Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chad Strawderman's "The Deep End" 1

I recently discovered a cache of "The Deep End" cartoon strips by Chad Strawderman, clipped from actual newspapers.  I'm a fan.  I'll post them here semi-regularly for your entertainment until someone tells me to cease and desist or I run out.  I'm not making any money from this, of course.  My only desire is to digitize the strip for posterity.  For more information, Google to your heart's content.  I'll get you started: http://wc.arizona.edu/papers/91/70/13_1_m.html.

David Frum, "Waterloo"

March 21st, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

Source: http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Another ominous sign: Republicans reserve the right to behave like thugs

The Party of No can't even agree to be civil.

According to Politico,
The Republican National Committee has rejected a proposal from its Democratic counterpart to sign a joint “civility” statement, POLITICO has learned.

Various members of the DNC — including Chairman Tim Kaine, Executive Director Jen O’Malley Dillon and Communications Director Brad Woodhouse — contacted their respective RNC counterparts this week in hopes of getting RNC Chairman Michael Steele to co-sign a document with Kaine that, in part, called for “elected officials of both parties to set an example of the civility we want to see in our citizenry.”

“We also call on all Americans to respect differences of opinion, to refrain from inappropriate forms of intimidation, to reject violence and vandalism, and to scale back rhetoric that might reasonably be misinterpreted by those prone to such behavior,” read the proposed joint statement, which came at the end of a week that saw acts of vandalism and threats of violence directed at members of Congress from both parties, but mostly aimed at Democrats who voted yes on the health care bill.

Republicans see the statement as an attempt to force them to either reject the statement—allowing Democrats to say the RNC finds the incidents acceptable—or to sign on to something that the DNC would later wield against them.
I have to admit that I often find the thinking of the Republican Party baffling.

Signing the statement would help the Republican brand, wouldn't it?  They would go on record as unequivocally rejecting the behavior of the right-wing fringe which would help them appear more moderate and therefore more appealing to independents ahead of elections in November. 

Instead, they are worried that the statement would be used against them?  How?

This is how it appears to Φ.  Granted, I'm a pretty partisan person, but I'm willing to bet that a lot of independents will see it the same way. 

By refusing to sign the statement, Republicans appear to be endorsing the behavior of the right-wing fringe.

And in saying that they don't want the statement to be used against them, it appears as if they wish to reserve the right to use the tactics of the right-wing fringe to achieve their goals.  It appears as if they don't respect differences of opinion, they approve of inappropriate forms of intimidation, and they approve of violence and vandalism.

Republicans appear to be considering abandoning accepted avenues of political activity in favor of non-rational and even illegal forms of "persuasion."

In short, Republicans appear to have simply given up trying to be a political party.

And to make matters worse, according to Politico, "RNC Communications Director Doug Heye told POLITICO that Steele chose not to agree to the statement because 'we don’t need to do anything on their schedule or on their timetable.'"

Now they're beginning to sound like unruly schoolchildren.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Has the Republican Party lost its soul?

I don't think even I fully appreciated just how serious the Republican Party's situation is in the wake of their legislative defeat this week.

