Saturday, February 16, 2008

Healthcare Mandates

There's been this reflex among pundits, when the healthcare issue comes up, to automatically assess it as Sen. Clinton's strength and an issue which hurts Obama. This needs to be smacked down.

As discussed in the Los Angeles/CNN debate, the proposals of the two campaigns are very similar... except, of course, on the issue of mandated coverage. That is the lynchpin of Clinton's plan, while Obama opposes it. I oppose it as well and-- bear with me-- I will explain why.

For the record, I fully support universal health-care... meaning the type of traditional, single-payer system that most European nations have. It's not only actually universal in the true sense of the word, but it's also far more economically efficient (as blogger Atrios has noted, "close to 5% of our GDP is spent on people pushing little bits of paper back and forth between doctors and insurance companies.") Sen. Clinton's mandates would merely force every citizen to obtain some form of health insurance-- our current system and options would change little-- with some limited subsidies from the government to help ease the cost(s). The theory here is that, by forcing everyone into the pool, you can control costs better and foster responsibility among all parties.

But that's not universal healthcare... it's universal health insurance, and not even, because everyone would still have something different (different policies, costs, and standards). It's the same broken system that we have now, except we'd all have no choice but to be a part of it. Her proposal would not change the reality of a having a profit-based healthcare system. And-- unless I have misheard her (please do correct me if I am wrong)-- this is her endgame. She has no larger plans to repair this system, she simply believes that it will run smoother if we all are a part of it. This requires a serious leap of faith.

On 'Democracy Now' last week, economics journalist Robert Kuttner criticized the naivete of this position. Ignoring even how subsidies can possibly help people who are broke, he notes that-- to the insurance industry-- cost saving comes in the form "less care rather than in the form of less waste." Moreover, he states that such a forceful approach (mandates, garnishing wages) "signals that governnent is being coercive, rather than being helpful."

Sen. Obama, meanwhile, is on the record of having a single-payer system as his endgame. The Concord Monitor wrote last year that-
Obama said if he were starting from scratch, he would probably propose a single payer health care system, but because of existing infrastructure, he created a proposal to improve the current system.

He's also said that "over time it may be that we end up transitioning to such a [single-payer] system. For now, I just want to make sure every American is covered... I don't want to wait for that perfect system." This makes his proposal not just the more liberal one (good for us), but also the most pragmatic in approach (good for, you know, actually getting it passed).

So in the end, I do want universal care. But let's do it right. A half-assed approach will only damage us long-term.

Video Smörgåsbord

I'm bored, so here's links to videos to entertain us all before we go out...

On last night's 'Countdown', Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow discussed the ongoing FISA battle and how the Bush administration is being deceitful in his rhetoric.

The Center for American Progress compiled this video recently, noting how all the GOP candidates-- despite never mentioning him-- were basically running as George W. Bush 2.0

Charles Barkley is tired of all the Christian hypocrites in the Republican party.

Al Franken's running some really great ads for his Senate campaign in Minnesota.

Finally, Bill Maher's writers are back, and that means it's time for... New Rules!

Right-Wing McCain Hate... A Strategy?

As the scattered Huckabee victories this past week showed, the anyone-but-McCain GOP voter base is very large.

And because I am cynical, I can't help but wonder what the real motive is behind all this right-wing anger at Sen. McCain (coming from the establishment, I mean, not from the grassroots voters). How much is genuine anger that he doesn't wanna build a huge brick wall across the Mexican border, and how much is something more cynical? After all, someone like Rush Limbaugh doesn't have any actual principles or beliefs to be betrayed by McCain... Limbaugh admitted after the '06 midterm election losses that he was just a shill for the GOP.

So what gives? I came to a potential answer after rereading an old entry from after said midterm. Mark Noonan, at Blogs for Bush, was celebrating the victory of conservatism... in having lost the election. You see, the election was decided solely by conservatives mad that their GOP leaders had failed them, and now conservatism could begin a new era of kicking ass! It wasn't that voters rejected the President, his party, and their failed policies... no way! Voters loved conservatism; they just wanted to prove how much by purging its heretics from within the party. Or so the logic went.

