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

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Chazer Caucus - The Chazer Caucus:

Jonathon Tasini has a most excellent post on the future of the estate tax.

"We have a new caucus on Capitol Hill: the chazer caucus. For those of you who might not be hip, chazer is the Yiddish word for pig. As in, "Gee, that person has so much [fill in the blank], to grab for more is just being a chazer ."

Here's the cogent political analysis to focus on. It boggles the mind.

The Republicans will probably hold all 55 of their chazer caucus supporters in line by simply demanding party loyalty, though there are some attempts being made to lean on John McCain, George Voinovich (Ohio), Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island), Susan Collins (Maine), and Olympia Snowe (Maine) to buck Majority leader Bill Frist by arguing the fiscal insanity of letting millionaires get away with more money from the U.S. Treasury at a time of record deficits.
It’s pretty certain that the Republicans also have three Democrats: Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas) and the Nelson boys. Bill Nelson (Forida) signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. Jon Kyl’s repeal bill; Lincoln has long been for full repeal and her pet policy is unlimited exemptions for farms and business, which is awful tax policy. Ben Nelson (Nebraska) gives as his excuse that he has a tough re-election next year—but he’s been off the reservation for a long time. So Frist already has 58 votes to end debate and crush a filibuster—just two votes shy.
The other Democrats who apparently are most ripe to topple are: California’s Dianne Feinstein, who is personally rich, so I guess this is her looking after her heirs; Mark Pryor, who sees this as a way to suck up to his home-state Arkansas Wal-Mart heirs; Evan Bayh, who has to court financial contributors for his presidential run; and Mary Landrieu, who won a close re-election in Louisiana thanks to the low-income black voters who will take the biggest hit from the repeal. By the way, Landrieu, Bayh and Pryor all voted for the bankruptcy bill earlier this year—yet another bill that hurt average working families but helps the well-connected and powerful (in this case, the credit card industry).

What’s striking to me is the complete inability of the Democratic side (read: Harry Reid) to demand party loyalty on this crucial issue and call for a solid vote against the repeal and for sustaining the filibuster. And if morality isn’t enough of an argument, those considering joining the chazer caucus can seek solace in the public polls showing a majority of people against full repeal.

Well put. The real thing to think about here is why the Party can't maintain Party discipline on something that shouldn't even be up for discussion in our ranks. I can see a debate over globalization. I can see a debate over John Roberts nomination. I can see a debate over Iraq. But a debate among Democrats over this? Consider this parting shot by Tasini:

U.S. Action did an amazing chart, which shows us this: If the repeal passed, the $45 billion going back to the richest people in the country could provide health insurance for more than 22 million children. So there’s the choice: more money for rich people or health coverage for children. To all the masses of people of faith, including those sanctimonious chazer caucus senators like Rick Santorum and Bill First, I ask: Wonder what Jesus would say on that?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Harmonic Convergence of Fox's Baleful Idiocy

DC Media Girl a few days ago linked to Bill Reilly's latest inanity:

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, in his "Talking Points Memo," lumped together as "extremists" those "who think that documentary Outfoxed tells the truth" about Fox News with those who "admire the philosophy of the Third Reich." O’Reilly defined an extremist as a "someone who rejects facts and holds on to opinions no matter what," which he said was a "neurosis," and then provided a "short list of indicators."

Fair enough. But then consider this item from a regular Fox News contributor to Weekend Live:

LOFTUS: Well, Al-Muhajiroun has offices in both New York and London. They were the parent organization, the Finsbury Mosque, of the subway bombings. Their leadership inNew York was responsible for planning the subway bombings. What we're finding out is that they have a sister organization called Hizb al-Tahrir. And al-Tahriris, if you will, the operational or training arm, Muhajiroun is the recruiting arm. Now the Russian Secret Service says that Hizb al-Tahrir is the secret radical arm of the Muslim brotherhood. This it the granddaddy of all the terrorist organizations. It goes back to the old Arab Nazi movement of the 1940s. And they worked for the British Secret Service. Then our CIA dumped them in Saudi Arabia, where they were running schools for young kids like Usama BinLaden. But these folks have come home to roost. We have found out definitely, Bill Warner has found, that the new elected leader of the terrorist group Hizbal-Tahrir lives in Orange County, California. And that he has direct ties with the same groups in London. In fact, the group, the Islamic Thinkers Society in New York--that used to be the address, the post office box, of Iyad Kilal, also called Abu Tarik. And he lives at 500 Gerry Street, in La Habra, California--

What was that? A name and address on the air of a known terrorist? Oh my.

Here's the LA Times take on the subsequent reaction.

In what Fox News officials concede was a mistake, John Loftus, a former U.S. prosecutor, gave out the address Aug. 7, saying it was the home of a Middle Eastern man, Iyad K. Hilal, who was the leader of a terrorist group with ties to those responsible for the July 7 bombings in London. Hilal, whom Loftus identified by name during the broadcast, moved out of the house about three years ago. But the consequences were immediate for the Voricks.


A driver yelled a profanity at the family and called them terrorists as they barbecued on their patio Aug. 14. Some drivers have stopped and photographed the house, Randy Vorick said. Last weekend, someone spray-painted "Terrist" on their home. Police, who have regularly patrolled their house since the day after the broadcast, now station a squad car across the street.

It figures that the Fox News watching Yahoos can't spell terrorist.

But wait! It actually gets better because Fox managed to drag the LA Times down with it in this whole mess. It turns out the terrorist who used to live in the Voricks house is a grocery store owner who is not under investigation currently and may not even be the same person who has been named in testimony given overseas by Omar Bakri Mohamed.

FOR THE RECORD: Grocery store owner —An article in Thursday's California section reported on statements made by John Loftus, a commentator for Fox News, describing grocery store owner Iyad K. Hilal as a terrorist. Although the article accurately quoted Loftus' expression of his opinion, The Times wants to make clear that Hilal has not been charged with any illegal activity and The Times is not aware of any law enforcement agency or official that has identified Hilal as a terrorist. In addition, a previous story on Hilal, which ran in some editions of the California section on Wednesday, said that Omar Bakri Mohammed, a Muslim cleric formerly based in London, had identified Hilal last year in an interview in a newsletter as "leader of the U.S. branch" of an organization known as Hizb ut-Tahrir. Mohammed's interview actually identified a man named Iyad Hilal as the leader of a splinter group of Hizb ut-Tahrir that includes only "a few individuals." The Times regrets any ! confusion that may have resulted from these articles.

The other day I went to breakfast with a elder statesman in Colorado who lamented the deterioration of the media and the disappearance of outrage in our society. This story has gotten limited play. As has the plight of the 2 Chinese Muslims held at Guantanamo without charges (covered here) and the 60 Israeli Jews who were held as persons of interest after 9/11 for over two months without charges and without bond -- their crime? Their Middle Eastern background.

Senator Hagel Gets Swift Boated

I guess it had to happen.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2005: The "Swiftboating" of Senator "Grunt":

"Senator Hagel has made it clear that he questions the wisdom of the strategic conception of the Iraq intervention, the decision to intervene and the execution of the war. It would seem to me that he has earned the right to have an opinion in this or any other matter. What has been the reaction from the Republican Party and its 'flacks?' The Kerry character assasination machine has evidently been re-activated. Yesterday I watched as a pretty boy 35ish yuppy political hack from the crowd of sycophants with whom the president has surrounded himself described Hagel (with a sneer) as 'someone who has lost his way.' He (the yup) went on to say that Hagel has no ideas worth listening to in the matter of the possible resemblance of the Vietnam War to the mess in Iraq. Actually, he said, Hagel no longer knows what the war in Vietnam was about.

