Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Saletan on Bush's Courage

This dovetails nicely with Josh Marshall's posts on Bush's cowardice. Of particularly venomous interest:

The ultimate testament to Bush's manhood, supposedly, is the two wars he launched. As McCain put it, "He ordered American forces to Afghanistan" and "made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq." But the salient word in each of those boasts is the verb. Bush gives orders and makes decisions. He doesn't take personal risks. He never has.

I don't mean to be unfair to Bush. Vietnam was a lousy war. He wanted a way out, and he found it. But isn't it odd to see Republicans belittle the physical risks Kerry took in battle while exalting Bush's armchair wars and post-9/11 photo ops? Isn't it embarrassing to see Bob Dole, the GOP's previous presidential nominee, praise Bush's heroism while suggesting that Kerry's three combat wounds weren't bad enough to justify sending him home from Vietnam?

(emphasis is mine).

Monday, August 30, 2004

PRRW: Israeli Espionage

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Missouri to allow Iraq soldiers to vote by e-mail

Oh yeah, no possibility of abuse there.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Krugman comes out for Single Payer

He's absolutely right that a government health system would make U.S. businesses tremendously more competitive. One easy example? Every GM car you buy costs you an extra $1400 to cover GM's health insurance obligations.

Is there anyone who would seriously argue that GM would not do better against foreign competition if it could cut prices $1400 per car or pocket an extra $1400 per car?

Krugman rightly notes that the U.S. spends far more per year on health care per capita than any other industrialized nation. I think some of the scare stories about Canadian single payer are overblown, but even if we accept the worst tales of delays and rationing, spending more than double what Canada spends per capita should really mitigate the worst delays.

The last point, and one unaddressed by Krugman, is medical malpractice. It's a complicated issue, to be sure. Capping damages or making it more difficult to sue is not the answer -- malpractice cases are already tremendously expensive to pursue and tremendously difficult to win, and caps on punitive damages only hurt those who are most egregiously hurt by the bad behavior of their physician.

What's more, malpractice is currently the only effective mechanism for removing bad doctors. Currently, around 5% of doctors account for about 50% of malpractice damages. If we had a more efficient regulatory regime for physician licensing, we could minimally reduce the number of doctors and vastly reduce the amount of damages (and thus the premia). A robust doctor-licensing agency would make it easier for 95% of doctors to practice medicine.

Another solution would be for insurance providers to rate doctors based on their records, rather than their practice area. Currently, cardiologists in a certain geographic region pay one amount, proctologists another amount, and so on. If I crash my car, even if it isn't my fault, my insurance rates go up. Why doesn't it work the same for doctors? Let the good drivers pay less, I say.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

AP: Ranks of Poor, Uninsured Rise

1.3 million new poor people.
1.4 million more people uninsured.
1 in 6 American children living in poverty.

And that was just in 2003.

PRRW: On Executive Power

Dahlia Lithwick returns to form as a NY Times Guest Columnist, after a brief aberration ("Babies and Bath Water").

Of the Schlesinger report, she says:

The report faults ambiguous interrogation mandates, an inadequate postwar plan, poor training and a lack of oversight. It notes that much of this confusion stemmed from the Bush administration's posture that the Geneva Conventions applied only where the president saw fit, and that the definition of "interrogation" was up for grabs at Guantánamo Bay, thus possibly at Abu Ghraib.

and then she goes farther than the report:

It [Abu Ghraib] was the direct consequence of an administration ready to bargain away the rule of law. That started with the suspension of basic prisoner protections, because this was a "new kind of war." It led to the creation of a legal sinkhole on Guantánamo Bay. And it reached its zenith when high officials opined that torture isn't torture unless there's some attendant organ failure.

As I've said before of the MBA administration, every CEO in America is accountable to the company's shareholders for things the company does under his or her watch, whether the CEO directed company employees to act in a proscribed manner or not. A CEO is not let off the hook for an accounting scandal if he quasi-absolves himself by accepting responsibility -- he resigns or is fired by the board. (Ok, except Halliburton, apparently).

This administration shouldn't wait until there is a popular din for Rumsfeld's removal -- it should proactively seek to restore the faith of its shareholders by taking steps that show it has assigned the blame. The administration should further replace Rumsfeld with someone committed to providing clear guidance to his or her subordinates on proper detention and interrogation procedures, guidance that is compliant with U.S. and international law on the subject. American strength is only respected in the world when it is tempered with respect for the rule of law.

