Browsing the blog archives for February, 2007.


Everything Old Is New Again

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Bush Administration

The Associated Press reports:

A suicide bomber struck today outside a college campus in Baghdad, killing at least 41 people and injuring dozens as a string of other blasts and rocket attacks left bloodshed around the city.

Most of the victims were students at the college, a business studies annex of Mustansiriyah University that was hit by a series of deadly explosions last month. At least 46 people were injured in Sunday’s blast.

The wave of attacks around Baghdad came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lauded the progress of an ongoing U.S.-Iraqi security operation seeking to cripple militant factions and sectarian killings in the capital.

Here’s the punch line — over at Townhall, Patrick Ruffini reports that the “surge” is working.

In a sane world, we would have come a long way from spring 2003, when some rightie emailed me the image of Saddam Hussein’s statue being torn down as “proof” that I was wrong about invading Iraq being a bad idea. I remember thinking at the time that this individual was not, um, grasping the big picture. However, we have not come a long way at all. Righties just sink into deeper levels of denial. They go from denying there were no weapons of mass destruction to denying there is an insurgency to denying there was no Saddam Hussein-al Qaeda connection to denying there is a civil war to denying that the situation is bleeped up beyond all hope. (See also Kevin Hayden on “Ruffini World.”)

For the current big picture, see this editorial in today’s New York Times:

Almost five and a half years ago, America — united by the shock of 9/11 — understood exactly what it needed to do. It had to find, thwart and take down the command structure of Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent people on American soil. Despite years of costly warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, America today is not significantly closer to that essential goal.

At a crucial moment, the Bush administration diverted America’s military strength, political attention and foreign aid dollars from a necessary, winnable war in Afghanistan to an unnecessary, and by now unwinnable, war in Iraq. Al Qaeda took full advantage of these blunders to survive and rebuild. Now it seems to be back in business.

As our colleagues Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde reported last week, American intelligence and counterterrorism officials believe that Al Qaeda has rebuilt its notorious training camps, this time in Pakistan’s loosely governed tribal regions near the Afghan border. Camp graduates are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq — and may well be plotting new terrorist strikes in the West.

To underscore this point, the current issue of Newsweek has an article on Mullah Omar.

Frank Rich shows us the panoramic view:

The intelligence and counterterrorism officials back then [summer of 2001] were privately sounding urgent warnings like those in last week’s Times, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The system “was blinking red,” as the C.I.A. chief George Tenet would later tell the 9/11 commission. But no one, from the White House on down, wanted to hear it.

The White House doesn’t want to hear it now, either. That’s why terrorism experts are trying to get its attention by going public, and not just through The Times. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the C.I.A. bin Laden unit, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last week that the Taliban and Al Qaeda, having regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States” (the real United States, that is, not the fictional stand-in where this same scenario can be found on “24”). Al Qaeda is “on the march” rather than on the run, the Georgetown University and West Point terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Congress. Tony Blair is pulling troops out of Iraq not because Basra is calm enough to be entrusted to Iraqi forces — it’s “not ready for transition,” according to the Pentagon’s last report — but to shift some British resources to the losing battle against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

This is why the entire debate about the Iraq “surge” is as much a sideshow as Britney’s scalp. More troops in Baghdad are irrelevant to what’s going down in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq war’s critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?

The Democrats may not be moving quickly enough to suit us, but they are at least shifting their weight around. Last week they were talking about repealed the 2002 war resolution. (This is not unprecedented; the Tonkin Gulf resolution was repealed, also. It didn’t end the war, however.)

Frank Rich continues —

Yet Mr. Bush still denies reality. Ten days ago he told the American Enterprise Institute that “the Taliban have been driven from power” and proposed that America help stabilize the Pakistan border by setting up “Reconstruction Opportunity Zones” (remember that “Gulf Opportunity Zone” he promised after Katrina?) to “give residents the chance to export locally made products to the United States, duty-free.” In other words, let’s fight terrorism not by shifting America’s focus from Iraq to the central front, but by shopping for Taliban souvenirs!

