The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Douglas Bruce: Nimrod

Doug Bruce is either the stupidest man in Colorado – giving David Harsanyi, Denver Post columnist a run for his money, or the most banefully indifferent to the truth.

Last week he held a press conference on the steps of the Capital decrying the salaries at CU. He claimed that over 1,800 people make over $90,000 a year (the Governor’s salary). There are so many things pathetic about this attack that I don’t even know where to begin. For one thing, the issue here isn’t CU – it’s the rest of higher ed in the state. CU gets only 8% of its revenues from the state anyway. What is at stake with Referenda C & D regards what citizens want for the other institutions in the state. The fact is that we face a 20% cut in higher ed funding next year if C&D fail. That’s the non-partisan office of the budget and planning talking. And with cuts like these the future of places like Fort Lewis College, Metro State, and Adams State is bleak indeed.

I am not quite sure what Bruce wants from higher education. Why are the people who choose this profession supposed to take a vow of poverty? They are highly trained and highly able who happen to have most of the kinds of skills that people need in the new economy of the US. They are actually highly mobile. I know shills like he and Mike Rosen would like to think that the folks in higher ed couldn’t go anywhere else and earn a living, but the fact is that most of them actually could do better in the private sector. The Right typically has in mind the erudite scholar of Sumerian hieroglyphics or the Latin scholar. But for a wide number of disciplines, the ability to think mathematically, or scientifically, or to write clearly are skills that actually come at a premium in this society. They also come at a premium in academia and if faculty don’t get their due here they can go elsewhere and they will. There are lots of states and lots of public institutions (Texas A&M comes to mind) desperate for skilled faculty who right now would prefer to stay here.

Bruce targeted one fellow in particular who earns over $750,000 – woah highway robbery you say! Well he is a cardiothoracic surgeon at the University Medical Center who happens to lead the faculty in that department. That’s not exactly a skill we in society don’t pay a premium for nor is it likely that this person has few other employment prospects. The salary he earns is what is necessary to get him to focus on imparting his skills to others for our benefit rather than keeping his head down in the chests of his own patients earning himself another Mercedes or Lexus. Nevermind that less that $2,000 of his salary comes directly from tax revenues supplied by the state.

Such folks on the Right are typically the first to scream socialism when we decry the outrageous salaries of CEOs and others in this society. But the fact is that academics actually face a labor market that functions a heck of a lot better than the market for CEOs. It’s quite competitive. Sure you can have a flagship filled with faculty who cannot make more than $90,000. But they will be mediocre faculty and your state will be well on its way to making Mississippi look like the Research Triangle or Silicon Valley. In fact, why cast aspersions on Mississippi? Colorado ranks below that state in per pupil funding for K-12, in funding for health care and in funding for higher education. I still don’t get why the advocates for C&D never just ran ads with those facts statistics in them. Let the people see how pitiable the public sector is in comparison to 49 other rivals in area after area.

Why suggest dire circumstances in the future when the situation is already not just dire but laughable. Public spending in one of the wealthiest states in the union is a joke and if people don’t think they will eventually pay a price for that I have some oceanfront property to sell them down in Arizona. States are competing with each other to attract businesses and skilled workers. So far, Colorado’s natural amenities have compensated for its woeful public infrastructure. But the rate at which students graduate and go on to college, student performance on test scores, and other indicators suggest Colorado will soon be breeding a large segment of youth without skills or prospects and no place to go. Think about that for a moment.

It would be nice to maintain the illusion that in a Democracy people could compare facts and arguments and make their opinions accordingly. But when the other side doesn’t really care about the truth or much of anything other than keeping their tax bill as low as possible (never mind what they end up paying in private insurance costs and maintenance fees on the gated communities they have to live in) what’s the point in pretending that democracy is what the other side is practicing?

Galbraith had it right: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Allow Me to Just Say

That Daily KOS's Armando kicks butt and takes no prisoners.

Daily Kos: We Know Who Outed Plame

One of the most frustrating things I keep hearing on these idiotic cable shows is the line that even now we don't know who the leaker of Plame's identity was (I mean all of em, including Olberman.) Honest to Gawd if another person says that I am going to toss my TV. Were they NOT watching Fitzgerald's press conference? Did they NOT read the Indictment? Let me help them now. From Paragraph 14 of the indictment:

On June 23, 2003, LIBBY met with New York Times reporter Judith Miller. During this meeting . . . Libby informed her that [Joe] Wilson's wife might work at the CIA.

[more discussion of Libby and Rove's role in the outing.]

There. Is that clear now?

Oh by the way, Libby resigned, but the President said this he'd fire leakers like Rove. Any chance of that? Any chance the Media will mention that?

Finally, and this is stupid, but Lou Dobbs had a poll tonight asking if the "millions" spent investigating Plamegate were worth it. Excuse me CNN, but Fitz has spent less than a million dollars so far:

In its first 15 months, the investigation cost $723,000, according to the Government Accountability Office.

You'd think the Press might have a sense that accuracy matters. But then they never have enforced that rule on their op-ed pages. One of the most curious things about the print and broadcast media is their sense that when journalism veers into the area of opinion -- whether or not that opinion is specified as such, rather than journalistic fact -- they suddenly lose the compunction to insist on accuracy. Witness John Stossell, Lou Dobbs, Little Mr O'Reilly, etc... But you see this too in op-ed articles where no fact checking ever occurs and people are free to repeat the worst distortions of reality -- whether it be problems in the Canadian health care system or facts about Referendum C & D here in Colorado.

As for that leaker question. People are still hung up my the misdirection play of Novak who explained that the person who leaked to him was a senior government official without ties to the White House. So folks are still waiting to find out who that was. But it's now clear that official A was Karl Rove so waiting around to find out it's Richard Armitage or Colin Powell is an idle past-time. For some reason people are willing to take Novak's word that he didn't out Rove or Libby when clearly he ratted 'em out like the squeezed stoolie he is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What Exactly Did WHIG do?

This is starting to make the October Surprise conspiracy theory look tame by comparison.

Bush at Bay: Fitzgerald Looks at Niger Forgeries
By Martin Walker UPI
Monday 24 October 2005

Washington - The CIA leak inquiry that threatens senior White House aides has now widened to include the forgery of documents on African uranium that started the investigation, according to NAT0 intelligence sources.

This suggests the inquiry by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the leaking of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame has now widened to embrace part of the broader question about the way the Iraq war was justified by the Bush administration.

Fitzgerald's inquiry is expected to conclude this week and despite feverish speculation in Washington, there have been no leaks about his decision whether to issue indictments and against whom and on what charges.

Two facts are, however, now known and between them they do not bode well for the deputy chief of staff at the White House, Karl Rove, President George W Bush's senior political aide, not for Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

The first is that Fitzgerald last year sought and obtained from the Justice Department permission to widen his investigation from the leak itself to the possibility of cover-ups, perjury and obstruction of justice by witnesses. This has renewed the old saying from the days of the Watergate scandal, that the cover-up can be more legally and politically dangerous than the crime.

The second is that NATO sources have confirmed to United Press International that Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.

Fitzgerald's team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with Yellowcake uranium. This claim, which made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2003, was based on falsified documents from Niger and was later withdrawn by the White House.

This opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case, that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated. This was the same charge that imperiled the government of Bush's closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after a BBC Radio program claimed Blair's aides has "sexed up" the evidence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

There can be few more serious charges against a government than going to war on false pretences, or having deliberately inflated or suppressed the evidence that justified the war. And since no WMD were found in Iraq after the 2003 war, despite the evidence from the U.N. inspections of the 1990s that demonstrated that Saddam Hussein had initiated both a nuclear and a biological weapons program, the strongest plank in the Bush administration's case for war has crumbled beneath its feet.

