Where have all the soldiers gone? The U.S. Armed Forces isn’t saying much about the fact that so many troops — over half of which are from the Army alone — are AWOL and neither is the mainstream media. Why? Well, it doesn’t really mesh with the “we’re winning the war against terror” and “we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” storylines we usually hear from the Bush administration. Apparently, some of us are neither fighting “them” over there nor over here.

Deja vu, it seems: During the Vietnam War era (roughly between 1961-1975), about 50,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid the war. Our generation is apparently more decisive, I guess, when it comes to bailing individually out of ill-conceived, ill-managed, bloody conflicts with no exit strategy.

Hat tip: Playahata

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Kanye West took a lot of criticism immediately after he broke from the teleprompter during a hurricane relief telethon for Katrina victims last year.

His statement was brave and frankly, looking back, true. It wasn’t as if black leaders rushed at first to support him. There was a recoiling of fear and a failure to call a spade a spade. Yet Kanye broke the ice and expressed what a lot of black folks (and some non-black ones too) were thinking in the aftermath of Katrina. Many of us still believe that, deep down, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” And also: “Those are my people down there.”

Terrence Says has a great summary on the substantive points of Kanye’s emotional roll. My favorite part of the clip below is the look on Mike Myers’ and Chris Tucker’s faces after Kanye’s final, famous statement. Doh!

I think some people, including Kanye, probably thought that he’d be blackballed, that he’d ended his career that night. Until they really thought about it and realized…he was right.

The famous jazz musician and film score composer breaks it down for you in just 2 minutes — what you should understand about the Bush administration post-Katrina in this vignette from Spike Lee’s excellent documentary. I think he speaks for a lot of African-Americans, which is probably why this is the only clip from the When the Levees Broke I can find so far on YouTube. If you find more, let me know.

The bottom line is that the GOP, in 5 days, managed to erode several years’ successful hard work in attempting to broaden their appeal to African-Americans. Trust will be hard to regain for anyone who watched the events unfold last year and sees the slow pace of recovery now.

In all the bustle about George “Mr. Macaca” Allen’s racist comments and comfort with Confederate symbolism, many have overlooked Jim Webb’s past on this issue. Webb is Allen’s Democratic opponent for the VA Senate seat.

On the one hand, I’m reluctant to criticize him — certainly every Senate seat counts in the drive to take back the Senate for Democrats. On the other, I don’t envy Virginians their choice of Senate candidates. Jim Webb has been hostile to affirmative action only to change his position under pressure and needing a large turnout among African-Americans.

But how does Webb really feel? The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article just before VA’s Democratic primary describing some of Webb’s expressed thoughts on the Confederacy. The article quotes from a speech Webb gave in 1990 at the Confederate Memorial. It is one of only a handful of select speeches available on Webb’s personal site which indicates, I think, some measure of meaning and pride for him that continues. Despite this critical article and the potential negative impact on his campaign, the speech is still up on his site today.

Read it. I think my personal favorite is this selection:

But more than anything else, I am compelled today to remember a number of ancestors who lie in graves far away from Arlington. Two died fighting for the Confederacy — one in Virginia and the other in a prisoner camp in Illinois, after having been captured in Tennessee. Another served three years in the Virginia cavalry and survived, naming the next child to spring from his loins Robert E. Lee Webb, a name that my grandfather also held and which has passed along in bits and pieces through many others, such as my cousin, Roger Lee Webb, present today, and my son, James Robert, also present. And another, who fought for the Arkansas infantry and then the Tennessee Cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest. And, to be fully ecumenical, another, who had moved from Tennessee to Kentucky in the 1850’s, and who fought well and hard as an infantry Sergeant in the Union army.

Chilling, ain’t it. Especially the part about Nathan Bedford Forrest, like Webb, a descendent of hard-working Scotch-Irish. He was also a slave trader, Confederate general and founder of the Ku Klux Klan.

I agree with Kilo that Webb’s got some racial problems and they don’t seem to be going away (though I disagree that Allen is the answer to Webb’s racial problems!) Generally, when people have 2 unsavory choices, they tend to avoid choosing at all. Without African-Americans voting in large numbers this fall, Webb’s Senate bid will be sunk.

