise of big media in the United States -- with its profound profiles of CBS's William Paley, Time's Henry Luce and other broadcast and print titans -- remains required reading.
But whatever his topic -- the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement, U.S. foreign policy in the post-Cold War era -- Halberstam always kept a sharp eye on the role played, for better or worse, by media. He was one of the greatest reporters of his time, and a man who loved the journalist's craft. But Halberstam was no apologist for the missteps or the misdeeds of those who owned major newspapers and broadcast networks.
In 2003, shortly after the Federal Communications Commission moved to loosen controls on media consolidation, Dave Weich of www.powells.com asked Halberstam about the way in which big media shapes American society:
There is an attempt in Congress to undo the damage done by a rightwing-trending Supreme Court (and the lower courts ain't too pretty either) intent on eviscerating a woman's right to privacy and control of her own body. Â
The Freedom of Choice Act was reintroduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer and Representative Jerrold Nadler just one day after the Supreme Court's paternalistic and frightening decision to uphold an abortion-procedure ban (intact dilation and extraction--all too often referred to by the media as "partial birth abortion,"Â a phrase coined by the right decades ago) that makes no exception to protect the health of the mother.Â The new legislation "would codify in federal law the rights established in Roe v. Wade," Allison Stevens of Women's eNews reports.
The bill's chances for passage are gloomy.Â But since the courts can no longer be relied upon to protect a woman's right to choose, new strategies are needed.Â And what's critical is that Democrats stand strong--not only in championing legislation that will help prevent pregnanciesÂ (and here), promote affordable childcare, and provide real family values funding--but also support the right of a woman to control her own body and health choices.
I'm still in northern France. Today, French voters particiapted in record high numbers in the first round of the presidential elections. The Gaullist Party's Nicolas Sarkozy got around 30% and the Socialists' Segolene Royal got 25.2%. The voters also delivered a sharp rebuff to the far-right, anti-immigrant candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, giving him only 11.5%.
That means that Sarko and Sego will go to the second round run-off on May 6. Five years ago, Le Pen shocked much of the French intelligentsia by beating the Socialist candidate (Lionel Jospin) into second place, and thus got into the run-off ballot against Chirac a couple of weeks later.
Lille is in a traditionally leftwing part of the country; and many leftists here were shocked in 2002 that even this district had put Le Pen top of the ballot. This time, in the "département" of which Lille is a part, Le Pen got some 14.7%, Sarko got 29.7%, and Sego got 23.0%.