Mar 3, 2011

NATO Kills 9 Afghan Children

Here's the worst story of the past 24 hours (beating out lots of competition for that title): NATO forces in Afghanistan "accidentally" killed 9 Afghan boys who were gathering firewood. Apparently the NATO troops who shot them from a helicopter mistook them for grown men who had earlier attacked a NATO operating base. I put "accidentally" in quotes not because I think it was purposeful, but because I just think it's appalling to excuse the murder of 9 children as an accident.

The story is doubly horrifying precisely because it's getting so little press in the U.S. It was buried on the fourth page of the New York Times and I didn't hear anything about it on NPR this morning. The hourly news headlines did, though, lead with a story about two U.S. soldiers killed in Germany, supposedly by an Islamic militant, although as usual the story didn't offer any evidence for that assumption.

It saddens me that we've gotten so complacent about our country's involvement in two unnecessary wars, and so certain that there's no way to end those wars and get out of Afghanistan and Iraq, that we've basically just started to ignore the atrocities that are going on there in our names. Killings of civilians were among the most important motivators for the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era, but today those killings happen so frequently and with so little news coverage that they barely raise a ripple. If we wonder why "Islamic extremists" are attacking U.S. soldiers in Germany, we might want to start by looking at U.S. soldiers killing children in Afghanistan.

Mar 2, 2011

What’s Really Behind the Attacks on Title X

John Boehner made a very telling comment in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Sunday. Discussing the proposed continuing resolution (CR) that will keep the federal government operating for two more weeks, he acknowledged that the Republicans will probably allow Title X’s funding for Planned Parenthood to continue for now, but not in the long term. Here’s his reasoning:

“The goal here again is to cut spending and keep the government open. I met with a lot of religious leaders earlier today to talk about the strategy and I think it’s important that we understand that what we want to do here is win the war not just win a battle. And there will be an opportunity some time in order to win the big war and we're looking for that opportunity. I don't think this short term CR is the opportunity that will get us there.”

So, for all the Republicans’ talk about the need to cut government spending, Boehner admitted here pretty clearly that the fight against Title X has nothing to do with that. Instead, it’s a capitulation to “religious leaders” and pro-lifers, and it actually detracts from accomplishing the goals of “cut[ting] spending and keep[ing] the government open.”

For those of us who support Planned Parenthood and all the other family planning providers out there, Boehner has given us fair warning. He’s planning a “big war,” so if we manage to sustain Title X funding during the current budget battle, we can’t let that make us complacent.

The good news is that Chuck Schumer has big plans to defend Title X: he told a rally on Saturday that the Republicans’ planned Title X cuts will be “dead on arrival” in the Senate. I, for one, am going to be writing him a letter to thank him and tell him to keep up the good work. Are you?

Mar 1, 2011

A CEO, A Public Employee, a Tea Partier, and a Democratic Governor...

This joke has been floating around the internet for the past couple of days: “A unionized public employee, a tea party supporter, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a dozen cookies on a plate. The CEO takes 11 of the cookies, turns to the tea partier, and says, ‘Watch out for that union guy. He wants some of your cookie.’”

Brilliant, and it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so true. I woke up this morning to a radio report  about how the “surplus” income tax on people earning over $250,000 annually in New York is going to expire and talks to extend it are going nowhere, partially because Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t support its extension. Instead, in order to balance the budget he apparently favors slashing health care for the poor, firing thousands of public school teachers in some of the state’s neediest neighborhoods, and cutting funding for the city’s already cash-strapped public transit system.

What is wrong with this picture?! Wealthy people in America pay the lowest taxes they’ve paid since before World War II, and to offset that lost revenue state governments around the country, as well as the federal government, are slashing programs for the poor and middle class. Investment bankers and large corporations did most of the work getting us into the economic mess in which we find ourselves – but they’ve largely recovered while everyone else is watching their wages get cut and government services get eviscerated.

Thanks to the influence of those same bankers and multinational corporations, the solutions elected officials are offering are to cut taxes, give those corporations more money, and cut education, health, and social service spending for the rest of us. Goldman Sachs and Moody’s Analytics just completed separate studies showing that these strategies are going to seriously hurt the economic recovery and cost hundreds of thousands of jobs – but it seems that no one in Albany or Washington is listening.

These days the world often really feels like a very, very dark version of Alice in Wonderland.