Filtered news 7/16

My Senator!  Roll Call
writes, “Just a year ago, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) was
disregarded, even by some in his own party, as for his stance on the Iraq War.” When Feingold first
floated the idea of setting a withdrawal date two years ago, few of his
colleagues supported him. This week, Senate will take up the Levin-Reed
redeployment bill, which is “ to the amendment Feingold” last June.

It's about time on the
Iraq filibuster. But it's a very good move. There has been little if any press
attention to the fact that senate Republicans are filibustering practically
every piece of legislation to come before the senate. But Iraq is the sui
generis
issue. And the Democrats need to make it clear that the Republicans
won't allow anything on Iraq to even come to the floor.  The Republicans have
every right to filibuster. But it should be clear that that's what they're
doing.

SIRIUS error Rick
Perlstein's right.

The liberal channel is called

The conservative channel is called

SIRIUS Satellite Radio doesn't think you're patriotic. This is an
obscenity.

SIRIUS's media relations representative for talk radio is Hillary Schupf. Her
email is .

Who supports our
troops?
  “Years before the war began,” Pentagon officials knew
that armored MRAP vehicles better shielded troops from roadside
bombs than Humvees. “But military officials — from commanders on the battlefield and from the
Pentagon’s own staff” — dating back to Dec. 2003, to provide the MRAPs, a USA
Today investigation found.

Bush to sick children: drop
dead
  “The White
House said on Saturday that President Bush would veto a bipartisan plan to
expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program,” which is set to expire Sept.
30. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bipartisan plan “would by 4.1 million.” 

We're fighting W's friends -- the
Saudis?
 
might put a crimp in the White House's talking points.

Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria
and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest
number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third
neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi
lawmakers.

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians
and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and
10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made
available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners
in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.

Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide
bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who
spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is
apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role
played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.

He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In
the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000
Iraqis.

The LA Times' report suggests this reality has left the U.S. in an
"awkward position," because the Saudis are ostensibly a key ally in the region,
which apparently has been unsuccessful in preventing its citizens from
committing acts of terror in Iraq.

Or, put another way, Andrew Sullivan ,
"The Saudis, of course, are among the Bush family's closest friends, so we
neither mention nor tackle this. The gulf between the reality in the Middle East
and the president's account of it grows wider and wider."

Why -- again -- are we fighting in
Iraq?
   In June 2005, ThinkProgress noted the Bush was the definition of our “mission” in Iraq. Reporting on his
escalation strategy this week, President Bush claimed “satisfactory” progress in
many areas of the “” in Iraq. Bush has changed the definition of our “mission” in Iraq
so many times, he has made it impossible for the American public, U.S. forces,
and the Iraqi population to have any confidence that the .

THE PRE-WAR MISSION WAS TO RID IRAQ OF WMD

Bush: “Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our
mission is very clear: disarmament
.” []

AFTER THE WAR BEGAN, THE MISSION EXPANDED

Bush: “Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace
of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of
mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the
Iraqi people
.” []

Bush: “Our forces have been given a clear mission: to end a
regime
that threatened its neighbors and the world with weapons of mass
destruction and to free a people that had suffered far too
long.” []

THEN THE MISSION WAS COMPLETE

Bush: “On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after
the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the
men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: Their mission is
complete, and major combat operations in Iraq have ended
.” []

BUT THEN IT CONTINUED AGAIN

Bush: “The United States and our allies will complete our mission in
Iraq
.” []

THEN THE MISSION WAS TO DEVELOP A FREE IRAQ

Bush: “That has been our mission all along, to develop the conditions
such that a free Iraq will emerge
, run by the Iraqi citizens.” []

Bush: “We will see that Iraq is free and self-governing and
democratic
. We will accomplish our mission.” []

AND TO TRAIN THE IRAQI TROOPS

Bush: “And our mission is clear there, as well, and that is to train
the Iraqis so they can do the fighting
; make sure they can stand up to
defend their freedoms, which they want to do.” []