Presidents have lost control of events many times before. However, I can’t think of any other president who lost it this badly and didn’t even notice.

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The Kucinich Question

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Democratic Party

I want to say upfront that I’m happy there’s a Dennis Kucinich. I’m happy he’s in the Democratic Party. I’m happy he’s in the House of Representatives. I’d be happy if he ever got into the Senate. But he’s not a viable presidential candidate, and I am hugely skeptical he’d make a good president. I am skeptical not because he is a liberal, or a lefty, but for reasons specific to Dennis Kucinich, the individual.

Kos has a post up knocking Dennis Kucinich’s presidential bid, and I mostly agree with his reasons. Predictably the Kucinichistas are unhappy, and overreacting.

First comment: “So, the lefties in the “big tent” really can go hang, eh?” Kucinich’s “leftiness” isn’t the real issue. About a thousand comments later: “Do Liberals still have a place in this party or not?” Kucinich’s liberalness isn’t the issue, either.

And Kos didn’t suggest kicking him out of the party. (1) He’s just saying he’s not ever going to be president, which he isn’t; and (2) if he were to be president he would probably be bad at the job.

On the whole I agree with Kucinich’s ideas — not all of ’em, but many of ’em. But people can have good ideas and be bad presidents. (I have a lot of good ideas — I happen to think all of my ideas are good — and I will tell you frankly I’d make a terrible president. They’d probably ship me off to an asylum less than a week after the inauguration. Even so, I’d do a better job than Bush.)

Part of my aversion to Dennis Kucinich is that I remember him as mayor of Cleveland. The Kucinichistas will tell you that his unpopularity as mayor came about because he refused to sell city utilities to a commercial interest and defaulted on municipal bonds instead. Actually, it might be argued that was the only thing he did right.

The truth is, the screwups began as soon as he was sworn in. Yes, Kucinich was young and inexperienced, but he seems to have lacked an appreciation for these weaknesses. He brought with him a “management” team of personal friends and political supporters who were just as inexperienced as he was. To me, Kucinich’s management “style” as mayor bears an uncanny resemblance to Bush’s — what he lacked in skills and experience he made up for in arrogance and hubris. The team fired a lot of ineffective bureaucrats, but they also fired effective bureaucrats and replaced them with hacks. To make a long story short, Kucinich and his staff took over a city struggling to deliver basic services and made it even worse. By the time Kucinich had left office he had pissed off everyone in Cleveland.

Kucinich’s ideas were not the problem. The problem was a combination of his temperament, bad judgment, and a tendency to be autocratic, showing a lack of respect for the processes of government and management

Now, that was a long time ago, and it’s entirely possible he has learned from his mistakes. But before considering him for the Chief Executive position, I’d like to see a demonstration. If Cleveland won’t take him back as mayor, then give him a toothpaste factory to run to see if he can make a go of it. If after six months the toothpaste is rolling out of the factory on schedule and the middle management staff hasn’t resigned, then I’ll cross my concerns about his executive abilities off the list. Otherwise, no.

Kucinich’s “Department of Peace” idea suggests to me he still hasn’t figured out what government is for, however. Certainly, I’m all for peace. But I have a problem with establishing a government bureaucracy for “creating a paradigm shift in our culture for human development.” We all need to get it into our heads that the party in power shouldn’t be using the government to enforce its notions about morality and social development, whether I like those ideas or not. I don’t like it when the righties try to use government to manage the nation’s sexual behavior, for example.

This gets down some bedrock principles about why there is government at all. We need government to do things that we as individuals can’t do for ourselves (e.g., law enforcement; building interstate highways) or that the private sector probably wouldn’t do well because of conflicts of interest (e.g., meat inspection; security regulation). Righties want to privatize everything in sight. We lefties think this isn’t always a workable idea, and that in some circumstances government really does do a better job than the private sector. But just as there are some functions that shouldn’t go from public to private, there are also some functions that shouldn’t go from private to public. And creating social paradigm shifts is among the latter.

