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There will be plenty of "rapid responses" to the gun rampage on the Virginia Tech campus, which has claimed the lives of as many as 31 students -- making it the deadliest school shotting incident in the history of the United States.
Do not doubt that the National Rifle Association is preparing its "this-had-nothing-to-do-with-guns" press release. The group has no compunctions about living up to its reputation for being beyond shame -- or education -- when it comes to peddling its spin on days when it would be better to simply remain silent. But the NRA will not be alone in responding in a self-serving manner. Many groups on all sides of issues related to guns and violence in America will be busy making their points, just as many in the media will look for one dimensional "explanations" for what the university's president, Charles Steger, has correctly described as "a tragedy... of monumental proportions."
"The university is shocked and indeed horrified," explained Steger, after it became clear that what had happened on his campus Monday was worse than the carnage at Columbine High School in 1999 or at the University of Texas in 1966.
Today the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in a case which could decide whether home health aides are entitled to federal minimum wage, and the protection of federal overtime laws. The lead plaintiff, Evelyn Coke, a Jamaican immigrant who raised five children as a single mother, and is now 73 years old and reportedly quite infirm herself (with diabetes and kidney problems), is represented by lawyers working with Service Employees International Union(SEIU). She's challenging a 1975 Labor Department rule which exempts the home health aide industry from the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Evelyn Coke's case is significant because it could profoundly affect the lives of workers in this industry, a fast-growing one as our population ages. Most home health care workers are women. They toil for sub-Wal-Mart hourly wages (the average is $8.05 per hour), in addition to being deprived of the rights most other workers enjoy.
But Long Island Care at Home vs. Coke is also important because improved rights and wages can lead to better-quality care, and could help address a critical shortage of such workers (there's already a a shortage, and it is projected to get much worse in the coming years).
Some people are outraged that Wal-Mart spied on a New York Times reporter. But the company's behavior to workers overseas is much worse.
Wal-Mart is pulling out of the Chong Won factory, the plant in the Phillipines I wrote about last month. "Cutting and running" may be an easy way for a company to look as if it's taking a stand against supplier misconduct, but it doesn't help the workers.
Chong Won workers don't want to lose their jobs; they are fighting to be able to organize a union, without fear of violence and intimidation. Wal-Mart is doing the wrong thing, and shouldn't get away with it.
[This is part 3 of "Six Crises in Search of an Author: How the Bush Administration Destabilized the Arc of Instability": part 1 was "Bush's Absurdist Imperialism"; part 2, "Chaos in the Greater Middle East."]
At any moment, somewhere in the now-Bush-administration destabilized "arc of instability," with its six crisis areas, a seventh crisis could indeed rise, demand attention, and refuse to be ejected from the premises. There are many possible candidates. Here are just a few:
Al-Qaeda, an organization dispersed but never fully dismantled by the Bush administration, has now, according to Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times, rebuilt itself in the Pakistani borderlands with new training camps, new base areas, and a new generation of leaders in their thirties, all still evidently serving under Osama bin Laden. (In the future, Mazzetti suggests even younger leaders are likely to come from the hardened veterans of campaigns in Bush's Iraq). Al-Qaeda is a wild card throughout the region.
A divide is re-emerging within the Democratic Party between those who want to invest in long-neglected priorities, such as healthcare, poverty and education, and those that believe America's first fiscal goal must be balancing the budget. John Edwards falls in the former camp and Hillary Clinton and her advisors in the latter. [See Jamie Galbraith's Nation article "What Kind of Economy" for more.]
At a speech yesterday to the Economic Policy Institute, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, chairman of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, broke ranks with his former colleagues. The Clinton economic boom, Stiglitz said, was a "peculiar situation" resulting from a number of factors, not the direct effect of closing the deficit. Moreover, after six years of Republican rule, Stiglitz agrees with Edwards that the country has urgent needs (making globalization work, providing universal healthcare, curbing global warming) and "meeting these will require spending money...If spent well, it's worth doing, even if it increases the deficit."