Yet, is there some ray of hope that Webb can be reached and moderate more of his positions? Does a reasonable man exist beyond the evident mixed feelings about contemporary Virginia and Virginians? Below is an excerpt from the end of his speech that seems to carry even more resonance today given the President’s bloody Iraq adventure:

“…our leaders should carry next to their breasts, and contemplate every time they f ace a crisis, however small, which puts our military at risk. it should echo in their consciences, from the power of a million graves . It is simply this: You hold our soldiers’ lives in sacred trust. When a citizen has sworn to obey you, and follow your judgment, and walk onto a battlefield to defend the interests you define as worthy of his blood, do not abuse that awesome power through careless policy, unclear objectives, or inflexible leadership.”

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This post is definitely brought to you by the letter B: B for birth control, Bush, broads, business, Barr, Barclay and Britain. I find it odd that so many progressive major blogs outside of feminist blogs have completely ignored the significance of the FDA’s approval of Plan B, an emergency contraceptive also known popularly as the “morning after” pill, for over the counter use.

Over 40 countries allow OTC access to emergency contraception. A vocal political minority of pro-lifers with the ear of the White House has prevented approval until just — now. Doesn’t anyone find it very strange that George Bush — a man who has put 2 pro-life justices on the Supreme Court — would suddenly turn around and allow OTC Plan B, a medication that many pro-life advocates consider to be a form of abortifacient?

I guess James Brown is right — it’s a man’s world after all and male bloggers don’t care. Whether they realize it yet or not, there are major long term ramifications for U.S. society here. We have one of the highest abortion rates in the world among industrialized nations. Plan B gives American women a new option in birth control and easier access to Plan B will likely result in lower abortion rates over time. It’s a little weird that Plan B will be just be there without a prescription perhaps tucked on the drug store shelf between the tampons and the Midol after easy access in some places only at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Access to a lower cost alternative to reproductive management is especially impactful for minority women. Poverty and ignorance tend to breed poor decisions and minorities remain disproportionately poor. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (emphasis mine):

In the 41 areas for which race was adequately reported, approximately 55% of women who obtained legal induced abortions were known to be white, 35% were black, and 7% were of other races; for 3% of the women, race was unknown. […] The abortion rate for black women (30 per 1,000 women) was 3.1 times the rate for white women (10 per 1,000 women), whereas the abortion rate for women of other races (22 per 1,000 women) was 2.2 times the rate for white women.

75% of women in the United States are white and yet they only account for 55% of the abortions? Pro-choice groups tend to skirt around the issue of the high abortion rate of minority women but pro-lifers have begun to use this as one of their talking points in part to attract socially conservative, Christian African-Americans to their cause. Abortion is a racist institution, they say, that preys upon vulnerable populations.

Certainly poor women have fewer choices in health care, especially to preventative care and to the insurance that can make prescription medications like the Pill more affordable. So a new low cost birth control option will likely have a major impact in African-American lives. So much for the long term.

Back to Bush, though, and the short term — why the sudden turnaround in fairly consistent-til-now pro-life policy? I think it boils down to business, Britain and broads. With Bush’s approval rating so low, he’s got to be desperate to appeal to a wider group of people, even if this means incurring the wrath of his hard-core ultra-conservative base. Approving Plan B is great for big business, especially Barr Labs, a major pharmaceutical company. Their share price has certainly moved in a positive direction since the announcement. Interestingly one of the largest shareholders (at 11%) of Barr is Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd, a British concern. So this decision makes both a few rich Americans and and rich Brits happy. Given the debacle in Iraq, it’s no wonder that Bush wouldn’t be looking for creative ways to appease our allies across the pond, short of stemming the bloodshed in Iraq.

Finally, there’s broads in general. This decision makes Bush look slightly more center-oriented and in touch with the general population. It looks like reasonable, rational, science-based public policy. As we all know, this is highly unusual for the Bush administration. Just in time for election season, Bush puts a new option on the table for American women even if he has expressed mixed messages about it himself.

He also faces potential lawsuits, anger and opposition from loyal conservative groups like Concerned Women for America who offer the weak argument that Plan B opens the door to sexual predators preying on teens. It will be interesting to see what other goodies and presents Bush has in store for Election 2006 and far he’ll be willing to bend his principles to boost his approval rating.

In the VA Senate race, Virginians have a tough choice. Do they vote for a revealed racist — George “Mr. Macaca” Allen or for a candidate who panders insincerely to a key minority voting bloc — Jim Webb.

It shows the emerging power of the black and minority vote that Jim Webb has felt the need to “clarify” his position on affirmative action both before the primary and in the middle of the race. It’s ok for African-Americans but not ok for everyone else. Except for maybe poor whites who grew up struggling like he did. Or something like that.