Bush: “We’re making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one
hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq, and on the other hand, the
Iraqis capable of defending themselves.
And we will — we will
complete this mission for the sake of world peace
.” []

THEN IT SHIFTED TO ADVANCING DEMOCRACY

Bush: “We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission. …
Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is the mission that
created our nation — and now it is the calling of a new generation of
Americans
.” []

AND PROTECTING AMERICA FROM TERRORISTS

Bush: “In the coming days, there will be considerable reflection on the
removal of Saddam Hussein from power and our remaining mission in
Iraq…By helping the Iraqi people build a free and representative government, we
will deny the terrorists a safe haven to plan attacks against America.

[]

Bush: “We will finish the mission. By defeating the terrorists in
Iraq, we will bring greater security to our own country.
And when
victory is achieved, our troops will return home with the honor they have
earned.” []

THEN THE MISSION WAS PROVIDING SECURITY FOR THE IRAQI POPULATION

Bush: “In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission: helping
secure the population, especially in Baghdad.
Our plan puts Iraqis in
the lead.” []

Bush: “[I]t’s the combination of providing security in neighborhoods
through these joint security stations, and training that is the current mission
we’re going through, with a heavy emphasis on security in Baghdad.
” []

AND NOW?

Bush: “It’s a new mission. And David Petraeus is in Iraq
carrying it out. Its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward
reconciliation — to build a free nation that respects the rights of its people,
upholds the rule of law, and is an ally against the extremists in this war.” []

Dubya's war    
In a story entitled “Cheney pushes Bush to act on Iran,” The Guardian writes
that inside the White House over how to confront
Iran:

The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in
favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18
months, the Guardian has learned.

The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon
and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration
is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source
in Washington said: “Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in
limbo.”

The arrogance of the
affluent
  What a depressing story I mean, it's
nice to know that there are a few rich people who aren't complete assholes, but
it seems safe to say that the majority fall pretty safely into this category. Do
they seriously believe that American executives in the 50s and 60s just coasted
along on waves of cash while they not only had a world red in tooth and
claw to tame, but were responsible for personally taming it without help from
any other human being on the planet? Apparently so:

The new tycoons describe a history that gives them a heroic role. The
American economy, they acknowledge, did grow more rapidly on average in the
decades immediately after World War II than it is growing today. Incomes rose
faster than inflation for most Americans and the spread between rich and poor
was much less. But the United States was far and away the dominant economy, and
government played a strong supporting role. In such a world, the new tycoons
argue, business leaders needed only to be good managers.....That changed with
the arrival of "the technological age," in [Lew] Frankfort's view. Innovation
became a requirement, in addition to good management skills — and innovation has
played a role in Coach's marketing success. "To be successful," Mr. Frankfort
said, "you now needed vision, lateral thinking, courage and an ability to see
things, not the way they were but how they might be."

Oy. Where do these people come from? I'm at least moderately sympathetic to
this kind of argument when it comes from a genuine entrepreneur like Bill Gates
or Sam Walton, but when it comes from some guy who thinks he practically risked
life and limb by climbing to the top of the corporate ladder and then
engineering a couple of big mergers, it almost makes me want to retch. These
guys wouldn't know risk if it hit them in the kneecaps with a two-by-four.

The heart of what's
wrong
   "Only twice before over the last century has 5 percent
of the national income gone to families in the upper one-one-hundredth of a
percent of the income distribution — currently, the almost 15,000 families with
incomes of $9.5 million or more a year, according to an analysis of tax returns
by the economists Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley and
Thomas Piketty at the Paris School of Economics."  Shockingly, many of the
people
from this skewed income distribution think it's because they're such brilliant
individuals, and oppose a return even to 1990s-level, let alone 1970s-level,
income taxes.