As Think Progress reports, David Frum has been "unceremoniously forced out" of the American Enterprise Institute, "a right wing, neoconservative think tank," four days after he criticized he way Republicans fought against health care reform.  Frum wrote on his website that the passage of health care reform on Sunday was a disaster for which Republicans were partially responsible. Frum wrote:
At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994. [...] This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.
Matthew Yglesias points out that Frum's dismissal for his criticism seems disproportionate:
The most surprising thing about David Frum’s apparent parting of ways with the American Enterprise Institute is the extremely mild nature of Frum’s heterodoxy. What he’s been doing for the past week has been to primarily offer a tactical critique of congressional Republicans’ approach to health reform. And if you can’t offer a tactical critique in the wake of an unequivocal defeat then what can you do? I don’t really expect people to welcome sharp disagreement about matters of principle, but when you adopt an approach to blocking a piece of legislation, and then the legislation doesn’t get blocked how are you not going to engage in some spirited disagreement about what went wrong? It’s baffling.
Many conservatives are talking about Frum's dismissal.  Some sound disappointed; others apocalyptic. According to Julian Sanchez,
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted.
Bruce Bartlett referred to Frum's dismissal as "the closing of the conservative mind."  On C-SPAN this morning, Bartlett said:
[W]hat’s really going on here is that adherence to conservative principles has been—is out the window now. All that matters now is absolute subservient adherence to the Republican Party line of the day. And that’s what got David into trouble. He was critical, not even of Republican principles, but of Republican tactics on the health care debate. And now, even that is considered, you know, you can’t say that or you lose your job.
The dismissal has led Andrew Sullivan to write:
[H]ere's where David and I agree: we both grew up when conservatism was intellectually sharp and interesting. Its current brutal anti-intellectualism, its open hostility to moderation in any form; its substitution of purer and purer ideology for actual, pragmatic ideas: these are trends that have left a lot of us on the center right marooned. I think David may well be glad he is now formally ostracized. It will liberate him and his formidable mind. Serious thinking conservatives know that these are times for real re-thinking, not more positioning.
While some conservatives appear to be rethinking their approach, others are not.  The same tactics Russell King railed against earlier this week in a damning catalog of conservative transgressions continue unabated.  Rep. Devin Nunes, the man who claimed that "Democratic congressmen from California are 'part of this totalitarian regime in Washington,'" is now comparing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Saddam Hussein and Robert Mugabe.  Hogan at RedState writes that Republicans must campaign for repeal of health care reform, and praises Rep. Mike Pence for saying, “The American people don’t want a government takeover of health care and House Republicans will work every day to repeal this law and start over," in spite of the fact that health care reform is provably not a government takeover of health care.  Rep. Kevin Brady has fueled false rumors, now promulgated by conservative media, that "The IRS will be tracking you down if you don’t purchase health insurance."  Two days ago, Rep. Michelle Bachmann boasted that her suspicions over a year ago that Barack Obama harbored anti-American views make her look like Nostradamus now.  And there's what Think Progress calls Sarah Palin's "reload" map

For over a year, all the Republican Party had to offer was delay, obstruction, and misinformation.  They could have worked with Democrats to put their own free market, small government stamps on the bill, but they refused.  Even though Republican ideas were integrated into the legislation, Republicans cannot even take credit for their inclusion since they refused to participate.  They could have accepted the fact that they had lost the election in 2008 and now had to deal with a Democratic House, Senate, and President, but they refused.  The best explanation is perhaps the most obvious: in the war of ideas, they have raised the white flag.

Republicans made more than a mere tactical miscalculation.  According to Patrick Ruffini, while Republicans do have guiding principles, they simply didn't bother to work out how to apply them to the health care debate.  And that is evidence of a lack of ideas:  
When it comes to health care policy, conservatives have been seriously outgunned. [. . .] On economics, you always know what the conservative answer is: tax cuts and generally hands-off regulatory policies to spur economic growth. No matter how good the Democrats' promises sound, we return to these simple, pro-growth touchstones that resonate with a majority of Americans who intuitively get that you can't micromanage your way to a better future.

On health care, I have no idea what our basic guiding principle is. Seriously, I don't.

We have tried ineffectively to stretch free market rhetoric to health care without appreciating that health care is already too far removed from a free market for the analogy to make sense. Real markets are sensitive to price. Health care isn't. The insurance companies hide the cost of actual care from the consumer. 
What we have lacked in this debate is a simple clarion call to address an aching need -- bringing free market principles to bear to improve tangible health outcomes.

Instead, we have allowed the left to define the problem as exclusively one of access -- of the nearly 50 million without insurance dying in the streets (of course, we don't talk about that number anymore because nearly a third of that number are illegal immigrants, an issue Obamacare studiously avoids).

And it's no surprise. The left has had a far greater number of health care analysts devising grand plans for the eventual takeover. And they have invested more political capital in this issue than any other. It should surprise no one that the conservative effort in this space has been paltry in comparison. We just haven't had as many people thinking about health care, and we didn't actively move legislation on it when we were in power.
The impression I have of the Republican approach to health care was summed up by Rep. Alan Grayson last year: Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.  And that's not my fault.