The reply of both the Bush and Blair administrations was that they made their assertions about Iraq's WMD in good faith, and that other intelligence agencies like the French and German were equally mistaken in their belief that Iraq retained chemical weapons, along with the ambition and some of technological basis to restart the nuclear and biological programs.

It is this central issue of good faith that the CIA leak affair brings into question. The initial claims Iraq was seeking raw uranium in the west African state of Niger aroused the interest of vice-president Cheney, who asked for more investigation. At a meeting of CIA and other officials, a CIA officer working under cover in the office that dealt with nuclear proliferation, Valerie Plame, suggested her husband, James Wilson, a former ambassador to several African states, enjoyed good contacts in Niger and could make a preliminary inquiry. He did so, and returned concluding that the claims were untrue. In July 2003, he wrote an article for The New York Times making his mission - and his disbelief - public.

But by then Elisabetta Burba, a journalist for the Italian magazine Panorama (owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) had been contacted by a "security consultant" named Rocco Martoni, offering to sell documents that "proved" Iraq was obtaining uranium in Niger for $10,000. Rather than pay the money, Burba's editor passed photocopies of the documents to the U.S. Embassy, which forwarded them to Washington, where the forgery was later detected. Signatures were false, and the government ministers and officials who had signed them were no longer in office on the dates on which the documents were supposedly written.

Nonetheless, the forged documents appeared, on the face of it, to shore up the case for war, and to discredit Wilson. The origin of the forgeries is therefore of real importance, and any link between the forgeries and Bush administration aides would be highly damaging and almost certainly criminal.

The letterheads and official seals that appeared to authenticate the documents apparently came from a burglary at the Niger Embassy in Rome in 2001. At this point, the facts start dribbling away into conspiracy theories that involve membership of shadowy Masonic lodges, Iranian go-betweens, right-wing cabals inside Italian Intelligence and so on. It is not yet known how far Fitzgerald, in his two years of inquiries, has fished in these murky waters.

There is one line of inquiry with an American connection that Fitzgerald would have found it difficult to ignore. This is the claim that a mid-ranking Pentagon official, Larry Franklin, held talks with some Italian intelligence and defense officials in Rome in late 2001. Franklin has since been arrested on charges of passing classified information to staff of the pro-Israel lobby group, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. Franklin has reportedly reached a plea bargain with his prosecutor, Paul McNulty, and it would be odd if McNulty and Fitzgerald had not conferred to see if their inquiries connected.

Where all this leads will not be clear until Fitzgerald breaks his silence, widely expected to occur this week when the term of his grand jury expires. If Fitzgerald issues indictments, then the hounds that are currently baying across the blogosphere will leap into the mainstream media and whole affair, Iranian go-betweens and Rome burglaries included, will come into the mainstream of the mass media and network news where Mr. and Mrs. America can see it.

If Fitzgerald issues no indictments, the matter will not simply die away, in part because the press is now hotly engaged, after the new embarrassment of the Times over the imprisonment of the paper's Judith Miller. There is also an uncomfortable sense that the press had given the Bush administration too easy a ride after 9/11. And the Bush team is now on the ropes and its internal discipline breaking down, making it an easier target.

Then there is a separate Senate Select Intelligence Committee inquiry under way, and while the Republican chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas seems to be dragging his feet, the ranking Democrat, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, is now under growing Democratic Party pressure to pursue this question of falsifying the case for war.

And last week, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced a resolution to require the president and secretary of state to furnish to Congress documents relating to the so-called White House Iraq Group. Chief of staff Andrew Card formed the WHIG task force in August 2002 - seven months before the invasion of Iraq, and Kucinich claims they were charged "with the mission of marketing a war in Iraq."

The group included: Rove, Libby, Condoleezza Rice, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin and Stephen Hadley (now Bush's national security adviser) and produced white papers that put into dramatic form the intelligence on Iraq's supposed nuclear threat. WHIG launched its media blitz in September 2002, six months before the war. Rice memorably spoke of the prospect of "a mushroom cloud," and Card revealingly explained why he chose September, saying "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

The marketing is over but the war goes on. The press is baying and the law closes in. The team of Bush loyalists in the White House is demoralized and braced for disaster.

One of the prime contentions of the Right has been that Wilson's story has never added up. Bill Kristol repeated the lie this weekend on the talk shows. They argue that Wilson went to Niger in October, before the forgeries surfaced. They argue that he wrote his piece only after they came about. But this story makes the chronology clear and suggests that rather than undermining Wilson's credibility, the appearance of the forgeries was timed in order to discredit Wilson and in order to create this like of attack now parroted by Kristol and others. That's keep you awake at night. Did the WHIG group engineer the forgeries? This would make the Watergate scandal positively look like a big brouhaha over a little blow job.

Larry Wilkerson: It Would Have Been Nice if Your Conscience Had Awoken Sooner

Bob Herbert NYT
How Scary Is This?

The White House is sweating out the possibility that one or more top officials will soon be indicted on criminal charges. But the Bush administration is immune to prosecution for its greatest offense - its colossal and profoundly tragic incompetence.
Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, addressed the administration's arrogance and ineptitude in a talk last week that was astonishingly candid by Washington standards.

"We have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran," said Mr. Wilkerson. "Generally, with regard to domestic crises like Katrina, Rita ... we haven't done very well on anything like that in a long time. And if something comes along that is truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence."

The investigation of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby et al. is the most sensational story coming out of Washington at the moment. But the story with the gravest implications for the U.S. and the world is the overall dysfunction of the Bush regime. This is a bomb going "Tick, tick, tick . . ." What is the next disaster that this crowd will be unprepared to cope with? Or the next lunatic idea that will spring from its ideological bag of tricks?

Mr. Wilkerson gave his talk before an audience at the New America Foundation, an independent public policy institute. On the all-important matter of national security, which many voters had seen as the strength of the administration, Mr. Wilkerson said:

"The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process. What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

When the time came to implement the decisions, said Mr. Wilkerson, they were "presented in such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn't know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out."

Where was the president? According to Mr. Wilkerson, "You've got this collegiality there between the secretary of defense and the vice president, and you've got a president who is not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either."

One of the consequences of this dysfunction, as I have noted many times, is the unending parade of dead or badly wounded men and women returning to the U.S. from the war in Iraq - a war that the administration foolishly launched but now does not know how to win or end.

Mr. Wilkerson was especially critical of the excessive secrecy that surrounded so many of the most important decisions by the Bush administration, and of what he felt was a general policy of concentrating too much power in the hands of a small group of insiders. As much as possible, government in the United States is supposed to be open and transparent, and a fundamental principle is that decision-making should be subjected to a robust process of checks and balances.

At a recent meeting of nurses organized by the SEIU here in Denver, a nurse who had volunteered in Louisiana after Katrina said, "You better hope something like this never happens here. You better be prepared for a catastrophe, because this government will not be there for you if it happens." Is it any wonder that people are stockpiling retroviral drugs in anticipation of a flu pandemic this winter? Public health officials are begging people to not go out and buy these things now because it is driving up the price and because they need those drugs for people who actually get sick this winter. But can you blame people for this? After everything they have seen from this government? People understand they are on their own in this. They undrstand that they can't count on government protecting them or even basically functioning during such a crisis. Where is the public health response now to deal with what may be a shortage of such drugs resulting from the unfettered action of the free market?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Why-for and Where-for

This about says it all.

