Saturday, March 03, 2007

Quote of the Day

Balloon Juice's Tim F. on one enduring lesson of the Walter Reed fiasco-
"The enduring lesson of the Bush years [is that] people who don’t believe in government do a crappy job when they try to run it. You can look practically anywhere in government today and find the same story – managing the occupation of Iraq, science, women’s health, disaster management. Officials in environmental and corporate oversight always seem to have long histories as lobbyists and short to nonexistent experience in management. Nominating Harriet Miers to The Supreme Court is about the most clear-cut and undeniable show of contempt for government institutions imaginable. They simply don’t care enough about the job, even initiatives that they like, to make sure that it gets done right...

...People who use our present circumstances to argue that government can’t manage its way out of a paper bag are either fooling you or fooling themselves. Of course government breaks down when it’s run by people who don’t care to do the job right. Contrary to the bill of goods that ideological partisans want to sell you, that is far from an argument that government shouldn’t take the lead in fixing problems. Rather it is a rock-solid case for putting people in charge who care about doing the job right and have a decent sense of how to go about it."

What he said.

[UPDATE (3/5): This story isn't isolated... new reports show it's not just Walter Reed.]

Breaking News: Healthcare Is Important To People

Here's a poll shocker... the majority of Americans want the same level of access to healthcare that is offered in pretty much every first-world country besides our own. And yes, people are willing to make some minor sacrifices in order to get a universal, guaranteed system put in place. But given that a certain political party's base so views any level of government to the left of Reagan as socialist that they've actually fought the impending minimum wage increase (for an example), I'm sure we'll get there by 2010 2015 eventually.

From the NY Times-
A majority of Americans say the federal government should guarantee health insurance to every American, especially children, and are willing to pay higher taxes to do it, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

While the war in Iraq remains the overarching issue in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, access to affordable health care is at the top of the public’s domestic agenda, ranked far more important than immigration, cutting taxes or promoting traditional values...

...Americans showed a striking willingness in the poll to make tradeoffs to guarantee health insurance for all, including paying as much as $500 more in taxes a year and forgoing future tax cuts.

But the same divisions that doomed the last effort at creating universal health insurance, under the Clinton administration, are still apparent. Americans remain divided, largely along party lines, over whether the government should require everyone to participate in a national health care plan, and over whether the government would do a better job than the private insurance industry in providing coverage...

...While Democrats are traditionally strong supporters of expanding health coverage, this survey found many Republicans and independents in agreement...

I think that the article is right that healthcare (or more specifically, larger economic worries and concerns as a whole) will be the major domestic decider in the next presidential race... I think we all know what the top foreign decider will be. Those larger economic concerns certainly played an important role in the '06 midterms, particularly in the election of 'purple state' Democrats like Sherrod Brown, Jim Webb, and Jon Tester (to name just a few). I look forward, maybe just naively, to a substantive debate on these issues over the next two years. Like most issues, though, voters are way ahead of the politicians on this one, of course.

But what do I know? I'm one of those crazy liberals you read about from time to time.

Going Nukular

President Bush is determined to stop the spead of nuclear arms in these dangerous times.

And like his Republican predecessors Nixon and Reagan, he's willing to lead by example... nevermind.

LA Times: U.S. to develop new hydrogen bomb

Friday, March 02, 2007


It's making a comeback.

AP: Army secretary resigns in scandal's wake

[UPDATE: Harry Shearer laments how such accountability couldn't apply to the Gulf Coast.]

A Grand Old Party

Lost in all the post-election media discussion last November about Iraq, congressional corruption, governmental overreach, out-of-control spending, etc, was a more low-key reason why so many were happy to throw the GOP bums out... the fact that the Republican Party (as it exists today, and has degenerated since the 1980s) is controlled by extremists and authoritarians who represent this country's worst instincts.

Their greatest successes have always been at marketing (ie. getting one of the most undemocratic bills of the past decade named the 'Patriot Act', painting opposition to war as hatred of the troops), which is how they were able to create the narrative that it is their opposition that is 'out of the mainstream'. Reality has slowly been killing that narrative.

