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Today's Note From a Madman

Monday, May 1, 2006

A Bush Quote and a McClellan Quote in the Lead

"a turning point,"
-President Bush referring to yet another Iraqi turining point

On this day, the third anniversary of "Mission Accomplished" (the day they GW donned a flight suit and landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner that read "Mission Accomplished"), President "G"lobal "W"arming Bush has some good news for all of us. The war with Iraq has hit yet another in a series of "turning points".

"We're on the way to accomplishing the mission and achieving victory."
-Outgoing Press Secretary Scott McClellan after being questioned by a White House reporter as to whether Presdent Bush would stand under another "Mission Accomplished" banner today.

All of this leaves me to make this observation: If the mission was accomplished in Iraq three years ago, and, assuming that Mr. McClellan is actually telling the truth when he says "We're on the way to accomplishing the mission," then we can make the assumption that the mission is, in fact, not accomplished. But if GW was telling the truth three years ago, and this is just the last in a series of Bush administration self-proclaimed "turning-points", then we have to assume that some of those "turning-points" "turned" in the wrong direction.

Or, as Sam Seder of Air America Radio's Majority Report sort of said tonight "With all of those turning points, the Bush administration seems to have been going around in circles."

-Noah Greenberg

Rice on the Defensive

Could it be? Is it true? Another former employee of the Bush regime has come out to tell the truth.

It's just too bad that none of them will do it while they're still employed.

The question is this: Did the US allocate enough troops to win the war AND the peace in Iraq? The answer is a resounding "No."

Although original plans to invade Iraq had a troop force of nearly five hundred thousand, time after time these plans were rejected. What we didn't know until today was that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was actually on the side of caution rather than the side of stupid. In 2003, he advised President Bush to send in more troops, as the generals had originally recommended. And because of this revelation, Powell's replacement, Condoleezza Rice, who was then Bush's National Security Advisor, had to spend her face time on the Sunday talking head shows defending the Bush invasion mistakes of 2003 rather than spinning how good we all have it and how well the war in Iraq is going.

"I don't remember specifically what Secretary Powell may be referring to, but I'm quite certain that there were lots of discussions about how best to fulfill the mission that we went into Iraq,"

Ah... the infamous Bushite defense, also known as the Sergeant Schultz (from Hogan's Heroes) Defense: I know nothing! I see nothing!

"And I have no doubt that all of this was taken into consideration. But that when it came down to it, the president listens to his military advisers who were to execute the plan,"

"I don't remember anything being said, and if it were said I don't remember the details... but even if I remembered the details, the details don't matter... and if the details did matter, they certainly weren't ignored... and if the details were ignored, it wasn't intentional... and..." This is the administration of spin.

There was one battle-tested member of the Bush administration in 2003, and it was Secretary of State, General Colin Powell. As far as offering advice on troop levels, Powell was not alone. All one has to do is read Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward, a book that was listed in the Bush-Cheney re-election website as a "must read" to discover that time and time again the generals, including CENTCOM commander and Bush supporter, General Tommy Franks, had to modify the plans for Iraq to satisfy Rumsfeld and his gaggle of underlings, the "never-served chicken-hawks", who insisted that we'd be in Iraq for only a short time.

"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
-Secretary of Defense Donald "We Don't Know What We Don't Know" Rumsfeld

Do you "doubt" a generation, Rummy?

"I made the case to General Franks and Secretary Rumsfeld before the president that I was not sure we had enough troops. The case was made, it was listened to, it was considered. ... A judgment was made by those responsible that the troop strength was adequate."

Whatever happened to using "overwhelming force" as a way to win a quick war with few casualties? This theme of the "Powell Doctrine" was used by President Herbert Walker Bush in 1991 during the first Iraq War and was successful, so why not listen to Rumsfeld now? I guess it's easier to rip-off the American people so your war profiteering buddies can make a buck or a few billion than it is to win a war and save lives. When the Bush administration is faced with dollars vs. the lives of American Children, the latter will always lose out. When they err, they err on the side of their "base" of "haves and have-mores".

"The decisions that were made were not made by me or Mr. Cheney or Rumsfeld. They were made by the president of the United States... And my responsibility was to tell him (President Bush) what I thought. And if others were going in at different times and telling him different things, it was his decision to decide whether he wanted to listen to that person or somebody else."

Hey General Powell... You should know by now that the buck never stops in the oval office.


Asking someone with ZERO battlefield experience what it takes is to win a war is just stupid. Taking their advice over someone whose strategy was the one that won your father a war is almost CRIMINAL. Finding out that those whose advice you took had a lot to gain during a long, drawn-out war, and then telling the whole nation that they're doing a "great job"... PRICELESS!

