The State Of The Union In A Few Snippets

American corporations are getting ready to spend $40 Million to celebrate the swearing in of the President they bought, the guy who successfully (and laughably) portrayed himself as a man of the people. The tab will be paid for by Exxon Mobil Corp. and Bristol Meyers Squibb, among many others.

Elsewhere, Condoleeza Rice, the soon-to-be Secretary of State, proved once again that irony is completely lost on her. When asked about the shifting rationale for the war in Iraq, Dr. Rice responded thus:

“We can have this discussion in any way that you would like, but I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity,” Rice told Boxer. “I really hope that you will not imply that I take the truth lightly.”

The truth? Does she even know what the word means anymore?

Meanwhile, it’s just another day in the “war on terror,” which continues to include far too many stories like this one, about a German car salesman who says he was kidnapped, flown to Afghanistan where he was held (and tortured) for a year.

An investigation by the Washington Post last year suggested that the US held 9,000 people overseas in an archipelago of known prisons (such as Abu Ghraib in Iraq) and unknown ones run by the Pentagon, the CIA or other organisations. But this figure does not include others “rendered” to third-party governments who then act as subcontractors for Washington, enabling the US to effectively torture detainees while technically denying that it carries out torture.

And in the Post, Richard Cohen comments on the administration’s dismissal of Arabic-language service personnel because they are gay. The news is rather old, of course, but I’m glad the outrageous move is brought back into the spotlight.

This country, this government, this Congress and social conservatives in states both blue and red have so much invested in anti-gay policies that they will, if need be, jeopardize national security. It does not matter that Arabic interpreters are badly needed in Iraq, where they could save lives. What matters more — what is downright paramount — is that no gays get into the military or, if they do, that they stay deep in the closet, where, of course, they are smugly felt to belong. This is national policy.

If you think the war on terror is going poorly, wait until you see what the administation’s got cooked for social security in Bush’s second term. Paul Krugman points out the terrifying parallels between the “selling” of the Iraq war to the American public, and the current plan to “sell” the privatization of Social Security. For instance, the politicization of the agency that was intended to serve the public:

Last week Andrew Biggs, the associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration, appeared with Mr. Bush at a campaign-style event to promote privatization. There was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate for a civil servant to play such a blatantly political role. But then there was a time when it would have been considered inappropriate to appoint a professional advocate like Mr. Biggs, the former assistant director of the Cato Institute’s Project on Social Security Privatization, to such a position in the first place.

Sure enough, The New York Times reports that under Mr. Biggs’s direction, employees of the Social Security Administration are being forced to disseminate dire warnings about the system’s finances – warnings that the employees say are exaggerated.

And it’s only January, 2005.

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