 

What Bush has done to our
military
  A couple days old, but I don't think it got any play
here.  From the :  "Nearly 12 percent of Army recruits who entered basic training this
year needed a special waiver for those with criminal records, a dramatic
increase over last year and 2 1/2 times the percentage four years ago, according
to new Army statistics obtained by the Globe."

 

GOP Rep: Dubya f*cked up the
war
  Last week, in a conversation with senior White House
political aide Karl Rove, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) warned that conservative
support is quickly eroding for the war, and to stem the tide, Bush must
institute a plan that begins the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Voinovich told Rove,
“The president is and should think about his legacy.” :

Voinovich added that other Republicans are close to speaking out against the
President’s current strategy. “I won’t mention anyone’s name. But I have every
reason to believe that the fur is going to start to fly, perhaps sooner than
what they may have wanted.” In private, Voinovich is more blunt, using a
profanity to describe the White House’s handling of Iraq by charging the
administration “f–ed up” the war.
[…] A White House spokeswoman
confirmed to CNN that Rove, who speaks with Voinovich frequently, had the phone
conversation with the senator last week and they did discuss the President’s
legacy. But the spokeswoman declined to provide further details, citing Rove’s
desire to keep phone conversations with senators private.

Your tax dollars at
play
  $12.5 million: Amount of taxpayer money
spent to ordered by FEMA after Hurricane Katrina.
FEMA has stored the ice for two years, even though the agency’s “own regulations
required that they dispose of the ice after three months.”

 

Neocon media at play  
Do we need another Fox? Yesterday ABC correspondent Jake Tapper hounded Harry
Reid at a press conference to speculate about what might happen in Iraq
post-withdrawal. Carrying the GOP's water, Tapper created a report for ABC using
Reid's answer and then showcasing Lindsay "Huckleberry" Graham whining about how
the Democrats aren't playing nice.  has
the video. They also have this:

Tapper then wrote a piece for ABC News entitled "," stuffed with right-wing
rhetoric. He alleged that Reid "refused to discuss whether the United States had
a moral obligation to secure the country for Iraqis or even answer questions as
to whether withdrawing troops would make the country safer for the tens of
millions of Iraqis."

In fact, as the ABC segment showed, Reid did answer the question, telling
Tapper: "It is clear that the Iraqi people don’t want us there. It is clear that
there is now a state of chaos in Iraq, and it is up to the Iraqi people to make
themselves safe."

This is the effort by the Bush administration in full bloom. Knowing that they
can show no progress in Iraq, knowing that they have no plan for improving
conditions there, knowing that the only way to make sure the debacle isn't
"lost" until Bush is out of office is by trying to scare the country into
thinking something much worse will happen if we leave. The Jake Tappers and the
Moonie Times editorialists are their most loyal carriers of that meme.

This isn't the first smear job by Tapper. Here's and

on Tapper's efforts to keep the Pelosi used a private plane story going. Of
course, this is the guy who got his started by writing an article about an old dinner date with Monica
Lewinsky a few weeks after the scandal broke. Blech.

Korea: so many failures, so little
time
  The first thing to say on North Korea is that it's very
good news that the North Koreans have again shut down the Yongbyon nuclear
reactor. This is the facility that has been the center of nearly all the trouble
over more than a decade now. And the IAEA has now
that the plant has been taken off line, though negotiations will now begin on
securing a more permanent shuttering of the facility. The Times calls the deal a
"hard-won, yet fragile diplomatic victory for the Bush administration."

And so it is, sort of.

But here's the thing no one should forget: it's taken the Bush administration
six-plus years to get things to where the Clinton administration had them when
Bush took office.