Now, consider that. This kid was still crapping in his pants and crying for the pacifier when Hagel and his brother and Hagel's 'boys' were fighting to defeat the VC/NVA in the outskirts of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) but he, from the depths of his marvelous intellect knows better what VN was 'about.' You can see where this is going. Are these swine going to spread the rumor that Senator Hagel was an agent and informer for the communist enemy in VN? That's what they did to McCain in South Carolina.

The Yups should be careful. Senator 'Grunt' has friends."

Monday, August 29, 2005

A New Liberalism

I am becoming more and more intrigued with the ideas of participatory democracy the more I think about the current political process and how we might find our way out of the civic mess we are in. I confess I have never given much attention to scholarship on deliberative democracy and the public participation movements. Friends and colleagues have certainly fallen in love but I have always been a bit of a skeptic. Perhaps as we get more cynical we also get more hopeful. Or we turn to those things we used to not believe in for some hope. And perhaps participatory democracy is just that right now. I came across the following essay by Harry C. Boyte and Nancy N Kari of the University of Minnesota's Center for Democracy and Citizenship (a group of the same name is currently based in DC and headed by former Colorado Rep David Skaggs). They criticize the contemporary depiction of FDR and contrast this with the public art created by the New Deal in an essay published in the Wall Street Journal. That in and of itself might raise an eyebrow. But here's an anecdote that presents the gist of their argument:

Here and there, public leaders are articulating a commonwealth approach that begins to accomplish this task. For example, Elizabeth Kautz, the mayor of Burnsville, Minnesota, ran her election campaign on a slogan that confounded the opposition: "Government doesn't have to be bad!"

"All of us together need to create a citizenry who is empowered to do the work of the public," she explains. "Government can help. It can be a catalyst. As mayor, I can work with people. But in an era of limited resources and great challenges, I can't pretend to fix things anymore, and neither can anybody in government."

A few years ago, a group of teenage skateboarders repeatedly got in trouble for skating downtown and in school buildings. Kautz asked them what could be done to change their behavior. "If you get us a skateboard park, we'll stop skating where we're not supposed to," they replied. To which Kautz replied: "I'm not going to 'get' anything for you -- that's not how I see my job. I will work with you to open some doors. But you're going to have to organize the community yourselves." Working with several adults, the teenagers negotiated agreements with neighborhoods, city agencies, businesses, and insurance companies. They raised money, developed a design and slowly gained support from the city. After a year, the city council reversed its initial opposition to the idea of the park and voted unanimously to support the teenagers' plan. Construction begins this summer.

The skateboarders' story had an enormous catalytic effect. Now, there are many other examples of citizens doing public work in Burnsville. They are helping create a downtown open area called "the heart of the city," with public art, walkways, and bike paths connecting businesses and community buildings. Another group of teenagers is developing alternative uses for a city-owned maintenance building. A parkway planning process has brought together business, senior citizens and youth. In Kautz's mind, it all amounts to "renewing citizenship."

All of this activity hinged on a fundamental redefinition of government. "We've had to get beyond customer service, so that public outcomes are widely owned by the citizens," explains Kautz. City Manager Greg Konat elaborates. "Moving beyond the customer service model has meant that we had to recognize we can't do all the public tasks in government, even if we'd like to. Rather than just provide services, we've redefined our overall objectives as helping to build community."

"Government has certain clear roles, like providing police protection and removing garbage," Konat continues. "But there are other things people expected us to do in the past that
we've had to think differently about. For instance, when we work with neighborhoods, we talk about the idea of a 'community of abundance,’ with many untapped civic talents. People can do most of the work better than government can. We say, 'here's what we can bring to the work; what can you bring?’"

Boyte and Kari criticize the depiction of liberalism as a government that delivers help to people, arguing that this robs people of their civic selves, turning them into clients, customers, or passive charity recipients. But their message isn't the Far Right-wing delusion that government can do nothing and is best kept on a starvation diet. Rather, they see as essential the need to make sure citizens take an active role in both discussing the issues that face them and playing an active role in helping to address these challenges. They reject the approach of Osborne and Gabler's Reinventing Government -- which they pooh-pooh for its client orientation whicagainan denudes the citizen of his civic self. Nor are they urging a rebuilding of social capital by people who foist on themselves and small nonprofits the major social issues of the day. Rather, they want to merge a civic discourse about social ills within a civic framework which expects people to play a role in crafting social responses and even delivering social solutions if appropriate.

Interesting stuff.

Yet Another Test

Here's another test for Democrats closer to home. There is one Democratic candidate for governor right now. One. But Democrats are lukewarm. Why? Because he is self identified as pro-life (he's Catholic) and he failed to indict some police officers after some community shootings. Having lived under the Owens cloud in Colorado for the last 3 years I just have to ask -- what do you have to be smoking to not want a Democratic governor now? Do you honestly believe that Bob Beauprez or Mark Holtzman, they of the unstatemanlike positions to defend TABOR at all costs, even minor reforms like that currently on the ballot, will do a better job for the state? A Denver Post story over the weekend outlines Ritter's problems. I don't know the guy and don't know if he will make a good candidate. If you want to encourage someone else to get into the race, fine, do that. But if he is our candidate I don't see how you walk away from this race. For one thing, until the Court overturns Roe V Wade, the governor's position on it is irrelevant. Second, the handling of those shooting was done from a legal perspective and say nothing about the kind of governor Ritter will be -- the job is completely different. A local activist in the Latino community puts it best:

"'He didn't do what I wanted him to do (in the Lobato case), but it's not a deal-breaker for me,' Baca said. 'If you want to win the governor's race, let's grow up and look at the big picture.' "

Democrats should start holding people's feet to the fire on certain issues over which there should be no compromise - that form the core values of the Party. But our fate as a Party depends on whether those issues are narrowly cast like "Choice without limits" or broadly cast like "progressive taxation."

The Next Big Thing

Here's the next big debate for Democrats and progressives -- and no, it's not John Roberts.

All together now -- "the future of the estate tax." If the Democrats can't stay united on this one, and let attention shift from this debate to the O'Connor successor debate, then they don't deserve to be the governing Party. The next few months work out in microcosm all of the challenges facing this Party and this county. That hokum of Thomas Frank (What's the Matter with Kansas?) finds its answer now -- why do people in the middle of the country vote against their economic interest? Because Democrats typically care more about who is on the Supreme Court than the economic interest of the American people.

John Aloysius Farrell of the Denver Post has a good overview of the looming debate over the estate tax. A Grand Taxation Tradition:

"With war in Iraq, rising gas prices and health care costs, collapsing pension systems, political corruption and other issues clamoring for their attention, members of Congress are due back here next week to do what they do best. Give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. Even the dead ones."