There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda on 9/11. There was scant Pentagon planning for securing the peace should bad stuff happen after America invaded. Why, exactly, did we go to war in Iraq?

"It still isn't possible to be sure - and this remains the most remarkable thing about the Iraq war," writes the New Yorker journalist George Packer, a disenchanted liberal supporter of the invasion, in his essential new book, "The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq." Even a former Bush administration State Department official who was present at the war's creation, Richard Haass, tells Mr. Packer that he expects to go to his grave "not knowing the answer."

Maybe. But the leak investigation now reaching its climax in Washington continues to offer big clues. We don't yet know whether Lewis (Scooter) Libby or Karl Rove has committed a crime, but the more we learn about their desperate efforts to take down a bit player like Joseph Wilson, the more we learn about the real secret they wanted to protect: the "why" of the war.

For me, this remains the great mystery -- why exactly did we go to war. I don't mean the public reason because that has been obtuse and varied enough. I mean what was teh real rationale among the neo-cons and the political hacks in the White House. Was it merely to win the mid term elections? Was it merely to wag the dog ad Rich implies? I would like to believe not. But it certainly wasn't about oil -- the flow from Iraq is still pitiful. It wasn't about Democracy, unless the Neo-cons really are so incompentent that they can't see what a botch of a job they are doing in Iraq. And it wasn't about Al - Qaeda since we have pretty much abandoned our attentions to the region where Al Qaeda really is. Nor, obviously, has it been about WMD. So what was going through their mind? Did they really just think that if we get rid of Saddam that is enough and it will be enough? Did they really misunderstand this region so badly? I guess so. Unless you are hip to something everyone else seems not to be....

The Real Policy Crisis in America

Excellent article in the Times about the failure of even families with good health coverage to stay abreast of mounting health costs when a serious and chronic illness appears.

When Health Insurance Is Not a Safeguard - New York Times

CAMBY, Ind. - Until the fourth trip to the hospital in 1998, Zachery Dorsett's parents thought their son was an average child who was having trouble getting over a passing illness. He was 7 months old, and it was his second case of pneumonia.

The Dorsetts, Sharon and Arnold, were concerned about Zachery's health, but they were not worried about the financial consequences. They were a young, middle-income couple, with health insurance that covered 90 percent of doctors' bills and most of the costs of prescription drugs.

Then the bills started coming in. After a week in the hospital, the couple's share came to $1,100 - not catastrophic, but more than their small savings. They enrolled in a 90-day payment plan with the hospital and struggled to make the monthly installments of nearly $400, hoping that they did not hit any other expenses.

But Zachery, who was eventually found to have an immune system disorder, kept getting sick, and the expense of his treatment - fees for tests, hospitalizations, medicine - kept mounting, eventually costing the family $12,000 to $20,000 a year. Earlier this year, the Dorsetts stopped making mortgage payments on their ranch house, in a subdivision outside Indianapolis, because they could not afford them. In March, they filed for bankruptcy.

"Zach was really mad at us when we told him we were going to lose the house," Mrs. Dorsett said. "We told him we had to make a choice: whether to pay for medical bills or the house

After decades in which private and government insurance covered a progressively larger share of medical expenses, insurance companies are now shifting more costs to consumers, in the form of much higher deductibles, co-payments or premiums. At the same time, Americans are saving less and carrying higher levels of household debt, and even insured families are exposed to medical expenses that did not exist a decade ago. Many, like the Dorsetts, do not realize how vulnerable they are until the bills arrive.

Lawyers and accountants say that for the more than 1.5 million American families who filed for bankruptcy protection last year, the most common causes were job loss and medical expenses. New bankruptcy legislation, which went into effect Oct. 17, requires middle-income debtors to repay a greater share of their debt.

On the Right people deny there is a problem serious enough for government to do anything about it. On the Left, the problem is typically cast in terms of the uninsured. But the problems are so much broader and deeper than that. For one there is the mounting costs. Or another, the declining quality of care -- yes declining. Talk to a nurse and she or he will tell you about staffing shortages, patient errors, and the health care crisis from the inside out. Premiums are rising annulaly. Often business picks up these costs. But the share of premiums born by employees is rising. As are annual deductibles and co-payments. Limitations on coverage and regulation in utilization. This is the health care system experiences by most Americans. The exceptions are the wealthy and the politicians who have voted themselves coverage sufficient to be immune to almost all aspects of the crisis. Congressmen don't feel it when an insurance company dubles premiums in one year. They don't have plans with limited prescription drug lists and large co-pays. They have little to no idea of the plight of small businesses and the self employed who struggle to get adequate coverage and receive almost no tax benefits -- unlike their employed bretheren.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Sound of the Proverbial Fan Being Hit by Flying "Debris"

Being corrected on accuracy by Ms. Miller is like being chided for bad health habits by Philip Morris.

Miller-N.Y. Times Spat Goes Public - Yahoo! News

WASHINGTON - In the latest fallout from the CIA leak investigation, reporter Judith Miller and The New York Times are engaging in a very public fight about her seeming lack of candor in the case.

In a memo to the staff, Executive Editor Bill Keller says Miller "seems to have misled" the newspaper's Washington bureau chief, Phil Taubman, who said Miller told him in the fall of 2003 that she was not one of the recipients of a leak about the identity of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Miller says Keller's criticism is "seriously inaccurate."

"I certainly never meant to mislead Phil, nor did I mislead him," Miller was quoted as saying in a Times story Saturday.

According to a Times story on Oct. 16, Miller told Taubman two years ago that the subject of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson and Wilson's wife, Plame, had come up in casual conversation with government officials, but that Miller said "she had not been at the receiving end of a concerted effort, a deliberate organized effort to put out information."

In recent weeks, Miller testified to the grand jury in the leak probe that she had discussed Wilson and his wife in three conversations with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in June and July of 2003.

Keller wrote that if he had known of Miller's "entanglement" with Libby, he might have been more willing to explore compromises with the prosecutor who was trying to get her testimony for the criminal investigation into the leak of Plame's identity.

Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. She was freed on Sept. 29 when she finally agreed to testify.

Responding to Keller's criticism, Miller told the newspaper, "I was unaware that there was a deliberate, concerted disinformation campaign to discredit Wilson and that if there had been, I did not think I was a target of it."

"As for your reference to my 'entanglement' with Mr. Libby, I had no personal, social or other relationship with him except as a source," Miller said.

Underlying the issue is Miller's own flawed prewar reporting on Iraq.

No deliberate campaign to discredit Wilson? Not aware she was a target of it? Oh yeah I forget -- we all got WMD wrong.

Free Trade and Freedom

There has to be at least some minimum standard of democracy involved in joining the EU, eh non Giscard?

Novelist stands by Armenian massacre remarks - Yahoo! News:

"FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk said on Saturday he stood by remarks about the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks and about the deaths of Kurds in Turkey that could land him in jail for three years.

Pamuk goes on trial in December for 'insulting and weakening Turkish identity' after talking about the massacre, a taboo in Turkey. He also said Turkish forces were partly to blame for the deaths of more than 30,000 Kurds in the 1980s and 90s.

'I repeat, I said loud and clear that 1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in Turkey, and I stand by that,' Pamuk told a news conference in Frankfurt, where he is due to receive a major literary award on Sunday.