And so perhaps all this McCain bashing-- with conservative promises of 'suicide votes' for Sen. Clinton-- is a preemptive strike along those lines. Even many party loyalists have acknowledged that their odds of winning this election aren't great. But the Limbaughs and Hannitys and Malkins can't accept that their ideology and party is being rejected in favor of a more positive, and progressive, direction (because conservatism can never fail). And so, they will insist that voters wanted to vote for the Republicans-- to keep terrorists from killing us all and raising our taxes-- but that McCain was just too horrible. Should've nominated Romney/Giuliani/Thompson instead and the election would've been won in a landslide! Time to fight the new, illegitimate Democratic president and prepare for the era of reborn, victorious conservatism.

Now, I'm not saying this is the case. I'm just brainstorming out loud here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The GOP vs. The Rule of Law

The authoritarians currently running the Republican Party are willing to betray any American law or tradition in the service of their Commander-in-Chief. Quite a few battles coming to a head now are illustrative of this.

On the debate over wiretapping and FISA, the GOP has refused for over two years now to make a honest case for their side, relying instead on rank fearmongering and bullying. An editorial at the National Review begins-
The legal authority for the United States intelligence community to collect foreign intelligence — information that protects Americans from terrorist attacks and that our soldiers in harm’s way rely on to do their duty — will expire at midnight on Friday. And Democrats are perfectly willing to allow that to happen.

This is false on so many fronts (we're all doomed if the Democrats don't cave quickly enough!). The biggest is that the law that will expire this weekend is the 2007 'Protect America Act', which simply amended FISA to the President's liking. Its expiration would mean that the original 1978 FISA law would be the prevailing law again. And that law more than met all of our intelligence needs from the Cold War through the post-9/11 period (and has been repeatedly updated since then). Conservatives never complained that it-- with its rubberstamp secret court and provisions for getting warrants retroactively-- was insufficient... until their President was caught violating it in secret, at which point they all mysteriously realized they hated it. To the extent that are some Democrats left "perfectly willing" to stand up to this nonsense, I salute them.

Moreover, the Democrats as a whole seemed willing to renew the 2007 bill, except they objected to the provision providing amnesty! immunity to the telecom companies who helped the President set up this spying system... a system whose roots predate 9/11! And the President made clear that he was willing to veto the bill (and thus doom us all!) if they refused to keep that provision intact. So how are we supposed to take any of this seriously?

Next issue... torture. The White House has continually insisted that "we do not torture" (at least as they define it), and yet has gone to great lengths to protect their right to not torture. Earlier this week, the Senate voted "to prohibit the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods on terror suspects." Meaning they voted in favor of a position the White House claims to support (maverick torture-hater Johnny McCain voted in favor of torture, natch). The Dems snarked-
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York dared Bush to veto the bill, saying that the president's Iraq war commander, Gen. David Petraeus, rejects harsh interrogation.

"If it's good enough for General Petraeus and FBI Director Robert Mueller, it's good enough for all of America," Schumer said. "If the president vetoes this, he will be voting in favor of waterboarding."

And yet-- and please, don't faint-- that is exactly what the President is planning to do.

Final issue... checks and balances. During their investigation into the U.S. Attorney purge last year, Congress subpoenaed Harriet Miers and White House chief of staff Josh Bolten to testify about the White House's role in the matter. The two refused. You see, the Constitution gives Congress the power of subpoena, but President Bush understands that this doesn't apply to people who work for him. And so, nearly a year later, Congress has finally voted to hold the two in contempt. According to the article, "The matter will now be referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia." As we remember from the Clinton impeachment saga, Republicans are sticklers for the rule of law, especially in the face of executive pushback. And so they all held firm and... walked out in protest of the vote. Expect this battle to continue for some time.

These issues may seem separate, but contempt for the rule of law is the tie that binds them all together. The President may well win all three battles in the end, but the cost will be the soul of the Republican party, and America further conceding the high ground.

John McCain: Military Expert

Sen. McCain has been getting a lot of criticism for his hardcore, pro-war, pro-occupation stance. At a news event on Monday, McCain fired back at the majority of Americans, Iraqis, and global citizens these naive realitymongers. “Anyone who worries about how long we’re in Iraq does not understand the military and does not understand war,” he said.

Apparently, cheering on our Iraq policy while never explaining how we're going to get the resources (manpower, $$$, international and domestic goodwill) to continue this mess indefinitely-- until the magical day arrives when all their problems are solved-- is a very serious position.