As near as I can tell, there isn’t any tangible thing Kucinich’s Department of Peace would do that some other branch of government — the State Department, the Justice Department, the Education Department — couldn’t do perfectly well if they were directed to do them. At one point in his proposal Kucinich actually says the Department of Peace would be a “counterbalance” to the Department of Defense. It’s as if he doesn’t grasp that, as President, he would be in a position to make changes within the Department of Defense. We need someone who will get inside the Pentagon and begin dismantling the military-industrial complex, not someone who thinks he can fight the military-industrial complex by setting up another bureaucracy outside the Pentagon.

What this tells me is that Dennis Kucinich doesn’t grasp how bureaucracy functions and what it is for. I’m not opposed to the Department of Peace idea because I’m opposed to paradigm shifts to peacefulness. I’m opposed to it because I think Kucinich lacks the grounded and practical understanding of executive process to make it happen. His general ideas are fine; the devil is in the details.

Kucinich has been steadfastly opposed to the Iraq War all along. He called for withdrawal of forces beginning in 2003, as soon as we went in. I admire him for that. However, his plan for withdrawal still involves replacing US troops with UN troops, which I think is a tad impractical. The UN has a proven track record of being utterly ineffectual when faced with actual violence. That Kucinich hasn’t noticed this suggests he’s not ready to direct the nation’s foreign policy. And, anyway, I rather doubt the UN would agree to it.

I very much like his ideas on national health insurance and battling the nasty effects of globalization. I hope he gets to put some of these ideas into real legislation, and the sooner the better.

But, as Kos says, it is a plain fact that not long ago Kucinich was anti-choice and anti-stem cell research, and he flipped his positions on these issues very suddenly just before he declared his candidacy for the 2004 nomination. Maybe he had a genuine change of heart, or maybe it was political expedience. But it concerns me, either way. It tells me he is a person liable to intrude into private matters that ain’t none of the Gubmint’s dadblamed business.

Well, flame away, Kucinichistas.

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Not Fit

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Bush Administration, criminal justice

The U.S. government finally is getting around to giving Jose Padilla, U.S. citizen, a trial. But there’s a catch. Naomi Klein writes,

Padilla’s lawyers are arguing that he is not fit to stand trial because he has been driven insane by the government.

Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an “enemy combatant” and taken to a navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a cell 9ft by 7ft, with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a “truth serum”, a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.

According to his lawyers and two mental health specialists who examined him, Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own defence. He is convinced that his lawyers are “part of a continuing interrogation program” and sees his captors as protectors. In order to prove that “the extended torture visited upon Mr Padilla has left him damaged”, his lawyers want to tell the court what happened during those years in the navy brig. The prosecution strenuously objects, maintaining that “Padilla is competent” and that his treatment is irrelevant.

Back in the 1950s we were perpetually being told that these sorts of things happened in the Soviet Union, and aren’t we glad we lived in America?

Curt Anderson, Associated Press:

“He is immobilized by his anxiety,” said Patricia Zapf, a forensic psychologist who administered tests on Padilla in October. “He believes he will go back to the brig and he will die there.”

The competency hearing before US District Judge Marcia Cooke on Padilla’s competency is crucial in deciding whether he and two co defendants will stand trial in April. …

… Dr. Angela Hegarty, a forensic neuropsychiatrist, said she concluded after examining and testing Padilla for more than 22 hours last fall that he is mentally incompetent for trial because he has post-traumatic stress disorder. Zapf reached the same diagnosis and recommended that Padilla receive treatment.

The prosecutors, of course, say Padilla is just fine.

Back to Naomi Klein:

According to James Yee, a former army Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, there is an entire section of the prison called Delta Block for detainees who have been reduced to a delusional state. “They would respond to me in a childlike voice, talking complete nonsense. Many of them would loudly sing childish songs, repeating the song over and over.” All the inmates of Delta Block were on 24-hour suicide watch.

Human Rights Watch has exposed a US-run detention facility near Kabul known as the “prison of darkness” – tiny pitch-black cells, strange blaring sounds. “Plenty lost their minds,” one former inmate recalled. “I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors.”