Turkey's most prominent writer said he had not used the word 'genocide' to describe the mass killings of Armenians in 1915. 'Whether it should be called 'genocide' or 'mass murder'... or something else, has to be decided by experts.'"

Facing South: ESP wonder; newspapers channel Bush

via Eschaton

Facing South has noted that several papers are running the identical editorial as if it were the local opinion of the newspaper's editorial board:

"One of the smartest things President Bush did to reduce recovery costs in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was to suspend Davis-Bacon Act rules in the hardest hit states. But Congress is frantically trying to overrule the president, which would add billions of dollars to the already staggering recovery costs."

It seems the culprit is one of us. Sort of.

Facing South: ESP wonder; newspapers channel Bush:

UPDATE IV: Quick, check out the comments -- the author of the editorial is here! His name is Sean Paige, editorial page editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette and a man with a rich history in right-wing politics. On his resume: "Staff Assistant for Communications, White House," personal aide to John Sununu (Chief of Staff to Bush I), and "Press Secretary: Keyes for Senate" (ouch). More on his history here.

And here's the best part: just this month, none other than Sean Paige penned an editorial slamming members for sending "astroturf" letters to newspapers. Here's a choice passage:

I began noticing patterns in the e-mails — the same rote phrases or analogies that betray an orchestrated letter writing campaign, rather than a spontaneous outpouring of thoughts and feelings.
How COULD they?!

UPDATE V: Just a little context -- the anonymous "house" editorials penned by a GOP operative in Colorado sprung up in newspapers nationally just as Democrats had forced a House vote on a bill to overturn Bush's repeal of Davis-Bacon. 37 Republicans had recently signed a letter saying they wanted Davis-Bacon reinstated.

UPDATE VI (the last?): The great Pam Spaulding points to a piece from 2002 that shows this is likely part of a controversial move by Freedom Communications to have their papers run "joint content" -- stuff that appears local but really isn't:

... let's take a look at how The Gazette is pretending that some of its writers, who work in other states, are actually on staff and crafting their prose from the home office at 30 S. Prospect.

In a widely criticized move earlier this year, The Gazette's owner, Freedom Communications, based in Orange County, Calif., launched an exercise in what it calls "joint content." Essentially, the suits upstairs decided that film reviewing, travel and food were pretty much the same wherever you go.
Read the rest. It's one thing to do this for, say, film reviews. But house editorials that supposedly are the opinion of the local paper's editorial board? Kind of puts a damper on the "spontaneous outpouring of thoughts and feelings," don't you think?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Arianna Catches Miller Out Too

Arianna Huffington: Sorry, Judy... Everybody Didn't Get it Wrong on WMD - Yahoo! News:

"In the Times' Sunday Judy-Culpa, Judy Miller said of her woeful pre-war reporting: 'WMD -- I got it totally wrong... The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them -- we were all wrong.'

To which a growing number of journalists are responding: No, we weren't.

Among them is Joe Lauria, a reporter who has covered the UN since 1990 for a variety of papers, including the London Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph, and the Boston Globe. He bridles at Miller's claim. 'I didn't get it wrong,' he told me. 'And a lot of others who covered the lead up to the war didn't get it wrong. Mostly because we weren't just cozying up to Washington sources but had widened our reporting to what we were hearing from people like Mohamed ElBaradei and Hans Blix, and from sources in other countries, like Germany, France, and Russia. Miller had access to these voices, too, but ignored them. Our chief job as journalists is to challenge authority. Because an official says something might make it 'official,' but it doesn't necessarily make it true.'"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

This is Big

Colorado Luis makes a very interesting point -- one Henry Cisneros would be happy to talk about at length.

Colorado Luis: Rule of Law

I'm one of those Bush hating liberal bloggers your mama warned you about. But I never felt terribly strongly about impeachment. Yeah, in a perfect world lying to America to start a war would be an impeachable offense, but you know. But this is a really interesting development -- Bush, who claimed all along that he just knew Karl Rove wasn't involved in outing a non-official cover CIA operative, apparently did know becaue Rove admitted it to him.

This is significant because although Bush did not testify before the grand jury that is investigating possible crimes related to the leak, Bush did give an interview to federal investigators working with Patrick Fitzgerald's prosecution team (possibly Fitzgerald himself) in which Bush reportedly said that Rove told him that Rove was not involved in the leak:

"In his own interview with prosecutors on June 24, 2004, Bush testified that Rove assured him he had not disclosed Plame as a CIA employee and had said nothing to the press to discredit Wilson, according to sources familiar with the president's interview. Bush said that Rove never mentioned the conversation with [Time reporter Matthew] Cooper."

It doesn't matter whether or not Bush was under oath. Making false statements to a federal investigator is a crime. Go ask Martha Stewart if you don't believe me.

Count me as officially on the impeachment bandwagon if this pans out. I don't care if partisan Republicans wouldn't impeach one of their own if he was caught murdering someone in broad daylight on the White House lawn. They established under the last president that lying in a legal proceeding is a "high crime and misdemeanor" suitable for impeachment. Beat them silly over the hypocrisy. It's about the rule of law, remember? It's not about the [war], it's about the lying!

Denial Ain't Just a River in Egypt

from the Newsweek story by Isikoff and Hosenball on the Administrations WMD games.

Miller, who had been among the most aggressive reporters in the country writing stories about the threat posed by Iraqi WMD, was quoted in a New York Times article that accompanied her piece last Sunday as saying for the first time" "WMD-I got it totally wrong. The analysts, the experts and the journalists who covered them-we were all wrong."

Today, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the need for a federal "shield" law to protect journalists from having to disclose their sources, she elaborated a bit: "As I painfully learned while covering intelligence estimates of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, we are only as good as our sources. If they are mistaken, we will be wrong." She made no reference to Libby.

Got it wrong? How about were lied to?

Whatever the implications for special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's probe, Miller describes a conversation with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, on July 8, 2003, where he appears to significantly misrepresent the contents of still-classified material from a crucial prewar intelligence-community document about Iraq.

With no weapons of mass destruction having been found in Iraq and new questions being raised about the case for war, Libby assured Miller that day that the still-classified document, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), contained even stronger evidence that would support the White House's conclusions about Iraq's weapons programs, according to Miller's account.
In fact, a declassified version of the NIE was publicly released just 10 days later, and it showed almost precisely the opposite. The NIE, it turned out, contained caveats and qualifiers that had never been publicly acknowledged by the administration prior to the invasion of Iraq. It also included key dissents by State Department intelligence analysts, Energy Department scientists and Air Force technical experts about some important aspects of the administration's case.

There were lots of analysts who got it right. It was the Press, and in particular the WaPo and the Times who got it wrong by swallowing hook line and sinker the tall tales coming from the White House. It is clear that analysts for the Energy Dept and State and the Air Force could see the case was not black and white. The media would like us to believ that everyone was singing from the same hymn book but they weren't. The Times, in its mea culpa and the Post too both said that they blew this story because everyone took for granted that Saddam had WMD. It was a given. But it was only a given if you weren't willing to do the work or ask the hard questions.

The New Yorker Sees the Light

George Packer outlines the need for a Democratic agenda -- bold, energetic, and principled.

The New Yorker - The Talk of the Town: Game Plan:

"Instead of trying to cobble together a hypothetical majority with a hodgepodge of small-bore policy proposals, the Democrats need to nationalize the elections of 2006 the way the Republicans did in 1994. A Democratic manifesto that unites the Party's own diverse factions would begin as a referendum on the ruling party: the White House and Congress have handed government over to corrupt interests, and, in so doing, the Republicans have betrayed basic American principles of honesty, competence, and fairness. There is no reason for Democrats to be on the defensive about moral values. On issue after issue, government by cronyism and corruption has sacrificed the interests of the middle class to those of the Administration's wealthy friends. The deepening inequality in American life threatens families and democracy, and it is neither natural nor inevitable.