McCain goes on to cite the old trope that we still have countless troops in Korea and Germany and that Iraq should be seen as no different. Ignoring even that the troop presences in many of those other countries is silly upon closer inspection, it should be noted that we didn't start the wars there and we are not engaged in ongoing conflict there. In Iraq, we are, and will always be as long as we stay. Matthew Yglesias sees a greater problem with this rhetoric-
"McCain even goes so far as to directly compare his vision of Iraq to the current situation in Kuwait, where in exchange for basing rights and oil we help prop up an unaccountable and corrupt dictatorship. Fear that this is what we're aiming for in Iraq is precisely why many Iraqis are fighting so hard against our troops, and our habit of acting this way in other Gulf states is a major driving force of anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world. The Bush administration has at least had the good sense to pursue this agenda quietly and in secret, but hot-head McCain can't keep his mouth shut to avoid gaffes and can't stop digging now that he realizes he's in a hole."

I'd add that to the extent to which this is a 'gaffe' depends on perception. That fact that McCain is given such latitude on military matters (by the press, by the public) because of his Vietnam experience, despite having some truly frightening positions now, is why only bloggers and other grumps are mentioning this. I'll be very curious to see how this issue is handled in a general election debate.

Either way, a reader of Andrew Sullivan's adds this little gotcha-
"Senator McCain, why don't we still have troops in Vietnam?"

Yes, this would definitely make a good, but hyperbole-filled, subject for a debate.

[PS- His last sentence in the video is another reminder of how un-serious his position on the war is. Apparently, we can never leave Iraq because if we do... al-Qaeda (which one?) will attempt to spin it their own way. This deadly outcome is what our troops must continue to die for to prevent.]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Weekend Odds and Ends

Boy, this has been a busy week, no? And it ain't over! Let's wrap up some news we missed...

Don't worry economy, these checks will magically fix everything.

News from the Middle East: "Imad Mughnieh, a top Hezbollah commander linked to notorious attacks against Western and Israeli targets in the 1980s and 1990s, was killed in a car bombing in Syria, the Shiite militant group announced on Wednesday." Retaliation coming?

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, elections loom this Monday.

The Bush administration is super serious about confronting war profiteering. *wink*

Could ocean currents be a great, untapped source of clean energy? Worth a try, right?

Rupert Murdoch eyes Yahoo now?! All your media are belong to us.

Finally, a college student confronted Karl Rove about what supposed danger gay marriage poses to society. She actually left Turd Blossom speechless. Awesome.

What's That Saying About A Broken Clock?

It's a very cold day on the River Styx when I agree with something written at the National Review, but such a moment has occurred. Resident weirdo John Derbyshire writes, of Ben Stein's new pro-intelligent design film, that-
"This is very sad. I've always liked Ben's stuff — used to read his diary in The American Spectator way back in the 1970s. Smart, funny, worldly guy, with just that endearing streak of eccentricity. I'm sorry to see he's lost his marbles."

Johhny, you ain't kidding.

Iran: A History Lesson

As I mentioned, I saw 'Persepolis' this past weekend, a beautiful animated film about an Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic revolution. Besides the engaging characters, it's also a unique history lesson of life in Iran during those tragic years.

Now, has another Iranian history lesson, this one going back further to the real roots of where current U.S.-Iranian relations began... the coup replacing PM Mossadegh with the Shah in the 1950s.

Toward the end of the video, one person expresses hope for a Nixon-to-China moment regarding our current relationship with Iran. We've had opportunities for this in recent years-- Iranian support for us post-9/11, the 2003 overtures-- and we threw them all away. If the neocons are defeated in this year's election, then we may find our way back to those moments. Obviously many will acknowledge that the hardline rhetoric of President Ahmadinejad (of course, Bush has been the other pea in that pod) and the abuses of the Iranian leadership in general make this easier said than done, but diplomacy has always been about finding solutions with those we dislike, rather than our friends. Unless you are still of the mindset that we can bomb all our problems away, this really is our best hope for a stable relationship with the country that shares borders with both Iraq and Afghanistan.

[PS- Washington Note's Steve Clemons wants Obama and Clinton to clarify Syria policy also.]

Welcome Back, Writers

'A Daily Show' is dead. Long live 'The Daily Show'.

All That Other Stuff

Matthew Yglesias has a good post lamenting that the "campaigns keep talking about the same very narrow set of things over and over again. " Well, I think they are the important things, but a broader dialogue would be appreciated by this political nerd.

It's worth reading if you have the time, and some of the comments are pretty great too.