Aloysius takes apart the misguided notion that thousands of American small businesses and family farms are threatened by the current system. Here's the crux of the article although the whole thing is worth a read:

It was a persuasive myth - until someone tried to find the tide of family farms and businesses supposedly being put on the block by cash-strapped, bereaved heirs. They proved difficult to find. The Congressional Budget Office concluded in a July report that, largely because almost all Americans have assets that fall beneath a cap that exempts them from the estate tax, fewer than 2 percent of the dead have to pay any tax at all.

And in an average year in all of America, the CBO found just 138 farms and 164 family-owned businesses threatened with dissolution. By locking the exemption at $3.5 million per estate, where it is scheduled to be in 2009, Congress would reduce the number of farms and family businesses that pay any estate tax to 159, and the number of endangered farms and businesses to 54 - barely one per state or territory.
It's clear from the math that a few very, very rich families have a lot at stake, and that the estate tax is one reason why our tax structure, as a whole, is progressive. Giving them a full repeal, as the House of Representatives voted in the spring, would cost the Treasury some $750 billion over the following decade, and shift our tax burden toward working folks.

Although it purportedly "kills" the death tax, the bill that passed the House does not free all family farms or businesses from taxation on inherited assets, nor from the complicated calculations and legal hoops that make the estate tax so unpopular. The House bill contains a "stepped-up cost" provision to make heirs pay a capital gains tax on the appreciated value of what they inherit, and so many families would still be socked with a hefty tax. At this point, it is unclear if Senate alternatives will include that provision.

Democrats have to hang together on this one or they will, as Ben Franklin during the American Revolution, they will surely hang separately. So far it looks like Senate moderates and the Dems are reluctant to stick the taxpayer with yet another unpaid bill and are balking at the current pricetag. Let's hope they keep their wits about them.

"Bad news for billionaires: It appears that many senators are, wisely, worried about the soaring federal debt. The estate tax may be distasteful, but even Alan Greenspan has testified that Americans would be stupid to borrow $750 billion from foreign creditors to keep the likes of Paris Hilton in salacious frocks and videotapes. "

Friday, August 26, 2005

US Yield Curve is Flat: Ignore History at Peril

Latest News and Financial Information |
"NEW YORK, Aug 26 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury debt with a short-term maturity is close to yielding more than longer-term debt for the first time in four years, but few analysts are predicting an inverted yield curve yet."

The yield curve describes the interest rate paid on bonds of various maturity. Along the bottom of the graph you have the different bond instruments, 6 month, 2 yr, 5 yr, 10 year, 30 year. Along the side axis you have the interest rate. Ordinarily, you are supposed to get a higher rate of return the longer the instrument. But when the curve is inverted, you earn more money investing in short term instruments than in longer term instruments. Typically, this signals a looming downturn in the economy. The last inverted yield curve was in the early 1980s when Paul Volcker sent the economy into a free fall to cure it of stagflation.

The article indicates that many people no longer believe this wisdom applies, including Alan Greenspan. And it is true that longer term rates are down and it is not exactly clear why. I happen to think this has a lot to do with demographics. There is simply more demand for savings instruments than debt instruments right now among the baby boomers. Plus, the savings rates overseas are probably higher than they should be. But how long does all this last. Back before Greenspan drank the Kool Aid and bought into the new economy language, he warned against irrational exuberance by reminding his audience that technology had not repealed the basic laws of supply and demand. My own thinking on this is that we are likely to see a series of bubbles as the boomer generation looks for the next get rich quick scheme where they can park their money. The bond market right now just sets up the housing bubble. The article ends by warning:

But more ominously, some see the flattening curve and the possibility of inversion reflecting real risks to the economy. Record oil prices could fuel inflation, cause consumers pinched by those high costs to start scrimping and return the economy to the "stagflation" of the 1970s, in which low economic growth was combined with high inflation.

"Traditional measures are worth watching," said David Ader, fixed-income strategist at RBS Greenwich. "History has generally been a good guide. "The flat yield curve may not be telling the exact same story as it did in the past, but it is not fair to ignore it entirely."

Ladies & Gentlemen, This Guy's a Doctor

From a NYTimes Editorial:

What? Condoms Can Prevent AIDS? No Way! - New York Times

Six years ago, former prostitutes in several Central American countries began going to brothels, beer halls, bars and discos from Tegucigalpa to Managua and Mexico City. Every night, these women walked out of their homes and into the red-light districts in the poorest parts of these very poor cities. They carried over their shoulders bags filled with their props for the night.

Their aim was simple: to teach their former colleagues about the dangers of H.I.V. and AIDS and how to protect themselves and others.

Simple and straightforward, right? Well, not to Senator Tom Coburn, the Oklahoma Republican who recently wrote to President Bush to demand that the United States stop financing this preventive program, run by Population Services International, a nonprofit group.

This is the same guy, who, when running for the Senate last year claimed that a conspiracy was afoot in Oklahoma to turn girls into lesbians in the gym locker-rooms. "You know, Josh Burkeen is our rep down here in the southeast area. He lives in Colgate and travels out of Atoka. He was telling me lesbianism is so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they'll only let one girl go to the bathroom. Now think about it. Think about that issue. How is it that that's happened to us?"

"It's a simple activity for largely illiterate people," said Michael Holscher, the regional executive director for P.S.I. "We can't just stand up in a bar and say, 'AIDS will kill you.' With an interactive activity, we can hold their attentions, sometimes for as long as an hour."

Apparently one hour of AIDS prevention in a Guatemala bar is one hour too long for the senator from Oklahoma's delicate sensibilities. He called Noches Vives a "misuse of funds to organize and sponsor parties and dance contests to exploit victims of the sex trade."

Shortly after Mr. Coburn's letter went out, Population Services International received word from the United States Agency for International Development that it was cutting off money for the program.

Luckily, the Republican Party is not fill with all Yahoos. Some folks see the sense in this program and kudos to them.

Many of Mr. Coburn's fellow Republican senators disagree with him. Larry Craig of Idaho, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Gordon Smith of Oregon have asked USAid's administrator, Andrew Natsios, to reconsider.

"Controlling infectious diseases abroad is domestic policy as much as foreign," Mr. Craig said. "Ignoring the problem by hamstringing proven programs is a disservice to U.S. citizens who are impacted by the wave of immigrants from these countries."

No kidding. It is also an absurd approach to curtailing AIDS. Mr. Coburn, a doctor, has apparently forgotten everything they taught him in medical school. Any doctor with sense knows that while abstinence may be a surefire way to prevent AIDS, teaching condom usage to prostitutes isn't far behind.

This person is a Senator and a doctor. Astonishing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Borrowed Time

My brother in law sent me a recent report from TD Bank Financial Group. Their assessment? That the US expansion is on borrowed time. They acknowledge the widespread belief in a housing bubble but argue that this issue is beside the point. They estimate that half of the current expansion is attributable to the "wealth effect" associated with the boom in housing prices. The US consumers penchant for debtis well known, but much of their current consumption is being fed by their home equity. Only 17% of the people in LA make enough to afford the median priced home. How are people financing their purchase? Through risky vehicles such as interest only mortgages or adjustable rates that will turn ugly if rates rise sharply or if housing equity falls rapidly. You can read the full report here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Sure Sign Denver is Over Bought

Whirlwind tour sold Trump team ( - BUSINESS)

Donald Trump and his developers have "fallen in love with Denver" and plan a "signature Trump piece" in Lower Downtown, a member of his team said Tuesday.

