Bush Paid Pundit to Shill for Admin Policies

Armstong Williams, an arch-conservative African American pundit (who, incidentaly, was outed by David Brock in his book, Blinded by the Right) was paid by the Bushies to shill the No Child Left Behind Act to black people.

USA Today:

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams “to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts,” and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but “I wanted to do it because it’s something I believe in.”

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract “a very questionable use of taxpayers’ money” that is “probably illegal.” He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.

But you have to wonder how anybody – black, white or purple – would give any credence to the likes of this guy. In other words, more tax dollars wasted.

Bush’s 49% Approval Rating Breaks Low End Record

How low can it go? If Bush’s second term is like Reagan’s and others, we’re looking at the high end of his approval ratings. Of course, I predicted it would be lower than 49% because of the world-class bungle by the White House over the Christmas tsunami disaster, but according to the AP, he’s still treading water:

Bush’s approval rating is at 49 percent in the AP poll, with 49 percent disapproving. His job approval is in the high 40s in several other recent polls — as low as any job approval rating for a re-elected president at the start of the second term in more than 50 years.

Presidents Reagan and Clinton had job approval ratings near six in 10 just before their inauguration for a second term, according to Gallup polls.

President Nixon’s approval was in the 60s right after his 1972 re-election, slid to about 50 percent right before his inauguration and then moved back over 60 percent. President Eisenhower’s job approval was in the low 70s just before his second inauguration in 1957.

People were evenly divided on Bush’s handling of the economy. They take a dim view of his handling of Iraq (news – web sites), with 44 percent approving and 54 percent disapproving, according to the poll of 1,001 adults. It was taken Jan. 3-5 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Even on Bush’s strongest area, handling foreign policy and the war on terrorism, people were evenly split — with 50 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving.

10 Dumbest Consumer Goods

Some of the items on this year’s Sierra Club list of the 10 Dumbest Consumer Goods I had thought of, others I missed. Either way, I agree with them all. I hope this settles once and for all the controversy over what a total waste leaf blowers are. As I tell my friend Ray, who loves them, I think it’s a guy thing. Women reach for a broom. Men want something with some horsepower.

O.K., enough sexist stereotypes, here are the ones I would have put on the list myself:

…”Only ten?” OK, it was a tough choice. Some waste exorbitant amounts of energy, others turn precious natural resources into trivial junk, while still others encourage us to consume for the sake of consumption…

2. Leaf blowers. Using a leaf blower for half an hour is equivalent to driving a car 110 miles. And all it gets you is leaves on the other side of the driveway.

3. Disposable DVDs. Disney and Flexplay are marketing DVDs that become unplayable 48 hours after the seal is broken. They can be mailed in for recycling, but would people who couldn’t be bothered to mail in a rental really do so?

4. Lunchables. Processed meat, fatty cheese, and crackers in an unrecyclable plastic tray, wrapped in more plastic and then cardboard. Kids deserve better.

5. Disposable toilet cleaners. Instead of a brush that lasts for years, you can now spend a lot of money for flushable toilet brushes.

8. Swiffers. “You can just throw away the dust with the cloth!” exults the Web site for these rags-on-a-stick. Somehow it doesn’t sound like progress.

10. The Hummer. Ostentatious energy waste as a reason for being. A special lifetime achievement award.

Check out the rest of the list. Disposable underwear?

Tucker Carlson Goes to MSNBC

TV Newser:

An aside by Tucker Carlson on Crossfire today perked up the ears of CNN fans. “This, by the way, is the last day James and I are on television together. I want you to know that I’m enjoying every moment of it,” Carlson said. A few minutes later, Rahm Emanuel suggested Carlson invite John Kerry on the show “before you leave CNN.”

But it wasn’t necessarily an indication that Carlson is leaving CNN. Carlson’s last day on Crossfire is coming this Thursday. Today was his last day with Carville; Paula Begala will be “on the left” tomorrow and Thursday. Klein may offer Carlson a deal to stay at CNN later this week — but it won’t be on Crossfire.

> “The wait is excruciating — even worse than the show itself!,” Wonkette smirks.

Mike Taibbi in New York Press:

Carlson occupies the same role for conservatives in the media landscape that Colmes does for liberals. Colmes is a pale-faced, paint-by-numbers loser whose only job is to be a believable liberal for people who live in trailers. Carlson is CNN’s idea of a conservative. His right-wing ideas come from his changeable, expensive brains instead of his stomach. In the same way that the helpless, ineffectual Colmes is a reassuring image to hardcore conservatives, Carlson puts a soothing face on conservatism for educated East-coast progressives—because even the biggest neo-Marxist wanker from Brown takes one look at Carlson and sees the one man in America he would feel sure of being able to kick the shit out of in a back alley.

