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It wasn't enough for George W. Bush to nominate a donor to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as Ambassador to Belgium. When the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which John Kerry sits, was poised to reject Sam Fax's nomination, Bush gave him a recess appointment.
The President just told Congress what Dick Cheney memorably said to Senator Patrick Leahy: "Go [bleep] yourself."
Under the recess arrangement, Fox will bypass the Senate and serve in a voluntary capacity, receiving no salary. But since he's a multimillionaire donor to GOP causes, that hardly matters. Democrats are now questioning the legality of this arrangement. "Federal law prohibits 'voluntary service' in cases where the position in question has a fixed rate of pay, as an ambassadorship does," reports Mary Ann Akers of the Washington Post, citing the Government Accountability Office.
Boy, does the media love a good daycare controversy. Since we haven't had a good Satanic abuse or child molestation daycare story in years, we have to make do with provocative statistics. It's not the same, but it allows us to air our gender anxieties and maternal issues, and we seem to have a collective need to do that at least once a year.
Last week's media frenzy focused on the latest National Institutes of Health day care study-- actually on one finding in particular: kids who spent three or four preschool years in daycare had marginally more behavior problems in school. Researchers themselves said kids were "in the normal range" and parents shouldn't freak out -- but such caveats were lost in the cacophony. This week, the reports are still making the roundsin the blogosphere, with many bloggers offering a salutary corrective to the way the story was initially reported. Many mainstream journalists, as usual, were eager to twist the results to confirm the most reactionary assumptions: mothers shouldn't work. The very best analysis anywhere was Emily Bazelon's terrific dissection on Slate.
The study suggests some interesting possibilities. The quality of the day care mattered a great deal (though the quality of the care children received at home, from their parents, mattered even more). Many day care centers are substandard, especially those available to poor people. Watching TV in the company of underqualified strangers can't be terribly helpful to a kid's development. Raising the pay of child care workers would certainly help improve the quality of care, and more oversight of the daycare industry would be helpful. There's a great daycare center in my neighborhood-- caring, intellectually and socially stimulating -- but since it costs more than three years of my college education, I have never even visited it. All kids deserve to attend places like that. But in addition to improving daycare, we need to get more companies to offer on-site babysitting so that parents and children can spend more time together. And of course, people should have more choices: it should be made much easier for parents to take longer parental leaves or work part time when their children are very young.
The Supremes have spoken. George, we put you in the White House back in 2000, but we can't go along with your "junk science" on global warming. We order you and your weak-spined EPA to obey the law. Do something real about the climate-change carbon emissions from automobiles that are killing the polar bears. Or, if you decide not to do so, then give us an explanation based on science, not on the latest press release from your pals at Exxon Mobil.
How radical is that? Of course, the four Corporate Justices â€“ Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito--choked and sputtered and pounded the bench. In the majesty of the Constitution, they insisted, this issue should never have come before the court. Leave it to the Congress. In the wisdom of democratic process, the lawmakers can decide whether to side with Al Gore and a zillion anxious scientists or the good folks from autos, oil and electric utilities who pass out the checks to deserving legislators.
After the court delivered its 5-4 decision, a political hack who fronts for the car makers, solemnly announced they "look forward to working constructively with both Congress and the administration." That's a hoot. Detroit has resisted every small step forward for forty years, starting with Ralph Nader's observation that many fewer people would be killed if the companies designed more for safety, less for testosterone.
Generally that was a predictable performance by the Decider, but one thing stuck out to me. The New Rationale TM for the war, (I've lost track of how many this is) is that the generals say the surge will work and the politicians should just butt out and let the men do their jobs. As Josh Marshall points out, this is patently untrue. The generals didn't think the surge would work so Bush replaced them with someone who did. But even more absurd is the notion that the people executing war policy should be actually determining war policy, that we should just outsource the decisions about the duration of our occupation of Iraq to the all-knowing David Petraeus.
This is particularly ironic against the backdrop of the US Attorney's scandal. The administration's MO from the very beginning has been to overide the judgement of experts and career civil servants, whether they be scientists assessing climate change, or public health officials evaluating food and drugs, or US attorneys weighing whether there is sufficient evidence for an indictment. In short they have politicized every last function of the government, so much so that the work product of the entire federal bureacracy must now be assessed as if it were little more than an RNC press release. And now, on the single most vital political issue, Bush wants to argue that politics should play no part and the judgement of a single man should dictate the entirety of US policy.
President Bush describes Iran's seizure of fifteen British sailors and Marines as "inexcusable behavior."
But did the Bush Administration's anti-Iran machinations lead to the escalation in tensions that culminated in the seizure of the Brits?
One of the finest reporters on the Middle-East affairs argues that this is precisely the case.
If it's spring break in Washington, then that must be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--accompanied by, my goodness, the perpetually pro-Israel Tom Lantos!-- heading for Syria this week.
Pelosi's delegation is currently in Lebanon. AP's Zeina Karam writes there that the Speaker,
"We have no illusions, but we have great hope," she said.
As the crisis between Iran and Britain enters its second week, and confrontational rhetoric fills our newspapers and airwaves, it is worth reading a statement published just a few days ago by Iranian,Iraqi and British women activists, academics and politicians (including a few Western colleagues).
You know things aren't going well for the Bush Administration when a former top advisor to the President drafts an op-ed entitled "Kerry Was Right."
Matthew Dowd (no relation to Maureen) painted Kerry as a flip-flopper in 2004. Now he sides with the former Democratic nominee in calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. "If the American public says they're done with something, our leaders have to understand what they want," Dowd told the New York Times in an interview published on Sunday. "They're saying, 'Get out of Iraq.'" He calls his former boss "secluded and bubbled in."
Dowd may be late to the party, as some have commented, but his entrance is a stirring one nonetheless. He's not the first Bush insider to speak out against the policies and tactics of this Administration. Think of John Dilulio and David Kuo and Lawrence Wilkerson and Flynt Leverett.