And Trump's Denver canvas could grow: The city's request for proposals will extend beyond Union Station to include the city block bordered by 16th, 17th, Blake and Market streets, Cal Marsella, general manager of the Regional Transportation District, confirmed.

The New York real estate titan caught Denver by surprise this week by seeking city qualification to serve as "master developer" of Denver's historic Union Station project.

I think the smart money says sell!!!!!!! When Donald Trump arrives, you can pretty much bet you are at the top of the market. Here is the classic example of a man who fails upwards. If there is a more over rated developer I have yet to see it. Together with this NYTimes article about Denver, I think you can make the case that this market is likely to be flat for at least a decade. Whatever growth Denver is likely to experience is already imputed into existing prices and then some.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What Democrats Should Do

Yet another argument for the midterm convention. Daily KOS links to a Democracy Corps study: Daily Kos: Democracy Corps Study: What Democrats Should Do

"In the eyes of most of the voters with whom we spoke in these groups, Democrats have failed to differentiate themselves from Republicans on the bread-and-butter issues that matter most; they have lost their voice on cultural issues and allowed the right to define them; they have failed to defend themselves against Republican attacks that they are weak in defense of our country and support of our troops; and they have attacked Republicans without offering a positive vision of their own."

You can read the full report here but you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader. But again, the clear case is made that thinking the Republicans are imploding and running against them is not going to be enough. Until the leadership on the Left wakes up to realize this, Democrats are in for a major disappointment next year. A clear compelling case has to be made for electing Democrats and this comes from a clear and compelling agenda. How many times do I have to say this?

With Friends Like These

So much for that Lott comeback for the Senate leadership. Hard to make a case for that when you become the poster boy for bitter ex-leaders.

Lott Demurs on Frist Character Question - Yahoo! News:

"WASHINGTON - When Sen. Trent Lott (news, bio, voting record) decides which GOP presidential candidate to support in 2008, it apparently will not be Sen. Bill Frist (news, bio, voting record), the Tennessee Republican who Lott says betrayed him at a low moment in his political career.

Asked Sunday on NBC's 'Meet the Press' whether Frist, who challenged and succeeded Lott as Senate majority leader in 2002, has the character to be president, Lott paused before answering. 'I think I'd have to think about that,' said Lott, R-Miss."

Gee, your losing your job couldn't have anything to do with your twice (not once but twice) having said the country would have been better off electing segregationist Strom Thurmond in 1948, who ran on a specifically segregationist platform? There's a word for this in therapy groups like AA but it escapes me. But Trent might want to consider getting one of those 12 steps tapes.

Steinbrenner's Head Explodes

Pettitte, Burke power Astros to 8-3 win - Yahoo! News:

"TORONTO (Reuters) - Andy Pettitte pitched seven strong innings and Chris Burke hit a three-run homer, powering the Houston Astros to an 8-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in National League play Sunday in Houston.

Pettitte (11-9) allowed two runs on four hits with six strikeouts and two walks to win for the eighth time in his past 10 decisions, helping the Astros stay within game of the NL wild card leading Philadelphia Phillies"

Bet a good hard throwing Lefty would look pretty good to George Steinbrenner right about now. Oh, gee, look, it's Andy Pettite. Talk about the one that got away. Once again George Steinbrenner shows that for all his eagerness to sign checks and fire managers and players, the Yankees biggest weakness remains his temper. In my mind, he never forgave Petitte for losing the 6th and final game of the 2003 World Series. Not that the series loss had anything to do with Pettite or the Yankee pitchers. If you look at the stats, the outpitched the Marlins. Where they lost was in their hitting which once again went cold in the most important games of the year (doesn't that sound familiar?) The hitters, led by Alfonse Soriano (.227 for the series) also showed terrible judgment, chasing every bad pitch that came their way and swinging early in the count, getting away from the formula that served them (and continues to serve the Angels and A's) so well in their championship years of wearing down pitchers. But Steinbrenner unloaded most of his pitchers and let Pettite get away. And now he has the current crew in their place. Mussina, Brown, Johnson,Leiter, Karsay, Stanton. They could start a senior circuit team and play Old - Timers games around the league. I wonder if he is surprised that so many have broken down this year? 26 different pitchers have thrown in a game for the Yankees this year. If they win anything, that has got to be some kind of record.

Gee George, It Gets Worser and Worser

This ain't not pinko liberal terrorist sympathizer, Ann Coulter.

GOP Senator Says Iraq Looking Like Vietnam - Yahoo! News:

"'We should start figuring out how we get out of there,' Hagel said on 'This Week' on ABC. 'But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East. I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilization will occur.'

Hagel said 'stay the course' is not a policy. 'By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq ... we're not winning,' he said."

When Richard Lugar and Orrin Hatch start talking like this I think you can say that's all she wrote. It will be interesting to see how the Right Wing Smear machine spins this. Hagel, after all is an aspiring Presidential candidate who could hardly be said to be playing politics on the issue. These comments are unlikely to endear him to the Right (btw, when can we start referring to them as the Wrongs?), but I doubt we will see any postings about how he beats his wife or how his grandma hates him. Hagel is a decorated Vietnam Vet who received the Purple Heart twice. Oh wait, we already had one of those taken down. I can see it now. People start showing up in Nebraska and at Hagel events wearing band aids.

Over the weekend I have done some further thinking and I have come round on the idea of an exit strategy. Most folks equate this with a deadline. 'We will be out by this date.' But I think it's much more. In fact, we can have an exit strategy without a date certain of departure. We can have an exit strategy in which we explain how we will be leaving the country. We can stipulate a handover period in which a Muslim led force is introduced into the country to maintain(?) stability. Most specifically, the administration needs to stipulate a detailed list of outcomes, objectives, or milestones that we want to see met. Heck, I would glad take one objective from this administration. Last I checked, it's still not clear what the goal is (or was).

I now think David Sirota is right that this starts giving Iraqis an incentive to get with the program to get us out of there. And it establishes that we have no designs on the country and we want to leave. If the President were smart, he would charge the UN with creating a stabilization committee comprised of neutral countries that could monitor the situation and announce when each milestone was met. This independent group would signal that we are not going to game the system. I think this kind of policy is the kind of thing that would bring folks like Clinton (H) and Biden, together with Pelosi and Reid and others singing the siren song of exit strategy. I used to be skeptical, but I am coming to see that, properly designed, this is the right thing to do. But staying the course, as Hagel says and pretending that all is hunky dory just isn't going to work. This isn't someone who gets all his news from CNN and is blinded by the Liberal media. He's from Nebraska for Chrissakes. He heads the intelligence committee. The guy can see what is happening on the ground a whole lot better than the self referential echo chamber the President lives in. "I don't read newspapers." Fine. Do you read intelligence reports?

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Poor Man Cafe _ Another Act of Genius

Keyboard Kommando Komix presents

Click the link and enjoy.

Woah! Who's Been Reading the Docs on My Hard Drive?

David Ignatius has a good piece in the Post today, once you get past the holier than thou, smarter than you tone he is famous for.

