Thursday, January 27, 2005

Bush's aid promises falling short

Remember when President Bush promised to provide $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa during his 2003 State of the Union speech?

Here is the key passage:

I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

That got him a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle! He won praises and accolades from political pundits from all across the ideological spectrum after that.

Too bad he lied.

Of course, the Wall Street Journal puts it a bit more diplomatically than that in their story on page A4 today (1/27/05). The headline reads:

Bush Falls Behind on Promises For Antipoverty, AIDS Funding

Now 3 years into that promise, counting the proposed budget for 2006, President Bush is still $6.4 billion short on fulfilling that comittment. And the Africa AIDS pledge is not the only one he is falling behind on. Bush also made promises to boost funding to combat poverty in developing countries.
Specifically, he promised certain levels of funding to the Millennium Challenge Corp., a newly created foreign aid agency. Bush promised $1.7 billion for 2004, and gave just $1 billion. He promised $3.4 billion for 2005, and provided just $1.5 billion. And he promised $5 billion for 2006, but his latest budget proposal only has $3 billion set aside. That means he is $4.6 billion short, so far.
But wait, you say. Shouldn’t these folks be happy to get anything? I mean, $5.5 billion isn’t chump change after all and so what if they were expecting $10 billion.
The point is that Bush makes these promises to gain political support. Who knows how many votes swung Bush’s way during the razor-close election last year because he made this bold $10 billion anti-AIDS pledge the year before. Here is a key passage from the WSJ story:

The shortfalls are raising alarms among health and antipoverty activists who had rallied to the president’s side when he promised tens of billions of dollars to help developing nations in Africa and elsewhere.

Wow! Health and antipoverty activists rallying to his side! I’ll bet they were worth quite a few votes.
And remember that the Millennium Challenge Corp. was the group that rock singer Bono worked with the Bush administration to help set up. I’ll bet all those pictures of Bush standing next to Bono were worth a few votes as well.

But while we are pinching pennies for international health and antipoverty efforts, we continue to pour billions and billions into the quagmire in Iraq. We will pass the $300 billion mark once Congress approves Bush’s latest request for an additional $80 billion.

So that leaves just one question. What should the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami think when they hear President Bush promising significant increases in aid?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Michael Moore's Oscar goof

It looks like Michael Moore screwed himself out of an Oscar nomination this year by pulling the same kind of overreaching stunt that he did during the 2000 presidential election.
You may recall that Moore arrogantly withheld his film Farenheit 9-11 from the documentary category where it would have been a shoe-in to pick up a nomination all in the vain hope that doing so would improve his chances of securing a Best Picture nod. Well, no such luck. And if he had any sense at all he would have known better.
Farenheit had about the same chances of getting a Best Picture nomination as Ralph Nader had of winning the presidential election. Yet in 2000, Moore threw his support to Nader and thus helped pull votes away from Al Gore which proved to be crucial in George W. Bush’s election “victory.”
So Moore has learned nothing and that is too bad because his film should have at least been included in the Documentary category.
As for the other nominations, (you can read them all here) they were mostly predictable and since I haven’t seen any of the films I can’t really comment too much. I’m glad that Clint Eastwood snuck in to get a Best Actor nomination along with his Best Director nod. Likewise, I was happy to see Alan Alda’s surprise nod in the Best Supporting Actor category.
But I’m obviously not as excited about the Oscar race this year with no Lord of the Rings picture in the mix. So I’m predicting that The Aviator will sweep just about everything and Jamie Foxx will win Best Supporting Actor for Collateral to make up for losing the Best Actor trophy to Leo DiCaprio.

Monday, January 24, 2005


While responding in the comments to the SpongeBob Attacked post, I was reminded of one of the reasons why I get my dander up when folks start bashing gays and other minority groups.

It dates back to when I was in junior high school many years ago and found myself the focus of a particularly nasty group of bullies. I was a soft-spoken, scrawny little kid whose family had moved around for most of my life so I didn’t have a lot of friends at school. Usually, kids like me would go pretty much unnoticed through the system, but for some reason I had attracted the attention of one of the popular kids who set out to make my life particularly miserable. He used to sit behind me in class and kick the back of my chair repeatedly throughout the day, ignoring my requests for him to stop. He also got a group of other kids to start calling me ‘mouse’ in a derogatory fashion. My only refuge back then was an elective speech communications class where I was with a completely different group of students and where I found that I had a knack for public speaking and debate - but that’s a different story.

Things came to a head one day in PE class when this bully turned yet another kid against me (a kid who I had just started to become friends with) and together they started throwing basketballs at me out on the court during a free basket shooting period. At the time I was pretty lousy at basketball and I probably looked pretty pathetic trying to shoot baskets but suddenly I found myself being bombarded with basketballs striking me in the back and the side every time I would try and shoot. While they were doing this they kept calling me a name over and over that I didn’t understand. They were calling me a ‘fag.’ The realization that my one new friend had turned against me was too much and I dissolved into tears.

That night I learned that my family was moving and I never had to go back and face that situation again - something that was both good and bad. But I left with a determination that I would never allow myself to be bullied like that again, nor would I tolerate people bullying other kids. At my new school this new found determination must have rubbed off because I quickly made new friends and became somewhat popular. Years later I would look back on that moment as a turning point and constantly reflect on it whenever the subject of discrimination came up. I wouldn’t say that it is what made me a liberal, but it set the foundation for my later political beliefs.

Another liberal voice silenced

Jan Jarboe Russell, one of the last locally-based, politically-liberal columnists on the editorial pages of the San Antonio Express-News, ended her column Sunday.
Russell’s departure follows that of Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, who also quit to pursue other writing projects a while back, and the late Maury Maverick Jr., who died in 2003.
I assume Russell’s departure will bring an end to the weekly Crossfiresque feature every Wednesday where she would have a back-and-forth debate with right-wing columnist Jonathan Gurwitz.

That leaves an editorial page filled with hardline conservatives like the above mentioned Gurwitz, Austin Bay, T.R. Fehrenbach and J. Francis Gardner and a bunch of wishy-washy moderates who rarely touch on issues of a political nature. If you read these columnists you probably could not tell whether they voted for Bush or Kerry in the last election because they restrict their writing to mostly local and non-controversial issues.
The only local columnists who could fairly be described as liberals are probably Susan Ives, who I’ve never found to be terribly engaging, and Mansour El-Kikhia, who is continuously villified by local conservatives. El-Kikhia raises the hackles of the far-right because he is an American of Arabic descent who refuses to be cowed by the political mood following 9-11 and is highly critical of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. I’m sure if El-Kikhia’s last name was Smith or Jones he would not get near the attention that he does, but as it is the right-wing reacts to him as if he were a member of al-Qaeda.

But don’t expect Russell’s departure to generate any acknowledgement from the far-right that the Express-News is not the bastion of liberalism that they claim it to be. That will only happen if the paper turns over editorial control to the Republican National Committee.