That they don't take these steps is evidence of rot at the moral heart of the administration. The president is the most powerful person in the world, but his powers do not permit disregard for the rule of law or any exercise of executive power that tramples basic rights and principles, whether codified in our Bill of Rights or in the Geneva Convention. You may not like Geneva, but until you replace it, it is the law that we agreed to abide by.

Congress impeached President Clinton because he lied about an irrelevant question in a civil deposition. Was Clinton wrong to lie? Yes. Was it against the law? Yes. Was it a "high crime or misdemeanor"? Eh, not really so much, in my opinion.

But dear God, what does it say about your moral compass and your political motives when you will impeach Clinton for lying in a civil deposition, but not President Bush for cooking intelligence to take the country to war, for dropping people into anonymous and secret detention in contravention of their constitutional rights, for appropriating billions of dollars to be awarded in no-bid contracts to business cronies, and for refusing to take responsibility in a real, meaningful way for abuses inflicted on detainees in U.S. custody?

Of course, an impeachment is not going to happen, and would be an extreme solution anyway, considering the man is up for reelection in about 2 months anyway. This election will test the commitment of the American people; do we prefer the reassuring strength of a secretive UberExecutive or do we prefer a chief executive who at least attempts to openly function within his prescribed Constitutional role?

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

L&E News

My first post is up and I am as giddy as a schoolgirl.

PRRW Update

Kerry calls for Rumsfeld's resignation:

"The lack of responsibility for what has been one of the most severe miscalculations in any deployment of American forces in American history, I believe, lands in the civilian responsibility," said Mr. Kerry. "And I called months ago for Secretary Rumsfeld to take that responsibility, for the president to take that responsibility, and again today, as I have previously, I call for the resignation of the secretary of defense for failure to do what he should have done."

Well, sure, now he'll resign.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Daily Show, John Kerry, simulblogging

Tonight, John Kerry does an extended interview on Daily Show.

I've been chuckling today as I've read editorials tongue-clucking about John Kerry's first interview in awhile being Daily Show. "He wants to hit softballs before facing the press," they babble. Are they watching the same daily show as I am? Ask Congressman Bonilla about Jon Stewart's softballs. Ditto for those who carp that the Daily Show is fake news; when the "real" news starts to call a spade a spade, they will stop losing prestigious journalism awards to the fake news. (see, for example, the flap over the "more sensitive war on terror.")

Of course, Stewart is probably more sympathetic to Kerry. I guess we will see.

Kerry is on.

First impressions, mid-interview.

I don't care that it is the truth that both Kerry and Bush have flip-flopped, or that the whole issue is fake in the first place. Kerry should not have said, "I've flip-flopped, flap-flipped..." That's going to end up on an RNC loop somewhere.

He's really hammering this "stubborn" theme, but I think it could have been done more elegantly. Certainly, one of President Bush's main political characteristics is to portray himself as decisive, staying the course, even when in reality this requires Bush to do some contortions when he does have to change his mind (this goes with the flip-flop thing).

As I am typing this, I saw a commercial for the Nader factor. (www.thenaderfactor.com). It's pretty extraordinary to me to even see a commercial from these people.

Stewart hits on the loyalty oaths required to attend a Bush rally.

Final impressions:
It seemed a little too much like Stewart was spoon-feeding talking points to Kerry. Kerry, I think to his credit, floundered a little bit when trying to hammer the anti-Bush talking points. He was very articulate when he briefly discussed energy policy or the mounting economic crisis. More of that is in order.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Can we trust a man who tried to slash intelligence funding?

No, not Kerry. Porter Goss.

[T]he cuts Goss supported are larger than those proposed by Kerry and specifically targeted the "human intelligence" that has recently been found lacking. The recent report by the commission probing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks called for more spending on human intelligence.

I trust the administration will be withdrawing Goss's nomination, since a much smaller cut makes Kerry unfit for the presidency, to their mind.