What Democrats Should Be Saying:

"This should be the Democrats' moment: The Bush administration is caught in an increasingly unpopular war; its plan to revamp Social Security is fading into oblivion; its deputy chief of staff is facing a grand jury probe. Though the Republicans control both houses of Congress as well as the White House, they seem to be suffering from political and intellectual exhaustion. They are better at slash-and-burn campaigning than governing.
So where are the Democrats amid this GOP disarray? Frankly, they are nowhere. They are failing utterly in the role of an opposition party, which is to provide a coherent alternative account of how the nation might solve its problems."

I particularly like:

The same failing is evident among Democratic spokesmen on economic issues. Name a tough problem -- such as energy independence or reform of Medicare and Social Security -- and the Democrats are ducking the hard choices. That may be understandable as a short-term political strategy: Why screw up your chances in the 2006 congressional elections by telling people they must make sacrifices? But this approach keeps the Democrats part of politics-as-usual, a game the GOP plays better.


Today's Democrats have trouble expressing the most basic theme of American politics: "We, the people." Rather than a governing party with a clear ideology, they are a collection of interest groups. For a simple demonstration, go to the DNC's Web site and pull down the menu for "People." What you will find is the following shopping list: "African American, Asian Amer./Pacific Islanders, Disability Community, Farmers and Ranchers, Hispanics, GLBT (Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgender) Community, Native Americans, Religious Communities, Seniors & Retirees, Small Business Community, Union Members & Families, Veterans & Military Families, Women, Young People & Students." That's most of the threads in the national quilt, but disassembled.

What can the Democrats do to seize the opportunities of the moment? I suggest they take a leaf from Newt Gingrich's GOP playbook and develop a new "Contract With America." The Democrats should put together a clear and coherent list of measures they would implement if they could regain control of Congress and the White House. If the Democrats are serious, some of these measures -- dealing with economics and energy -- will be unpopular because they will call for sacrifice. But precisely for that reason, they will show that the Democrats can transcend interest-group America and unite the country.

Exactly why we need a mid term convention. I have long agreed that Tom Cosgrove is right about this idea. Stay tuned for more on this idea.

Mr. President, We Have a Problem

George Bush and the rest of the Right might want to take a break from their vacation from reality and wake up to the size of the growing problem they face in this country over the Iraq war. Yellow Dog Dem has a choice quote and asks if you can guess who said it.

Yellow Dog Dem: Who said it?: "'We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should'"

It's not Cindy Sheehan folks. It's one thing to smear her name and her supposed 'story'. It's quite another to ignore the more pressing details of the issues and how you respond to them. Sadly, this administration and president are in such a little isolated echo chamber of their own voices (even Peter Beinart is starting to realize this) that they are missing the turning tide against this war. And I am skeptical that the current strategy provides them any weapons to stabilize the situation let alone turn it around. That said, the inevitable retreat is just a matter of time. The war opposition (like David Sirota & Mark Leon Goldberg) have made much of the fact that it's not necessarily good politics to back the war or parrot the lines of Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Evan Bayh or others. Point granted. But is it bad policy? No one on the Left has been able to refute the argument that a retreat now threatens our security. Russ Feingold makes some interesting points on that topic now.

But exit strategy? How about just a strategy? I'd settle for that at this point.

Daily Kos: Ahh, the good ol' days

Check out Daily KOS who has compiled some "quotes from when Clinton committed troops to Bosnia:":

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How 'Bout Some Leadership Mr President

And to think that voters supposedly voted for the stronger candidate. Grieving parents of a fallen Marine urged President Bush to show some leadership on Iraq.

Ohioans Urge U.S. Escalation Or Pullout:

"CLEVELAND, Aug. 16 -- The day after burying their son, parents of a fallen Marine urged President Bush to either send more reinforcements to Iraq or withdraw U.S. troops altogether.

'We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out,' said Rosemary Palmer, mother of Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II."

He clearly needs to fire Rumsfeld, who is wasting human lives trying to prove a point, that Iraq can be won and controlled with his sleek new stripped down fighting force. Meanwhile, months after Rumsfeld told reporters and an inquiring soldier that the lack of proper armor was a matter of "physics" rather than leadership or will, reports from Iraq indicate that soldiers still don't have the right ceramic inserts for their body armor. This is a president who has never asked any sacrifice of the American people since 9/11 even though they were clearly ready to give it. He has cut taxes. He has passed spending initiatives without designating revenues for them. He won't put the proper amount of troops on the ground in Iraq. The armed forces are already overstretched. And recruitment is dangerously falling short of current needs. His response? "I'm gonna get on with my life." Frank Rich is right. It's probably too late for Bush to turn to the American people now and ask them to make some sacrifices and to get the wherewithall together to put enough troops on the ground in Iraq. Too bad, because the option it eventually leaves him is one no one likes. A bad exit from Iraq, leaving it to an uncertain future. Iran ascendant in the region. Muslim fundamentalists oppressing ethnic minorities and women in his new democracy.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Another Argument Against the Death Penalty

As the Church Lady says, "Well, isn't this special?"

Pardon set for woman executed in Georgia - Race in America -

"ALBANY, Ga. - The only woman ever executed in Georgia's electric chair is being granted a posthumous pardon, 60 years after the black maid was put to death for killing a white man she claimed held her in slavery and threatened her life."

It's not the death penalty per se that is problematic, it is the fact that humans must apply it. Killing the person who commits a heinous crime is probably letting them get off too easy. But the application of the death penalty requires a certainty and insight into truth, the circumstances, and the people which people never will and never have possessed.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Minority Vs Majority

DC Media Girl looks at the latest review of the NARAL ad fiasco to compare the parties approach to politics.:

"The NARAL case was the latest incident to provoke Democratic recriminations. In June, Democrats demanded that Bush aide Karl Rove apologize for saying that liberals wanted 'therapy and understanding for our attackers.' Rove refused to apologize, and Republicans leapt to his defense. Just before the Rove episode, Republicans demanded an apology from Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the number two Democrat in the Senate, who likened U.S. treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay to techniques used by Nazis. Democrats joined in criticizing Durbin, who eventually delivered a tearful apology on the Senate floor. "

A Rich Nail on the Head

Someone Tell the President the War Is Over - New York Times (Frank Rich):

"WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we'll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

Thus the president's claim on Thursday that 'no decision has been made yet' about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president's preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its 'last throes.' The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We're outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month."

That's a pretty sorry estimation of the current state of our war in Iraq, but it about sums it up I guess.

Huffington on Right Wing Slime

The right wing smear machine whirrs on -- using its media mouthpieces to do this dirtiest of dirty work. First it was the lie that Sheehan had, in the words of Drudge, “dramatically changed her account” of her June 2004 meeting with Bush. Despite the fact that this supposed flip-flop was a total distortion created by taking quotes out of context, the story quickly made its way into the hands of conservative bloggers… and allowed the TV jackal-pack to start tearing away at Sheehan’s flesh. For all the details on how this went down, check out Media Matters blow-by-blow description. The lowlights included Bill O’Reilly and Michelle Malkin tag-teaming up to push the idea that Sheehan’s “story hasn’t checked out”. O’Reilly also claimed Sheehan “is in bed with the radical left”, and, later suggested “this kind of behavior borders on treasonous”… and, for bad measure, tried to slime Sheehan by linking her with “people who hate this government, hate their country”.