Which brings me to Nate Silver.  Late in 2008, the man behind FiveThirtyEight asked, "Did Talk Radio Kill Conservatism?"  He had interviewed radio host John Ziegler about a poll Ziegler had commissioned.  At one point, Ziegler expressed astonishment that Silver didn't accept the claim that Obama's political career was launched at the home of Bill Ayers.  According to Silver, that was
the key passage of my interview with John Ziegler on Tuesday, for it is, in a nutshell, why conservatives don't win elections anymore. It is not that conservatism generally permits less nuance than liberalism (in terms of political messaging, that is probably one of conservatism's strengths). Rather, [. . .] [t]here are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.

John Ziegler is a shining example of such a conservative. During my interview with him, Ziegler made absolutely no effort to persuade me about the veracity of any of his viewpoints. He simply asserted them -- and then became frustrated, paranoid, or vulgar when I rebutted them.
During the health care debate, Republicans made little to no effort to discuss the actual merits of Democratic ideas for health care reform.  Their objections were either rigidly ideological with no appreciation of the practical consequences of that ideology, or based on misinformation or lies.  That is, Republicans made no real attempt to rationally win the debate.  They surrendered the moment it started, and opted instead to use non-rational means of persuasion, such as propaganda and fear.  They no longer have any interest Frum's quaint world of principles and ideas.  And for that, they are paying dearly.

And this is the problem

One of my Facebook friends posted the following image.  It's well worth reading.  I do not know the identity of the author, but whoever you are, thank you.

Sigur Ros, "Saeglopur"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Drain the Swamp

Talking Points Memo posted "An Open Letter to Conservatives" a few days ago written by Russell King.

King's letter should be required reading for anyone who has an interest in politics and the health of our democracy.

King does an incredible job of exhaustively documenting the jaw-dropping behavior of many conservatives.

He closes his letter thus:
So, dear conservatives, get to work.  Drain the swamp of the conspiracy nuts, the bold-faced liars undeterred by demonstrable facts, the overt hypocrisy and the hatred.  Then offer us a calm, responsible, grownup agenda based on your values and your vision for America.  We may or may not agree with your values and vision, but we'll certainly welcome you back to the American mainstream with open arms.  We need you.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Chickens come home to roost

[T]he notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them—which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration—is ridiculous.  Now, Ronald Reagan and Democratic presidents like JFK constantly spoke to Soviet Union at a time when Ronald Reagan called them an evil empire. And the reason is because they understood that we may not trust them and they may pose an extraordinary danger to this country, but we had the obligation to find areas where we can potentially move forward. —Barack Obama, 23 July 2007
A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves. At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo—just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994. [...] This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none. [...] So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours. —David Frum, 21 March 2010

Wolf at RedState attempts to school Carson and Lewis on civil rights

Somewhat predictably, certain bloggers on the right are claiming that protesters in Washington actually did not hurl racial epithets at congressmen on Saturday.

RedState's Leon H. Wolf's evidence for this claim is the following video:

You can read his post and watch the video here.

"The specific accusation most often repeated," Wolf writes, "is that when Andre Carson (D-IN) and John Lewis (D-Ga) left the Cannon House Office Building yesterday, they were met with a crowd that chanted the 'n-word' at them repeatedly." According to Wolf, "It turns out, it’s not just that there’s a lack of evidence that this ever happened, there’s actually video evidence of the scene in question which absolutely proves that Carson and Lewis are full of crap."

What is the problem with Wolf's argument?

Wolf is obviously assuming that if Carson's and Lewis's story were true, the n-word would have been audible on the video. Now, is this assumption true? Carson and Lewis cover a lot of ground on the video. Are we really expected to believe that this single recording device would have captured anything of interest? How stupid does Wolf think we are?

Wolf infers from the video that Carson and Lewis are liars. And that's not all:
I don’t know if these two idiots are just unaware that protesters and activists tend to carry video cameras everywhere they go now in order to catch news as it happens, or if (more likely) they just figured that their completely fabricated story fit a pre-existing narrative the media would be happy to credulously pass on. The sad thing is that it appears to have worked. I won’t hold my breath for all the media who slandered the Tea Party protesters to retract and publicly these two out [sic] for the liars they are, though.

Really, it’s sad in a way. Racism still does exist in this country, but political crooks like Carson and Lewis have turned the owrd [sic] into a joke for the sake of their own political gain. Well done, fellas - way to serve the cause.
Carson and Lewis, according to Wolf, are idiots as well. In fact, Wolf's post is entitled, "Lying Bastards Lie." So, according to Wolf, Carson and Lewis are (1) liars, (2) idiots, and (3) bastards. Is it really a stretch to think that Wolf and others like him would use the n-word to refer to them as well? No.

