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Wednesday, June 23, 2004
The New York Times has apparently stopped editing stories for grammar: 1. Top Headline: "U.S. Drops Plan to Exempt G.I.'s (sic) From U.N. Court" 2. Story on HDTV: "8.3 million households have acquired digital TV's (sic)..." "using them to watch standard-definition TV and DVD's (sic)" That was from a 15-minute reading session. Grrrr....

1 million black votes didn't count in the 2000 presidential election (It's not too hard to get your vote lost -- if some politicians want it to be lost) -- This is the most infuriating article I've read in years. How can a democracy sit back and throw away millions of valid votes? Oh wait, I forgot....we're a "republic" not a democracy, according to Republicans -- who see nothing wrong with wealthy white votes counting a bit more than poor minority votes.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Australians chew mice to win holiday -- A much clearer case for the death penalty than Nichols if you ask me. Of course, asking a mouse about such things may not be the wisest criminal justice policy.

Friday, June 11, 2004
SCOTUSBlog has a nice short piece on the efforts to do away with lifetime disenfranchisement of felons. Key piece of information: Human Rights Watch argues that, because the criminal justice system often operates in a racially discriminatory way, black men wind up losing the vote more than any other group. It says that more than a third of all disenfranchised felons are black. A total of 1.4 million black men have lost the vote as felons, the organization says; that amounts to 13 percent of all black males. “If current trends continue,” Human Rights Watch says, “the rate of disenfranchisement for black men could reach 40 percent in the states that disenfranchise ex-offenders.”

Wednesday, June 09, 2004
U.S. bioterrorism research leaps past defensive tactics -- Yet another piece on ramped-up US bioweapon research. Note that offensive research is prohibited by the BWC, which the US signed and ratified.

Monday, June 07, 2004
Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead! -- It took a while to summarize my thoughts on this wonderful piece of news, so excuse the delayed posting. Some people would argue that we should have some respect for the recently deceased. If you're one of those people, move right along -- nothing to see here, folks.

Now for the rest of you.
*Key "Celebration" on the stereo*
Let's all celebrate! Ronald Reagan finally kicked the bucket!

Now it might be cruel to celebrate his death if he were merely an idiot. If you recall, this is the guy whose Administration wanted to classify ketchup as a vegetable in the school lunch program. He's also the guy who appointed James Watt as Secretary of the Interior. That's James "we don't need to conserve the environment because Jesus will return by the end of the millennium" Watt, people. And then there was the use of an astrologer to plan official speeches and engagements. Let's not forget famous remarks like: "Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." So while the record clearly establishes that he was a Grade A moron, let's not pick on people just because they're "special" -- even if they happen to be ex-Presidents.

No, I think we need to pick on Reagan for other things. Of course he was a liar, as a piece by the Washington Monthly established:
He claimed that he could cut taxes by 30 percent, increase defense spending by three-quarters of a trillion dollars, and achieve a balanced budget within three years. Budget director David Stockman admitted in November of 1981 that, "None of us really understands what's going on with all these numbers" and that supply-side economics "was always a Trojan horse to bring down the top (income tax) rate." Reagan also claimed that "In England, if a criminal carried a gun, even though he didn't use it, he was tried for first-degree murder and hung if he was found guilty." When informed that the story was "just not true," White House spokesman Larry Speakes said, "Well, it's a good story, though. It made the point, didn't it?" Reagan repeated the story again on March 21, 1986 during an interview with The New York Times.
In November 1983, Reagan told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that he had served as a photographer in a U.S. Army unit assigned to film Nazi death camps. He repeated the story to Simon Wiesenthal the following February. Reagan never visited or filmed a concentration camp; he spent World War II in Hollywood, making training films with the First Motion Picture Unit of the Army Air Corps. Of course there was Iran-Contra (more on that later). "We did not--repeat, did not--trade weapons or anything else for hostages, nor will we," Reagan proclaimed in November 1986. Four months later, on March 4, 1987, Reagan admitted in a televised national address, "A few months ago, I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages. My heart and my best intentions still tell me that's true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not." Finally, let's not forget the "Cadillac Queens" of welfare. Over a period of about five years, Reagan told the story of the "Chicago welfare queen" who had 80 names, 30 addresses, 12 Social Security cards, and collected benefits for "four nonexisting deceased husbands," bilking the government out of "over $150,000." The real welfare recipient to whom Reagan referred was actually convicted for using two different aliases to collect $8,000. Reagan continued to use his version of the story even after the press pointed out the actual facts of the case to him.

But then again, every American President lies from time to time. Just look at the other examples in the same article. No, I think we should put on party hats and bring air horns to the funeral because of what Reagan DID, not what he merely thought or said.

Here's a quick Top Ten List of this man's "accomplishments:"

10. Reagan supported Bob Jones University in its fight to remain tax-exempt. Did I mention that BJU prohibited inter-racial dating, and that racially segregated schools are not permitted to claim tax exemptions?

9. I'm not exactly a fiscal hawk, but Reagan did vastly increase the size of the federal deficit by simultaneously cutting taxes, raising military spending, and proposing only modest, politically palatable cuts to welfare programs for the poor. He never submitted a balanced budget for Congress to consider and left Americans (and his successor) with a huge public debt burden.