Rush Limbaugh played his usual role, parroting the flip-flop party line, saying that Sheehan was “trying to pull a little bit of a swindle” and that “she’d been totally co-opted by…the whole Michael Moore leftist mentality.” Fred Barnes piled on, saying of Sheehan: “She’s a crackpot” (no doubt using the same video-based diagnostic technique pioneered by Bill Frist). And Michelle Malkin went all Patricia Arquette on the case, using her heretofore unpromoted ESP powers to let us know that Sheehan’s dead son Casey wouldn’t approve of “his mother’s crazy accusations”.

Her story doesn't check out? What is complicated about this story? Her son died in Iraq. She feels he died without justification. And she feels the President still hasn't made clear to her why her son died. How does that not check out? This crap about her meeting with Bush and what did or did not happen is just that -- crap and irrelevant. But it allows the right to slime away and infer that her whole story doesn't check out. A familiar tactic since the tag team did it on Kerry too. Infer the whole story is false by pickingout one or two points of dispute. And Barnes calling her a crackpot? Nothing less than shameful.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Mr Message Nails It

Former President Clinton, on Wolf Blitzer's little monkey spank of a show, nails the perfect (IMHO) response to inquiries about Iraq. I know there is increasing sentiment in the country to bail. And the left is rabidly calling for that now. But Clinton captures my sentiments, particularly in the wake of having watched Hotel Rwanda on the plane ride back to Colorado this week. Rwanda was Clinton's darkest hour, magnified by his weakest policy moment -- the decision to pull troops from Somalia after the Blackhawk Down incident. Each of these events made America less safe for they communicated to jihadists and others that America had neither the stomach for war nor the principles to stand up at great cost for others besides themselves.

From DC Media Girl:

BLITZER: "Mr. President, we're going to get to all of that in just a moment, but let' talk about the biggest issue facing the United States, arguably right now. That would be the war in Iraq. Looking back, with 20/20 hindsight, was it a mistake?

WILLIAM CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, at the time, Wolf, I thought that we should not have gone in there until we let the U.N. inspectors finish their job. That was, after all, the understanding the Senate had when it was asked to vote to Congress to give the president authority to go in.

But that's really not relevant anymore. We did what we did. We are where we are. Fifty-eight percent of the Iraqis showed up to vote; 1,800-plus brave Americans have given their lives there. Thousands and thousands of Iraqis have died in fighting the insurgency and trying to give their country a future.

So I think where we are now, it's important to try to continue this effort to train the security forces and the military forces which the administration and our military have undertaken. They are good people. They're trying to do a good job. And there will come a time when the Iraqis will want us to go, and where we should go. But we got to try to make this work. I still think there's a chance it could work, and it's the only strategy that will work."

At least in the short run, the question is not when will we leave. But 'when will this White House put a credible Iraq policy together?' Either commit more troops or do what will be necessary to put together a multi-national force of Islamic troops under UN control. Having made a mess of the place it would be immoral to let it deteriorate into a bloody civil war on broader and more bloody scale than Lebanon. And highly destabilizing for the region too. Right now, take away the support personnel from the troop numbers on the ground, and our soldiers are trying to police a country with a force smaller than the NYC police department. No wonder you can't take a taxi from the airport to the Green Zone and live to tell about it.

Pathetic: (adj) sad, worthy of pity (see Charles Krauthammer)

Charles Krauthammer (hmm, he is aptly named me thinks) reveals his totalitarian tendencies.

Allow me to revel in his foolishness:

Setting Limits on Tolerance

Liberties should be as unlimited as possible -- unless and until there arises a real threat to the open society. Neo-Nazis are pathetic losers. Why curtail civil liberties to stop them? But when a real threat -- such as jihadism -- arises, a liberal democratic society must deploy every resource, including the repressive powers of the state, to deter and defeat those who would abolish liberal democracy.

Civil libertarians go crazy when you make this argument. Beware the slippery slope, they warn. You start with a snoop in a library, and you end up with Big Brother in your living room.

The problem with this argument is that it is refuted by American history. There is no slippery slope, only a shifting line between liberty and security that responds to existential threats.
During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln went so far as to suspend habeas corpus. When the war ended, America returned to its previous openness. During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt interned an entire ethnic group. His policies were soon rescinded (later apologized for) and shortly afterward America embarked on a period of unprecedented expansion of civil rights. Similarly, the Vietnam-era abuses of presidential power were later exposed and undone by Congress. Our history is clear. We have not slid inexorably toward police power.

No, we have not. But history also shows that each of these instances of abusive governmental power were shown to be far beyond the scope of what was necessary at the time. We imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry and Japanese nationality during the Second World War -- almost all of whom were innocent of any crime and who loved their country dearly -- in fact, they sent their sons to die in the same war that involved their incarceration. The interment was unmerited and secured us little extra safety. And it cost the country billions years later in reparations. The problem civil libertarians have with restrictions on civil liberties is that those who call for them tend to enthusiastically want to curtail liberties far beyond the actions which might pose a threat to the state.

Krauthammer goes on to display his appalling dim-wittedness.

You need only read Tony Blair's 12-point program to appreciate how absurd was his wife's defense of Britain's pre-7/7 civil liberties status quo.

For example, point 3: "Anyone who has participated in terrorism, or has anything to do with it anywhere, will be automatically refused asylum in our country." What sane country grants asylum to terrorists in the first place?

Well, that would be the US which allowed a known terrorist involved in anti-Castro activities to freely roam the streets of Florida.

The problem with much of Krauthammer's argument is that the measures he links to his argument that we need to restain civil liberties when under threat involve little to do with civil liberties. Some of the Blair points he ridicules have nothing to do with civil liberties -- such as the failure to extradite Sheikh Omar Bakri for his involvement in the Paris metro bombings or the tolerance of muslims who practice bigotry. This is a common instance of the Right's tendency to distract with the left hand while they rob you with the right. "Let's dangle these specious arguments having nothing to do with our point to justify curtailments of civil liberties" -- real rights that pose little threat to the state -- such as what books you read or if you plan to protest at a presidential event.

File Under: This is so reassuring

How bad can it get?

Officials See Risk in the Release of Images of Iraq Prisoner Abuse - New York Times

Senior Pentagon officials have opposed the release of photographs and videotapes of the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing that they would incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers and officials at risk, according to documents unsealed in federal court in New York.


The A.C.L.U.'s papers drew attention to the Pentagon's filings, which had been unsealed last week.

"The situation on the ground in Iraq is dynamic and dangerous," General Myers said, with 70 insurgent attacks daily. He also said there was evidence that the Taliban, though still weak, was gaining ground because of popular discontent in Afghanistan.

And from Salon:

We have no doubt that the photographs are shocking. As Editor & Publisher noted the other day, Donald Rumsfeld said last year that some unreleased photos from Abu Ghraib depict conduct that "can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane." Seymour Hersh has said that the unreleased images include videotape of Iraqi boys being sodomized. But while the Freedom of Information Act, under which the ACLU is seeking release of the photos, is subject to certain enumerated exceptions, we're pretty sure that "what we've done is so awful that people would riot if they knew" isn't one of them. If the Bush administration is so worried about how Muslims will react to further evidence of torture at Abu Ghraib, maybe it should spend less time fretting about photos that haven't been released and more time focused on wrongs that haven't been righted. Punishing, not promoting, some of the commanders and lawyers involved would be a good way to start.