Wednesday a federal appeals court ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees cannot use the U.S. court system to challenge their incarceration. That was bad enough. But Padilla is a U.S. citizen, capriciously stripped of habeas corpus at the discretion of the Bush Administration and subjected to psychological torture for nearly six years.

The Soviets used to send political dissidents to psychiatric asylums and labor camps. The gulags sound downright humane compared to what our government did to Jose Padilla.

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God Nazis on the March

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Religion

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has announced the ultimate pseudo-conservative project[*] — a program designed to destroy religious liberty in the name of saving it. Ladies and gentlemen, the First Freedom Project

The First Freedom Project includes a number of facets to ensure that this precious right, guaranteed by our laws and Constitution, is recognized and protected:

  • A commitment to continued expansion of enforcement of civil rights statutes protecting religious liberty.
  • Creation of a Department-wide Task Force on Religious Liberty, chaired by the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division, to review DOJ policies impacting religious liberty, coordinate religious liberty cases, and improve outreach to stakeholder communities.
  • Initiation of a series of regional seminars to be held around the country to educate religious, civil rights, and community leaders, attorneys, government officials, and other interested citizens about the laws protecting religious freedom enforced by the Department of Justice and how to file complaints.
  • Increased outreach to religious organizations, civil rights organizations, and other groups and individuals concerned with religious liberty issues through meetings, speaking engagements, and distribution of informational literature.
  • DonByrd of Talk to Action comments,

    Imagine if the religious right’s beloved “war on Christmas” was a year-round affair. Legions of lawyers ready to pounce on school and civic administrators, the persistent neon buzz of ACLU-paranoia in the air, Pat Robertson and the Bill O’Reilly Persecution Complex (nice band name…) pressuring corporate America to replace every “gesundheit” with a “God bless you.” Now, imagine if the leaders of the effort weren’t just the Jerry Falwell Admiration Society, but instead the full weight and force of the Department of Justice, training lawyers and enlisting supporters across the country ready to blow the whistle on any perceived slight to religion. Got the picture? It’s the DOJ’s new “First Freedoms Project” announced earlier this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, an effort to tout and enhance the Department’s pursuit of religious discimination claims through the Civil Rights Divison.

    Is there some outbreak of religious oppression I haven’t heard about? Or is Gonzales just trying to keep the culture wars going for politics’ sake? And why am I asking this question?

    See also (from 2004, but still true) — “Conservatives Try to Take Over Protestant Mainlines.”

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    [*] Definition of pseudo-conservative — “The pseudo conservative is a man who, in the name of upholding traditional American values and institutions and defending them against more or less fictitious dangers, consciously or unconsciously aims at their abolition.” — Theodore W. Adorno

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    Protesting 102

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    American History, big picture stuff, blogging

    (Please note I’ve turned comment moderation on; the spam is back.)

    Sara Robinson at Orcinus has written a lovely commentary on my old Protesting 101 post from 2005.

    Unfortunately, several of Sara’s commenters don’t get it. I think they’re still caught up in the romance of being Outcasts and Rebels, and Speaking Truth to Power, and are not serious about taking and using power to effect change. A couple of random observations:

    The point of a protest is not to change the minds of politicians but to gain public sympathy for a cause. It’s a change in public sympathy that eventually brings about changes in politics and policy. With this in mind, I cannot emphasize the Bigger Asshole rule enough. Protests are effective when the protesters make the people they are protesting look like bigger assholes than they are. Gandhi, for example, made the whole British Empire look like assholes. But when the protesters come across in public as a pack of assholes, the public will just write them off as, well, assholes, and usually will sympathize with the Powers That Be. This is not the effect protesters want to achieve.

    There’s nothing magical about getting arrested as a form of protest. It’s fine to be willing to be arrested, but getting arrested in and of itself doesn’t mean anything. If you don’t have much in the way of public sympathy before you were arrested, then the arrest will have no significance. People will just think “good; they jailed the son of a bitch.”

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    NOLA: Bush’s Plan Is Working!