As a new book, "Off Center," by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, points out, Republicans never won the war of ideas -- Americans remain almost implacably centrist -- but they created a powerful political machine that is tactically shrewder and far richer than that of the Democrats. To overcome these structural disadvantages, the Democrats' campaign approach needs to be broad and bold. Energy: The Republicans have made America more dependent on foreign oil while gas prices are skyrocketing; the Democrats will push for energy independence. Health care: The Republicans have allowed private companies to eliminate choice while costs go up and millions of Americans lack insurance; the Democrats will enact national coverage that restores choice and holds down costs. Taxes: The Republicans have shifted the burden from the top to the middle; the Democrats will reverse that trend, and will end the Administration's ruinous fiscal policies. National security: Republican incompetence has squandered our power abroad and failed to make us more secure at home, as the country learned after Katrina; the Democrats will rebuild the armed forces—making it at least possible for the Iraq insurgency to be defeated—and bring competence to homeland security.

Above all, the Democratic Party needs to overcome its own self-esteem problem. Its leaders have to show imagination and take risks, to be confident and aggressive, to proceed as if the current occupant of the White House no longer mattered—as if the Democrats fully intended to win and govern. The Democratic Party has to speak for the common good in a moral language; and it has to believe what it says, so that when the opposition’s attacks come, as they will, it can find the heart and the courage to fight back."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What's Wrong With Baseball in Miami?

"Girardi takes over a Marlins team facing a likely roster shake-up. Spending cuts are possible after Loria approved a franchise-record $60 million payroll this season and was rewarded with a late-season meltdown, the second-lowest attendance in the National League and a stalemate in his bid for a new ballpark."

One of these days, someone is going to explain to me why Miami, with its Cuban and Central American populations, has the second lowest attendance in the National League. This isn't just a one time phenomenon. They have struggled with attendance from the start.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Judy Miller White House Shill

Amidst all the information uncovered in the last few weeks around Plame-gate the clearest conclusion we can draw so far is that supposed First Amendment Martyr Judy Miller, Miss Run-Amok herself, was essentially just a propaganda tool of the Administration and happy to place herself as such. If that isn't ground for firing from a newspapers of supposed repute, I don't know what is. Here's from Frank Rich's piece in the NYT

The official introduction of that product (the War in Iraq) began just two days later. On the Sunday talk shows of Sept. 8, Ms. Rice warned that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," and Mr. Cheney, who had already started the nuclear doomsday drumbeat in three August speeches, described Saddam as "actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." The vice president cited as evidence a front-page article, later debunked, about supposedly nefarious aluminum tubes co-written by Judy Miller in that morning's Times. The national security journalist James Bamford, in "A Pretext for War," writes that the article was all too perfectly timed to facilitate "exactly the sort of propaganda coup that the White House Iraq Group had been set up to stage-manage."

And from the LA Times:

Critics inside the paper and in the wider journalism community said Monday that they found particularly disturbing the revelation that the newspaper's editors seemed unable to control Miller and that the reporter agreed to use a misleading identification to shield the identity of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff.

The Pentagon also raised doubts about Miller's contention that she had a special security clearance that allowed her to report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.Some critics were particularly harsh, noting that the 57-year-old Miller's work had been questioned before.Her editors had pulled her off coverage of Iraq and weapons issues in 2003 and later ran an unusual editors' note admitting that they could no longer stand by six stories about weapons of mass destruction, or WMD — including five that Miller wrote or co-wrote.


But some of her colleagues and others said her relationship with Libby appeared too cozy.They noted that Miller told how Libby asked her for an autographed copy of her book on biological weapons. And they were upset that Miller agreed to Libby's request to be identified as "a former Hill staffer" instead of "a senior administration official."

No reason was given by Ms. Miller on why she didn't just identify Libby as a "former 3rd grader."

George Bush's Island Hopping Strategy, Circa 2003

I haven't seen this story get much play in the MSM at home.

Bush to Blair: First Iraq, Then Saudi
By Marie Woolf
The Independent UK
Sunday 16 October 2005

George Bush told the Prime Minister two months before the invasion of Iraq that Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea may also be dealt with over weapons of mass destruction, a top secret Downing Street memo shows.

The US President told Tony Blair, in a secret telephone conversation in January 2003 that he "wanted to go beyond Iraq".

He implied that the military action against Saddam Hussein was only a first step in the battle against WMD proliferation in a series of countries.

Mr Bush said he "wanted to go beyond Iraq in dealing with WMD proliferation", says the letter on Downing Street paper, marked secret and personal.

No 10 said yesterday it would "not comment on leaked documents". But the revelation that Mr Bush was considering tackling other countries over WMD before the Iraq war has shocked MPs. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have been close allies of the US in the war against terror and have not been considered targets in relation to WMD.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Remember "Al Gore 'Blogerizes' TV?"

Last week's news about Apples new video Ipod got me to thinking about the future of the media. And it more and more looks to me like Al Gore is onto something with his new Current TV concept -- TV you can take with you and TV you can interact with.

The SanityPrompt: The Next Big Thing? Al Gore 'Blogerizes' TV

Friday, October 14, 2005

Daily Kos Picks up the Thread

Daily Kos: Walter Cronkite's Letter to the NYT: An Idea for Dems

Now, the first part of Cronkite's suggestion will not be new to Kossacks: yes, Dems, don't tell us that you have a plan. Tell us specifically what the plan is. But to do this in the format of a midterm convention? What do you all think? Hey y'all, it's Friday and just that should put you in a positive mood. I'd love to see more concrete suggestions here. If we build it, will they come? I see one letter going out to Dean already...

The most striking thing is the number of responses this has elicited and the overwhelming response in favor of it from readers. Check out the poll on this site.

Woops He Does it Again!

Walter Cronkie, in a small letter to the editor in Today's New York Times, calls for a Mid Term Democratic Convention.

Idea for Democrats: Midterm Convention - New York Times:

"To the Editor:

Re 'Democrats See Dream of '06 Victory Taking Form' (front page, Oct. 13):

The key to a Democratic success in next year's Congressional election is clearly in the party leadership's coming up with a campaign that does not concentrate on the Bush administration's failures but offers alternative programs to fix what it believes is wrong with the Republican agenda.

A suggestion by which the Democratic Party could command the greatest public attention for its positive agenda: It could within weeks call an extraordinary midterm convention to draw up its platform.

The convention would not need to be expensive. The delegates could be those who attended the 2004 convention. Their meeting would be open to the public and of course the press.

In sharp contrast to the secrecy of the Bush administration, it would let the public, if only remotely, share in the construction of the Democratic platform.

Although local issues might cause some candidates in next year's Congressional election to veer from the platform on comparatively minor issues, the basic principles of the party would be clearly apparent.

The voting population would for the first time in many years have an unobstructed view of those principles that differentiate the Democratic Party from those of the Republican Party.

Walter Cronkite
New York, Oct. 13, 2005"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I Feel So Dirty

I got push polled by John Andrews today on behalf of Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform. I showered for 30 minutes afterward and still felt dirty.