8. Reagan targeted kids for budget cuts, since kids don't vote. AFDC (hint: the C stands for Children) was cut, as were subsidies for housing and school lunches. As a direct result, the economic boom during the middle of Reagan's Administration actually led to a DROP in the incomes of the poor and an explosion of the number of children living in poverty. Note that it wasn't all families who were expected to tighten their belts -- just the poor ones. Aid to households with incomes of less than $10,000 a year declined nearly 8% his first years in office, even while subsidies for households with more than $40,000 income were left essentially unchanged.

7. Not content with merely offending racial and ethnic minorities, Reagan decided to deny them access to equal protection of the law. When Congress appropriated money to enforce civil rights laws, he simply refused to spend it or to appoint anyone to the enforcement positions. The offices charged with civil rights enforcement remained padlocked during his Administration.

6. Imprisoned hundreds of thousands of poor and minority Americans in a "War on Drugs" -- even while supporting the drug smuggling of Burma, Afghanistan's rebels, the Nicaraguan contras, Panama, etc. I should point out that African-Americans and whites use drugs at exactly the same rates, yet African-Americans (one eighth of the US population) make up almost 60% of those in prison on drug charges. Of course, this policy continues to benefit Reagan's Republican Party since felons generally lose voting rights, even after being released. In some states about 1 in 7 African-American males cannot vote for this reason.

5. In order to fund a campaign of terrorism against Nicaragua (when I strip out the country names, my students consistently call the contras terrorists by a 5-1 margin), Reagan secretly sold arms to another group of terrorists (Iran's hardline government and its puppet Hezbollah in Lebanon) in violation of about a dozen American laws and every sensible policy towards terrorists. Tens of thousands died in the Nicaraguan "war" that Reagan started and fueled.

4. Reagan crusaded against tougher pollution laws and energy conservation measures. He slashed funding for renewable sources of energy, in favor of using oil and nuclear power. Leaving aside environmental concerns, these policies encouraged continued dependence on imported oil and reversed improvements in energy conservation made a t great cost during the 1970s. Even though gas prices dropped to near-record lows during his terms in office, Reagan refused to fill up America's strategic petroleum reserve. The reason this comes in at number 4 is that it practically guaranteed a recession and a war in the Middle East when any threat to cheap oil emerged, since it meant the US had no safety period to attempt to restore supplies. So Reagan deserves part of the blame for a war that happened years after he left office! And of course the first Gulf War led to the US presence in Saudi Arabia, the causus belli of Osama bin Laden. And finally, the unfinished business of the first war against Saddam Hussein dragged on for more than a decade, embroiling the US in yet another Middle East war. Of course, different policies by the Bush and Clinton Administrations might have averted much of the damage, but Reagan did limit the options of those that came after him.

3. Reagan waged war against the United Nations. I'm not talking about the controversial stuff like the Israel/Palestine dispute or nuclear weapons, but rather of the health and social functions the UN actually performs quite well. "The Administration withdrew from UNESCO, cut off America’s contribution to the UN Fund for Population Activities, cast the single vote against a World Health Organization code for infant formula, and supported the Kassebaum amendment reducing America’s contribution to the General Assembly by 25% unless the UN should amend its charter." In short, Reagan's war on global health and social welfare probably killed tens of thousands.

2. The Reagan Administration lined up in support of Pol Pot, perpetrator of the second most deadly genocide of the 20th century. Lest we forget, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces killed something like 1 in 5 Cambodians -- nearly 2 million people in all! When Vietnam finally invaded to put an end to the genocide of ethnic Vietnamese and repeated attacks on its territory by the Khmer Rouge, the United States decided to get some payback for its defeat in Vietnam. It armed and trained a new generation of Khmer Rouge cadres in secret bases in Thailand, then sent them back home to terrorize the Cambodian people (and occasionally even kill a few Vietnamese soldiers). Something like 50,000 people were killed during his 8 years in office.

1. Reagan's cynical response to AIDS directly contributed to MILLIONS of deaths. AIDS has killed almost half a million Americans and killed 3 million people worldwide in 2003 alone. As with any infectious disease, lowering transmission rates early in the epidemic can save millions of people from infection many years down the road. The logic is rather similar to compound interest rates -- even a minor shift in interest rates, compounded over many years, can lead to a huge difference in wealth. Well here the wealth is dead people, Reagan's gift to the world. I won't go into detail about how Reagan neglected to mention AIDS for the first 7 years of his Administration, barred the Surgeon General from even talking about the epidemic, opposed every safe-sex program and effort to inform high-risk groups of the dangers and how to minimize them, and cut off all American funding for UN safe-sex programs around the world. Let's not mention the sorry state of research funding in the early years of the epidemic that ultimately delayed life-saving discoveries by years -- years in which millions died. No, I'll leave it to other people to provide the grim details. Try the Encyclopedia of AIDS entry on the US Presidency, for starters.

So yeah, I'd dance on his grave if I was in the area. Good riddance!

Licorice can kill you -- OK, it's actually the glycyrrhizic acid in the licorice, but still -- I always knew there was something nasty about that stuff.

Libya hits out at West in "AIDS plot" case -- Ghadaffi is trying to play nice these days, so why is he so insistent on an HIV consipiracy?

Iraqis Paying 5 Cents a Gallon for Gas -- Note that we're buying the gas for about 30 times that price and shipping it to Iraq; this isn't Iraqi-refined gasoline.

Friday, June 04, 2004
Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides -- What an odd story. Somehow I just dont see Dubya as the Nixonian type. He seems far too lazy to me to get up a really good head of steam.

No ill feelings, we wish you well: murdered girl's mother to killer -- How many people could be this rational and forgiving if it was their own child who was raped and murdered?

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