From Editor & Publisher:

A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of “rape and murder.” No wonder Rumsfeld commented then, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

Our Marvelous Media: The Evolution Edition

Shouldn't the same standards of accuracy and truth that govern our journalists and editorial writers also apply to our opinion page editors and the submissions they accept. Would a mainstream paper publish an editorial outlining all the 'evidence' accumulated by Holocaust deniers?

USA Today wades in with their shorts down. - Evolution lacks fossil link:

"I realize that is a dramatic statement, so to be clear, let me restate: There is zero scientific fossil evidence that demonstrates organic evolutionary linkage between primates and man.

Darwin's famous The Origin of Species concludes that over eons of time, and through countless mutations, man evolved from an ape-like ancestor. It takes an enormous leap of faith (oh my, there's one of those terrible religious words!) to conclude that man evolved from ape without any empirical fossil evidence.

So Utah State Senator "D. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, is active on the evolution-education issue." But how exactly does that authorizse him to pen a specious and inaccurate piece in a major daily? Forget refutation -- if something is false you should not be able to print it. Chris Mooney - blogger for science extraordinaire has it much better than I. And John Cole has more.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Vanity Thy Name is Katherine Harris - Harris: Papers doctored makeup in photos - Aug 4, 2005: "'I'm actually very sensitive about those things, and it's personally painful,' she said. 'But they're outrageously false. ... Whenever they made fun of my makeup, it was because the newspapers colorized my photograph.'"

Friday, August 05, 2005

Radio Silence

Traveling on Bidness for the next 7 days. The Sanity Prompt will return in Mid August.

Unless of course I am struck by inspiration mid-flight.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Dan Carol Does Some Anger Management on Hillary Clinton

Dan Carol writes an open letter to Hillary Clinton.

"Dear Hillary Clinton

"Hey, we've never met but trust me I've been holding up my end at the base of a lot of Democratic pyramids going back to my days at the Ron Brown DNC. So allow me a little slack -- as this is going to sting a little. But it seems like the only way to get through these days in our world is to make a stink or pitch a fight, publicly, so I'm gonna take my turn. I do mean well."


"Now for the tough love part of this rant. I want you to know that I think that both you and your husband are the most selfish politicians I have ever seen, and I do think that it should be OK for folks to question your strategic voice in our Party after the events and outcomes of the last 12 years -- without fearing shunning or stoning from the Democratic-Clinton Taliban."

Read the rest here & note:

"There’s even useful talk of various mid-term gatherings in Colorado and elsewhere designed to further expand a New Alignment Agenda we can agree on. I’d sure suggest you add these events to your 2006 speaking calendar -- along with the usual Jefferson-Jackson dinners and cattle shows -- as they take shape in the months ahead. "

Surprise Headline - Dems Fumble their Trade Message

Gee where does one begin? Supposedly, Nancy Pelosi has decided that the 15 House members who voted for CAFTA need to be called before the carpet of the Democratic Caucus. (Here, here and here). Others within the blogosphere of the Left are calling for head, or at least committeeships. Pelosi was said to be fuming about the Dems who broke ranks, particularly those like Meeks and Towns who are from safe seats and have cushy committee assignments. Now she is considering revoking these assignments in some cases.

But then why the heck did she and the other ranking Democrats decide not to 'whip' the issue? That's right, the Party made a conscious choice to not demand that members cast a Party line vote on this one. Well if you didn't say to people that there was a 'right' way and a 'wrong' way why are you so upset now? Were they supposed to read your mind? Since 2/3 of the people who vote in the House do so on the basis of some kind of 'quid quo pro' what would make you think this time people would vote their conscience --presuming you could demonstrate that a requisite number of House members have one.

I was hardly a pro-CAFTA person and I am more and more skeptical of the free trade arguments. But if you want to make trade a defining issue for the Party -- you are going to have to WHIP it. And you are going to have to remember that to sell your message, you will want to tell everyone that over 90% of Dems opposed CAFTA while 90% of Republicand supported it.

Talk about muddying the waters? Most of the stories about CAFTA have focused on the 15 Dems who defected and the resulting chagrin in the Party. Talk about a lack of discipline on message? The story over the last week has been either that the bill passed with bi-partisan support or that Democrats are looking at recrimination for defectors. That's the way to confuse everyone.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Is Lakoff Overrated?


But some of the posts over at the Rockridge Institute leave me scratching my head. I absolutely agree that Democrats need to check their values and that this can take some work since they are often more focused on policies and forget the reasons why they take the positions they do. My own effort to do this was enlightening for me and it took me a while to peel back the onion.

But check out the following:

Rockridge Institute - Conceptual Levels: Bringing It Home to Values

Speak your values, not specific outcomes

“I want to make sure every child has access to immunizations.”
Better: “I believe the vulnerable should be protected.”

“We need harsher penalties for slumlords.”
Better: “Every family deserves a safe and healthy place to live.”

As a fully accredited policy wonk I have to say that I am disappointed that our political conversation is supposed to become more debased in this country, and that we are to talk less and less about the actual policies. But as a political hack I am skeptical as well. My diagnosis of the Party's woes are that people do not know what Democrat's values are but that the way to right this problem is to become specific about articulating policies. For instance, I don't believe that voters know what Democrats would DO once elected (if elected). And I don't know that you bridge that gap with some platitudes about your values.

For one thing, the statements characterized as 'better' above are so bland as to be meaningless. I mean, who doesn't believe that the vulnerable should be protected or that people deserve safe and healthy places to live? It's defining what those things mean and how you accomplish them where Democrats and Republicans differ. Although some Democrats would disagree, it's not as if Republicans believe everyone should have bad health care and Democrats believe that everyone deserves good health care. Where the Parties disagree is on how to achieve these goals. Republicans are confident that a properly structured market can accomplish this goal while most Democrats are skeptical that the market can deliver this or even that the market should deliver this kind of good.

My enthusiasm for a midterm Democratic Convention stems from my confidence that defining an agenda would do much to assure people about what Democrats would do once in office. And doing this indirectly and yet strongly establishes the underlying values that would drive a Democratic ascendancy. When the details of an agenda are clear, the underlying values that drive you are implicit. By taking a stand, you also demonstrate and communicate commitment and a willingness to stand for something -- perhaps the most valuable value of all.

My own sense of better (re above) would be: "It is because I believe the vulnerable should be protected that I want to make sure every child has access to immunizations.”
Better: “.”

Who's Paying for Our Patriotism?

Uwe Reinhardt. I wish I could call him my mentor. He was at least my professor but he is one of my intellectual idols, if there could be said to be such a thing. His latest in the WaPo is a classic (as is almost everything that emerges when he puts pen to paper.)

Who's Paying for Our Patriotism? by Uwe Reinhardt:

"When our son, then a recent Princeton graduate, decided to join the Marine Corps in 2001, I advised him thus: 'Do what you must, but be advised that, flourishing rhetoric notwithstanding, this nation will never truly honor your service, and it will condemn you to the bottom of the economic scrap heap should you ever get seriously wounded.' The intervening years have not changed my views; they have reaffirmed them."

Read the rest here. Priceless.