This weekend is the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, the year's biggest GOP gathering. In attendance are Vice President Cheney, Tony Snow, Mitt Romney, Rudy Guiliani, Newt Gingrich and many other conservative heavyweights. If you are looking for a place to find my above opinions of the Grand Old Party smashed, you'd do well to avoid any coverage of this conference.

Yesterday, I linked to a discussion noting that one reason conservatives are rallying around Guiliani (despite his holding social positions they despise) is because of his 'tribal authoritarianism'. Well-known conservative blogger John Derbyshire says issues-schmissues and says what makes my former Mayor so appealing is "his Gestalt [which] screams ANTI-LIBERAL!". This is today's GOP in a nutshell. All positions-- supporting the war, global warming denial, civil liberties violations-- are judged through a combative prism, in this case pissing off the libs.

Here's some CPAC highlights...

There's GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway dissing Sen. Obama because people didn't know who he was on 9/11 or something (?). There's Vice President Cheney cracking revisionist jokes about Iraq. Here's 2008 front-runner Rudy Guiliani not sure if he agrees with himself.

And there's honored guest She-Who-Must-Not-Named, after getting a shout-out from '08 candidate Mitt Romney, delivering this line to wild audience applause: "I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.” Good times! See you next year!

Andrew Sullivan is blogging from the conference and sums it up this way-
"It's a party that wants nothing to do with someone like me. All I heard and saw was loathing: loathing of Muslims, of 'illegals,' of gays, of liberals, of McCain. The most painful thing for me was the sight of so many young people growing up believing that this is conservatism. I feel like an old-style Democrat in 1968."

I just feel ashamed. And I don't see this changing anytime soon.

[UPDATE (3/3): Mike Stark notices one group conspiciously absent from the CPAC crowds.]

Headline of the Day

AP: Swiss accidentally invade Liechtenstein

U.S. Agrees To Regional Diplomacy?!? {*Faints*}

Here's some big news this week... not a major shift in U.S. policy, but a slight turn-
Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, have agreed to join U.S. and British representatives at a regional conference here on the Iraqi security crisis, government officials said Wednesday...

..."Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, even the U.S and Britain have informed us they will participate," he said, although Tehran has said publicly it has made no decision. Abawi also said China had agreed to attend...

....Washington's willingness to attend the conference marked a diplomatic turnabout after months of refusing dialogue with Tehran over calming the situation in Iraq.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that the United States would join the meeting and that Washington supported the Iraqi government's invitation to Iran and Syria...

...Iran has said in past months it is willing to meet with the United States to discuss how to calm the violence in Iraq. But tensions have increased dramatically between the two countries recently...

This doesn't really change anything in terms of the nuclear debate with Iran, but at this point any day in which the U.S. is agreeing to a diplomatic summit Iran is also involved with rather than threatening them with war is probably a good day. The soft bigotry of low expectations at work.

I think it's safe to say, though, that this was all the State Department's doing and that Cheney and other White House hardliners are mumbling violently to themselves right now.

Their ideological brethren, the brave laptop/thinktank warriors known as neoconservatives, are indeed very angry at this diplomatic turn of events. More violence now, please!!

(Oh, and that Iranian weapons story? It continues to fizzle out. But it will live on as legend.)

And for the cynics out there, I must highlight this part-
The Bush administration waited to embrace the idea until Iraq had made progress on a law governing national distribution of oil revenue...

...The failure of Iraq's parliament to pass the oil law has been an irritant in U.S.-Iraqi relations. The difficulty is symbolic of Iraq's regional, factional and political divisions, and passage is seen by the United States as a key marker of the government's will and ability to work across those divides.

Ahhh, there we go. There's that old reliable oil angle we know and love.

Finally, our new military chiefs in chief of the Iraq situation are giving us yet another-- yep, you guessed it-- six months to finish this war. And if you believe that they really mean this final last push this time, I have some African yellowcake I'd to sell you.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Odds and Ends

Here's another round of miscellaneous news that almost fell through the cracks....