How to annihilate your own credibility

I try to read articles that are hostile to my own position in order to ensure I understand both sides of an issue. Often I learn things that my usual sources might neglect. So today when I went to Google News (a favorite source), and saw this headline:

Kerry: strange, stuck-up... and stupid

I thought, whoa. Then I saw

According to Francis Harris in Saturday's Telegraph, allegations that John Kerry "lied about his Vietnam record" are "unravelling". Oh, I wouldn't say that. Right now, it looks like the sanity of the Kerry campaign and its pals in the media that's beginning to unravel.

and again, thought "Whoa." That's so true. The media has been covering this as if it were an actual story with two sides, and Kerry's campaign response has been terrible, quibbling over the details instead of just pointing out that "hey, no one disputes that I was in Vietnam, on the Mekong Delta, in a swift boat, or that my opponent was debating the merits of intentionally blowing out his own eardrums in order to disqualify himself from service."

It didn't take Steyn long to totally blow any credibility he had, saying such things as

The other day it was CNN host James Carville, former skinhead-in-chief to Bill Clinton...

That's seven years getting tortured by the gooks, only to be mocked by some lame-o cartoonist as a redneck latrine operator.

And then, in a spectacular non sequitur, everybody with me now in a Jon Stewart WHAAA?!:

I wouldn't stand for Parliament on a family values platform because I know someone's bound to bring up the 123 gay porn movies I had a bit part in back in Amsterdam in the 1970s.

There is nothing I can say to make that any funnier than it already is.

Demurrer addendum

"I was not prepared to shoot my eardrum out with a shotgun in order to get a deferment," Bush told the Dallas Morning News in 1990. "Nor was I willing to go to Canada. So I chose to better myself by learning how to fly airplanes."

UPDATE: Read this, too. Wow.

A taste:

What was Bush doing with his youth? He was drinking. He was drinking like a fish, every night, into the wee hours. For decades. He gave no service to anyone, risked nothing, and did not even slack off efficiently.

KE04: Why no demurrer?

As legal-minded readers know, a demurrer is a pleading that says, "yeah, but so what?"

So why doesn't KE04 demur to SBVfT?

"Even if your bogus allegations that I didn't earn two of my five medals in Vietnam were true, and they're not, I still earned three medals in Vietnam. I'm still a highly-decorated Vietnam vet, and your guy didn't serve in Vietnam, probably didn't even serve in Texas Air National Guard."

Fight back, Senator Kerry!

Friday, August 20, 2004

Josh Marshall on SBVfT

Marshall points out that it is cowardly to refuse to take a side against SBVfT, and to even allow their claims to be repeated to your face without challenging them, while maintaining that you will not "raise questions about his [Kerry's] service."

Then McClellan says:

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let's not be selective here. Let's look at the overall activity that's going on by all of these shadowy groups. I think we're being a little selective right now. And Senator Kerry is being -- is trying to have it all ways, yet again. He says one thing, while his campaign goes out there and does another thing.

Marshall notes that in any meaningful sense of the word, the Swift Boat group is a Bush-campaign front. I'm not sure that merely having common funders or political associates makes it a "front," but, like Josh, I find his unwillingness to disavow their ads to be a bit cowardly.

In contrast, Kerry has disavowed several of these 527-sponsored ads (like the Hitler spot and the spot questioning Bush's Air National Guard service). The links between Kerry and MoveOn are considerably more tenuous than the links between Bush and SBVfT, and Kerry still feels that he should disavow some of MoveOn's tactics, even though their tactics have been considerably more mild than SBVfT (e's. g. piles of misleading or unverifiable statements, private investigators pressuring vets to sign anti-Kerry affidavits, etc.).

Should the 527 loophole be closed? Yes.
Should campaigns be fully publicly financed first? Yes.

UPDATE: Kerry campaign files FEC complaint against SBVfT. Don't worry, it's hard to prove illegal collaboration.

Uh oh.

Ted Kennedy is not a Terrorist

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Since I seem to have nothing to say

...you should read this outstanding, touching account of how UCL helped his wife get a green card.

Nothing to report

I lead the most boring life ever. Nothing happening, and nothing to look forward to.

Stay tuned for more gripping details of my eventless existence.

Monday, August 16, 2004

West Wing Season 5

...starts on Bravo, August 30th. Finally. I never watched the show until I found it on Bravo, so I haven't seen any of season 5.

Although I am excited, I am disappointed that S5 has no Sorkin, no Lowe.

We'll see.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Cheers! (or, where the Hell have I been?)

Sorry I have been mostly absent this week. It is the last full (official) week of my internship, and I am trying to make sure I cross all the t's and dot all the i's before I go, as I tend to have a "big picture" sensibility about my work, which causes me to miss details sometimes (should I use that in an interview for OCI? Probably not.)