What I would like to see is have the next series of debates reflect these issues. Perhaps an hour-long debate... the first half-hour devoted to a variety of key issues; the remaining half-hour devoted solely to one of these issues (one for every debate). That'd be better than the current pundit-fueled format, but is unlikely. So I guess we'll have to break down and actually read the stuff they put up on their websites.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The War on Terr...ible Facts

I was reading a number of conservative sites the past day or two-- The National Review, the NY Post, Powerline, RedState, etc-- and oddly enough, the following story was not mentioned. Congress isn't debating it, because they have the crucial Roger Clemens matter to attend to. I found it via Talking Points Memo, for the record (*).

NY Times: Army Buried Study Faulting Iraq Planning
The Army is accustomed to protecting classified information. But when it comes to the planning for the Iraq war, even an unclassified assessment can acquire the status of a state secret.

That is what happened to a detailed study of the planning for postwar Iraq prepared for the Army by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed center that conducts research for the military.

After 18 months of research, RAND submitted a report in the summer of 2005 called “Rebuilding Iraq.” RAND researchers provided an unclassified version of the report along with a secret one, hoping that its publication would contribute to the public debate on how to prepare for future conflicts.

But the study’s wide-ranging critique of the White House, the Defense Department and other government agencies was a concern for Army generals, and the Army has sought to keep the report under lock and key...

This is, of course, par for the course for this administration, and how everything is political to them. The actual war itself, and the numerous failures and disasters that have surrounded it, are not a problem to them. But a "wide-ranging critique" of their policies comes along and they circle the wagons. Facts are a dangerous thing, because god forbid we learn from our mistakes.

Later in the article, it notes that-
The report was submitted at a time when the Bush administration was trying to rebut building criticism of the war in Iraq by stressing the progress Mr. Bush said was being made. The approach culminated in his announcement in November 2005 of his “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq.”

And that 2005 White House report came at a time when the administration was finally beginning to lose control of the narrative about the war. And at that time, all the war's defenders rallied around this report, insisting that its critics should shut the fuck up because we now had the plan to turn that final corner... until 2007, when they pretended that they had criticized it all along, as they all rallied around The Surge, the latest administration PR campaign plan for turning this lemon into lemonade.


And at the end of the article, there is this-
Neither General Lovelace nor General Melcher agreed to be interviewed for this article, but General Lovelace provided a statement through a spokesman at his headquarters in Kuwait.

“The RAND study simply did not deliver a product that could have assisted the Army in paving a clear way ahead; it lacked the perspective needed for future planning by the U.S. Army,” he said.

Perspective/Assistance = Toeing the administration line and never questioning our decisions. (This attitude being what elicited hero-worship for Gen. Petraeus on the right). There are very serious people running our country; never doubt that.

[* The report was also briefly mentioned by Jon Stewart last night to Bill Kristol.]

MA/VA/DC Vote: Obama & McCain Take Leads

The latest primaries continue Barack Obama's winning streak. And the margins by which he is winning also grows. His victory speech-- from Wisconsin, where there's a primary next Tuesday-- was in many ways a general election speech. Over on the GOP side, Sen. McCain's frontrunner status was not harmed.

Finally, the AP has a decent analysis on how the Clinton campaign is/will respond to all this.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

FISA Dead, News At 11

The President's warrantless wiretapping is 90% complete to being made retroactively legal, thanks to every Republican senator and 18 cowardly Democrats (list here). Boy, Richard Nixon was truly born a few decades too soon.

You'll recall that, following the December '05 revelations about the warrantless wiretapping (a violation of federal law, if not the fourth amendment as well), everyone was outraged, and there were rumblings of impeachment. Their rationales for this never (and still don't) hold water. But then the GOP spin and fear machine roared at full blast, scaring away critics. Talk of punishment ended, and the media narrative became indistinguishable from White House talking points. The issue was kicked around in Congress for nearly two years, before a bill was finally passed last August giving the President his way. Democratic leadership insisted this was just a temporary setback-- hey, they had vacations to get to-- and promised to get back to the issue when the 2008 session began in January. They kept their word and worked hard to pass... an even more acquiescent bill.

But this is par for the course. As Dahlia Lithwick says in her waterboarding article-
"First, the administration breaks the law in secret. Then it denies breaking the law. Then it admits to the conduct but asserts that settled law is not in fact settled anymore because some lawyer was willing to unsettle it. Then the administration insists that the basis for unsettling the law is secret but that there are now two equally valid sides to the question. And then the administration gets Congress to rewrite the old law by insisting it prevents the president from thwarting terror attacks and warning that terrorists will strike tomorrow unless Congress ratifies the new law. Then it immunizes the law breakers from prosecution."