I blogged yesterday about the continuingly deplorable saga wounded soldiers face at Walter Reed medical center. The administration's mostly avoided this subject, but at least one person in charge-- Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman-- has been relieved of his command in the fallout. But wait, what's that? Time to meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Meanwhile, the hospital's advice for soldiers wanting an outlet to talk? Go to Starbucks.

President Bush visited the Gulf Coast today for the first time in half a year. American flags and promises for all! Looks like the recovery process photo-op was a complete success.

The House today passed the Employee Free Choice Act, which helps unions.

The city of Boston continues to be run by the nation's dumbest, most keystone-iest cops.

Republicans like Rudy Guiliani because he's a 'tribal authoritarian'. Democrats like Barack Obama because he turned out to be 100% right on the big issue of our time.

9 million uninsured children are voting for Susie Flynn, though.

The story about the purged U.S. Attorneys looks like only the tip of the iceberg.

Finally, should we be more concerned about what is happening in Pakistan?

Meanwhile, On Capitol Hill...

Not sure how if there are any Mac users reading this, but here's something geeky fun just in case. There's a widget called 'Vote Watch' which tracks the most recent bills to be voted on in the House and Senate. Very handy! It lists the bills for each house, along with whether it passed or not. You can also see how your local representative or senators voted. Download today!

Speaking of Congress, the war debate (particularly in the Senate) hasn't gotten any less silly since last week. There's a lot of disagreement among frustrated voters about all of this... Are Senate leaders doing the best they can with a Republican majority that is mostly holding the line on the votes? Are Democrats wimping out and not taking the harder line advocated by people like Sen. Feingold? As I noted two weeks ago, I am torn between these two sides.

But I know that Democrats could, and should, be taking a more agressive stance, even given the difficulty of securing GOP votes. At the least, they should call the GOP's bluff and force them to take what everyone knows is actually the unpopular stance on the war.

With things at a standstill, I find it hard to articulate my feelings on all of this more than I have. So I will move on for now and pass on some related listening/reason on this increasingly frustrating subject.

-KCRW's 'To The Point': Iraq and the Democrats
-Daily Kos: Congressional Impasse on Iraq?

[PS- This is more like it, though. It's a start, anyway.]

White House Threatens To Veto 9/11 Commission Bill...

...Because of a provision allowing airport workers to unionize.

And there you go.

Recommended Reading

I read 'em. I liked 'em. I'm passing them along...

-Glenn Greenwald: Cheney's contempt for American public opinion

-The Cunning Realist: A Shattered Glass, Half Full

-Eric Alva (HuffPost): Don't Ask, Don't Tell: From the Inside Out

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

World-Renowned Scientist Matt Drudge 'Exposes' Al Gore Again

Like clockwork, the Oscar win for Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' was immediately followed by right-wing "exposes" of his alleged environmental hypocrisy, the same ones that have been continuously debunked for almost a year now. This is how the right-wing base in this country works. When confronted with a serious issue (global warming, troubles in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc), they do not respond with thoughtful analysis of the problem and suggestions for solutions. No, their immediate instinct is to kill the messenger with diversionary attacks (ie. the treason rhetoric toward Congress for confronting the war).

It's a tactic that served them well up until the 2006 midterm elections, but they just can't give up their favorite toy too easily. These campaigns are more of an intellectual indictment of them than any of their targets.

Mr. Drudge in particular has made a hobby out of global warming denial and, as connected fun, attacking Al Gore. See past examples- here, here, and here for starters. Like most of Mr. Drudge's 'scoops', they quickly disappear from his front page (and sometimes the site all together) when it turns out they are-- how should I put this politely-- full of shit.

Al Gore quickly responded to Drudge's antics, however, detailing the many ways he is working to make his lifestyle greener and his committment to erasing his 'carbon footprint', something we all should be lucky enough to have the means to do. And I think it's pretty safe to say that those who seem to indicate Gore should be going further in this regard are the same people who seem proud of their environmental disregard.