Rice not only had to defend the early decisions, she had to defend the latter decisions as well. During one of her interviews, The Secretary was presented with evidence that the former administrative head of the "Coalition of the Willing", L. Paul Bremmer, after asking the advice of the "generals on the ground" what it would take to win the peace in Iraq, sent a memo to Donald Rumsfeld that stated it would take three times the amount of troops that were there to do the job. That's a troop level of more than half a million troops, for those of you without a calculator.

"There will be time to go back and look at those days of the war and, after the war, to examine what went right and what went wrong,"

There will be no time if this is a never-ending war whose sole-purpose looks as if it is to keep the war profiteering buddies of the Bush-Cheney administration in paper clips and golden toilets.

"the goal and the purpose now is to make certain that we take advantage of what is now a very good movement forward on the political front to help this Iraqi government,"

How many times have we heard statements like that, Ms. Rice? How many times have we heard the rhetoric of "last throes" or "mushroom clouds" for us not to take anything you say seriously?

As a nation, we are now more afraid of our leaders' intentions that that of our enemies. In fact, they are getting harder to tell apart.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Little more than a decade ago the U.S. led the world in education: our students ranked first in language skills–reading, writing, English. In 2006, the U.S. ranks 24th in the world in language skills.

One in five public high school students is functionally illiterate in English; two in five Latino students are functionally illiterate in both English and Spanish.

But worse even than that illiteracy statistic: One in three high school students drops out before graduation.

That's a national statistic encompassing rural and inner city schools. Among inner city students the number is 50 percent. For students of color the numbers are even higher: 50 percent nationwide for African-American students and close to 70 percent for Latino students. Statistics for Philadelphia and other major cities mirror this alarming national trend.

According to the head of the Philadelphia School District, Paul Vallas, who spoke in March at a symposium on the dropout crisis at Community College of Philadelphia, the reasons are myriad and begin even before a child starts going to school. Vallas notes that pre-school programs introducing children to the techniques and tools for learning are key to preparing children for 12 years of primary and secondary education. Without these pre-school programs that acquaint children with books, elementary language and math skills, appropriate social interaction with other children, kids start out at a deficit that may never be recovered during the next nine years of school (as freshmen in high school, students are at greatest risk of becoming chronic truants and falling so far behind in classes that they drop out).
Pre-school programs have been shown to be vital to further education, but kids are not attending those programs because in most communities they no longer exist.

Across the country pre-school programs for public school children have been cut by more than half since George Bush took office. In addition, the much-vaunted "No Child Left Behind Act" has been to education what FEMA was for Hurricane Katrina victims: disaster compounding disaster. Teachers nationwide have complained that the Act encourages cheating (numerous school districts have been caught manipulating test scores) and devalues actual education. Even Education Secretary Margaret Spellings acknowledges that the program, which emphasizes test scores rather than actual acquired learning skills, has been a dismal failure.

Why are America's public school students leaving in droves for lives of dead-end low-paying jobs (nearly 70 percent of dropouts only earn the minimum wage), serial unemployment (more than half of all dropouts between the ages of 16 and 26 are unemployed) or, worst of all, prison (67 percent of prison inmates in the U.S. are high school dropouts)? The reasons for this exponential drop in educational success are myriad, but there are specifics: What leads to the high drop out rate among public school children are several key elements.

Poverty, class and race cannot be over-emphasized as factors. Private school students have a less than five percent drop out rate nationally and in the best private schools, like Philadelphia's Germantown Friends School, the graduation rates are 99 percent. In addition, private school students have a college entrance rate of 97 percent as compared to a college entrance rate of 27 percent overall for public high school students.

In Philadelphia, more than 70 percent of public high school students are non-white and nearly all of the city's schools are racially segregated. Central and Girl's High were once the city's top high schools–magnet schools from which the best and the brightest throughout the city came. The graduation rates were near 100 percent and the college entrance rates equivalent to the best private schools. The schools were racially and ethnically mixed and that diversity added to the academic challenges offered by the school. Many of Philadelphia's elite–doctors, lawyers, politicians–were graduated from those two high schools.

Those days are over. The once-prestigious Philadelphia High School for Girls from which my grandmother, mother and sister all graduated, the best public school for girls in the nation, is now just another high school. The once-diverse student body is gone; the school is now wholly African-American, riddled with the same problems as Germantown High School, Roxborough, Ben Franklin and other inner city schools: crime, violence and poor achievement. We simply don't seem to care as much about our poor students as we once did about our more economically mixed student body.

Whether by neglect or design, America is creating a permanent underclass and the breeding ground for it are the racially and economically segregated schools our children are attending.

