Daily Archives: June 17, 2004

Reagan Redux Reduxed 4:The Latin View

Marcela Sanchez says that for Latinos, Reagan’s legacy is…mixed.

WASHINGTON — Ronald Reagan is probably remembered most in Latin America as a ruthless anti-communist who went out of his way — and outside the law — to support the anti-Sandinista Contras in Nicaragua and to strengthen brutal regimes in countries such as El Salvador and Guatemala, as long as they remained loyal to his crusade against Soviet influence.For Central America, the 40th U.S. president was either a godsend who helped steer the region away from a Cuban destiny or a destructive meddler who had no respect for sovereignty. Whatever one’s view, it is a fact that Washington’s support during the Reagan years helped fuel conflicts that left thousands of innocent people dead and thousands more fleeing the violence. Many who fled came to this country illegally.

Yet in November 1986, months before the worst crisis of his presidency, the Iran-Contra scandal, Reagan signed into law the most sweeping immigration reform in decades, allowing about 3 million illegal immigrants to stay, work and, more important, become U.S. citizens.

Reagan’s legacy to Latin America and Latin Americans is paradoxical. He was painfully shortsighted at times and visionary at others. His crusade against the “evil empire” cut a destructive path through Central America, yet his optimism about individuals helped open U.S. doors to millions.

Junior’s Skull ‘n’ Bones Nickname

This was too good to pass up. In the Atlantic Monthly, Alexandra Robbins delves into the secrets behind Junior’s (and Poppy’s, of course) ‘secret’ fraternity, Deke–or the Skull ‘n’ Bones. It seems they get secret names, no doubt to compliment the secret handshake. Junior’s secret name, it turns out, is– But I’ll let her tell it.

New members of Skull and Bones are assigned secret names, by which fellow Bonesmen will forever know them. Some Bonesmen receive traditional names, denoting function or existential status; others are the chosen beneficiaries of names that their Bones predecessors wish to pass on. The leftover initiates choose their own names. The name Long Devil is assigned to the tallest member; Boaz (short for Beelzebub) goes to any member who is a varsity football captain. Many of the chosen names are drawn from literature (Hamlet, Uncle Remus), from religion, and from myth. The banker Lewis Lapham passed on his name, Sancho Panza, to the political adviser Tex McCrary. Averell Harriman was Thor, Henry Luce was Baal, McGeorge Bundy was Odin. The name Magog is traditionally assigned to the incoming Bonesman deemed to have had the most sexual experience, and Gog goes to the new member with the least sexual experience. William Howard Taft and Robert Taft were Magogs. So, interestingly, was George Bush.

George W. was not assigned a name but invited to choose one. According to one report, nothing came to mind, so he was given the name Temporary, which, it is said, he never bothered to replace; Temporary is how Bush’s fellow Bonesmen know him today.

‘Temporary.’ Is this prophecy or what?

Incidentally, read the rest of the article. It’s a hoot.

The Times On Chris Bell

The HEC doesn’t impress them with its energy:

The House ethics committee has developed cobwebs in recent years as Republicans and Democrats have carefully avoided filing corruption complaints against each other, lest a mutual blood bath break out. But now comes a bit of “Solon Bites Solon” news: Representative Chris Bell, a Texas Democrat who was defeated in his party primary and has little left to lose, is taking a parting shot at the Republican majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas. Mr. Bell is going before the ethics committee to accuse Mr. DeLay, one of Washington’s major powers, of misusing campaign funds and favoring donors with legislative favors.Mr. DeLay firmly denies the charges as his defenders ascribe sour grapes to Mr. Bell. It was Mr. DeLay who intruded into the Texas Statehouse to engineer brazenly pro-Republican gerrymandering that helped unhorse Mr. Bell. Republicans, sensing a campaign tactic to demonize Mr. DeLay, are already warning they will respond in kind to Mr. Bell and go after questionable ethical practices among Democrats. “You kill my dog, I’ll kill your cat,” said Representative John Doolittle, a California Republican, in a comment to The Washington Post.

Still, if the ethics panel is actually listening, we say let the chips fall where they may, and, more important, don’t stop here. Among the many things the House’s snoozing watchdogs have failed to act on is a G.O.P. member’s bribery complaint about the long night of arm-twisting required to pass the Medicare drug bill last year.

It has been seven years since the House changed its rules to deny outside interests the right to file ethics complaints. The reason is plain: House leaders, aware of how Newt Gingrich and Jim Wright were dethroned in past ethical fracases, have wanted to keep the process muted. But this should be a matter of professional integrity, not the subject of a mutually assured destruction pact. Far more scrutiny is needed in this area.

You can say that twice.

Quotes of the Day

We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda.–George W Bush

Saddam Hussein was a patron of terrorism and had long-established ties with Al Qaeda.–Dick Cheney

We have no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States.–Preliminary 9/11 Commission Report

It is not inconsistent for Iraq to have ties with Al Qaeda and not to have been involved in 9/11 or other potential plots against America.–Dan Bartlett, White House communications director

Rumsfeld and Tenet In It Up to Their Eyeballs

Here we go again. This kind of report–of leading Bush Admin figures deliberately breaking one law or another–is becoming so routine that one wonders if one should even bother commenting on it. It’s like, ‘So what else is new?’ But one feels one should at least try to keep up with their latest criminal acts, if for no other reason so one can get the jokes Jay Leno will tell tonight. So, in that vein of public-spiritedness, here’s the newest in a long line:

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in October ordered a suspected terrorist captured in Iraq to be held in secret, a Pentagon official said Wednesday in what administration officials acknowledged was one of two violations of international law.The unidentified detainee, believed to be a leader of the outlawed Ansar al Islam group, was held without being given a prisoner number, and the International Committee of the Red Cross was not told about him, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

CIA officials captured the man in July and spirited him out of Iraq. He was returned in October after the Justice Department issued a legal opinion stating that the international law embodied in the Geneva Convention forbade removing a prisoner of war from the nation in which he was captured, U.S. and intelligence officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.Tenet then asked Rumsfeld to take the prisoner into U.S. military custody at an undisclosed location, Pentagon spokesman Whitman said. He was kept in solitary confinement, away from other prisoners.