That same wanker could probably take Savage or O’Reilly, too, but those guys have supplicants and constituents by the millions who would come rushing to their aid. Not Carlson. In a bar fight, no 35-year-old man with a bow tie has friends. Especially not a smart-aleck closet case like Carlson. You would be hard-pressed to find an American who would not leap to his feet to cheer the sight of Tucker Carlson getting his teeth kicked down an alley, which I suspect is the reason CNN picked him to be their champion of conservatism. He is a patsy and a fraud—the kind of public personality totalitarian regimes used to nurture for years in order to execute for a lack of orthodoxy at some opportune historical moment much later on. That MSNBC hires him thinking they’re getting the real thing, a big ticket to red-state ratings, just shows how clueless that network really is.

Bush Compares OH Election Suit to ‘Conspiracy’ Plot

For years, Hillary has been pilloried for suggesting that there was a rightwing conspiracy against Bill (even though there was – and many of the same rightwingers who excoriated her were part of it). Now let’s see if the SCLM goes after Bush for suggesting his opponents are conspiring against him. Odds are, they won’t.

AP via Yahoo:

President Bush (news – web sites)’s re-election campaign asked the chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court on Monday to throw out a challenge of the election in this swing state, saying the case resembles “a poorly drafted script for a late night conspiracy-theory movie.”

The court filing was made as the Rev. Jesse Jackson (news – web sites) held a rally before hundreds of people in Columbus to support the challenge and urge the U.S. Senate to debate Ohio’s results on Thursday when Congress is in joint session for the official tally of the electoral votes.

Thirty-seven Ohio voters who filed the challenge are asking Chief Justice Thomas Moyer to set aside the election results. Some of the voters are suspicious of Bush’s victory over Sen. John Kerry (news – web sites), while others say hours-long waits in heavily black neighborhoods caused voters to leave in frustration without casting a ballot.

“In 2000, if Al Gore (news – web sites) had just held on and fought to the bitter end, he would have been president,” said Mark Lomax, a black Columbus musician challenging the vote. “I kind of have the same feeling now — whether or not you like John Kerry, that’s not the issue. It’s just that your vote counts.”

Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said there’s no reason to prolong the election.

Gay Philanthropy Group Is Out Front on Tsunami Aid

Planet Out News:

Jeff Cotter, a San Francisco psychiatric social worker, says he started Rainbow World Fund (RWF) four years ago because none of the traditional relief organizations were developing philanthropy and consciousness in the LGBT community. It is that dual mission — direct relief hand in hand with changing opinions and beliefs — that moves RWF. Cotter calls it a solidarity model, rather than a charity model.

“As with our community’s response to HIV, we can’t wait for the rest of the world to take leadership,” Cotter said. “And as a gay man, I thought, if I want to change the world, I should start where I’m at, in the community I live in. And the gay and lesbian community was a huge untapped market.”

In the past year, RWF has teamed up with relief organizations to increase access to safe drinking water in Central America, eradicate land mines in Cambodia, provide food for victims of hurricane Jeanne in Haiti and save the next generation of Africans from HIV/AIDS. The group works closely with larger charity organizations (such as CARE) to give aid immediately, where it’s needed.

Cotter balances his time between Rainbow and his “day job”: counseling rape victims and gunshot wound survivors for the city of San Francisco. He has spent the past three years building the infrastructure for RWF, and has begun helping victims around the world this year.

Because administrative costs are covered by the board of directors and grants from various organizations (including the Catholic Church), RWF can ensure that 100 percent of every charitable dollar goes directly to field service work overseas. In the case of Sunday’s quake and tsunami survivors, aid will go to food, water, vitamins and medical supplies for many months, and possibly years, to come.

But why doesn’t an LGBT relief organization give to LGBT causes? Why enlist gays and lesbians to help victims they know nothing about? The question, Cotter says, should really be: why not?

“Suffering is universal, and the LGBT community knows more than a little bit about that,” Cotter says. “When we took the aid trip to Guatemala earlier this year, it was clear that we (the LGBT community) had a shared history of oppression with the Mayan population there. There was a systematic genocide there, and the government invalidated their marriage relationships, among other atrocities.”

The excursion to Guatemala had another benefit as well. In the primarily Catholic and socially conservative country, Rainbow’s outreach was the first contact most citizens had with gays or lesbians. Promoting tolerance and understanding of differences among people and cultures, and at the same time providing much-needed assistance to impoverished and developing areas, is a win-win, according to Cotter.