None of the public schools in my neighborhood has a library. How can children learn without books? Computers? Non-existent. And since the majority of children attending public schools in Philadelphia and other cities and towns in the U.S. are poor, working-poor or lower middle-class, there is little likelihood that books and computers will be in their homes. Without essential reading and computer skills, these kids cannot compete with their peers from private schools for college entrance or jobs. There are no jobs today–except janitorial positions–that don't require some computer knowledge.

When I attended Girl's High in the 1970s, all my classmates went on to college. We were taught with the presumption that we would not only achieve, but be able to leave our public school confident that we had been given the same skills as other girls in private schools like Friends or Agnes Irwin on the Main Line. And we indeed received a quality education that prepared us for the best colleges.

Not so today. Throughout the Philadelphia high school system there is chaos, not higher education. Classrooms are notorious for overcrowding, lack of discipline, lack of textbooks, lack of seating; how can a child learn in a classroom where there are not enough desks or books and where there is so much screaming and yelling that the teacher cannot teach? When students are screened for weapons, when girls are being raped in stairwells, when gangs of boys and girls are terrorizing the students who do want to learn, how can education happen?

The class and racial segregation that are the underpinning–and which are tearing apart the fabric of education–in America's public schools today makes the days before *Brown v. Topeka* look nostalgic by comparison. In the years before the desegregation of the schools students of color were not allowed to go to white-only schools, but they were at least receiving a similar education–an education that emphasized learning and discipline and promised a future for its graduates. *Brown v. Topeka* stipulated that a separate education could not be an equal one.

But what do we have today? Still separate and far less equal.

In today's public schools, segregation is the norm–not just by race and ethnicity, but by economic class. Thus while a classroom at Germantown Friends is racially and ethnically mixed and all those kids are getting the same education, in high schools from the Northeast (all white) to North Philly (all black), the students are not getting the same education as their counterparts at Friends. Instead they are being warehoused until they drop out, are pushed out or limp toward graduation with skills far below their private-school peers. Part of the racism and classism that fuels the public school system in America is this: poor students, regardless of race or ethnicity, are presumed to be less smart and less able or willing to learn. There is a dumbing-down that occurs in public schools that has been exacerbated by the No Child Left Behind Act, by the adamant refusal to consider busing (which once provided a more equal footing for students) and by the lack of expectations for public school students.

Some students drop out because they have fallen too far behind to catch up. Some students drop out because they think school doesn't matter and no one, at home or at school, has made an effort to convince them otherwise. And some students drop out because they are smart and creative and are not being challenged academically to achieve beyond the warehousing policies of most public schools today.

There are other impediments to educating our public school students and poverty is one of them. Last week, ABC's *Nightline* aired a segment about a teacher who discovered a majority of her students were coming to school hungry–they couldn't learn on an empty stomach. That teacher organized a food drive for her school, which she is trying to expand to other schools. But her story–and that of her students–combined with the comments of Vallas and other educators, indicates the range of issues that must be considered when trying to create a plan to stop the hemorrhaging of students out of our schools.

A student drops out of school every nine seconds in America.

As people said repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina and the astounding images of that horrifying tragedy, America is not a Third World nation. But that is how our public schools are operating–like schools in underdeveloped nations with no access to books, computers and the other accouterments of basic learning.

Walk through a Philadelphia public school outside of Center City or Chestnut Hill and you find peeling paint, broken windows, falling ceilings, darkened stairwells, locked doors, flooded or broken bathrooms. No libraries. Most of our schools look like the old high-rise projects–and those have mostly been torn down and replaced with town homes with gardens. If we can make our public housing more habitable, why can't we do that in our public schools?

A majority of Americans believe that public schools are in crisis. This is why so many families want vouchers to send their children to school elsewhere. But a viable and thriving public school system is essential for a nation in which more than 50 million people live at or below the poverty level. The children of the poor and working poor must send their kids to public school; they have no option. In neighborhoods like Germantown, East Mount Airy, Roxborough, Kensington, Frankford and West and North Philly, there are no opportunities to go to private schools. The kids in these predominantly poor and working class neighborhoods–white, black and Latino–have one option for education and that is public school.

So why aren't we giving them more?

I don't have children of my own, but I know how important it is for the children of my neighborhood to be educated. Any afternoon I can drive through Germantown and see kids who should be in school lounging on steps, hanging out on corners. What is being done to get these kids back in school?

In Philadelphia, kids can drop out of school as early as ninth grade with a parent's permission. Why would any parent allow their child to drop out? And why does the School District allow dropouts at such an early age? Where is the intervention?

Some states are enacting legislation that bars dropouts from getting driver's licenses and work permits. But punitive measures only encourage crime.