Glenn Greenwald has the definitive take on this issue, similarly concluding that-
"As always, when it comes to the most radical Bush policies, the GOP lines up lock-step behind them, and the Democrats split, always with more than enough to join the Republicans to ensure passage. That's the process that is called 'bipartisanship'."

It's up to the House now to stop this mess, but I wouldn't count on it. Barring a miracle there, this fight is over for at least the remainder of Bush's presidency.

[PS- For those keeping score on this sort of thing, Sen. Obama did show up, and voted against this mess. Sen. Clinton was one of two Senators who didn't show-- Sen. Graham is in Iraq-- as she was too busy CPR-ing her campaign in Texas.]


As a followup to the earlier Guantanamo post, some perspective. These trials were not new news, of course... in fact, they were hinted at last October-
Politically motivated officials at the Pentagon have pushed for convictions of high-profile detainees ahead of the 2008 elections, the former lead prosecutor for terrorism trials at Guantanamo Bay said last night, adding that the pressure played a part in his decision to resign earlier this month.

Senior defense officials discussed in a September 2006 meeting the "strategic political value" of putting some prominent detainees on trial, said Air Force Col. Morris Davis. He said that he felt pressure to pursue cases that were deemed "sexy" over those that prosecutors believed were the most solid or were ready to go...

And short of looking for capturing the elusive bin Laden, what case is 'sexier' than that of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed?


In that 2007 article, Col. Davis added-
"There was a big concern that the election of 2008 is coming up," Davis said. "People wanted to get the cases going. There was a rush to get high-interest cases into court at the expense of openness."

Indeed. There are many, many others being held at Guantanamo who have never been accused by the administration of any crime, other than of being potential 'evil-doers'. Many have been released without any explanation of why they were there to begin with. Etc. The few Khalid Sheik Mohammeds of Guantanamo are the exception, not the rule.

Finally, it should also be remembered that KSM's transfer to Guantanamo came in the Fall of 2006, right before the midterm elections, at a time when the administration was browbeating Congress into passing his Military Commissions Act, in a move that the administration admitted was political in nature. This administration is shameless and worthy of contempt.

The evil, vulgar nature of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his ilk do not erase that. Had the administration handled these cases the right, legal way from the beginning, we would not be having this debate right now. As this story moves forward, I hope someone will remember all these pesky facts.

More Odds and Ends

I think they're having some sort of election down by the capitol. Here's other news...

President Bush keeps yelling at Congress to clean up his economic mess.

In election news, Markos 'Daily Kos' Moulitsas looks at the general election strategy of Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton embraces the Giuliani strategy. And Karl Rove flip-flops on his new BFF, John McCain.

The dark heart of the GOP was on display at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Meanwhile, Republican congressfolk continue to cut and run from reelection.

Finally, the backlash against biofuels has begun.

High-Profile Guantanamo Trials Are Coming

This may be lost amid campaign news, but here's the big news of the week-
The Pentagon has charged six detainees at Guantanamo Bay with murder and war crimes in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks. Officials said Monday they'll seek the death penalty in what would be the first capital trials under the terrorism-era military tribunal system.

These trials will cloud the debate over torture and wiretapping and of all these civil liberties and humane rights... as is likely part of the point. After all, what's a little "water up the nose" when The Terrorists are out there, waiting to kill us?

As the President's plan on Iraq has been for some time to simply kick the can down the road for the next President, so too is he widening this other mess that the next Decider must clean up. The Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch sees the same thing-
"[I]t was a little interesting when, within days of McCain assuming a commanding lead in the race, and with the Democrats deciding between anti-Gitmo candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, that word was leaked of a secret site within Guantanamo for hard core al-Qaeda detainees, called Camp 7...

...[T]he timing of this strikes me as just a little bit too much of a coincidence here. The likely unraveling of Guantanamo is Bush's worst nightmare. A legitimate criminal trial under American laws of jurisprudence would expose the worst of the Bush-Cheney torture regime, including waterboarding techniques, and have a result that nobody in this debate wants: Making it impossible to gain real justice against the 9/11 planners, because of inadmissable evidence.

A quick trial under military rules, and a speedy execution, is the only long-shot hope for Bush and Cheney for making the worst of the torture nightmare that they've created go away...