What's more likely?
  • No one in the crowd used a racial epithet, but Carson and Lewis claimed falsely that someone did, knowing that there were plenty of witnesses, some with video recording equipment, who would contradict them;
  • Someone in the crowd used a racial epithet, but the single video recording device failed to capture it. 
Why believe that Carson and Lewis are lying? Why not just believe their story, since "[r]acism still does exist in this country"?  Here's my guess: Wolf is probably thinking that, well, there's just something that's not quite right about those two, Carson and Lewis.  Gee, what could it be?  Well, whatever it is, many of their readers probably noticed it as well and were therefore more likely to accept Wolf's lame argument.  I mean, what else would someone who reads RedState expect from these two congressmen who don't quite look right, who seem unsavory somehow? 

What is both completely laughable and offensive is Wolf's admonishment of Lewis and Carson in the final paragraph, as if Wolf is actually an authority on the cause or even cares about the cause. Lewis was part of the civil rights movement in the previous century; Wolf is some asshole who contributes to a blog. Spare me.

Update: RedState's Martin Knight is presenting the same flawed argument.  It's there alongside some rather irrational ranting:
There has not been a single competitive election, legislative battle or even debate on the issues in the past four decades that Democrats have parachuted charges of racism and “hate.”

It is what Democrats use as shorthand for “I disagree”; it’s what they call their kids when they don’t do their homework. How does anyone think it became racist for one to be pro-life, or pro-school vouchers when the vast majority of black parents support school choice?
I think that in his hysteria, Knight said the opposite of what he meant to say in the first paragraph.  In the second, he infers from the fact that many of us are calling the protesters who hurled racist epithets "racist" that we think that being pro-life and supporting pro-school vouchers is racist.  I don't think that being pro-life or supporting pro-school vouchers is racist; I think referring to African Americans with the n-word is racist.  Martin, get a grip.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I have an idea

As of 7:56 p.m. my time, Erick Erickson at RedState believes that all is not lost.

"There is still a change [sic], though increasingly slim, that the House GOP will be able to blow up the health care bill on a motion to recommit," Erickson writes.

Republicans can also "[p]ledge immediate repeal in toto of Obamacare should it pass." And they can "[p]ledge to adopt for their own use the exact same rules under which Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have governed the House of Representatives."

Hell, they can even challenge parts of the bill in court, Erickson says.

Hey, Erick, I have an idea: win a freaking election. That's what you can do. Win an election.  

And by the way, you might find a supermajority in the Senate helpful, now that your party has established its necessity.

You lost the election. Stop your whining, you pathetic bunch of crybabies. That goes for you racist, homophobic Teabaggers as well. [And if any of you Teabaggers are insulted by this, then I have two things to say: (1) shame on you for feeling insulted, and (2) you lost your right to complain when you started throwing the n-word around.] 

Note: this is Your Analytic Analeptic's one hundredth post! Φ's kinda excited about it, even if no one else is.

Perhaps this bill would apply to Lieberman and McCain

On March 4th, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bill called the "Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010" that, if passed, would set this country on a course to become a military dictatorship.

The bill is only 12 pages long, but that is plenty of room to grant the president the power to order the arrest, interrogation, and imprisonment of anyone -- including a U.S. citizen -- indefinitely, on the sole suspicion that he or she is affiliated with terrorism, and on the president's sole authority as commander in chief.
Read the rest of the story here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why we need a consumer protection agency

Elizabeth Warren on Consumer Protection (MMBM) from Roosevelt Institute on Vimeo.

Ezra Klein posted this video on his blog. 

Elizabeth Warren makes a strong case for a new consumer protection agency.  It's an argument that even Friedmanesque free market types can get behind.  The argument is roughly this: the success of a free market depends on contracts, and in the age of what Warren calls the Complexity Machine, the market can't work because contracts are so complicated that consumers can't reasonably be expected to understand them.  According to Warren, "Banks are fighting to kill contracts and to kill consumer markets so that they can drive up short-term profits." 