Some takes on this faux-scandal from Keith Olbermann, Stephen Colbert, and Will Bunch.

I'll say it again and again... if the right-wing put half as much energy into actually trying to find solutions to the world's problems as they do into attacking their perceived political enemies, we'd be living in a fairy-tale utopia by now.

White House Purging Unfriendly U.S. Attorneys?

Here's a developing scandal of Nixonesque arrogance to keep an eye on...

It first came out in January that numerous U.S. Attorneys had been pushed out at the behest of the White House, and replaced with political cronies. A little-known provision of the Patriot Act made all of this possible (what a wonderful bill, isn't it?). The White House has been in full spin-mode ever since, with some promises of confirmation mentioned and the most egregious crony appointments (ie. a former associate of Karl Rove) being withdrawn.

It's a complicated story to follow but, with a number of Senators now looking into it and with even more damning revelations about GOP machinations behind this, it's going to pick up steam very soon.

Salon has a great analysis up on this, for those new to the story.

More summaries/updates from Talking Points Memo and Washington Monthly.

The North Korea Deal... An Update

So far, so good??

AP: U.S.: N. Korea implementing nuclear deal

[UPDATE: Turns out we were completely off the mark on their nuclear program.

NY Times analysis on yet another Bush foreign policy 'oops'- here.]

Meanwhile, In Afghanistan...

More bad news from the forgotten war...

NY Times: Afghan Bombing Sends a Danger Signal to U.S.

It's The Real Economy, Stupid!

Been out of it for the past few days, so I have a backlog of things I wanted to write about. One thing I wanted to post was this Tom Toles cartoon from Monday, which perfectly summarizes the odd curiousity that is the economic debate in this country (characterized by a huge divide between the fancy things 'smart' people say and the reality most people actually live with). I'm no brilliant economist or pundit myself, but I think the point Toles is making is a pretty simple one. But hey, what the hell do I know?

I'm sure it'll trickle down eventually, I don't think Reagan would've lied about that...

[Some related reading for you unamerican fools who care about this sort of thing:
-NY Times: From Shanghai, Tremors Heard Around the World
-Think Progress: The state of the economy is…sluggish]

Wounded Soldiers Told Not To Hurt Poll Numbers Troop Morale By Discussing Reality

Or at least that's my interpretation of this story-
Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training....

....The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

Whose 'freedom' are they supposedly fighting for? Sounds like they need some liberating.

[hat-tip: Balloon Juice]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Odds and Ends

I've got a case of the Mondays, so no energy for any blogging today. Have a feeling it'll be that kind of week too. In the meantime, though, I'm passing along some stories I've come across in the past day or two that I found of interest.

Here's what's going on in the world (with related links in parentheses)...

NY Times: Christian Right Labors to Find ’08 Candidate

LA Times: U.N. calls U.S. data on Iran's nuclear aims unreliable (Related)

The New Yorker (Seymour Hersh): THE REDIRECTION-- Is the Administration’s new policy benefitting our enemies in the war on terrorism? (Related) Bush and Cheney admit Democrats are forcing them to get tough on terror (Related)

McClatchy Newspapers: U.S. economy leaving record numbers in severe poverty

Washington Post: Baghdad Plan Has Elusive Targets (Related)

Think Progress: Gibson: Reporters Who Ignore Anna Nicole Smith To Focus On Iraq War Are ‘Snobs’

Reuters: Western states united to bypass Bush on climate (Related)

[PS- I also want to plug a fantastic new online resource-- Open Congress-- a website which tracks all the bills that are working their way through the House and Senate, with full details. It promises to "give you the real story behind each bill". Add to your bookmarks.]

An Inconvenient Oscar

Congrats to my main man Al Gore, whose 'An Inconvenient Truth' scored at the Oscars.

[Related reading: Al Gore, Rock Star (Washington Post)

UPDATE: Conservatives are funny. Maybe they need some fresh air, if they can find it.]