"State of the Union Response." Never mind the "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities": From his rose-tinted picture of life in today's Afghanistan (where domestic terrorism remains entrenched) to his defense of the No Child Left Behind law that his own budget left behind, George W. Bush's Jan. 19 speech was rife with spin and outright deception. The Center for American Progress (Jan. 20) offers a point-by-point rebuttal to Bush's assertions about jobs, the economy, his tax cuts, health care and more (www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=22985).
"The Hidden State of the Union." When Bush boasted that the U.S. don't need no stinkin' "permission slip" to "defend the security of our people," he surely appealed to the rebellious teen-ager locked inside each of us. But at the same time he was also playing Big Daddy: As George Lakoff writes on the Web site Alternet.org, Bush's State of the Union language partook of a pervasive right-wing language code in which leaders assume the role of "strict father" to the nation. See Lakoff's decoder ring at www.alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=17643.
"Still A State of Emergency." In last year's State of the Union, Bush ended two years of inaction on AIDS by including the generous-sounding Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. But one year later, U.S. programs are serving less than one percent of the two million victims Bush promised to help. David Bryden of Global AIDS Alliance asserts on TomPaine.com (Jan. 20) that White House foot-dragging is a key reason that worldwide AIDS funding is still lagging -- and adds that the administration continues to oppose reforms that would make affordable life-saving drugs more readily available in poor countries (www.tompaine.com/feature2.cfm/ID/9797).
"Phoenix Rising." How worried is the White House about mounting death tolls and lack of political progress in Iraq? According to Robert Dreyfuss in The American Prospect (January 2004), it's so worried that it's pumped up covert funding for an Iraqi secret police force intended to liquidate the opposition. In a disturbing echo of the CIA's Phoenix assassination program in Vietnam and Latin American death squads, most of a secret $3 billion in new funds (out of Bush's larger Iraq appropriation) will be used for a paramilitary unit manned by militiamen linked to former Iraqi exile groups and with a penchant for extrajudicial killings, Dreyfuss reports. "The plan," he writes, "is part of a last-ditch effort to win the war before time runs out politically."