December 2006


And Africa is the most optimistic region in the world. This is from a Gallup International Voice of the People Survey. This is very nice to see, as US news, if it covers Africa at all, tends to dwell on war, famine and disaster.

Seven out of every ten (68%) Ghanaian thinks that 2007 will be a better year than 2006 according to a Gallup International Voice of the People Survey conducted in November and December.
. . .
Optimism is particularly high in countries which are upbeat about economic prospects and do not have major concerns about unemployment or industrial disputes increasing in 2007.
. . .
Looking at regions across the world, as in previous years, Africa is the most optimistic region, whilst Western Europe is the least optimistic about prospects for the coming year.

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I’ve been reluctant to post because the behavior of the US President is so distressing. I don’t want to ignore it, and it is hard to say anything and hard to know what to say. As Swopa puts it:

We have a president who is so wedded to his rhetoric of “victory” and “resolve” that he wants to throw thousands more troops into a meat grinder, despite the military’s unanimous resistance and only 11 or 12% support from the public, just so he doesn’t have to admit that he screwed up.

And in every appearance recently, Bush has had Cheney right behind him, to make sure he does not listen if people talk sense. As Steve Gilliard quotes:

Regardless of your feelings or beliefs about sending more U.S troops to Iraq, you must accept the painful truth that anything we do to salvage or strengthen the existing Shia-dominated government in Iraq redounds to the benefit of Iran. If we weigh in on the side of the Sunni insurgents we run a serious risk that the Shias will attack us in strength and, at least for the short time, cut our supply lines that run through the heart of Shia territory. Moreover, anything we do to militarily challenge Iran will weaken our influence in Iraq and jeopardize the mission of our forces in Iraq.

George Bush has made his choice and it is calamitous.
. . .

Bush and Cheney don’t have a learning curve, it is a flat line.

Today’s cartoons give The Decider a rough time.

The US President has just named Ghana as one of the countries that will receive part of a US 1.2 billion dollar malaria initiative focused on 15 countries.

Accra, Dec. 15, GNA
. . .
Ms Sue K. Brown, Charge d’Affaires of the U.S Mission to Ghana, who briefed the media in Ghana on a White House Summit on malaria, said the initiative called for an ambitious public-private effort to strengthen and expand malaria control efforts in Africa.

The initiative ensures the provision of new effective drugs to rural clinics, at least two doses of medicine for pregnant women to protect themselves and their unborn babies.

It also provides distribution of long lasting insecticide-treated bed nets that prevent mosquito bites and the availability of insecticides to spray on the inside walls of homes to kill mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

She said the initiative since 2005 had reached and saved more than six million people in Angola, Tanzania and Uganda and a series of proven programmes would be launched in other countries to prevent millions of deaths.
. . .
Major Courage Quashigah (rtd) Minister of Health) said Ghana was likely to spend more than 500 million dollars a year in the prevention of malaria.

He noted that malaria was an enemy to human health and impeded economic development considering the huge amount of money spent annually on it.

This is wonderful news. I hope the money is truly forthcoming, and is spent effectively.

The Unapologetic Mexican makes a particularly valid point:

DON’T EXPECT REPUBLICANS, especially, to ever want to have a serious discussion on racism. Why would they? Without a constant shovel to the furnace of the diseased psychological and spiritual undercurrents of so much of our politics and policies, they just wouldn’t have much to run on.

Hatred and fear have been the main theme and fuel of the Republican campaigns for decades, running on peoples fear of “other.” It became particularly virulent and institutionalized with Papa Bush and Lee Atwater, and has steadily gotten worse since then. That is the much vaunted southern strategy which Ken Mehlman apologized for, even as he continued it, paying for ads that successfully played on fear of interracial sex in the Harold Ford race. After all, a platform of: we loot the treasury for personal gain, while you go deeper and deeper into debt and the country falls apart, is not a winning theme. Since the truth won’t sell, fear and lies have to take its place. And since 9/11, the Republicans have been doing most of the terrorists work for them, doing as much as possible to keep the voters afraid.

I had thought the phrase “they all look alike to me” had become a joke. That to say it was to admit to being so obviously ignorant and uninformed as to be laughable. But Senator Trent Lott, R(acist)-MS, said this about the Iraqis when he spoke about the Sunnis and the Shiites killing each other:

Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me.

And Senator Conrad Burns, R(acist)-MT, in what was described as evidence of his sense of humor, belittled his critics:

They call me racist. Don’t even own a car.

Apparently for Burns, if you do not own a car, you are not qualified to express an opinion in what used to be the land of the free.

In a speech enunciating the principles for which he has worked tirelessly, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, Kofi Annan bid farewell to the UN from Harry Truman’s presidential library in Independence Missouri. In his words, quoted in The Guardian:

“More than ever today Americans, like the rest of humanity, need a functioning global system through which the world’s peoples can face global challenges together,” he said. “And in order to function, the system still cries out for far-sighted American leadership in the Truman tradition.”
. . .
“As President Truman said, the responsibility of the great states is to serve, and not dominate, the peoples of the world,” Mr Annan said.

President Bush may be imagining himself as Harry Truman, and although Annan did not mention Bush, he made it abundantly clear that Bush has acted against the principles that have made the United States a symbol of freedom and justice. History will be far more harsh with Bush than it has been with Truman.

“When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose, for broadly shared aims, in accordance with broadly accepted norms.”
. . .
“When it [the US] appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.”

And I would add that a majority of its friends and citizens here in the US are troubled and confused.

The AP reports that Citizenship and Immigration Services has been working on redesigning the citizenship test. Their goal is:

Instead of memorizing facts and details about American government and history, new immigrants will be assessed on their grasp of the nation’s ideals.

The questions are to be open ended and allow for a variety of possible answers. However, given the recent hysteria over immigration, which seems to be driven in large part by a fear of brown people, I wonder if the new questions are designed to keep brown people from becoming citizens, the way the literacy tests were administered in the past, to keep brown people from voting. In the literacy tests different questions were administered, and different answers allowed, depending on the color of the would be voter’s skin. Leaving the immigration test answers open to a number of interpretations makes this possibility particularly worrisome.

“Some of the questions are just off the wall,” said Fred Tsao, policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Chicago. “Other questions I found unusual. And the range of information that’s being asked for is much broader.”

You can see more about the new test by googling: US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

It is also worrisome that the questions seem to require more knowledge about our government than some of the current leaders of our government possess. The first question cited as an example is: Why do we have three branches of government. The answer is so that no one branch is too powerful. But I don’t think the current US President or his cronies understand that particular aspect of the “nation’s ideals.”

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