Andrews is the past President of the state Senate and neo-troglodyte who is working against Colorado's Referendum C. The poll ostensibly wanted my opinion about a number of issues but it didn't seem like the tape recorded message from Andrews was writing any of my responses down. Still, I made sure to answer exactly how I knew they didn't want me to. Did I think judges should be elected rather than appointed? (no) Did I support Referenda C & D (yes) And so on.

Black Tuesday

Yankees are out and the week after always sucks. Typical exit for this team in the last five years -- complete choke by the pitching staff and meltdown by the middle of the order. Matsui strands 8 runners on base (of the 11 the Yankees left). The Yankees outhit the Angels but muster only 3 runs. Rodriguez manages to bat below .150 for the series and drive in only one run. The only bright notes are that Jeter continues to cement his place in the Hall of Fame. Other than that who knows what is in store. My own preference would be for them to dump Matsui for a better clutch hitter. And buy A-Rod some psycho-therapy so he can deal with his inability to hit in the clutch and in pressure packed situations. He was so obviously pressing.

In other thoughts -- my first proclamations if I could be an old-style commissioner like Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

1) From now on, the season is 154 games long. It's too long today and 162 games is a luxury we can't afford with a 19 game post season. Baseball ought not to be played in November. It snowed yesterday in Denver. I don't want to see baseball players breathing steam. That's for football.
2) there will be 15 teams in each league. It makes no sense that the NL Central has 6 teams and the AL West has 4. But then the teams' schedules don't match up you say? That's what interleague play ought to be for. Instead of having it at the same time each year, rotate it around -- more like the NFL -- to balance the schedule. The current system leads to unfair differences in the schedule that aren't based on records (as they are in the NFL) but only on history. I would rather see the Yankees play the Dodgers and Giants than the Mets. But maybe that's my ham side.
3) No DH in the AL. Nuff said. Make the managers manage. Make the players field.
4) Pitchers have to make their pitch within a certain amount of time. The games take way too long as it is and need to move quicker.
5) Teams get to keep their gate receipts, but the League divvies up all TV money -- both local and national contracts. This can lead to more revenue sharing and maybe more league parity -- and the TV product is a combined product anyway. But the Yankees attract 4 million fans and ought to benefit from that. Tampa Bay can't attract a crowd to their crummy ball park and that's their problem.
6) TV rights ought to be sold locally for games throughout the nation. I turned on Fox the other night -- there were three playoff games going. And I was watching some alien show. Where's the baseball? If the networks don't want to run it, let some local station do it. And I don't mean ESPN which the cable companies hoard into their premium packages to make you dish out $50 a month to watch TV. I mean a local broadcast station with an antenna. If my local TV station wants to show a Yankees game, let em buy the rights.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Make Up Your Mind -- Are Profits Good or Bad?

Perhaps this should be part of our marvelous media collection. Today, the New York Times tries to "balance" it's coverage by highlighting the money that former Clinton FEMA aide James Lee Witt is making after the hurricanes in the Gulf. Shock. Horror. A man makes money in America doing what he is expert at!

FEMA Director Under Clinton Profits From Experience - New York Times

In rushing into trouble when others were running away, Mr. Witt displayed the energy that won him wide praise for his service as the nation's top emergency official - and the nickname Master of Disaster. The much-criticized performance of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina hit has only enhanced his reputation. But as he applies his skills as a consultant, Mr. Witt is having to step deftly to avoid being perceived as a disaster profiteer.

"I just don't want anyone to say that we used this as a way to profit or to try to get new business," he said. "I just don't want that."

In Louisiana, he cut his usual hourly fee to $275 from $500 for the no-bid state contract and declined to take on any other business there, despite what his partners say are numerous requests. Just one day after his news conference with Allstate, he backed away from his lobbying work for the insurer to avoid conflicts with his advisory role to the state.

Mr. Witt is hardly the first insider to trade on his government experience. Administration officials generally are barred from lobbying their former agency for one year after leaving. Still, some critics find Mr. Witt's business troubling.

Witt cut his fee for no bid contracts. Has pared back his lobbying efforts. What exactly is he doing wrong? Working in an area he has worked at for 20 years or so, become expert and nationally renowned in? Is this supposed to stink of corruption? This isn't exactly the revolving door where Congressmen and staffers move straight into lobbying and call in old favors or administration flunkies set up corporations to get pork barrel projects. But the Times isn't interested in such distinctions. It wants to maintain the appearance of balance in reviewing the sins of both parties. It wants to suggest that any money made off of expertise in government is somewhat suspect. Who is supposed to get these contracts? Someone with no disaster experience or working past in FEMA? This is a similar tact to that taken by shallow man David Broder, whom the Washington Post would have us believe is an eminence gris because he is old. But that doesn't really confer much wisdom or eminence as Broder's case aptly shows. In criticizing the corrupting role of money in politics Broder has chosen to focus on the amount you raise rather than the source or dollar denominations of the money. Bush's fund raising prowess last cycle was well noted as was the fact that most of the money came in large bundles from wealthy contributors and corporate PACS. When Dean began to have fund raising success as well (by getting lots of internet contributions of under $200), Broder insinuated that the Democrats were just as guilty of the Republicans in soiling their hands with fundraising. The distinction of who was giving what to whom and who was owed what was lost to Broder. The stupidity of this argument is boundless.

What Should Be the Model of a Modern Major General?

In looking for Rahm Emanuel's Meet the Press appearance I read the transcript of Gen. Abizaid's appearance on the same show.

What a performance.

Transcript for October 2 - Meet the Press, online at MSNBC -

"Well, Tim, of course, you can parse the words any way you want."

"We've come a long way. Moreover, it's very important that people here in the United States understand that Iraqi soldiers are fighting and dying out there for their country."

"They're standing with American forces in the field."

"Look, if you were to look at the readiness system of the United States Army and parse it for the American public, you could come to the same conclusion that somehow or other there's a lack of readiness and a loss of capability. But I'm telling you, there's more people in the field fighting and participating in operations than at any time in the past and their casualty rate is double, if not triple that of which ours is, which means they're out there fighting."

"Well, there's no doubt that we have got to continue to tell the story of what's happening in Iraq. Iraq is a country in the middle of a counterinsurgency operation, and the Iraqis are more and more taking the lead.

"There are peaks and valleys that you go through, but overall, the trend is good. We're certainly confident. And the most important thing we're confident about is that the Iraqis want to do this. They want to take the fight. They will take the fight.

"Already Iraqi forces are taking the fight in key areas. For example, there are parts of downtown Baghdad where Iraqi security forces are in charge of the battle space. There are parts in the south where Iraqi forces are in charge of the battle spaces.

"So progress is being made. More and more Iraqi forces are in the fight. More and more Iraqi forces are developing."

"As far as public relations are concerned, it's very interesting. I go up on the Hill and everybody's wringing their hands and everybody's worried, but when I talk to my commanders in the field, when I talk to Iraqi commanders in the field, people are confident.

"I think that it is an art form getting the level of troops that are fighting any counterinsurgency operation exactly right. And, of course, what we're trying to do not only in Iraq, but also in Afghanistan, is to help the nations in the region help themselves.

"Tim, I knew somehow or other the final throes question would come. I will tell you that the insurgency, as long as politics continues to move in the direction that it appears to moving and the Iraqi security forces continue to move in the direction that they're moving, the insurgency doesn't have a chance for victory.

"[The insurgency is] certainly alive and well, and I don't think any of us that are military people have ever said anything other than the fact that we've got fighting on our hands, especially as we go through this political process.