I agree with Webb that the U.S. does a poor job in general of providing equal opportunity for education and job training for low-income, tax paying citizens of any race. We can and should do a better job of helping all those who want to succeed, who want a higher education, who want to start their own small business, who want to learn new information technology or customer service skills to strive for a better life. America’s economic strength is its middle class. Any initiative that grows the middle class grows our strength as a nation.

Yet, it’s clear from reports coming in that even in meeting with African-American Democratic leaders that he doesn’t “get it”. Even one of his stronger supporters in the black community spoke in code when describing the meeting.

Del. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, one of the few black leaders to back Webb over Harris Miller in the Democratic primary, said, “George Allen’s macaca slur showed George Allen’s true feelings. It exposed his heart.”

McEachin described the meeting at the mansion as “a good give and take. It showed what needs to happen for Jim Webb to win the campaign.”

For those of you who have trouble reading between the lines, let me translate for you. “A lot of people in the Black community are not happy with Webb nor his campaign and they had a chance to express that clearly to his face. His answers didn’t completely satisfy or re-assure them. Yet, hopefully with some continuing dialogue, we might be able to help him understand how to speak successfully to the concerns of African-American voters in VA and get elected.”

His website
doesn’t even address his stand on affirmative action despite the controversy surrounding his position. His past statements calling affirmative action “state-sponsored racism” are extreme and troubling. It’s a tough choice for Virginians and I don’t envy them. Are they forced to choose between racist or racist-er?

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I know it may be difficult to turn away for the gripping details of where JonBenet’s alleged killer is now and what he watched on TV today, but Terrence tells us that more black men are opting for college. This is actually major news for education in America and breaks a downturn stretching many years.

This is the kind of news you won’t hear on ABC, Fox, or CNN unless perhaps a “BUT” follows. Once again, stories like this demonstrate the power of black-owned and operated media. An article in the St. Louis American, an African-American weekly, says:

“A new report from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (JBHE) states that in 2004, the latest year for which complete data is available, there were 758,400 black males enrolled in higher education, compared to 603,032 in 2000. This is the highest level of enrollments for African-American males in history.”

It’s a conventional wisdom buster. So strange that you haven’t heard more about it in the MSM. Hmmm?

Thanks Terrence for keeping it real…

A commenter wrote in yesterday to chide me for neglecting to mention that former NAACP head and former Congressman Kweisi Mfume is running for the Senate along with Michael Steele and Josh Rales. You wouldn’t know it because frankly his campaign has been under water. No one is talking about it, there are no ads on TV and there is nothing in the newspapers.

What gives?

Well, some might recall that Mfume left the NAACP under a cloud of sexual harassment allegations. Apparently the way to get ahead under his adminstration at the old stalwart organization had less to do with your ability to uplift the race and more with your ability to uplift…well, I think you catch my drift.

No one is talking directly about that though either. Look, I want to see another brother in the Senate as much as anyone. And Mfume was a strong, solid leader overall of the NAACP. He’s solid on the issues progressives care about, like Iraq, corporate responsibility and uh, cruelty to chickens.

The fact that Steele is more appealing to Maryland African-Americans right now is very telling and it is bad news for Mfume’s quest. Same goes for Ben Cardin — he’s not generating a ton of excitement in Maryland right now. Unlike Cardin, Mfume has a lot of name recognition though both in and outside of the black community and we could very well see him go up against Steele after the primary. By keeping quiet, he may be able to capitalize on his good rep while avoiding direct criticism of past behavior.

Bill Clinton faced impeachment over lying about a sexual affair. Unwise? Sleazy? Pathetic? Unethical and disturbing? Sure. I agree with Republican friends on this.

Yet, who can look at this timeline of actual events as they unfolded during and after Hurricane Katrina hit vs. where Bush adminstration officials could be found — and not walk away seeing them as criminals. Lazy, carefree criminals who fiddled like Nero while Rome burned.

Officials were begging for help even before the disaster struck and the Bush administration took no significant action for five days. From this timeline, it is clear that anything anyone in his cabinet who says otherwise is lying.

They didn’t know the levees might break — Lie.
They didn’t know how bad the storm would be — Lie.
The states didn’t ask for help — Lie.
They didn’t have enough on-the-ground information — Lie.
They’d never seen or done anything like this before (Hello Well-Coordinated East Asian Tsunami response) — Lie.
They didn’t realize the levees had broken — Lie.

At a minimum, Michael Chertoff and Donald Rumsfeld should be fired immediately. They failed to do fulfill the basics of their responsibilities for Homeland Security and Defense of our nation. Yet this timeline shows how deeply George W. Bush also turned his back on the people he is sworn to lead and protect.