“We’re about changing attitudes toward gays and lesbians,” Cotter said. “Many of the places we visit and help have very little LGBT presence. Everyone we’ve worked with has been surprised by our commitment, and very open and accepting to our presence.”

Theo-Conservatives Hate Sex

Over at Alternet, Lara Riscol describes 2004 as the year the rightwing showed the depth and depravity of its aversion to sex:

With a third of our HIV prevention billions promised to anti-abortion Christian-based groups, America is now exporting white weddings as social panacea from here to Africa. Masters of misinformation, theo-conservatives have spun abstinence successes into justification for their bulging billion-dollar entitlement. Abstinence works, they say, seizing upon 2004 data showing a big drop in teen pregnancy during the 90s — attributing 25 percent to abstinence and 75 percent to increased contraception use.

Duh. Abstinence from intercourse avoids pregnancy. And 30 years of peer-reviewed research says that comprehensive sexuality education delays first intercourse and reduces risky behavior once one’s sexually engaged. Not only does the data say nothing about the impact of abstinence programs, but President Clinton’s abstinence dollars under Welfare Reform didn’t reach states until 1998. Bush’s more restrictive abstinence didn’t hit the streets until 2001. Recent preliminary results actually show that abortion has increased since Bush has been pandering to its sex-obsessed base.

But it’s all about perception. Though almost no one does it — that is, sex only with one’s spouse until death do you part — the retro right has mainstreamed abstinence, which obscures its larger agenda to legislate a biblical worldview. Think The Handmaid’s Tale, or at least strict “man on top” gender roles and reinstituted enforcements of sexual morality.

But 2004 proves once again that purity politics works. In October, Bush spotlighted “real families” in Iowa when signing the Working Families Tax Relief Act. After Bush celebrated Mike and Sharla Hintz’ 13th wedding anniversary, Mike — a youth pastor and father of four — told reporters: “Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that’s going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that’s going to stand by what he believes.”

Earlier this month, the First Assembly of God Church fired Mike Hintz for sexual exploiting a 17-year-old girl in his church youth group.

Still, conservatives perpetuate their perceived stand for moral absolutes as a salve from our sex saturated culture, and their opponents as promoters of moral relativism, or even perversion.

In the aftermath of 2004’s greatest smirch upon America, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the conservative Heritage Foundation — source of strict abstinence-only language driving funding and intervention throughout the world � syndicated a column linking the Iraq prisoner torture to liberal rot:

“With the non-judgmental, sex-crazed, anything-goes culture that we have become at home, it seems that America has set herself up for international humiliation. Our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13. We permit television and computers to bring all manner of filth into our homes. We permit school children to be taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. We allow Christianity and the teaching of Judeo-Christian values to be scrubbed from the public square. We allow our children to be taught how to use condoms in school, rather than why to avoid sex.”

In one distorted swoop, conservatives discredit proponents of sexual health and justice with the sick, the bad, the ugly.

CA Dems Return to Sacramento to Take on Gov

Gov. Schwarzenegger may have painted himself into a corner. He made statements over the break that angered the Republicans and now, apropos of nothing, he wants to re-jigger the state’s legislative boundaries so that fewer Dems will be elected to the Legislature. Today’s Los Angeles Times (free subscription) describes the mood in Sacramento as the Legislature returns to business:

More confident after weathering their first year with Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Democrats who control California’s Legislature return to the Capitol today, eager to reclaim the loyalties of centrist voters even at the risk of greater confrontation with the popular Republican governor.

With an estimated $8.1-billion budget gap, the fiscal challenges are as severe as in Schwarzenegger’s first year. But easy solutions seem fewer, with last year’s gigantic borrowing package difficult to replicate. That makes extensive disputes more likely between Republicans, who oppose new taxes, and Democrats bracing to stop Schwarzenegger from cutting health and social services programs.

The Real Agenda

A long time ago, a former elected official explained to me Jeb Bush’s real purpose with his school voucher plan. The plan reduced funding to so-called “failing” schools and allowed parents to pull their children out and put them in private schools, at taxpayer expense. “He doesn’t want public schools to succeed,” my friend said. “He wants to dismantle the whole public school system.”

Little did we know that was just the beginning. Jeb has continued to pursue “privatization” of government services, but instead of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, they have consistently gone to friends and cronies. The only feeding at the public trough in Florida is being done by the well-placed.

This editorial in the St. Petersburg Times points out a basic question, if we are to believe the Jeb version of the privatization case: that services can be delivered more efficiently and cheaper by the private sector. But what about when they are both worse and more expensive? What’s up with that, Bushie Boy?