"Now, look, throughout the region, there is a tremendous surge of reform activity taking place in places where you would have never thought, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan. This reform activity is really revolutionary for the region."

"The promise of a better future is absolutely on the horizon, if they can grab ahold of the politics, if they can form legitimate security forces with our help and move towards a political reform that this very, very bright bunch of people is capable of presenting. I'm optimistic. I think many of the Iraqis are optimistic.

"We've got to stabilize Iraq. We've got to stabilize Afghanistan. We need to help Pakistan help itself. We need to help the Saudis. We need to do those things that bring an environment of moderation to the region, and unfortunately, it won't come without the help of American forces. But, over time, it can become less."

Cab you say shill? I get that according to the Constitution the President assumes the title of Commander in Chief of all armed forces under the US flag. But where does it say that the generals become part of the White House public relations (re political) team? Shouldn't generals in theory be something like the Fed Chief? Neutral in all politics with the responsibility only to give truthful answers to Congress and the public? General Abizaid surely digested his talking points well. He certainly got down that part about "Iraqis are in the field, it's a revolutionary change, we're making progress." But on four or five occasions Russert asked him specific questions that he flat out avoided answering.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Sox are Gone!

That would be the Red Sox. MLB - Chicago White Sox/Boston Red Sox Box Score Friday October 7, 2005 - Yahoo! Sports As a lifelong Yankee fan, I smile a contented smile.

Has This Story Gotten Any Play?

Gore For It (from Change The Party):

Jamal Simmons
"Gore For It"
The American Prospect Online
Oct 3, 2005

"President Bush fell down on the job of leading us so badly in the days after Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans that even the reporters at conservative-leaning FOX News could not restrain themselves from criticizing the administration for allowing literally helpless Americans to die from starvation, dehydration, drowning, and heat stroke while waiting days for rescue. The American people, faced with the irrefutable televised evidence of babies screaming for milk and the elderly left to die seems to be losing faith in the president they elected because they believed he would 'be about' protecting them. Thus, the twin tragedies of Katrina and Iraq have pushed Bush's poll numbers down to Watergate-era lows.

One man who did care enough to 'be about' leading people to safety was former Vice President Al Gore. Together with Greg Simon, head of the nonprofit FasterCures, Gore defied government bureaucracy, military regulations, and perhaps political interference to charter and accompany two airplane flights into New Orleans to rescue patients and bring them to safety at Tennessee hospitals. While other politicians appeared to be debating whether or not to leave their Labor Day vacations early or to be dithering with their consultants over the political ramifications of various actions and statements, Gore did what many of us watching television from our homes only wished we could do: He flew into New Orleans and rescued people. "

Thursday, October 06, 2005

It's About Time

A Dem steps into the leadership vacuum on health care.

Ill. Gov. Proposes Health Insurance Plan - Yahoo! News

By JOHN O'CONNOR, Associated Press Writer

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Gov. Rod Blagojevich is proposing to make Illinois the first state to offer health insurance coverage for all children, including 250,000 who now lack any such benefits.

Blagojevich planned to propose his "All Kids" program Thursday. The plan, which has the endorsement of Democratic legislative leaders, would target children in families that earn too little for private coverage but too much to qualify for existing state-funded programs.

The interesting question include, can he pull this off? How will this play politically? Net plus or net negative? Health care is a winning issue if Dems can have the courage of their convictions and put it front and center but complicated policy solutions and half measures like this are more problematic since there may not be enough politically significant winners to make the effort worthwhile. Children aren't the most powerful of electoral constituencies.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Need for a Consumers Bill of Rights

This is hardly a hot-button issue on everyone's mind right now. But slowly, with the advent of more and more sophisticated technologies, we are losing a large part of what many of us consider to be private. So my reference to a Consumers' Bill of Rights in my last post may have seemed curious to some. But the ACLU has an ad that is not too far fetched if you follow technology even remotely. It's very powerful. Click the link below to watch it

AdCritic Interactive - ACLU Pizza ad

Monday, October 03, 2005

When Will These Guys Get a Clue?

Mark Schmitt has a great posting on an odd strategy (The Decembrist: Breach of Contract?) that has emerged from the DCCC in recent days -- arguing that Republicans have breached their 1994 Contract with America. This has to be one of the odder campaign tactics elicited in recent years (Schmitt lays out most of the reasons so read his piece) but it underscores how brain dead the Washington inner circle on the Left is these days. Is this the best we can do?

Schmitt points out that Dems are ignoring the obvious conclusion to be drawn from the latest Democracy Corps poll (also referenced by Dan Carol). Get a message - a positive message that articulates what you are going to do. Instead of harkening back to the Republican's message in 1994, get a message of your own. Tell the voters what Democrats will do in their first 100 days in office.

The elements of a powerful Democratic agenda are all there if the Democrats will only take their courage in hand and step into the breach (to mix a few metaphors all together in a blender). There are any number of issues on which Dems can cobble together some policies to communicate a coherent vision of the future and express their principles and their strength to do what is right. How about this for a start (with policy allies in parens and in no particular order)?

Nuclear Proliferation (NTI)

The New Yorker has a great short piece this week on the scandal of the Administration's failure to deal with the threat of nuclear terrorism and their inability to secure nuclear (or nucular if you will) materials. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar head up the Nuclear Threat Initiative which argues at the current pace, we will secure all weapons grade plutonium by 2022. But with a concerted effort (and a little money of course) we can get this done in four years.

Governmental clean up (Campaign for America's Future)

David Sirota and the DLC love to bash their heads together on their differences but on so many issues Dems across the spectrum see things the same way. Ethics has to be a central part of a Democratic message and cleaning up the way business is done in Washington is a first step. Compare the DLC view (here) and the Sirota wing (here here and here).

Election Reform (Common Cause)

In addition to ethics reform in the policy process, Dems have to look at (and continue to stress) reform of election laws and campaign finance. We need to press for further reforms designed to take money out of the decision process in Washington. Anyone who has worked on the Hill will tell you that in 99% of the offices, no decision on a vote is made without first asking -- "how is this likely to affect our fundraising?" That this happens is a scandal. That Dems are silent on the issue is just plain foolish. The continued presences of long lines in poor urban precincts and paperless ballot trails also have to end. But Dems can also gain stature by standing against gerrymandering and playing with disctrict boundaries for partisan advantage. A comprehensive set of campaign reform laws communicates a commitment to democracy, fairness, and the rights of the little guy in the system. Common Cause (& here) has a set of ideas on this issue as do the Center for American Progress and the DLC.

Apollo Alliance

'Nuff said. This one should be a no-brainer for Dems. But you rarely hear it mentioned among the Democratic talking heads. Here we have a union of labor and environmentalists who are committed to finding ways that start here at home to promote energy independence, a cleaner environment, reduce the risks of global warming, and produce jobs and economic growth to boot. Seems like a winner right? So where are the Dems on this? As Dan Carol notes, why spend $100 billion over the next 15 years to put a man on the moon (again) when we could spend that money here at home to make our own planet a more hospitable place.

Repeal the Bush Tax cuts & Tax Reform (Citizens for Tax Justice)

The evidence that these policies have been a fiscal disaster while providing almost nothing in the way of economic growth is mammoth. Under Clinton the Democrats established their bone fides as fiscal prudents. They can recapture that by tapping the growing sentiment that these cuts have primarily benefitted the wealthy but stuck our children and grandchildren with a massive bill at the same time that they will be picking up the tab for our retirement. These haven't been tax cuts but tax deferments that shifted costs from the wealthy to the middle class and the poor. Common ground on the issue exists on both the right (and here) and the left of the Party and even fiscal conservatives among Republicans are unhappy with this legacy. Hand in hand with this has to be tax simplification. The IRS is eliminating over 60 taxpayer help centers because of budget cuts even as the tax code grows more immense and complex from year to year. Democrats have to commit to making the payment of taxes easier and less onerous. And the Republican privileging of capital and wealth over work in the tax code (cuts for capital gains and dividends and increases in payroll costs) has to be underscored.