...But as today's articles note, it is unlikely, with appeals and the like, that any conviction and death penalty could be carried out as quickly as January. That lays the problem on the lap of the next president -- regardless of whether it's McCain, Clinton or Obama -- who would have to either affirm the military tribunals, or else declare on the first day of their presidency that one of their first officials acts will be to overturn a death sentence for a 9/11 mastermind.

That's a classic Rovian political trap if I ever saw one. And it's more proof that undoing the nightmare eight years of Bush and Cheney is going to be a lot more work than simply placing a right hand on the Bible."

I hope that the next President is planning to seek two terms. Because that is likely how long it will take to start resolving all that Bush will leave behind, while at the same time attempting to craft their own agenda and direction. Not a pleasant task.

We're Never Leaving

AP: Gates: Pause in troop cuts makes sense

[UPDATE: Keith Olbermann had a very good report on all this yesterday.]

Monday, February 11, 2008

No, We Can't.

Hey, speaking of that crazy ol' maverick... Most people by now have seen the Yes, We Can music video that Black Eyed Peas frontman made in support of Sen. Obama. Now a group of comedians have created a parody of that, using the speeches of McCain instead.

Simple Answers to Simple Questions

Recently my friend Sophie asked in her online journal (no link, for her privacy) why so many moderates and liberals seemed fooled into a false sense of comfort for a potential President McCain. She wrote/ranted-
"When people who call themselves liberal say that they are willing to vote for McCain, it makes my skin crawl! Sorry if this describes you, but if it does, you sketch me the fuck out, dude! McCain is a creepy motherfucker with extremely creepy motherfucker policies on abortion, gay marriage, stem cell research, immigration, and expanding the US military presence abroad. Just because he has been painted as left-leaning/compassionate/whatever does not mean that it is actually true! Please read up on shit before you throw away your vote on a right-wing nutjob.

No offense to any right-wing nutjobs who may be reading this."

Part of the answer to that query is the fact that the right-wing nutjob base doesn't like him. I mean he's nutty, but is he nutty enough? They aren't convinced, even after he sold out his principles in every way to appease them. But that says more about them than it does him.

The better answer might be the fault of the liberal media, who've spent years creating the narrative of John McCain as some truth-telling maverick who's not afraid to buck the system, a reputation that hasn't been deserved for about four or five years now. It's a narrative Democrats must knock down, and the Obama speech from Virginia I posted yesterday was a good sign that they understand that.

[PS- For the heck of it, here's a link to Jon Stewart's delightfully contentious interview with the Senator from last April. Stewart is in general, of course, a reliable media ally of his.]

Odds and Ends

NYC went below freezing for the first time in February. Climate change is clearly a lie...

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were both interviewed on '60 Minutes' this weekend.

Interesting consumer news from the AP: "Wal-Mart says its shoppers are redeeming their holiday gift cards for basic items – pasta sauce, diapers, laundry detergent – instead of iPods or DVDs." Yikes! Better not elect a Democrat, or this prosperity is doomed!

In their ongoing war against competent government, the Bush administration has eliminated a popular and effective program which helped "low-income folks reduce their energy costs by weatherproofing their homes."

But all is not 100% well for BushCo... reality has dealt another blow: "A federal appeals court said Friday the Bush administration ignored the law when it imposed less stringent requirements on power plants to reduce mercury pollution, which scientists fear could cause neurological problems in 60,000 newborns a year."

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks of a new arms race with the West. Republicans responded by hugging their portraits of Ronald Reagan tighter than usual.

Hugo Chavez is shockingly tired of selling oil to a country which hates him.

Ixnay on the actsfay, Olympic athletes... "British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China's appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing."

Internet libertarian fave candidate Ron Paul appears to be winding down his campaign.

Finally, Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) passed away this weekend, from cancer.


I saw 'Persepolis' this weekend, which is nominated for an Oscar. It's an animated film based on the graphic novel memoirs of Marjane Satrapi, a rebellious Iranian girl coming of age during the Islamic Revolution in the late '70s and '80s. At first it reminded me of the novel 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', a story of two women's intersecting (and tragic) lives set amidst the history of Afghanistan from the 1970s through present post-9/11 day. But comparisons pretty much end there, as the life of Marjane is much different than the two protagonists in that novel.

Anyway, beyond being a good history lesson, it's a really beautiful movie (spoiler alert... the movie's in French, with subtitles). And did I mention it's based on a graphic novel?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Weekend Video Theatre: Mysterious Hope-Monger Strikes Again!