At Tenet’s request, Rumsfeld wrote a memo ordering Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the ground commander in Iraq, not to assign the detainee a serial number and added words to the effect, an unidentified U.S. official said, of “do not acknowledge that we are detaining him to any international organization” — an apparent reference to the Red Cross.

Sanchez, head of Joint Task Force 7, the military command in Baghdad directing the war, complied with Rumsfeld’s order “in violation of international law,” the official added.

I probably should apologize for wasting your time with what is, for these guys, a pretty minor…um, indiscretion? But I thought you ought to know.

A Not-So-Hidden Malaise

Mother Jones has released the results of its latest poll, a poll intended, they say, to ‘to delve beyond the normal tracking questions found in most national polls.’ In other words, a poll that had less to do with the horse-race and more to do with what people feel, think, and believe. You may find the results surprising, at least you will if you’re as pessimistic as I generally am, because what the poll seems to show is that Bush isn’t fooling very many people.

For instance, after noting that conventional polls have the candidates more or less running close together with Kerry ahead in this area and Bush ahead in that, Stanley Greenberg discloses the gulf that actually exists between what people want for America and where it seems to be going.

The problem is captured in a simple question we asked 500 survey participants: “Tell me whether you think our country is better off or worse off today than it was three years ago when it comes” to a list of “issues facing the country.” We asked another 500 participants about “issues facing people today” and “whether you are better off or worse off than you were three years ago.” They were asked about the country and themselves, respectively, with no mention of George Bush or politics.For a start, one searches for an area where people think things have improved. There is one: people believe their local communities and communities across the nation have been strengthened. But in areas related to George Bush’s stewardship and the state of the union, voters believe a wide range of things are getting worse. Nothing rivals the federal deficit as an area of concern: it is a symbol of bad governance as well as a signal that government lacks the capacity to finance things important to the country. In a near unanimous vote, 80 percent say the deficits have worsened under Bush, with only 8 percent seeing improvement. And on nearly all indicators of material wellbeing, both for the country and for themselves, the overwhelming majority of Americans think things have worsened during Bush’s tenure. This is true for job security, the ability of personal incomes to keep up with the cost of living, access to affordable health care, the economy, and the creation of new good paying jobs.

Michael Scherer sees startling evidence for an ‘Unhappy Majority’.

The results indicate a startling consensus on the need for change. Asked if the country should “continue in the same direction as the one Bush is headed or a significantly different one,” 57 percent of Americans at large, 57 percent of swing state voters, and 67 percent of independents said they want a different course. Although the vast majority of Republicans remain loyal to Bush — nearly 90 percent say they would support the president over Kerry — the poll found that 34 percent of moderate Republicans, as well as 24 percent of those who voted for Bush in 2000, now want a change of direction for the country.A majority of registered voters from across the political spectrum, including many of the President’s core voters, said they believe the poor, the middle class, and American workers have lost ground over the past three years, while the wealthy, big corporations, and CEO’s have gained.

Perhaps most importantly, independent voters — a group that regularly affects the outcome of presidential elections — appear to be distancing themselves from President Bush’s conservative Republican base on a wide range of issues. “Their underlying dispositions right now look like they seem to favor Kerry,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Mind you, this is after candidate Bush (who, according to some inside reports, is basically running his own campaign this time around) has spent almost half his $200MIL war chest on advertising in key states and before Kerry has spent hardly any.

The Republican faithful may be living up to their name but everybody else is slowly backing away. The more Bush campaigns, the more he seems to alienate all but his core radcon constituency. With almost 1/2 to 2/3 of the electorate convinced we’re ‘going in the wrong direction’, even his supporters, Junior is running furiously just to stay in place–and that’s all he’s accomplishing so far.

I–one of the most cynical and pessimistic curmudgeons on the face of the planet when it comes to assuming, after watching Nixon and Reagan (two of the meanest and most incompetent presidents of the 20th century) get re-lected by overwhelming majorities despite horrendous policies and overtly criminal behaviour, that the American people are only interested in superficial happy-talk optimism and will vote for whoever tells them the greatest amount of what they want to hear while ignoring the greatest amount of what they’d rather not know–even I am slowly giving in to the hope that this appalling crew of crooks and shysters has finally overplayed their hand.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not still keeping my fingers crossed….

Reagan Redux Reduxed Yet Again

Mark Morford on The Reign of Reagan:

Ronnie Reagan denied the existence of the nation’s homeless problem that he largely created, and then blamed the problem on not enough people caring to get out there and get a job as he meanwhile slashed civil services and assistance for the poor.Ronnie Reagan pillaged the U.S. Treasury and ballooned the deficit more than 100 percent during his term. He gave the wealthy enormous tax breaks and gouged the living crap out of health care and social services and increased defense spending so much you’d think America was on the verge of being attacked by giant marauding alien centipedes.

Get that man’s face on the dime!

Read the rest.