Consumer Protection (Consumers Union)

A host of privacy and consumer protection issues have emerged in recent years. Not only have Republicans been silent -- they have often aided and abetted the corporate push for expanded power and control at the expense of citizens and taxpayers. Rather than fight for community internet, they have sided at the state level with cable company written bills that would prevent municipalities from setting up Wi-Fi networks. ID theft protection still awaits a serious consideration from policy makers and only at the state level has there been much in the way of legislative efforts. Consumers Union, the folks who put out Consumer's Report, have a host of ideas to help communities when nonprofit hospitals convert to for profit status, better product labeling (so consumers can navigate their way through food labels that don't tell you country of origin, provide you with everything you need to know about genetic engineering and other environmental tampering, and assure you of environmental quality), providing community internet, improved community communications and utility services, greater consumer privacy in the wake of further invasions through the internet and the sale of credit card information. In short - A CONSUMERS BILL OF RIGHTS.

Smart War on Terror (Center for American Progress)

"We are safer without Saddam." Do Americans still feel that way? Doubt it. Hendrick Hertzberg's discussion of NTI (above) has a great 100 word encapsulation that captures exactly why so many of us feel less safe four years after 9/11 because of the Bush presidency. What we need urgently is a smart war on terror. We need to get serious about capturing Bin Laden and Al Zawahiri -- that's going to take more men and more money. We need to win the war in Afghanistan and so far indications are that we are slowly losing it, allowing the Taliban to re-emerge and failing to secure large swaths of the country. Meanwhile, Afghani President Karzai rightly points out that much of what is going on in Pakistan is being ignored by the administration. We need to commit to prioritizing women's rights -- a move sure to help us widen the gender gap at home and one way to start is to look at the Global Fund for Women. We also need more citizen to citizen diplomacy along the lines of our Cold War efforts - think Peace Corps, Fullbright, etc... (Thanks Dan) And of course we need an exit strategy from Iraq. Not a deadline, bail out date, but a clear set of objectives and milestones we want to reach while also commiting the resources needed to get us there. If that means moving troops out of Germany, so be it. If that means some short term deficit spending, so be it (a case can be made that this bill will benefit future generations). There are a host of things we need to do right now -- from fixing communications networks so public safety personal can communicate across service boundaries (fire to police) and across geographic boundaries (county sheriffs to city cops); to improving port security and reasserting America's moral leadership in the world.

Health Care Reform

It's only the most urgent domestic issue facing the country today. Whenever the issue comes up in a presidential election (or any election for that matter) the Right puts forward their "reform" plan. So, one year after the last election -- where is George Bush's vaunted plan? Voters have to realize that anything put forward by Democrats would be one more thing on the issue that they have been willing to do than Republicans have. You could comprehensively reform the health care system in any of 4 or 5 different ways (also here). Pick a plan. Personally, my preference is for Kennedy's Medicare for All pitch as the simplest way to seriously communicate a commitment to national health care (a proposal increasingly popular among the desperate members of the middle class). But you could also pitch a more modest set of proposals as first steps.

Corporate Governance Reform

You want an ownership society? How about giving power back to the owners -- the shareholders? This means governance reform to make shareholder democracy a meaningful term. Bush has looked the other way (not to mention Clinton as well) while corporate managers have pillaged American companies and run them as personal fiefdoms. Wall Street Brokerage scandals, MCI, Dennis Koslowski are only the more visible tip of the iceberg of corporate corruption which bloomed in the 1990s as stock incentive programs were converted into devaluing strategies that upped managerial compensation and CEO salaries ballooned to ridiculous (and non-market tested) levels [here, here and here] while corporate performance flatlined.

Fair Trade Deals

The debate up to now has been drawn as protectionists versus free traders. But free trade is cast in this debate as if it were a monolithic and universally agreed upon term. The fact is that the terms of free trade are always subject to human definitition -- what we in the social sciences call a socially constructed concept. Worker protections and environmental safeguards weren't included in the last round of free trade policy considered by Congress (CAFTA), but negotiators made sure to include intellectual property protections and benefits for the pharmaceutical industry. How we define free trade is up to us as a society and Democrats can lead the way by saying we are not going to (to paraphrase William Jennings Bryan) crucify the American worker on a cross made from Chinese slave labor. The old saw that we can reform China using trade incentives has been an empty promise and authoritarian countries the world over have found that the American government really doesn't care about freedom for their people, just freedom for its corporate elites to make a killing off low wage exploitative labor. Sherrod Brown has been a leading populist voice calling for a more sensible approach to trade policy. I am not sure I agree with him on all points but paying more attention to transition costs that result from trade deals and the terms of those deals and how they affect workers at home has to be a precondition for any further advancements in this area.

The list could go on from here. I haven't even mentioned education or policies to combat poverty, Social Security, or immigration, all issues that are likely to be salient in 2006.

The point of all this is that there is an agenda for Democrats for 2006. There are lots of areas where Democrats across the conservative-liberal spectrum can find common ground. Consensus is there. All that remains is for Democrats to start repeating to the voters exactly what they plan to do in the first 100 days of a Democratic-controlled Congress. This is one of the reasons I am so enthusiastic about the idea of a mid-term Democratic Convention. Democrats actually have a deep and well-thought out bench of ideas and policy workshops. They just lack a forum for bringing it all together to craft their vision for 2006. The convention idea is this forum.

The Washington Note Archives

Further evidence that Democratic Leadership is bereft.

The Washington Note Archives: "Nancy Pelosi: You are Undermining Dems on National Security in Moving Harman Off Intel Committee"

I learned -- in great detail -- about Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's intentions to unseat Representative Jane Harman as Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence on Saturday, the 17th of September but sat on the story, both because I wanted to dig a bit deeper and also because I was being crushed by some other deadlines.

All that said, the story is out, and the Washington Post's Charles Babington has the best run down at the moment. Here is a longish excerpt of yesterday's story:"

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I Have ESP

Just take the opposite of what I say and that's likely to be the best bet. Looks like the White Sox win the Central and the Yankees and Red Sox seem to be battling for the Wild Card/East. But what do I know. At this point it could be anybody in the playoffs of the Indians Sox and Yanks.

The Great Transformation

Watching a PBS documentary on the 60s the other night I heard from Bats Buchanan how he and Nixon conjured up the idea of attacking the liberal media, a calumny still repeated today. Well, just as Washington politicians rarely hail from the middle class these days, journalists aren't "one of us" anymore either. Journalists used to slave for little money and sided with the little guy because in the society, they were pretty little as well. (Charles Peters of the Washington Monthly has been pushing this story for years -- he still pays himself a pittance to publish his magazine). Here and here.

Peter Jennings leaves estate of over $50 million - Yahoo! News: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer in August, left an estate valued at more than $50 million, most of which was willed to his fourth wife and to two children from a previous marriage. "

Whatever Peter Jennings politics, I have trouble believing that anyone with this much money can possibly empathize with the struggles of ordinary Americans. Which is probably why we still don't have health care reform -- neither the media nor the politicians "get it."