Even though Maine still has their say in today's caucus, the Democratic candidates appear to looking ahead now to Tuesday's primaries, where the big prize is Virginia. Sen. Obama gave a speech at the Virginia Jefferson-Jackson Dinner last night (Hillary did too-- link), in which he seemed to be looking forward to the November general election. In particular, note the beginning notes of his campaign against John McCain.

[UPDATE: As expected, Sen. Obama has won the Maine caucuses.]

No Concept of Irony

The National Review's David Freddoso has been apoplectic over Congress' decision to do, well, anything on energy policy (see previous entries- here and here), as this surely will result in the destruction of America and apple pie. In his latest rant, he resigns himself to the use of energy-efficient light bulbs... but, gosh, he wish Congress hadn't interfered in people's free choice to use the wasteful, inefficient ones. Jerks!

He goes on to argue that none of the current proposals to combat global warming-- if such a mythical creature even exists-- will have a serious impact (well, he may have a point there). He then begins to wonder "what would happen if we scrap the income tax and go to an energy consumption tax". He fantasizes-
"The benefits? Big energy users like Al Gore would pay tons in taxes, and normal people would pay very little. It would not distort markets as badly as our current tax code (almost nothing could). It would also be superior to a cap n' trade system designed solely to benefit large corporations. The possibility is tempting because it could bring a lot of support from the Left as well.

Perhaps just a pipe-dream — but no harm in dreaming."

Nope. There is not. In fact, I believe another translation is in order-
"What would happen if we adopted a more progressive tax system...

...The benefits? Millionaires/billionaires would pay tons in taxes, and normal people would pay very little. It would not distort economic parity as badly as our current tax code (almost nothing could). It would also be superior to a system of endless tax cuts and breaks designed solely to benefit large corporations. The possibility is tempting because it could bring a lot of support from the Right as well."

Now that would be a Fair Tax I could sign on for. Keep those posts comin', Dave!


There are still caucuses in Maine today, but yesterday's contests-- Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington, and the Virgin Islands-- all went to Sen. Obama. Democratic voter turnout was again in record numbers.

Political establishment figures have never gotten the phenomenon behind Barack Obama's broad popularity among voters (of varying ideologies) and assume it must just be some celebrity thing (admittedly, having Scarlett Johansson do robocalls for you doesn't help there). But they're wrong. I, for instance, don't treat politics like some kind of celebrity circus-- unlike the pundits and Beltway insiders-- and don't care which candidate is 'cooler' than the others. To a large degree, it's because I agree more with where Obama is on the issues (imagine that!) than the other candidates. But the other reason is where the Bobby Kennedy comparisons came in... his ability to make people believe in, and passionate about, politics again.

The Philadelphia Daily News' Will Bunch says-
"Now, for the first time since the current generation of Villagers took up the roost, there's a candidate who's not playing their game, who's bringing new, young, previously non-political and enthusastic people into the system (inspiring them to not only open their hearts but their wallets, apparently).

There's a legitimate debate to be had whether Barack Obama is the entire package -- including his policy positions and his experience -- to become the 44th president of the United States. But no one should be unhappy about bringing some excitement and some passion into the great American debate -- unless of course you belong the Gang of 500, and then you see a mob outside the gates of the Bastille."

I think that's right. The Beltway types love everything about politics... except the voters. Oh, and governing. That's, like, way boring.

In 1968, many people flocked to Bobby Kennedy because the establishment-- including the leader of their own party, President Johnson-- had betrayed them and the promises of their generation. And when presented with an alternative to this betrayal, they embraced it. What boomers like Tom Brokaw saw as some crazed hippie mass was actually a genuine grassroots movement of passionate voters. We have a similar situation now, after years and years of radical conservative leadership in which the opposition party did minimal opposing. Obama's presented himself as the alternative to that and, shockingly, folks are responding.

(Of course, Kennedy was shot just as he had the nomination wrapped up, and many of his supporters sat out the election after the party nominated the dull establishment candidate, and Nixon became President running on a false platform of peace and unity. So maybe we should end all '68 comparisons from here on out.)

Sen. Obama is gaining some momentum. I hope-- pardon the pun-- he will not waste it.

[PS- One of the best pro-Obama arguments I have read is from blogger Hilzoy. For those still buying the spin that Obama is all rhetoric and no substance, I implore you to read it.]