Let's review: the Clinton administration had a deal with the North Koreans in
which the US -- actually a consortium of the US and its allies -- gave fuel oil
and a promise of diplomatic normalization for the North Koreans to shutter their
plutonium-producing nuclear facility. The Bush team called this appeasement and
set-up deliberately scuttling that deal, which indeed happened. The North
Koreans proceeded to get back into plutonium production big time. And it's now
assumed that they made a few actual weapons with the stuff. Realizing that
they'd shot their mouth off with no idea what an alternative policy might be for
the Korean Peninsula, they eventually started creeping their way back to the
Clinton policy, to which point they have now arrived.

So, back to where we started, only now the North Koreans probably have
several nuclear warheads instead of what was probably none in early 2001.

Yes, there are some jots and tittles and an endless amount of trying to find
meaningless differences to distinguish their approach from the Clinton approach.
But there's no getting around it: this is the Clinton policy. Indeed, it was
also the Powell policy. And it was the policy of most people who had any sense.
But it wasn't the Cheney/Kristol/AEI/PNAC policy. And now the whole exercise of
six wasted years has to be chalked up as another of those mind-numbingly stupid
Bush policy failures that would be funny if so much hadn't been (and continues
to be) on the line.

Perfect storm  Obama and
Clinton each have an astonishing $30 million-plus in cash on hand for the
primary. That and other political news of the day in today's .

Suppose a house is just starting to
burn.
 Maybe it's the wiring.  Maybe it's an accident.  Maybe
it's arson.  Whatever the cause, the flames are licking at the basement now, and
the ground floor is starting to smoke.

Do you put it out?  No.  It's .  

Here's the good news about climate change: Energy and climate experts say the
world already possesses the technological know-how for trimming greenhouse gas
emissions enough to slow the perilous rise in the Earth's temperatures.

Here's the bad news: Because of the enormous cost of addressing global
warming, the energy legislation considered by Congress so far will make barely a
dent in the problem, while farther-reaching climate proposals stand a remote
chance of passage.

Putting out the house would take a lot of water, and pumping all that water
costs money.  Besides, you'd need a fire truck, and you have to hire
firefighters, and you have to train them, and you have to build a fire station.

Despite growing public concern over global warming, the House has failed to
agree on new standards for automobile fuel efficiency, and the Senate has done
little to boost the efficiency of commercial office buildings and appliances. In
September, Congress is expected to start wrestling with more ambitious
legislation aimed at slowing climate change; but because of the complexity of
the likely proposals, few expect any bill to become law.

Why should we bother with all that, when letting the house burn is
free?

Smearing Obama  "Obama,"
The New York Times Magazine, "would set a new precedent
for inexperience in the White House; he was a state senator only three years
ago, when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic convention, and
before that he was a community organizer."

Really?

If Obama is elected to the White House, he will have served eight years in
the Illinois State Senate and four years in the United States Senate. In the
twentieth century, I count Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover,
Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan as all having served fewer than 12 years in
public office before assuming the Presidency and I count exactly twelve for
Warren Harding. To find a President with as few as six years of public office
under his belt before becoming President, you need to go all the way back to . .
. the current President of the United States so it's not like you need
to be a historian to figure this out.

Now arguably some of these people were "more experienced" than Obama along
other metrics than a raw count of years would indicate, but there's still no
obvious sense in which Obama is a precedent-shattering figure. At a minimum,
Carter and Abraham Lincoln were unambiguously less experienced.

The price of affluence Hoo
boy. James Galbraith has jumped headfirst into the Ancient and Hermetic Order of
the Shrill (™Brad DeLong). Here he is in the current issue of the
Monthly reviewing Bill McKibben's new book, Deep Economy.

The climate collapse — which may bring the flooding of New York, Boston,
London, Calcutta, and Shanghai — will be a calamity next to which the end of the
Soviet Union will seem very small. Long industrial chains, for jet aircraft,
automobiles, telecommunications, electricity, and much else, will crumble, as
they did in the USSR and Yugoslavia, particularly if new interior boundaries
form and countries break up. And interior boundaries will form, as those on the
high ground seek to defend it. The demographic effects will be similarly dire:
Older, urban males (like me) with no survival skills will die. Rural New England
will turn into a deforested exurban slum.