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    Bush Administration, Hurricanes

    Thomas F. Schaller writes in Salon:

    A key reason for the troubles facing Blanco and her party is the massive out-migration of New Orleans-area Democrats in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The storm, and the administration’s botched handling of it, literally drove Democrats out of Louisiana. Though a perfect estimate is impossible, analysts who follow the state closely project the net decline for Democrats in New Orleans Parish to be somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 voters. In 2002, Blanco beat Jindal by 55,000 votes statewide, but nearly all of that margin came from the city. She won Orleans Parish by 50,000 votes. “It’s doubtful that there are enough Democrats left to provide the wide margin of victory in Orleans Parish that Democrats have traditionally relied upon for victory in statewide elections,” says Bob Mann, who served as former Sen. Breaux’s state director and, later, Blanco’s communications director. “That means candidates like Blanco will have to increase their margins elsewhere, in regions of the state that aren’t as reliably Democratic. That could make for a very tough election season for almost any Democrat running statewide, but even tougher for someone with the governor’s dismal poll numbers.” It may also mean that Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu will be out of a job come November 2008.

    See? The GOP saw Katrina as an opportunity to make New Orleans whiter and, therefore, redder. And it’s working.

    As Gallup’s latest survey of partisan self-identification reveals, largely because of Katrina Louisiana is the only state in which Democrats lost ground relative to Republicans since 2005, reclassifying it from a Democratic-leaning state to “competitive.” And the news could get worse for Democrats. Demographers expect the post-Katrina exodus to cost Louisiana, which was already losing population before the hurricane, one House seat following the 2010 census and reapportionment. With Democrats presently holding just two of the delegation’s seven seats, redistricting may cost them one of their two. They already lost one to a party switch and may lose another to the federal judicial system. …

    …Along with Florida, Louisiana had been different, a state where multiracial coalitions propelled Clinton, Landrieu and Blanco to victories. In Louisiana, a black population of 32.5 percent made victory for Democrats possible. The post-Katrina question is whether the black population will remain large enough for Democrats to continue building such coalitions, especially if there is a backlash among white voters in the noncoastal portions of the state toward Blanco, controversial New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and state Democrats in general. Recent polls, however, are not promising, and they also show how resolutely racial party identification has become in the Deep South. The blacker the state, the more Republican the whites are.

    Despite the “heckuva job” performance of the Bush administration during Katrina, the president’s approval rating among whites in Louisiana — 57 percent — is tied for second best in the nation with Georgia and Idaho, trailing only Mississippi’s 61 percent. The link between whiteness and Republicanism in the South is now so strong that it can even withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Now, without the tipping-point power of the Orleans Parish black electorate, Louisiana may well become the new Mississippi, which has two Republican senators and a Republican governor and hasn’t given its electoral votes to a Democrat since Jimmy Carter.

    I wrote awhile back about how white racists hurt themselves almost as much as they hurt others. They’ll accept economic stagnation and a poorer quality of life generally for themselves rather than accept racial equality. Unfortunately their backwardness is hurting the rest of us, as well.

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    NOLA News: Revelry vs. Reality

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    Bush Administration, FEMA, Hurricanes

    Director Spike Lee was just named a winner of the annual George Polk Awards for his HBO documentary, “When the Levees Broke,” the Associated Press says. Appropriate, considering today is Fat Tuesday — Mardi Gras — a day associated with New Orleans.

    Mary Foster of the Associated Press reports that NOLA’s Mardi Gras revelers have traded revelry for reality. Last year’s Mardi Gras parades were scaled down, but not this year’s. Tracy Smith reports for CBS News:

    The celebration has been bigger than last year, with more than 700,000 people coming to the party, which ends at midnight.

    A lot of tourists come for the music. And one of the few signs of recovery in the 18 months since Hurricane Katrina is that many musicians have come back home, thanks in large part to a housing program designed to keep and attract them.

    Musicians seem to be an exception. About a third of the city’s residents plan to leave. Bill Walsh reported for the February 7 Times-Picayune:

    Congressional frustration with the pace of Gulf Coast hurricane recovery exploded Tuesday with one lawmaker calling Louisiana’s Road Home housing program “a joke” and others berating the Bush administration for limiting public housing. …

    … Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., went so far as to issue an apology to the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi for what he called “a complete failure of the administration here in Washington to respond to that crisis.”

