A longtime observer of George W. Bush noted the other day that under Bush, the government has moved away from basing policy on science, expertise and professionalism, in favor of policies based on ideology and religion. This can be painful for the people affected by the policies, such as school children subjected to sex education programs that teach only abstinence, not mentioning the ways that students who don’t abstain — and there are some — can protect themselves from pregnancy and disease. If they’re going to fool around, they deserve to get knocked up and/or die, seems to be the idea, and it is advanced with public tax dollars. Three states — Maine, California and Pennsylvania — have turned down federal money for abstinence-only sex education programs. Others are being asked to do so by the American Civil Liberties Union. Since 1980, the Maine Department of Education has taken a comprehensive approach to sex education, including teaching about contraception. Acceptance of the federal money would have required Maine schools to refrain from such teaching. Dr. Dora Ann Mills, Maine’s public health director, said, “This money is more harmful than it is good.” The ACLU of Arkansas is sending letters to Arkansas school officials asking them to carefully examine their federally funded abstinence-only programs for inaccuracy and bias. Suppressing information that could save children’s lives is, as Rita Sklar of the Arkansas ACLU says, “unforgivable.” One’s freedom to pursue his religion does not include the right to sacrifice his neighbor’s child. Those looters shown in the flooded streets of New Orleans were small potatoes compared to the corporate looters who followed. Is there any disaster, natural or man-made, that the Halliburton Co. doesn’t descend on like a fly on dung and start collecting millions of dollars for itself? Is the vice president’s former employer ever required to bid on a government contract, or are they all just handed over by accommodating bureaucrats? Still awfully busy in Iraq, Halliburton found time to grab a piece of the action precipitated by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, where federal agencies are awarding billions of dollars worth of contracts for cleanup and reconstruction. A Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, is represented by President Bush’s former campaign manager, who is also a former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Good hire. According to the New York Times, more than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion worth of contracts awarded by FEMA alone were awarded without bidding or with only limited competition. We’re betting that Kellogg Brown got its share. When this administration isn’t making decisions based on religion and ideology, it bases them on rewarding its friends.

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