....This is bleak news not only in the present climate of thought, but also
given the decay of the public sphere since at least 1981. Whatever government
might have been (or seemed) capable of in the 1940s or the 1960s, it plainly is
not capable of today. A government that cannot establish a functioning Homeland
Security Department in half a decade, a government that is capable of creating
the Coalition Provisional Authority or Bush's FEMA, is no one's idea of an
effective instrument for climate planning. Plainly the destruction of government
— the turning over of regulation to predators, military functions to
mercenaries, the Justice Department to a vote-suppression racket, and the
Supreme Court to fanatics — has been the price of tolerating the Bush coup of
November 2000. Soon we will face the aftermath of all this, with the fate of the
earth in the balance.

In other words, Galbraith thinks McKibben is a bit of an optimist, certainly
not something that would have crossed my mind after reading a piece in Mother Jones a few months ago that was
based on his book. But I guess optimism in the eye of the beholder. Read both
pieces and make up your own mind.

20/20 hindsight  The
president sat down on Friday with a small group of sympathetic conservative
journalists -- Bush is generally at his most comfortable around those who
already convinced how right he is -- and offered into his perspective on Iraq.

"[L]ast fall, if I had been part of this polling, if they had called upstairs
and said, do you approve of Iraq I would have been on the 66 percent who said,
'No I don't approve.' That's why I made the decision I made. To get in a
position where I would be able to say 'Yes, I approve.'"

Mark Kleiman
the remarks for the rest of us.

"I'm not nearly as stupid as my supporters. Back when I was telling the world
that things in Iraq were going well, and you folks were helping me by calling
anyone who said otherwise a traitor, I knew we were all lying."

It was an odd thing for Bush to concede, wasn't it? Last fall, the White
House was insisting, aggressively, that critics of the war were confused and
misguided. To disapprove of the war, the president and his aides said, was to
support a dangerous agenda that would necessarily undermine national
security.

Except now the president is prepared to argue that he was with the
unsatisfied majority. Here's a follow-up: what does that say about Bush's
opinion of the one-third of Americans who bought into the White House line and
told pollsters that they approved of how the war was going?

The unspoken bigotry It
seems like the that warranted some follow-up.

During a panel discussion of the 2008 presidential election on the July 15
edition of NBC's Meet the Press, syndicated columnist Robert Novak asserted:
"Republicans are very pessimistic about 2008. When you talk to them off the
record, they don't see how they can win this thing. And then they think for a
minute, and only the Democratic Party, with everything in their favor, would say
that, 'OK, this is the year either to have a woman or an African-American to
break precedent, to do things the country has never done before.' And it gives
the Republicans hope."

And why is that, exactly? The all-white, all-male panel on the program didn't
follow-up.

Time again to take out the
garbage
  Don’t look now, but a certain third party candidate is

a fourth presidential campaign.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader told the Green Party's national convention that
he is considering a 2008 presidential run and accused Democrats of trying to
shut smaller parties out of the political process.... Nader said before jumping
into the 2008 presidential race he would have to put together an organization of
thousands of volunteers and pro bono lawyers to defend him against the
"Democratic quadrennial assault."

"We're going to be ready for them. We will confront them on every level,"
Nader told a news conference.

What's unclear at this point is why Nader wants to run. He recently that he
doesn’t expect to win a presidential race, he doesn’t expect to change the
Democratic agenda, he doesn’t expect to appear in the debates, and he doesn’t
even expect to make the ballot in every state.

Asked what the point of a fourth unsuccessful campaign would be, Nader told
the Politico, “What third parties can do is bring young people in, set standards
on how to run a presidential election and keep the progressive agenda in front
of the people. And maybe tweak a candidate here and there in the major
parties.”

