Education Bill: Accountability for Appearances

A key fallacy in the Bush education bill is that testing equals reform. The bill mandates yearly testing in grades three through eight. As Arianna Huffington pointed out in a recent column, "introducing real reform into the public education system is so extraordinarily difficult that the political establishment invariably chooses to settle for the appearance of reform." In place of real reform, this bill offers "high-stakes, standardized, shallow, discriminatory, meaningless and underfunded testing...." The misguided emphasis on testing has led to protests, boycotts, and other civil disobedience by parents, teachers, and students. Moreover, prominent educators have warned that the testing could actually drive down standards rather than raising achievement.

Patients' Rights: Delay or Veto

Bob Dardinger lost his wife to cancer when his HMO refused to pay for special chemotherapy her doctor ordered. He sued. In 1999 a jury awarded Dardinger $51 million. An appeals court later allowed only $2 million to stand. Dardinger is appealing to the Ohio State Supreme Court. Most of us can't sue our HMOs -- something that would be corrected by the patients' rights bill currently stalled by House Republican leadership. Dardinger could sue because he was a teacher, and his benefits are delivered through the state of Ohio. A Gallup poll conducted earlier this month showed that two-thirds of Americans think there's a need for major changes or an overhaul of the HMO system. An earlier poll showed that the public supports a patient's rights bill by a margin of 5 to 1, with 44% supporting the version advocated by congressional Democrats. Why then did the Republican leadership move to delay a vote on the bill until after Labor Day?

Vague Notions: Bush's Missile Defense

At the close of the G8 meeting of industrialized nations in Genoa, Bush and Russian president Putin stood in a hot stuffy ornately decorated room in the 16th Century Palazzo Doria Spinola and held a news conference. With the future of the world potentially at stake, Bush was not about to violate his dress code, and left his sport coat on despite sweat beading on his upper lip. "Kinda hot," he remarked to reporters. News headlines heralded an "agreement," although Mr. Putin said the announcement on linking offensive and defensive weapons was "unexpected". The agreement was perhaps all the more unexpected, coming as it did only three days after Bush admitted he had only "vague notions" of what the missile defense plan would actually entail.

A Tale of Two Deaths

Two deaths in two days underscore simultaneously the heights of hypocrisy reached by the Bush administration, and the depth of sentiment in opposition to its policies. 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani was shot while protesting corporate globalization in which capital flows to nations that are the most willing to exploit workers and diminish environmental standards. 5,000 miles away, virtually unnoticed, James Howard Hatfield, author of Fortunate Son, a biography of George W. Bush that his campaign helped cause to be withdrawn from publication, committed suicide. The book cites evidence of a Bush cocaine conviction in 1972.

Ugly American

The European view of Bush's drooping approval ratings at home is that there is an international component to the main areas of public concern: environment, energy, and defense. Bush's rejection of the Kyoto protocol on global warming, his emphasis on oil, gas, and nuclear energy production rather than conservation, and his advocacy of a Strangelovian missile defense system all have come under criticism before, during, and after his recent European gambit. Intended to show that Bush could hold his own and even assert American leadership, the European trip instead raised more doubts about his effectiveness on the international stage, and his foreign policy (such as it is).

Smirk Shirks: Conscienceless Conservatism

A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found George Bush's approval rating to be only 50% -- the lowest presidential approval rating in five years. A New York Times/CBS News poll during the same period found that only 49% of those surveyed thought Bush could be trusted to keep his word, while 40% did not. In January 56% found him trustworthy while 33% did not. Half of those surveyed thought the tax could would not help the economy much, and a full two-thirds thought the money would have been better spent on Social Security and Medicare. More than half of those surveyed were not confident of Bush's ability to deal with an international crisis. 57% of those surveyed said that Bush administration policies favored the rich. Nearly two-thirds said Bush and Cheney are too closely connected to the oil and gas industry. And perhaps the most interesting trend, in October 1999 when George Bush was Governor of Texas, 68% of the public said he had strong qualities of leadership; by February 2000 that had slipped to 59%, and in the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll the number was only 54%.

Patients' Rights

On June 29 the Senate approved legislation that would guarantee certain rights to Americans in managed-care health plans. The bill helps patients obtain coverage for visits to the nearest emergency room, access to medical specialists and medically necessary prescription drugs, and participate in clinical trials of experimental treatments. The bill also supports patient challenges to decisions by HMOs and insurance companies, including a review process and the right to sue over decisions that cause injury or death. The bill passed by a vote of 59-36 in spite of a threatened Bush veto. Having made the bill their top priority after gaining control of the Senate in early June, its passage was hailed by observers as a major victory for the Democrats. A BBC News headline proclaimed "Health vote shows Democrats' power."

In Mideast, Administration Belatedly Steps In From Sidelines

The Bush administration has apparently finally decided that continuing to sit on the sidelines in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians would tarnish their public image, so over the past month they've taken some concrete steps toward trying to prevent further escalation of violence. Assistant Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs William Burns met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders over the weekend of June 21st; Bush himself met with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on June 26th; Colin Powell embarked on a Middle East tour. The intent of these actions seemed to be to shore up the truce negotiated earlier this month by CIA director George Tenet. Tenet's return to the region for security talks on June 9 was greeted by the Guardian UK with the headline "US creeps back into Middle East." Tenet met with the heads of the Israeli and Palestinian security organizations in an attempt to firm up what had been a fragile ceasefire. Meanwhile, on June 4 European officials had quietly moved into room in Beit Jala on the West Bank, to personally observe events in the region.

Faith Based Reasoning

The propagandist tries to "put something across," good or bad. The scientist does not try to put anything across; he devotes his life to the discovery of new facts and principles. The propagandist seldom wants careful scrutiny and criticism; his object is to bring about a specific action. The scientist, on the other hand, is always prepared for and wants the most careful scrutiny and criticism of his facts and ideas. Science flourishes on criticism. Dangerous propaganda crumbles before it.

Government for Fun and Profit

With Enron vetting Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) appointees, the revelation earlier this month that several Bush aides have close ties to the electrical power concern might have been predictable. Financial disclosure forms released June 1 showed that economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey received $50,000 from Enron last year from serving on an advisory board. Chief of Staff Andrew Card reported earning more than $479,000 last year as General Motors' chief lobbyist. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice reported selling her Chevron stock, worth up to $500,000, but received $60,000 in fees for serving as a Chevron director. Earlier in her term as a Chevron director the firm named an oil tanker after her.


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