Stiglitz recognizes that this is not an either/or game. A future president can reduce the deficit and promote ambitious spending policies, if done wisely. But it will require making some tough (and potentially risky political choices), he says, such as ending the war in Iraq and cutting defense expenditures for "weapons that don't work against enemies that no longer exist," and restoring a progressive tax code that increase taxes on the rich and provides relief for middle and lower-income Americans.
For those of you who think Don Imus got a bad rap, and you know who you are, how do you defend this Maya Angelou poem parody a producer on his show read last month?
"Whitey plucked you from the jungle; for too many years took away your pride, your dignity and your spears."
My guess is you can't and you don't because just like most of Mr. Imus' "comedy" it â€˜s about cruelty rather than wit or insight. In fact, I would argue that it's even more offensive than the now infamous "nappy headed ho's" remark which ultimately lost him both of his high profile, high paying jobs. Yet it was usually simply shrugged off or excused as the madcap antics of one of our beloved American shock jocks.
Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, a six-term veteran who once chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, had always wanted to cap his career by joining the U.S. Supreme Court. But Republicans prefer young justices who can serve long tenures. And, while he remains vital, Hatch is now 73.
So the senator is looking for a conciliation prize, and he appears to have found it.
It is no longer a secret that Hatch is moving aggressively to position himself as the replacement for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. With the scandal involving Gonzales' firing of U.S. Attorneys deepening on a daily basis, there is no longer much question that President Bush is going to need someone new to take charge of the Department of Justice. And Hatch has made little secret of the fact that he thinks he is the man for the job.
Yesterday I posted about the public's increasing opposition to war and its desire for our government to pursue diplomacy. This week, in the city of Urbana, IL, residents expressed that exact sentiment by placing a referendum against a war with Iran on the ballot for the February 2008 election. And in the cities of Berkeley, CA and Portland, OR, the city councils passed resolutions opposing US military engagement with Iran. Actions like these will continue to grow the peace movement's momentum and pressure our elected representatives to catch up to the will of the people.
The lead editorial in today's New York Times states that, four years ago this week, "as American troops made their first, triumphant entrance into Baghdad, joyous Iraqis pulled down a giant statue of Saddam Hussein." There's one problem with that statement: it's not true. "Joyous Iraqis" did not pull down the Saddam statue in Firdos Square; US marines did.
The New York Times four years ago reported that "thousands" of "ordinary Iraqis" took part in the statue-toppling. The Washington Post ran a Reuters report describing the scene at the statue-toppling as "reminiscent of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989," when tens of thousands participated. Those reports also were false. The most straightforward account of the event appeared a few weeks later in The New Yorker, where John Lee Anderson described it: "in the traffic circle in front of the hotel, a statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down by soldiers in an armored personnel carrier." Anderson made no mention of thousands of joyous Iraqis. ("The Collapse," April 21, 2003).
On "Nightline" on ABC-TV, Robert Krulwich also provided a more realistic report two days after the statue-toppling: "On television, the crowd gathered around statue seemed, well, big. But on TV, framing is everything. Widen the frame of this scene and look. It's kind of empty in the foreground. Now, pull back further, this is about three minutes after the statue fell. And that big celebration seen all over the world wasn't really very big. Pictures on TV can deceive, same with pictures in the paper."
The three Duke University lacrosse players falsely indicted on rape charges last year deserve an apology--from the district attorney and members of the media.
The students were guilty of throwing a rowdy and idiotic party. But they are not racists nor rapists. They did not deserve the wildly unfair treatment they endured over the last year. Finally they found justice when charges against them were dropped yesterday.
District Attorney Mike Nifong should be immediately disbarred for recklessly pursuing this case to boost his own re-election prospects. And members of the media, especially TV news, should be ashamed for rushing to paint a distorted picture that bore no relation to the eventual facts.