It's hardly a persuasive pitch. Major parties can and do bring young people
into the process, Nader’s multiple efforts have never affected election
standards, and his campaigns have generally done a poor job of promoting
progressive ideas (preferring instead to focus on his disdain for the two major
parties).

As for “tweaking” candidates, that’s a pretty shallow reason to launch a
presidential bid.

Why does anyone read this
moron?
  classic
opening sentences, William Kristol takes the unusual step in a of anticipating mockery: "I suppose I'll merely expose myself
to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush's
presidency will probably be a successful one."

Kristol's argument is surprisingly weak, but he got one point exactly right:
he exposed himself to ridicule. Here's his pitch:

Let's step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds
that have characterized the Bush administration. Let's look at the broad forest
rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see? First, no second terrorist
attack on U.S. soil -- not something we could have taken for granted. Second, a
strong economy -- also something that wasn't inevitable.

And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult,
but where -- despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless
"benchmark" report last week -- we now seem to be on course to a successful
outcome.

It's probably not necessary to highlight Kristol's errors in too much
detail, but let's take a moment to point out some of the more glaring problems
with the basic pitch.

First, Kristol credits Bush with preventing a post-9/11 terrorist attack.
That's false -- about a month after 9/11, someone sent weaponized anthrax to two
Democratic senators and several news outlets. Five Americans were killed and 17
more suffered serious illnesses. If the administration has made any headway in
bringing the terrorists to justice, it's been awfully quiet about it.

For that matter, while the U.S. has thankfully not suffered any major
terrorist attacks since 2001, Kristol neglects to mention that terrorist attacks
around the world have gone up every year since.

Second, Kristol touts a "strong economy." His timing could have been better
-- Kristol's boasts ran on the same day the New York Times highlighted
the modern-day "," in which the United States has the most dramatic concentration of
wealth at the top since the 1920s. All the while, poverty has increased, Bush
has run the largest budget deficits in American history, and economic growth has
been ">sluggish,
at best.

And third, Kristol, of course, believes we're "on course to a successful
outcome" in Iraq. The is overwhelming.

If the handful of Americans who still approve of the president's job
performance hope to persuade others to their way of thinking, they'll have to do
better than this.

The Tillman saga
continues
  In recent years, Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan
has gone from being tragic to suspicious to scandalous. As you probably know,
Tillman, a former NFL star who retired from football to become an Army Ranger,
was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 and his death was quickly seized upon for
public relations purposes. In fact, the Army said Tillman was killed by enemy
gunfire when he led his team to help another group of ambushed soldiers.

That wasn't true -- Tillman died as a result of friendly fire. The Pentagon
knew better, but was reluctant to say so. In March, , "Just seven days after Pat Tillman's death, a top general warned
there were strong indications that it was friendly fire and President Bush might
embarrass himself if he said the NFL star-turned-soldier died in an ambush....
The memo reinforces suspicions that the Pentagon was more concerned with sparing
officials from embarrassment than with leveling with Tillman's family."

What's more, it took five weeks for Tillman's family to learn about the
incident, in part because, "within hours of Pat Tillman's death, the Army went
into , cutting off phone and Internet connections at a base in Afghanistan,
posting guards on a wounded platoon mate, and ordering a sergeant to burn
Tillman's uniform."

In April, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a
hearing on the issue, and heard U.S. Army Spc. Bryan O'Neal explain that he was
told by a higher-up to conceal information. It led the committee to request
materials from the White House and the Pentagon describing how and when the
administration learned the circumstances of Tillman's death.

Yesterday, the Bush gang delivered its answer: .

The White House has refused to give Congress documents about the death of
former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding saying
that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting
"implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests."  Reps. Henry A. Waxman
(D-Calif.) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), the leading members of the House
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, objected to the refusal yesterday
in letters to the White House and the Defense Department.

