In a straight party-line vote, ten people on the Texas "Board of Education" voted Friday to change history textbooks to advance right-wing ideological positions on historical matters (the five members of the other party voted against the measures as a whole). Because Texas is one of the most populous states in the union, the contents that it requires in its history books will affect the quality of historical education students receive in other states. (Hawai'i, for example, lacks the population leverage to push for a laid-back island view of history.) In all, the Board has passed over 100 amendments to the curriculum since the beginning of the year. According to the New York Times, "no historians, sociologists or economists" were consulted during the Board's meetings on these right-wing changes, which were spearheaded by board member and dentist Don McLeroy, who claimed expertise in a host of serious educational matters not involving tooth decay.
A pro-government television station in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia broadcast a fake, half-hour news report depicting a Russian military invasion of the country, sending fear and panic throughout Georgian citizens. The station called the broadcast a "simulation" of what a new invasion might look like. In August, 2008 Russian tanks, troops and armored vehicles invaded Georgia after Georgian troops attacked pro-Russian separatists in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia.
The U.S. media told the public for weeks that a big, offensive battle was taking place in Marja, in Afghanistan, a "city of 80,000 people" in Helmand province which was also the logistical hub of the Taliban. The description gave the impression that the U.S. presence in Marja was a major strategic objective, and that the city was more important than other district centers in the province.
Republicans and conservative news media outlets like Fox News keep repeating the error made by newly-elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, when he mistakenly called the Senate process of reconciliation "the nuclear option." The term the "nuclear option" was coined in 2005 by then-Majority Leader Trent Lott, when Democrats used the filibuster to block the appointment of appeals court judges nominated by George W. Bush. This prompted Republicans to threaten to change the Senate rules so they could cut off debate on judicial nominees using a simple 51-vote majority instead of the required 60-vote majority needed to end a filibuster. The momentousness of this change -- effectively blocking the stalling technique known as the filibuster -- moved some Democrats to dub the Republicans' threat the "nuclear option." Thus, the phrase "nuclear option" refers to a major change in the rules of the Senate, not passing a bill using reconciliation. Passing a bill -- even a large and important bill -- through reconciliation is fairly standard procedure, and has been used many times before to approve major health care reform initiatives.
It's getting clearer that conservatives would rather sling around a scary, loaded old term and hope to elicit some emotional effect than come up with a new term -- or use the right words -- to communicate what they mean.
By writing the health care reform bill as a budget bill, Senate Democrats could advance the measure using a procedure called "reconciliation," which would avoid a Republican attempt to stall the measure by filibustering it.
Even before a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision blew the lid off corporate campaign spending, it was clear that the big banks would be key players in the 2010 election cycle. Unemployment will remain high, and so will resentment against the banks -- a volatile combination that will encourage savvy members of Congress to continue to fight for meaningful reform of the financial sector.