I was excited today to be interviewed on "In Our Backyard" on WORT (a local community radio station). The organization where I work this summer released a study on rising drug cost burdens, and my boss wanted me to have the experience of media contact before I left. I didn't embarass myself too badly, but then, how bad could it be in a 4-minute interview on a community radio station? (Standard disclaimer: Views I have expressed on health care policy are not necessarily those of Wisconsin Citizen Action. That said, they're pretty darn close, most of the time).

I have some things I am looking forward to blogging about soon. I would like to pay more attention (personally) to the War in Iraq, a subject that I have found too depressing to delve in any substantial way. But, OP style, the media is trying to make us all forget that people are still dying daily over there, or at least they were until the offensive started in Najaf. I also want to direct you to the NYT editorial page, where Dahlia Lithwick is guest writing (and you thought I liked Ehrenreich!).

Just two weeks until we roll out the L&E Blog, where I will be student editor for "Employees." I will be writing about developments in Labor and Employment law, as you might have guessed. I got my WestClips set up, and my Eclipse search, and my Google News searches. I am looking forward to collaborating to some extent with George, from George's Employment Blawg, who saw my post here citing him as a possible source. George is running nothing less than THE premier Labor and Employment blawg, so I was very honored to be invited to contribute there as well.

In related "too much on my plate" news, I was also invited to participate on the Law Review. If you're wondering what the heck I am doing up so late, blogging, it's that I just got my letter by e-mail. I'm the tiniest bit excited, as you might imagine. Sleep may elude me for an hour or two.

In the meantime, some fine music, some good reading, and a nice, cold beer. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Those are good burgers, Walter.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Too good to pass up

I normally don't go in too much for these, but it occurs to me that if a large part of your campaign strategy is to mock the things others say, you should be careful about what you say yourself.

With that in mind, I give you:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

Thursday, August 05, 2004

PRRW: Abu Ghraib and Gitmo

Publius at Legal Fiction zips off a real hum-dinger here (GITMO - Shame on Us).

It's a terrific post about the consequences of the (more and more undeniable) atrocities perpetuated in our names.

The issue goes back to the conclusion of Dahlia Lithwick's recent piece. This is or should be an election about the scope of executive power. The balance of power has been teetering since before the Bush administration, but now the balance is more precarious than ever; America needs to take a stand for executive accountability that encompasses Congressional supervision of executive activities. Our Republic simply will not function if the President is empowered to make quasi-judicial determinations (you're an enemy combatant!) and then keep such decisions secret. The Republic will fail if the President can hurl such detainees into a legal limbo, create a climate that encourages torture and brutality, and then chock the inevitable results up to "a few bad apples." Such a system, in effect, gives the executive nearly limitless power to act as he wishes. Some would call this a necessary power to protect America.

I call it tyranny.

Cohen: Flip-Floppery

Richard Cohen at WaPo writes this column, listing some of President Bush's flip-flops.

For my part, I would just as soon that the candidates stopped talking about flip-flops. It is such an asinine discussion; no one really wants a leader who won't change his or her mind upon realizing that he or she has made an error. The implication is that one candidate or the other is more likely to flop if the political winds shift. They call it flip-flopping.

I call it political accountability. Sometimes there is virtue in holding a position that your constituents don't hold; our distrust for rule by simple majority is why we elect representatives instead of governing by referendum. On the other hand, there are certainly situations where we want our political leaders to be responsive to the wishes of their constituents.

To my mind, the only time when it really makes sense to make an issue of a flip-flop is when the flip-flop involves some sort of deception. For instance, when President Bush was campaigning against Al Gore, he claimed to have supported a Patient's Bill of Rights as Texas governor. This is a patently false statement, since he vetoed the first version that the legislature passed and then allowed the second version to become law without his signature when the legislature passed it with a veto-proof majority.

That's about honesty. You don't get to take credit for the political achievements of others, particularly if you opposed their efforts.

Of course, as long as the media and the voters continue to fixate on whether an elected leader changed his mind, there will be a big incentive for that leader to frame every decision as "staying on course."

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Majesty of Storms

Last night, as I was driving home, it started to sprinkle. I love rain.