    Pursuing that theme, the committee hammered away at Roy Bernardi, deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for plans to demolish four major New Orleans public housing complexes with 3,900 apartments rather than rehabilitate them. …

    … But the level of distrust of the federal agency became clear during a break in the proceedings when New Orleans public housing residents confronted Bernardi across the witness table.

    They said HUD was overstating the damage to public housing and that many apartments could be reopened in short order. They also said that $1,100 disaster rental vouchers, which expire Sept. 30, are of limited use in the New Orleans area, where rents have skyrocketed because of limited availability.

    “Why are you playing politics with our lives,” said Sharon Sears Jasper, a former resident of the St. Bernard housing complex. “Why are you destroying livable homes? Why do you want to make us homeless?”

    And then there are the schools. The New Orleans public school system was struggling before Katrina. After, it was devastated.

    Less than a month after Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana received a $20.9 million No Child Left Behind grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The catch? The grant was to reopen charter schools, not open enrollment public schools. In addition, the state announced it would establish ten new charter schools.

    The result is described by Jan Resseger, The Chicago Defender:

    In America public education is supposed to be provided for everybody, but during this past January in New Orleans, 300 children languished out of school on a waiting list because the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) had neither buildings nor teachers to serve them.

    Only when the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and local attorney Tracie Washington filed separate lawsuits on February 1, under federal law and Louisiana’s compulsory attendance act, did the RSD pledge to open two additional schools for the beginning of second semester, February 5.

    It is now clear that a humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of a hurricane is a poor time to experiment with school governance.

    Aided by a $20.9 million federal charter school grant that came on September 30, 2005, less than one month after the storm, the Louisiana Legislature used Hurricane Katrina as an excuse for state takeover and a massive charter school experiment in New Orleans.

    Today, over half of New Orleans’s 54 public schools are charter schools. From a recent editorial in The Harbus, an Harvard University independent student publication (emphasis added):

    New Orleans currently has the highest percentage of charter schools of any urban school district in the country. With over half of its 54 public schools operating as charter schools, New Orleans has become a focal point of the education reform movement in the United States. If the Crescent City can emerge from Katrina with a more effective school system than it had prior to the storm, two things will happen. On the micro level, the children of the city will benefit tremendously. On the macro level, proponents of charter schools will have the large-scale example they need to push increased reform in other districts around the country.

    Back to Jan Resseger:

    Since the hurricane, parents have been required to apply to a fragmented system: a few selective admissions public schools left to be operated by the New Orleans School Board, 31 independent charter schools, and 18 schools opened by the RSD itself only when too few potential operators filed applications to launch charter schools. While Robin Jarvis, the RSD superintendent, blames today’s dysfunction on the condition of the public schools pre-Katrina, the real problem is that Louisiana and the RSD never planned to manage school operations.

    That the RSD was unprepared to run a school system was clear in July 2006, when its ten person staff included a public relations liaison but no special education coordinator. After Louisiana laid off and then fired all 4,500 of New Orleans’ teachers who had been working in classrooms the day before Katrina struck, the RSD began advertising for 500 teachers only in late July 2006, after those best qualified had already taken jobs in charter schools or outside New Orleans. A shortage of teachers has plagued the RSD since last September. Today 33 percent of teachers hired by the RSD are uncertified.

    So much for the education reform movement. The New Orleans “reformers” seem to be following the Iraq model — lay off everybody with job experience and knowledge and replace them with ideologues and hacks.

    Other school districts across the Gulf Coast have scrambled successfully to welcome children back to the schools they attended pre-Katrina. A better plan for New Orleans would have been to keep one coherent system, retain New Orleans’ pre-Katrina teachers, open schools in all neighborhoods, and plan for slightly more schools than required for children immediately expected to return. The only side effect would have been smaller classes in under-enrolled schools until children moved back to fill the seats.