What is essential is a revamping of our educational system, in Philadelphia and nationally, that provides for all kids at risk of not finishing school. We need to feed our children, we need to divide classrooms so that smart students don't get bored and slower students get the extra help they need to stay current and every student has the opportunity to thrive. We need to stop driving everyone down the college path and remember that some students would be best served by vocational training that they can use once they graduate. But first and foremost we must instill in students, parents and the community at large the knowledge that without an education, kids will end up poor and jobless or in prison. We must make education not just a priority, but something to savor.

In the film *Akele and the Bee* which opened April 28th, an 11-year-old African-American girl becomes involved in a spelling bee competition after being mentored by a caring teacher. Some may think this film is just for African Americans because the main characters are black, but it is for anyone who wants to see children in America achieve and thrive and be their best selves. The message it sends is the one I am trying to send here: Our children need care and nurturing and education is both those things.

We do our whole nation a disservice when we make so little effort to educate our kids to the best of *their* ability or keep them in school until graduation (there is nothing for them on the streets except drugs and guns). These kids are the adults of tomorrow. Trite as it may sound, wouldn't we all rather have these kids be educated, functioning and contributing members of society rather than angry, bitter criminals trying to steal what they can from a society that failed them miserably when it had a chance to save them?

Education is the most important thing we can give anyone. Education is love and commitment. If we can build schools in Iraq and Afghanistan, can't we find a way to make the schools of America better for the students so desperately in need of just one teacher who cares enough to give them guidance, just one book that shows them they too can succeed, just one community that says we do not want you to fail, we want the best for you.?

Can we really justify seeing happy, well-educated, intellectually flourishing students from Germantown Friends standing at the same bus stop with angry, violent, under-educated students from Germantown High and not make some effort to change what's wrong in the public school five blocks from the private one?

We owe our kids more than we are giving them. And if we don't demand changes for these kids today and use our tax dollars accordingly, tomorrow those tax dollars will be spent supporting those same kids in our prisons.

The choice seems easy enough. It's high time we made it.

"Drip, Drip"

David Corn points out this sentence in today's Washington Post story about the firing of CIA officer Mary McCarthy as part of the agency's stepped up effort to fight leaks:

The White House also has recently barraged the agency with questions about the political affiliations of some of its senior intelligence officers, according to intelligence officials.

That sure deserves a follow-up, doesn't it? And a note to the White House: if you stop breaking the law, that would be a pretty good way to stop leaks too.

-Kevin Drum, -passed on by Victoria Brownworth

"Druggie" Limbaugh's Back in Jail

"WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Rush Limbaugh was arrested Friday on prescription drug charges, with his attorney saying he has reached a deal with prosecutors that will eventually see the charges dismissed if he continues treatment for drug addiction.
"Limbaugh turned himself in to authorities on a warrant issued by the State Attorney's Office, said Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office.
"The conservative radio commentator came into the jail at about 4 p.m. with his attorney Roy Black and left an hour later after posting $3,000 bail, Barbera said. The warrant was for fraud to conceal information to obtain prescriptions, Barbera said.
"Black said his client and prosecutors reached a settlement on a charge of doctor shopping filed Friday by the State Attorney, which Black said will be dismissed in 18 months if Limbaugh complies with court guidelines."
-The Associated Press

Tee, Hee, Hee ... Druggie Limbaugh arrested again ... throw all of the Re-Thuglicans in jail!

-Robert Scardapane

Isn't it strike three yet? -NG

Unlucky Republicans

Have you noticed the latest Re-Thuglican excuse for their disasters? Re-Thugs are supposedly just plain "unlucky". They have "bad karma". Well, I agree that America may have bad karma for years to come because of what we did in Iraq, torture, etc... But, this has nothing to do with the ReThuglican failures. It's their philosophy not their luck that is bad. Get over it Re-Thugs, you have messed up bad.

-Robert Scardapane

That’s no fair. I said that months ago (that the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party is "unlucky". It's why we need a change.. It's just like the excuse a gambler would use when they keep losing: Someday my luck has got to change. -NG

In response to "You can bet that by GW saying it's his 'inclination' that there is 'no gouging taking place', what he means to say to Commissioner Majoras, and her FTC that 'There is no gouging taking place' and "Don't cross my 'instincts' and 'inclinations'", Robert Scardapane writes:

It's a foregone conclusion that the FTC won't find any evidence of price gouging. As Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said on today's MTP, if there is no price gouging, how is it that oil companies are making the biggest profits in American history? Clearly, there are market forces at work that drive up prices but should they have risen 30% in just one year's time?

Count on the Bush-itas to do absolutely nothing except kick up dust, make noise, and hope that prices fall by November.

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-Noah Greenberg