Waxman and Davis are by the developments. They've scheduled another hearing for Aug. 1,
after which, they'll probably consider subpoenas. (In their letter to Fred
Fielding, Waxman and Davis said, "We would like to avoid a confrontation over
these documents, if possible, but cannot accept the deficient production the
White House has provided to the Committee.")  Stay tuned.

Who supports our troops? 
Over at Watching Those We Chose, the military's way
of dumping soldiers who sustain psychiatric damage during war by claiming that
their problems are merely preexisting conditions that they'd had all along.
Discharged soldiers are denied all future benefits and VA care, and in some
cases are even required to pay back reenlistment bonuses they've previously
received. Republicans in general still aren't willing to investigate to see if
personality discharges are being abused, but Kit Bond and Claire McCaskill of
Missouri have managed to set aside partisan differences long enough to cosponsor
an amendment that would suspend personality discharges temporarily until the
whole process has been thoroughly reviewed. Good for them.

Killing the innocent?  I'm
not really much of a death penalty abolitionist, insofar as I don't see it as
necessarily wrong to execute people in all circumstances. One circumstance in
which it's a really bad idea to execute someone, though, is when he's being set
up to take the fall for a crime he didn't commit. This certainly appears to be
the problem with the looming who, it seems, isn't allowed to present evidence of his
innocence -- including the fact that three of the four witnesses against him
(and there was no physical evidence) have recanted their testimony -- called the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of
1996 which, I guess, rebuilt the Democratic Party's credibility on the crime
issue at the cost of the lives of an unknown number of innocent people.

Who supports our troops?   On Meet the Press, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) took Sen.
Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to task for spouting “support the troops” rhetoric while
failing to take action to safeguard the long-term health of the military.  This
week, Graham was among a handful of right-wing Senators who prevented the
passage of an that would have required soldiers to be given more rest at
home after being deployed overseas. During the vote, Graham disingenuously
claimed that if Webb’s bill passed, it would be “ of military action in the history of the country.” 
Webb fought back. “The traditional operational policy has been if you’re gone
for a year, you get two years back. We’re now in a situation where the soldiers
and the Marines are having less than a 1 to 1 ratio.” Webb said. Turning to
Graham, he added, “And somebody needs to speak up for them rather than
defending what this President has been doing.”

“May I speak!” Webb said, as Graham tried to interrupt him. “This is one
thing I really take objection to,” he said, “is politicians who try to put their
political views into the mouths of soldiers.” Webb’s amendment would have
required the Bush administration to provide at least a year of rest for every
year that a member of the Armed Forces was deployed overseas. The amendment
provided three years of rest for National Guard soldiers. In the vote to end the
filibuster, Webb’s amendment, less than the 60 needed to
end debate. This morning, when Graham tried to claim that he’s a qualified voice
to speak on behalf of all soldiers because he has been to Iraq, Webb countered,
“You go and see the dog-and-pony shows.” Webb scolded Graham, “Don’t put
political words into [the soldier’s] mouth.” Commenters -3937116">Ann
and -3937117">Katy
note Webb’s son has , but he refused to bring that into the debate this morning.

The professor :

A cross-national survey conducted by the Commonwealth Fund found
that America ranks near the bottom among advanced countries in terms of how hard
it is to get medical attention on short notice (although Canada was slightly
worse), and that America is the worst place in the advanced world if you need
care after hours or on a weekend.

We look better when it comes to seeing
a specialist or receiving elective surgery. But Germany outperforms us even on
those measures — and I suspect that France, which wasn’t included in the study,
matches Germany’s performance.

What's more, as Krugman goes on to point out, it's one thing to have your
procedure delayed because the equipment or personnel are needed to treat someone
else's more acute condition. It's another thing entirely for the delay to be
caused, as it typically is in the United States, because a company is trying to
earn more money:

his can lead to ordeals like the one recently described by Mark
Kleiman, a professor at U.C.L.A., who nearly died of cancer because his insurer
kept delaying approval for a necessary biopsy. “It was only later,” writes Mr.
Kleiman on his blog, “that I discovered why the insurance company was stalling;
I had an option, which I didn’t know I had, to avoid all the approvals by going
to ‘Tier II,’ which would have meant higher co-payments. [...]