Here’s an excerpt from Mon Aug 29 as rain poured into the Astrodome in New Orleans and the levees had begun to breach…

8PM CDT — RUMSFELD ATTENDS SAN DIEGO PADRES BASEBALL GAME: Rumsfeld “joined Padres President John Moores in the owner’s box…at Petco Park.” [Editor & Publisher]

8PM CDT – GOV. BLANCO AGAIN REQUESTS ASSISTANCE FROM BUSH: “Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.” [Newsweek]


Please read Think Progress’ excellent work here. It cuts through all the crap in terms of who asked for what when and who knew what when…

Ever heard this schoolyard chant? No? Well then you’re lucky. Because there isn’t enough racial tension in America due to the immigration debate and Katrina tragedy among other things, CBS is going to bring us a Survivor divided along racial lines. A desperate bid for ratings? Yes. The seeds of our destruction? Yes. Circus Maximus? Yes.

For those of us in the reality-based community, it is refreshing to read this analysis of Bush’s shifting message on Iraq from “progress” to avoiding failure. Other politicians are pointing fingers and saying the administration built up expectations and didn’t fully explain the sacrifices that would be necessary.

Christopher F. Gelpi, a Duke University scholar whose research on public opinion in wartime has been influential in the White House, said Bush has little choice.

“He looks foolish and not credible if he says, ‘We’re making progress in Iraq,’ ” Gelpi said. “I think he probably would like to make that argument, but because that’s not credible given the facts on the ground, this is the fallback. . . . If the only thing you can say is ‘Yes, it’s bad, but it could be worse,’ that really is a last-ditch argument.”

As recently as two weeks ago, Bush was still making the case that things in Iraq are better than they seem. The new Iraqi government “has shown remarkable progress on the political front,” he said on Aug. 7, calling its mere existence “quite a remarkable achievement.”


Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a strong supporter of the war, suggested this week that the Bush team has only itself to blame for setting unrealistic expectations.

“One of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required,” McCain said. ” ‘Stuff happens,’ ‘mission accomplished,’ ‘last throes,’ ‘a few dead-enders.’ I’m just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be.”

I feel your pain, McCain. Sen Lindsay Graham even says “I think we missed by a mile how much it would cost to rebuild Iraq.” Really? I couldn’t tell.

Here’s my favorite passage though (emphasis mine):

“I would say [Bush] was deeply concerned about how many lives are being lost, both American and Iraqi, and how much this is costing the American taxpayer,” said Eric Davis, a Rutgers University professor who was among those invited, who urged Bush to launch a New Deal-style economic program in Iraq. “He would like to see progress sooner rather than later.”

Excuse me, a New-Deal style economic program in Iraq? How about we launch that here — in America? For oh, maybe Katrina victims. Or military veterans? Since when are conservatives so desperate and confused that they advocate for progressive programs? When their mistakes start to catch up with their rhetoric and with reality.

Why is hip hop entrepreneur and emerging progressive leader Russell Simmons supporting Michael Steele over Josh Rales to represent Maryland in the U.S. Senate. Rales has a clear and strong progressive platform. Steele’s recent TV commercial shows off his immense charisma and manages to say nothing about his actual positions. Apparently he is going to “talk straight” in Washington about the things people really care about. That sounds great — and very open to interpretation.

Look, diversity in government is important. Steele would join Barack Obama as the 2nd black senator serving — out of 100. Yet, he is a loyal Republican. These are the same people who abandoned African-Americans during Katrina and continues to hand them short change to re-build their lives in the aftermath. He does not share Simmons’ values. Or mine for that matter. When does race matter more than principle? In my opinion, never.

Next week, look for him to hug some black people who will also express their gratitude for almost drowning them. Sorry, for everything the government hasn’t, excuse me, has done for them since the levees broke.

Looks like this guy is actually a loyal Republican and this “Cindy Sheehan-style” protest was all staged for publicity. Was this guy even in New Orleans after the levees broke? How stoopid do they think we are?

Hat tip: CorrenteWire

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Sen. George Allen likely got his arm twisted by the Bush handlers. Prior to a fundraising event at which they were both scheduled to appear, Allen called S.R. Sidarth to apologize personally for calling him an unfortunate “nickname.” Dubya can’t afford to look racist or to hang out with racists as we near the anniversary of Katrina, it would appear.

Jon Stewart’s black friends love him so much more than Stephen Colbert’s black friends. Wonder why?

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