When I got home, I did the minimal familial duties that were required of me, and then retreated to the front porch, with a cold beer and Walt Whitman. I sat on the stoop (under the eaves) and listened to the gentle pitter patter of the rain, until the sky opened up. Massive sheets of rain, lightning bolts, claps of thunder, the rainwater running like a river in the streets.

It was an awesome display of the effortless majesty of God.

The beer was pretty good, too.

What a Relief!

**if it wasn't for Bill O'Reilly and Larry King and Chris Matthews, Giblets would never be able to take the news! Why he might think he was livin' in some distorted caricature of America commanded by a cluelessly amoral administration which embraces a dangerously expansive view of executive power and a tendency to conflate strength and determination with the wearing of large white hats. Whew! Now that would be crazy!

Phew! Thanks, Giblets!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Great Matt Yglesias Piece

Not-so-weird Weird News - "Shove It" Garners Highest Media Attention

Link via Fark.

Big Corporate Media -- Bringing you all the news that matters!

Salon Revisits the Sandy Berger Story

Salon's "War Room 04" blog (you will have to click through an advertisement) takes the media to task for failing to cover Sandy Berger being cleared of all charges after devoting extensive coverage to the early investigation (and Republican speculation of further Clinton shenanigans).

Particularly striking:

At the time, Democrats noted news of the investigation, which had begun nine months earlier, was leaked to the press just two days before the release of the 9/11 commission, which was expected to be critical of the Bush administration's handling of some anti-terrorism and intelligence measures.

This really ticks me off, the way that the media permits the administration to control coverage of thorny issues by covering non-stories that are put out as a distraction.

Perhaps more accurately, I am bothered by the "although some opponents would say that the world is not round at all" coverage. Journalists should strive for objectivity and balance, except when the balance being sought is between the truth and lies. When someone is lying, or even shamelessly spinning, it's fair not to report their point of view, or to question their motives when you do.

Krugman on the Media and the "Extreme Makeover"

Another technique, pervasive on both Fox and CNN, was to echo Republican claims of an "extreme makeover" - the assertion that what viewers were seeing wasn't the true face of the party. (Apparently all those admirals, generals and decorated veterans were ringers.)

It will probably be easier to make a comparable case in New York, where the Republicans are expected to feature an array of moderate, pro-choice speakers and keep Rick Santorum and Tom DeLay under wraps. But in Boston, it took creativity to portray the delegates as being out of the mainstream. For example, Bill Schneider at CNN claimed that according to a New York Times/CBS News poll, 75 percent of the delegates favor "abortion on demand" - which exaggerated the poll's real finding, which is that 75 percent opposed stricter limits than we now have.


On Thursday night, Mr. Kerry's speech was a palpable hit. A focus group organized by Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, found it impressive and persuasive. Even pro-Bush commentators conceded, at first, that it had gone over well.

But a terrorism alert is already blotting out memories of last week. Although there is now a long history of alerts with remarkably convenient political timing, and Tom Ridge politicized the announcement by using the occasion to praise "the president's leadership in the war against terror," this one may be based on real information. Regardless, it gives the usual suspects a breathing space; once calm returns, don't be surprised if some of those same commentators begin describing the ineffective speech they expected (and hoped) to see, not the one they actually saw.

I agree with all of this. I am particularly interested to see whether Terry McAuliffe is given the same opportunity as Ed Gillespie.

Disturbing to me is the preposterous hypocrisy of those who criticize Dean (and probably now Krugman) for accusing the administration of using terror alerts for political cover but don't mention some of the things that Tom Ridge said:

But we must understand that the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror, the reports that have led to this alert are the result of offensive intelligence and military operations overseas, as well as strong partnerships with our allies around the world, such as Pakistan.

(Link via Eschaton).

Monday, August 02, 2004

Poetry in my blood

For the last few weeks, my conscious mind has been overwhelmed by the primal drumbeats of verse. I generally get started on a poetry kick when I am feeling down or depressed, and then I spiral for a few weeks before I rein myself in.

Yes, that was me in the park, lying in the grass and reading Whitman. Yes, that was me on the front stoop drinking a dark beer and reading Bukowski. Yes, that was me at Six Flags on Saturday memorizing Shakespearean sonnets.

With that in mind, I give you the short, the sweet "A Drinking Song" by the inimitable W.B. Yeats:

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

The Case Against Pres. Bush -- Ron Reagan