    Now, after Louisiana granted charters and selective admissions schools the right to cap class sizes, the RSD is in the position of trying to pressure those “protected” schools to accept more children to reduce appalling over-crowding in RSD schools. Meanwhile the RSD has lacked the capacity to get other rotting buildings repaired.

    Becky Bohrer of the Associated Press reported this month that the RSD is trying to attract new teachers by appealing to their sense of adventure:

    Wanted: Idealistic teachers looking for a Peace Corps-style adventure in a city in distress.

    Some of New Orleans’ most desperate, run-down schools are beset with a severe shortage of teachers, and they are struggling mightily to attract candidates by appealing to their sense of adventure and desire to make a difference. Education officials are even offering to help new teachers find housing. …

    … After the storm, some of the worst of the worst public schools were put under state control, and those are the ones finding it particularly hard to attract teachers. The 19 schools in the state-run Recovery School District have 8,580 students and about 540 teachers, or about 50 fewer than they need — a shortage so severe that about 300 students who want to enroll have been put on a waiting list. …

    …At Rabouin High, which has about 600 students, the halls echo with the shouts of teenagers who should be in class. Many have to share textbooks, if they have them at all. Doors lack knobs or, in the case of a girls’ bathroom, don’t close completely. Students have to pass through a metal detector to get inside, and guards patrol the halls.

    About half of Rabouin’s 34 teachers are first-year educators or new to Louisiana.

    Earlier this month the American Federation of Teachers called for a protest.

    “Where will these children receive an education?” asked Ed McElroy, president of the 1.3-million-member AFT, a national affiliate of NYSUT. McElroy was responding to reports in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that at least 300 children seeking spots in the city’s so-called public schools have been turned away – “wait-listed” – and told that the campuses “would have no room.”

    “These recent events make a mockery of the promise, made soon after Hurricane Katrina, that a state takeover of New Orleans’ public schools would create a ‘new birth of excellence and opportunity'” for children in the city’s long-troubled school system, McElroy charged.

    He said the 17 schools that are part of the state-run Recovery School District are resorting to the same tactics – enrollment caps and selective admission standards – that many of the locally operated charter and non-charter schools have long used to turn away applicants.

    McElroy noted that a charter school group called “Teach NOLA” recently sponsored a number of teacher recruitment ads on several Web sites, including Job.net and Idealist.org, that included the proviso: “Certified teachers will teach in charter schools, and non-certified teachers will teach in the state-run Recovery School District.”

    It seems some children are being left behind.

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    But What About Condi?

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    Bush Administration

    I’ve suspected this

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    Stabbed in the Back

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    Bush Administration

    For more than sixty years the American Right has been fueled by a “stabbed in the back” meme. As Kevin Baker wrote,

    Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.

    On Sunday, Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money noted current developments in back-stabbing:

    The stab-in-the-back narrative is now in full gear. What Kaus merely abets, Glenn Reynolds, Mark Steyn, and the editors of Investors Business Daily push full throttle; America will lose because of the perfidy of liberals. The Surge is providing the proximate excuse. After four years of disastrous ineptitude during which Reynolds et al happily watched the Bush administration destroy America’s standing in the world and wage the most incompetent conflict since the War of 1812, they’ve decided that opposition to the trivial escalation provided by the Surge is the final necessary indicator of treason in the Democratic Party.

    Never mind that, when the surge was proposed, the Joint Chiefs unanimously opposed it. Never mind the advice of Lt. Gen. William Odom

    A Congress, or a president, prepared to quit the game of “who gets the blame” could begin to alter American strategy in ways that will vastly improve the prospects of a more stable Middle East. …

    … The first and most critical step is to recognize that fighting on now simply prolongs our losses and blocks the way to a new strategy. Getting out of Iraq is the pre-condition for creating new strategic options. Withdrawal will take away the conditions that allow our enemies in the region to enjoy our pain. It will awaken those European states reluctant to collaborate with us in Iraq and the region.

    Sooner or later, U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq. And just as the Right whined that Franklin Roosevelt gave away eastern Europe at Yalta, and that “liberals” in the State Department “lost China” to Mao, and that we could have “won” in Vietnam were it not for the dirty bleeping hippies, the Right will spend the rest of this century pointing fingers at the Left for losing Iraq. Count on it.