To be
fair, Mr. Kleiman is only surmising that his insurance company risked his life
in an attempt to get him to pay more of his treatment costs. But there’s no
question that some Americans who seemingly have good insurance nonetheless die
because insurers are trying to hold down their “medical losses” — the industry
term for actually having to pay for care.

We also see further demolition of hip replacement myths. It's worth saying,
of course, that people who kill people in exchange for money in the US health
care sector aren't, on some level, bad people. If you worked for an insurance
company and construed your job as facilitating the delivery of medically useful
health care to patients in need, you'd rapidly find yourself unemployed.
Similarly, a doctor whose practices don't serve the insurance company's needs
will find himself off the roster and useless to anyone. A company that cared
more about helping sick people than earning profits would see its stock value
decline to the point where it would be taken over by some other company that was
willing to kill for money.

It's the logic of the system and on some level it's no different from any
other business. But whereas Apple or Toyota or Starbucks make money by
delivering their products to people, insurance companies make money by
not delivering health care to sick people
.

Vacation Ezra Klein is in
the LA Times today griping yet again about the fact that

This is strange. Of all these countries, the United States is, by far, the
richest. And you would think that, as our wealth grew and our productivity
increased, a certain amount of our resources would go into, well, us. Into
leisure. Into time off. You would think that we'd take advantage of the fact
that we can create more wealth in less time to wrest back some of those hours
for ourselves and our families.

But instead, the exact opposite has happened. The average American man today
works 100 more hours a year than he did in the 1970s, according to Cornell
University economist Robert Frank. That's 2 1/2 weeks of added labor. The
average woman works 200 more hours — that's five added weeks. And those hours
are coming from somewhere: from time with our kids, our friends, our spouses,
even our bed. The typical American, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,
sleeps one to two hours less a night than his or her parents
did.

Lazy punk. Listen up, Ezra: When I was your age I worked six days a
week for 50 weeks a year and I was thankful for the opportunity. And everyone
knows that young people don't need more than five hours of sleep anyway. So suck
it up.

Joking aside (Ezra actually strikes me as almost scarily non-lazy), I
remember this as one of the most pervasive areas of head-nodding culture shock
between Americans and Europeans back when I traveled to Europe fairly
frequently. Almost to a person, the Europeans I dealt with literally thought we
were crazy when I told them that, no, this wasn't just an urban legend: Most
Americans really do get only two weeks of vacation a year. And this wasn't just
in stereotypically easygoing countries like Italy or Spain. Hardworking Germans
and Swiss had the same reaction. Basically, they just felt sorry for us, the way
we might have felt sorry for some poor schlub from the Soviet Union back in the
80s, toiling away in some gray, endless job with nothing more than a few shots
of vodka to dull the pain at the end of each day.

Of course, I'm hardly one to talk. In theory, I agree with Ezra, and I would
have preferred a job that paid 10% less but provided 10% more vacation. In
reality, I rarely even used the two weeks of vacation I got. Partly this was
because I was caught up in the work ethic feedback loop that's spiralled almost
insanely out of control in America, but also, ironically enough, because I
only got two weeks of vacation.
So I hoarded it. You never know when you
might need it, after all! Maybe if I'd gotten six weeks of vacation time I would
have actually used more of it.

But I was hardly the worst. The really disheartening cases were the people
I'd call into my office and practically order to go on vacation. They had
accumulated, say, 300 hours of vacation time and weren't allowed to accumulate
any more. Take a couple of weeks off, I'd urge. If you don't, you'll be working
for free, burning through vacation hours you're no longer earning. Sometimes my
exhortations worked, sometimes they didn't. Very sad.

Published

July 16, 2007 - 4:46pm

Author

randomness