No, not really. Mostly I hang out at home watching TV, faking my time reports, and padding my expenses.

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Foreign aid is one of the dirty words the right invented during the last thirty years. Though it has always been the actual practice of presidents, left and right to continue some policy of foreign aid. Few movement conservatives in government would advise that we stop giving foreign aid to Egypt for instance, while they’re not much of a democratic government, they’d certainly be worse under fundamentalist Muslims. Foreign aid for healthcare and education is a humanitarian effort, the kind of fuzzy warm thing that progressive minded Americans embrace and which makes much of the right gag, but not neccessarily everyone that votes Republican. With so many people supporting the idea of helping other nations, some reasons alturistic and some not, the problem for the conservative political machine can be solved by the corny, but somewhat effective magic trick called compassionate conservatism. Which brings us to Bush’s version of the Clear Skies Initiative for the world’s poorest residents. Just as Clear Skies was a gift to polluters, Bush’s Millenium Challenge Corporation while disguised as aid to the most deserving is anything but, MCA is another bureaucratic boondoogle, according to the Whitehouse web site,

In his March 14 speech President Bush directed that countries be identified based on “a set of clear and concrete and objective criteria” that would be applied “rigorously and fairly.” The President stated that the Millennium Challenge Account will “reward nations that root out corruption, respect human rights, and adhere to the rule of law… invest in better health care, better schools and broader immunization… [and] have more open markets and sustainable budget policies, nations where people can start and operate a small business without running the gauntlets of bureaucracy and bribery.”

If I didn’t know the source or if I was a Main Street Mom and Pop conservative this all sounds pretty good. Clear Skies sounded good too. Only MCA is just another conservative menage a trois where language, meaning, intent, and practice is perverted beyond recognition. It is supposed to promote free trade, yet we all know by now that the conservative idea of free trade is to open up a countries’ market for corporate interests to exploit cheap labor, extract resources without fair compensation, and foul the environment. All things that Mom and Pop would not approve of if they knew the sordid details. Bush’s Fake Aid

Instead of hiring aid experts, the administration at first staffed the MCC with conservative ideologues. Rather than partnering with other countries, the White House operated on its own, disconnected from the rest of the world. And when experts criticized the new agency, the administration responded with a bunker mentality, refusing to talk to detractors and learn from its mistakes.

Today, four years after the president announced his initiative, the MCC has signed compacts with six countries — offering only $1.2 billion in assistance. In February, Bush released a budget for 2007 that falls another $2 billion short of his pledge, bringing the total aid to less than half of what he promised. And the new budget once again pushes back the goal, stating that the administration “expects” to provide $5 billion annually in 2008.

“Not only has President Bush broken his word on funding, he has not put in the effort required to turn this excellent idea into a lifesaving reality,” says Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, the international aid organization co-founded by Bono.

Exposed: The Religious Right’s Gambling Problem

Wim Wenders, who made an old favorite of mine called Paris, Texas with character actor hall of famer Harry Dean Stanton, has a new film out called Don’t Come Knocking, this is part of Wender’s synopsis,

Howard Spence has seen better days. When he was younger he was a movie star, mostly in Westerns. At the age of sixty, Howard uses drugs, alcohol and young girls to avoid the painful truth that there are only supporting roles left for him to play. After yet another night of debauchery in his trailer, Howard awakens in disgust to find that he is still alive, but that nobody in the world would have missed him if he had died.

That morning Howard is absent from the film set. Instead, we see him galloping away on his movie horse in his costume full cowboy regalia.
But there is no camera filming him this time. Howard is fleeing, from the film and his life.

OK, road picture, Sam Shephard, Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Tim Roth and Sarah Polley. Did I say road picture, old cars, trailers, horses, an aging bad boy finally grows up, salons, blue western skies. Apple trailer here. there’s even an iPod version.

Senator Harkin redemns himself, via Daily Kos

DURBIN: I’ll tell you point blank that to argue that there was some sort of a briefing of members of Congress is to ignore the obvious. Ninety-six senators have not heard any details of what is happening with this warrantless wiretap.

In addition, there are only eight members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are now being given some sort of a briefing.

Let me tell you what I believe led to Senator Feingold’s censure resolution, the utter frustration that this Republican Senate refuses to ask the hard questions in oversight of this administration about this war, about the use of warrantless wiretaps, about statements made by the president to the American people that there’ll be no wiretapping without court orders.

We know now that in many of these instances, the American people deserve answers. And this Republican Senate has refused to do it. I think that’s why Senator Feingold introduced this resolution….

“Were you good at it?”

I glanced at Mike. No help there. He could have been working out his tax returns or figuring the age of the universe or reminiscing fondly about his last meal at Le Bernardin.

“I was good at it.”

“Why’d you stop doing it?” I saw Mike’s shoulders stiffen. The man stopped playing with his pen. I took a deep breath.

“Personal reasons,” I said. He was quiet for a while.

“It was your choice? They didn’t ask you to leave?”

“It was my choice.”

The man leaned back in his chair. “And the private investigating, are you good at that, too?” I paused. This was getting old.

“No, not really. Mostly I hang out at home watching TV, faking my time reports, and padding my expenses.” The man sat up. He held his pen in his fist, looking at me, the first stirrings of anger on his brow. Mike turned around, his face in neutral. I went on, speaking evenly, matter-of-factly.

“What do you expect me to say? Of course I’m going to say I’m good. And that could be true or it could be a load of crap. And there’s not much we can talk about here that will tell you one way or the other. I can understand your position. You’ve got a problem, and it must be a bad one if you need to hire someone like me. I imagine the last thing you want is to make it worse by involving some clown who’s incompetent, indiscreet, greedy, or worse. I’m not that clown, but you’ve got to take Mike’s word on that. Or not.”

from the novel BLACK MAPS written by Peter Spiegelman