    But now the Right is in self-marginalization mode, commonly called “eating their own.” For example, Republican presidential candidate John McCain has blamed Donald Rumsfeld for the “mismanagement” of the war. And the True Believers are outraged. One called this a “cheap shot” and declared McCain to be “anathema in 2008.” Another predicted that McCain’s campaign would end in a “well-deserved rout.”

    John Hinderaker of Power Line
    attempts nuance:

    McCain is entitled to editorialize, of course, and I believe he has been consistent in calling for more troops. It seems odd to blame Rumsfeld, though; the administration’s position has always been that it would provide more troops if the generals said they needed them. The military judgment of the generals on the ground has been, up until recently, that they had enough personnel to do the job.

    In other words, the “commanders on the ground” didn’t want more troops as long as George Bush didn’t want to send more troops, but now that he wants to send some, they have changed their minds. None of these meatheads can extrapolate from this that Bush doesn’t give a bleep what the “commanders on the ground” think.

    My guess is that McCain’s criticism is more about the future than the past. What he really wants is to buy time for the surge to work. As Paul noted yesterday, McCain has acknowledged that if the surge doesn’t work, there probably won’t be sufficient public support for the war effort to try a Plan B. By emphasizing the alleged “mismanagement” of the past, McCain is trying to generate optimism that, if properly run and adequately manned, our effort can succeed.

    Slightly off topic, but noteworthy:

    While McCain is entitled to editorialize, the AP reporter isn’t. But get this, immediately after McCain’s criticism of Rumsfeld:

      The comments were in sharp contrast to McCain’s statement when Rumsfeld resigned in November, and failed to address the reality that President Bush is the commander in chief.

    Apparently it’s a matter of policy at the Associated Press that President Bush be blamed for everything, so the reporter made up for McCain’s omission.

    Apparently it’s a matter of policy among rightie bloggers that President Bush be blamed for nothing, in spite of the fact that he claims to be “the Decider.” It’s as if, deep down inside, they know he’s an empty suit and don’t expect anything from him but speeches and ribbon-cutting. For another point of view, see “George Bush as Fifth Columnist: Aiding America’s Enemies” by Doug Bandow at Antiwar.com.

    Back to the marginalization of the Right — there’s an old saying — Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. The Republican Party stopped being “centrist” years ago, and instead based its power on a coalition of hard-right whackjob factions — Fetus People, Gun People, homophobes, isolationists, neocons, racists, etc. And now it’s flea-bit. As DownWithTyranny asks (and I love the photo), how could any candidate possibly win the GOP nomination by appealing to these mutts and still be marketable in the general election?

    But for a real stabbed-in-the-back extravaganza, check out Richard Viguerie’s new book, Conservatives Betrayed. Along with John McCain, entities identified by Viguerie as backstabbers include Congress, Democrats (of course), and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Viguerie also feels “betrayed” by President Bush. You’ll love the reason why —

    Even after being mercilessly pummeled by them time and again on every issue during his first six years as President, George W. Bush has not learned his lesson – he still wants to make friends with the Democrats. Albert Einstein said it best: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.’

    Naturally, the President of the (entire) United States must shun the majority party, or else he’s a traitor. I guess Viguerie hasn’t noticed Bush’s long-standing pattern of making conciliatory noises even as his actions prove he doesn’t mean it.

    An online poll identifies the worst offenders: “Conservative leaders who kept silent while the GOP became the party of Big Government”; corruption, legal and illegal; President Bush (doesn’t say why); “Mainstream media that may have influenced the voters to throw out the Republicans”; “Conservative media that kept silent while the GOP became the party of Big Government”; Sen. Ted Stevens; Sen. Bill Frist; Rep Dennis Hastert; and “Blunders and misstatements by Republican candidates.”

    You can see the stabbed-in-the-back mentality all over this list. Republicans didn’t lose in 2006 because they screwed up, or because they are out of step with most voters. They were betrayed.

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    More Shame

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    Bush Administration, Iraq War

    Riverbend:

    Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

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