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Candide’s Latest: Friday-Sunday, November 3-5, 2006
Bush Worse than Kim Jong-Il?

The Three Amigos

From The Guardian: “America is now seen as a threat to world peace by its closest neighbours and allies, according to an international survey of public opinion published today that reveals just how far the country's reputation has fallen among former supporters since the invasion of Iraq. Carried out as US voters prepare to go to the polls next week in an election dominated by the war, the research also shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Both countries were once cited by the US president as part of an "axis of evil", but it is Mr Bush who now alarms voters in countries with traditionally strong links to the US. […]In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security.The finding is mirrored in America's immediate northern and southern neighbours, Canada and Mexico, with 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans saying the world has become more dangerous because of US policy. Even in Israel, which has long looked to America to guarantee national security, support for the US has slipped.” The full results…

The Economist on the Midterms

Goodbye to the Permanent Majority? Last month, George Bush was interviewed on ABC television. The presenter told him that no fewer than 72 Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives “are putting you in their campaign ads”. The president asked: “Are they saying good things?” It was vintage Dubya: charming, disarming and faux naif. Of course the Democrats all hate me, he seemed to imply; what can you expect when I stand so firmly by my principles? That is not, however, why Mr Bush's party is poised for a whipping on November 7th. For five of the past six years Republicans have held all the levers of power in Washington—the presidency and both arms of Congress. (A defector cost them control of the Senate in 2001, but they won it back the next year.) For better or worse, Republicans must take responsibility for what the federal government has achieved during this period. And despite a buoyant economy, low unemployment and no significant terrorist attacks on American soil since September 11th 2001, most Americans think little has been done. See the full piece…

In fact the record of the 109th Congress has been terrible. First and foremost, it has failed in its duty of oversight. The conduct of the war, conditions at Guantánamo, the overspending: the administration has seldom had to face hostile questioning from either the House or the Senate. There have been a few honourable exceptions in the upper chamber, notably John McCain's interventions on the use of torture. But in general the Republicans have smothered debate. Omnibus bills, thousands of pages long, have been voted through in the small hours on the nod. The number of days the House spent sitting in 2006 was the lowest in 60 years. Then there is sleaze. The majority leader of the House, Tom DeLay, had to resign his post because he is facing charges over election-funding violations. Two other sitting Republican congressmen have been found guilty of corruption. The resignation last month of Mark Foley, a Republican congressman accused of sending salacious e-mails to young congressional pages, is merely the latest blow. Worse than sleaze is pork. All Congresses like to vote money for pet projects, most recently using “earmarks” to tie a grant of federal money to a local scheme. But this one has been astonishing: the number of earmarks has shot up tenfold since the Republicans took the House in 1994. The party of small government has become the party of the absurd $223m “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska. Over the past six years the House Republicans have repeatedly snuffled up the sugar that had been meant to make the bitter pill of entitlement reform go down, without swallowing the hard stuff. Voters might reasonably have expected a degree of austerity from the conjunction of Republicans in the White House, Senate and House. Instead, the past six years have seen a $236 billion surplus transmogrified into a nearly equal and opposite deficit, with the prospect of much bigger deficits to come. See the full piece…

Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker: The great bafflement of next week’s midterm congressional elections is that there is even a sliver of a hint of a shadow of a doubt about the outcome. In a normal democracy, given the state of public opinion and the record of the incumbent government, it would be taken for granted that come next Tuesday the ruling party would be turned out. But, for reasons that have less to do with the wizardry of Karl Rove than with the structural biases of America’s electoral machinery, Democrats enter every race carrying a bag of sand. The Senate’s fifty-five Republicans represent fewer Americans than do its forty-five Democrats. On the House side, Democratic candidates have won a higher proportion of the average district vote than Republicans in four of the five biennial elections since 1994, but—thanks to a combination of gerrymandering and demo-graphics—Republicans remain in the majority. To win back the House, Democrats need something close to a landslide. Their opponents, to judge from their behavior, seem to think they might get one.

 

A Country Ruled By Faith

Gary Wills in the New York Review of Books surveys the totality of the Bush Administration’s surrender to the evangelical agenda: Faith-based justice, faith-based social services, faith-based science, faith-based health, faith-based war: “Bush was a saved alcoholic—and here, too, he had no predecessor in the White House. Ulysses Grant conquered the bottle, but not with the help of Jesus. Other presidents were evangelicals. Three of them belonged to the Disciples of Christ—James Garfield, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan. But none of the three— nor any of the other forty-two presidents preceding Bush (including his father)—would have answered a campaign debate question as he did. Asked who was his favorite philosopher, he said "Jesus Christ." And why? "Because he changed my heart." Over and over, when he said anything good about someone else—including Vladimir Putin—he said it was because "he has a good heart," which is evangelical-speak (as in "condoms cannot change your heart"). Bush talks evangelical talk as no other president has, including Jimmy Carter, who also talked the language of the secular Enlightenment culture that evangelists despise. Bush told various evangelical groups that he felt God had called him to run for president in 2000: "I know it won't be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it."” See the full faith…

 

Was John Kerry Right?