Anti-Semitism and Racism are Ideas Too!

Bush endorses teaching 'intelligent design'

"'I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought,' Bush said. ' You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.'"

Here's the lede from the story:

WASHINGTON - President Bush waded into the debate over evolution and "intelligent design" Monday, saying schools should teach both theories on the creation and complexity of life.

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session with a small group of reporters, Bush essentially endorsed efforts by Christian conservatives to give intelligent design equal standing with the theory of evolution in the nation's schools.

It mystifies me why people still wonder why there are so few Republicans in academia. Could it be that there simply aren't that many equipped for it? No one says we need an affirmative action program to reduce political bias in the military, yet large majorities of the armed services are Republican or independents and few are confessed Democrats. To be a Republican today (rather than a libertarian who votes Republican) is to suspend all disbelief, to choose faith over fact, over science, over reason.

The Discovery Institute thinks it is on to something because the Theory (and what is meant by a theory to a scientist is significantly different from what a lay person considers to be a theory) cannot explain every question (yet) about the origin of life. But evolution is not about a moment of origin but a process of, er, evolution of species. That said, the handful of biologists turned up by the Discovery Institute is neither significant nor surprising since there are always likely to be a handful of people with degrees in one area of a subject that gives them little license to talk credibly about another.

Outrage of the Day

They just keep coming and coming and coming. These stock of such stories seems endless now. - War Room: "Don't anybody tell Dick Durbin"

"Do you ever feel like you don't recognize your country anymore?

"Maybe the moment came for you when five Republican justices on the U.S. Supreme Court handed a presidential election to one of their own. Maybe it came when the president took America to war based on pretenses that turned out to be false. Maybe it came when you saw those photographs from Abu Ghraib, or when you learned that the man who helped orchestrate America's torture policies would become its attorney general. Maybe all of those things built up in your mind until your idea of America started to seem a long way off from the reality around you.

Maybe that hasn't happened to you yet. And maybe it will when you read about the plight of two young men from China who have spent the last three years locked up inside the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay."

Read the rest here (If you are not a Salon subscriber you will have to click through some ads to get it. But please read it if you have the stomach for it)

The Next Big Thing? Al Gore 'Blogerizes' TV

Gore launches youth-oriented TV network, Current - Yahoo! News. By Steve Gorman (Reuters)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore launched his long-awaited cable network, Current TV, on Monday with short, fast-paced programs, or "pods," for Internet-savvy viewers 18 to 34 years old.

The debut of Current, which reaches 20 million homes nationwide, came more than a year after Gore led an investor group in buying the cable channel Newsworld International for an undisclosed sum from Vivendi Universal .

Billed by Gore as a TV outlet that encourages a "two-way conversation" with its audience, the network offers professionally produced segments and viewer-produced videos running from a few seconds to 15 minutes in length.

Organizers say about 25 percent of Current's programming "pods" -- a term borrowed from Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod portable digital music player -- consist of homemade pieces dubbed viewer contributed content, or "VC Squared."

Initial contributions included stories about thrill-seekers who leap off cliffs with parachutes and the role that sex and drugs plays in the private lives of Iranians.

The network also featured segments on fashion, dating, travel, entertainment and news, anchored every half hour with a short spot highlighting trends gleaned from leading Web searches conducted on Google Inc.'s popular Internet portal.


During its first day on the air, the network made repeated promotional pitches to young adults who constitute the mainstay of video games and other digital media and have proven increasingly elusive to traditional broadcast and cable programmers.

"If you ever thought, 'TV really sucks ... or I could make a better show than that,' then you came to the right place," on-air host Shauntay Hinton told viewers.

At a gathering of television critics last month, the 57-year-old Gore said Current was "inviting this new generation empowered by digital tools -- of small and good cameras and laptop editing systems -- to actually make television."

"This generation wants to be in control of its media," said Gore, who served as President Bill Clinton's vice president from 1993 to 2001. "They want personalized media."

Further emphasizing viewer control over its programming, Current regulates how often it repeats individual pieces on the air according to audience feedback, as registered on the network's Web site (

Some analysts hailed Current as a potential turning point in the evolution of TV, especially for its focus in getting individuals to create content for a mass audience.

"Years from now, people will look back, and they're going to ask themselves what was the transition point, and this will stand out," said John Barker, president of New York-based DZP Marketing Communications, specializing in cable advertising.

"You can argue that this is already happening in the Internet space with blogging, and pod-casting and chat rooms and e-mail," he said. "But what you don't have is the big daddy of mass media, television, transitioning to this type of model."

Current reaches cable TV subscribers through carriage deals with Compacts, Time Warner Cable and satellite service DirecTV, controlled by News Corp. .

This project will either crash and burn miserably, as most of the MSM that have always laughed at Gore want, or it is the next big thing in media -- and Gore will in fact be able to claim he invented something without getting pounced on -- finally. My tendency is to be skeptical. But the innovative design of this thing -- it's not Fox-Left -- and its embrace of the two way nature of emerging technologies suggests that by targeting the youth segment, this network may in fact be onto the next big thing.

Monday, August 01, 2005

President Cheney

A few weeks ago, this passage in an article about the death of an American soldier in Iraq caught my eye.

The New Yorker: THE HOME FRONT - A soldier’s father wrestles with the ambiguities of Iraq. by GEORGE PACKER:

"When Bush's first chief of the postwar operation, the retired general Jay Garner, was replaced by L. Paul Bremer III and recalled from Iraq, in May, 2003, he was taken by Rumsfeld to the White House for a farewell meeting with the President. The conversation lasted forty-five minutes, he told me, with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Rice sitting in for the second half, and yet the President did not take the chance to ask Garner what it was really like in Iraq, to find out what problems lay ahead. When Garner had come back from northern Iraq in 1991, after leading the effort to save Kurdish refugees following the Gulf War, he had answered questions for four or five days.

Bush thanked Garner for his excellent service. Garner told Bush, "You made a great choice in Bremer." Garner's end-of-duty report had assured the President that most services in Iraq would be restored within a few weeks. Anyone listening to the conversation could only conclude that Operation Iraqi Freedom was a triumph.

"You want to do Iran for the next one?" the President joshed as the meeting came to an end.

"No, sir, me and the boys are holding out for Cuba," Garner said.

Bush laughed and promised Garner and the boys Cuba.

Garner shook hands with the President, then with the Vice-President, who had said nothing the whole time. He told me that he caught Cheney's "wicked little smile" on his way out, adding, "I think the President only knows what Cheney lets in there.""

I can't say I am surprised by any of this.

The Yankees Go Left

The New York Yankees started 10 different pitchers in July (Roster), tying a franchise record. They have started 14 different pitchers over the course of the season due to the spate of injuries they have suffered to their pitching staff. Over the weekend they acquired Alan Embree (let go by the Red Sox) and Shawn Chacon (from the Rockies) and added Al Leiter a few weeks ago. None of these players at this point in their careers are likely to challenge for a Cy Young award but they shore up a pitching core that has been alternately miserable and plagued by misery.

The upside in all of this is that a very unbalanced rotation dominated by righties has been balanced. They now have 4 lefties on staff, two of them starters. This will help them enormously if the Red Sox (with a left handed dominated lineup of batters) become their main rivals through October, as most expect.