Rosa Brooks in the LATimes: “SINCE John Kerry "botched" a joke and implied that those without education "get stuck in Iraq," political leaders from both parties have been piously describing U.S. troops as valiant young Einsteins in desert camouflage. But deep down, a lot of them probably think Kerry is right. […]Demographically, the military is profoundly different from civilian society. It's drawn disproportionately from households in rural areas, for one thing. For another, the South and Southwest are substantially overrepresented within the military, while the Northeast is dramatically underrepresented.
Compared to civilians, members of the military are significantly more religious, and they're also far more likely to be Republicans. A 2005 Military Times poll found that 56% of military personnel described themselves as Republicans, and only 13% described themselves as Democrats. Nationwide, most polls suggest that people who define themselves as Democrats outnumber those defining themselves as Republicans. And though the average member of the military is neither poor nor uneducated, social and economic elites are dramatically underrepresented in the military.” See the full piece…

The Sham of Israel’s Overflight Booms

A Haaretz editorial: “ In recent days, Israel Air Force aircraft have repeatedly flown over Beirut to signal Israel 's dissatisfaction with the diplomatic situation that emerged following the war and with the nonimplementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the fighting after it was accepted by all sides. The assumption that a provocation of this sort over Lebanon 's airspace will somehow further Israel 's interests has been part of Israel 's security policy for years. Using supersonic booms as a menacing harassment has become part of the Israeli government's operational arsenal: a sort of forceful message that is supposed to hint that Israel is capable of much more, but for now is making do with the minimum. Having destroyed the Dahiya quarter in Beirut , it is doubtful that the air force needs to send Lebanon any further signals about its capabilities. The message has apparently been fully understood, but it is doubtful that it had brought about the desired results. It may have even achieved the opposite effect: strengthening Hezbollah as a political actor in Lebanon . There is nothing like overflights of Beirut , especially the kind that terrorize the residents, to help Hezbollah justify its continued arming against Israel . Creating a constant atmosphere of war, instead of a permanent cease-fire, makes things easier for those interested in such fighting. The assassination of Hassan Nasrallah might also bolster Hezbollah's standing instead of weakening it.”

 

Turkey’s Slouch Toward Islamism

From Der Spiegel: “Is Turkey really becoming more Islamic? And particularly now, after coming so far on the way towards Europe? What is undeniable is that, one year after the opening of accession talks with the EU, the atmosphere in Turkey, with its 99 percent Muslim population, is increasingly anti-European, anti-Western and more nationalistic. Only one third of Turks support membership in the European Union, according to a survey published last week in the daily Milliyet -- a dramatic change for Turks, who have been big fans of Europe for so long. A good a week before the planned publication of the latest EU-Progress Report, the government in Ankara now fears a further worsening of the climate. If the report is, as expected, negative -- sharply critical of the judiciary and the limited freedom of opinion, as well as the Turkish relation to the status of Cyprus -- then Turkey is on the verge of a "massive shock," the nation's papers say.” See the full Turkey…

Children of Egypt’s Aswan Dam

The Washington Post’s fabulous Anthony Shadid takes a journey along the Nile, starting with the Aswan Dam: “The dam is a starting point for a 690-mile journey along the river, through the Arab world's most populous country and its most gifted, charting a future far different from the one envisioned by Shary, the High Dam employee. The journey is a portrait of 21st-century Egypt as the nation closes one era, unsure about the next. The Nile winds like a ribbon through the south, where the peasants Nasser promised to liberate still live in squalor. Along the way is the oasis-like terrain where the government, through a fearsome crackdown, defeated militants bent on forging an Islamic state. In the capital, the government has squelched a budding campaign for political change, relying on a sprawling police apparatus that, while lacking the brutality of other Arab governments, still readily beats those who dissent. Farther down the river, as its branches water the lush Nile Delta before emptying into the Mediterranean, is evidence that another Islamic current, eschewing guns for grass-roots work, will help decide what comes next.” The full piece…

The rich are getting much richer, much faster than everyone else

From McClatchy: Over the past quarter-century, and especially in the last 10 years, America's very rich have grown much richer. No one else fared as well. In 2004, the richest 1 percent of households - 719,910 of them, with an average annual income of $326,720 - had 19.8 percent of the entire nation's pretax income. That's up from 17.8 percent a year earlier, according to a study by University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez. The study, titled "The Evolution of Top Incomes," also found that the richest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans - 129,584 households in 2004 - reported income equal to 9.5 percent of national pretax income. However, median, or midpoint, family income rose only 1.6 percent between 2001 and 2004, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Federal Reserve. Median family real net worth - a family's gross assets minus liabilities - rose only 1.5 percent during those four years. Those are very sluggish income-growth rates compared with the four years between 1998 and 2001, when median family income grew by 9.5 percent and median family real net worth grew by 10.3 percent.” The full story…

Wiki and Wacky

“ United States officials say they have created their own version of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia for intelligence agents, in a bid to encourage US spy agencies to share information and transcend bureaucratic rivalries. Launched in April, Intellipedia allows analysts and officials from a range of agencies to add and edit content on intelligence topics in a collaborative manner through a classified internal web.” See the rest in the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian…

From the Times of India: “The ad campaign promoting XXX Flavoured Condoms, with the catchline "what is your flavour of the night", has fallen foul of both the Advertising Standards Council of India and the Censor Board. While ASCI has asked DKT India, the company promoting the condoms, to produce the ad films for a fresh review, Censor Board chairman Sharmila Tagore has asked I&B minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and I&B secretary S K Arora to immediately stop the ad from being aired during the day and between the ongoing Champions Trophy cricket matches. Calling the ad "offensive" and "not meant for unrestricted viewing", Tagore, who is an AIDS activist and UNICEF goodwill ambassador, told TOI, "The campaign is not in good taste."”


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