Do yourself a favor and watch it.  The video is about 11 minutes long. 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Pro-life argument for health care reform

I learned from Ezra Klein today that T.R. Reid has confirmed a belief I expressed back in September that more affordable health care might lead to fewer abortions.

Back then I wrote:
The question is, how can we most effectively decrease the number of abortions? What we could collectively do is make it less likely that women who find themselves [in difficult circumstances] choose abortion. We could do more to make sure that everyone in this country has health insurance. (In fact, if health care reform is passed and more people are insured, it might actually result in a decrease in the number of abortions!)
T.R. Reid argues for this claim in The Washington Post. Here is Klein's excerpt of Reid's column:
The latest United Nations comparative statistics, available at http://data.un.org, demonstrate the point clearly. The U.N. data measure the number of abortions for women ages 15 to 44. They show that Canada, for example, has 15.2 abortions per 1,000 women; Denmark, 14.3; Germany, 7.8; Japan, 12.3; Britain, 17.0; and the United States, 20.8. When it comes to abortion rates in the developed world, we're No. 1.

No one could argue that Germans, Japanese, Brits or Canadians have more respect for life or deeper religious convictions than Americans do. So why do they have fewer abortions?

One key reason seems to be that all those countries provide health care for everybody at a reasonable cost. That has a profound effect on women contemplating what to do about an unwanted pregnancy.

The connection was explained to me by a wise and holy man, Cardinal Basil Hume. He was the senior Roman Catholic prelate of England and Wales when I lived in London; as a reporter and a Catholic, I got to know him.

In Britain, only 8 percent of the population is Catholic (compared with 25 percent in the United States). Abortion there is legal. Abortion is free. And yet British women have fewer abortions than Americans do. I asked Cardinal Hume why that is.

The cardinal said that there were several reasons but that one important explanation was Britain's universal health-care system. "If that frightened, unemployed 19-year-old knows that she and her child will have access to medical care whenever it's needed," Hume explained, "she's more likely to carry the baby to term. Isn't it obvious?"

A young woman I knew in Britain added another explanation. "If you're [sexually] active," she said, "the way to avoid abortion is to avoid pregnancy. Most of us do that with an IUD or a diaphragm. It means going to the doctor. But that's easy here, because anybody can go to the doctor free."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Aboombong: Asynchronic

<a href="http://aboombong.bandcamp.com/album/asynchronic">Never been to Konono by aboombong</a>

When all else fails, go after the orphan

Check out the following video:

What is Michelle Malkin's take on this?  The boy in the video, Marcelas Owens, is being used by Harry Reid as a "kiddie human shield":
Harry Reid put Marcelas Owens in front of the cameras to help deflect tough health care policy and political questions. . . . The usual hyperventilating from the Left — horrible conservatives “targeting” poor, innocent kid! conservatives “assault” poor, innocent kid! — just proves my point. Despite President Obama’s repeated admonition that health care reform is a “complex issue that can’t be reduced to snippets,” it’s exactly what Reid, Murray, Schumer, and his Owens’ grandmother propped up young Marcelas to do. Anyone who questions the narrative and absolute moral authority of the kiddie human shield is a heartless, right-wing stalker who should be vilified, if not arrested.
You said it, Michelle. I didn't.

Malkin also goes after Marcelas, his mother, and anyone who believes their story.  According to Malkin, The New York Times "swallows the Owens’ family story whole without asking a single question of any independent state agency or outside source for verification."  Malkin writes:
The Times fails to mention that Owens’ grandmother and family have been longtime activists for the left-wing, single-payer advocates of the Washington Community Action Network or that the boy and his grandmother traveled to Washington with sponsorship from the Astroturf lobbyists of the Health Care for America Now outfit, which characterized Marcelas as an “insurance abuse survivor.”

Never mind that there is not a shred of evidence that any health insurer ever “abused” Marcelas. Never mind that the family has made no claim that Marcelas himself has survived without insurance (in Washington state, low-income children have been covered either through Medicaid, SCHIP, or the SCHIP expansion program Apple Health for Kids).
(It's ironic that Malkin attempts to make stones of our hearts here by informing us that Marcelas may have been covered by a government-run health care plan.)

Here are a few questions for Malkin:
  • What reason do we have to doubt the truth of Marcelas's story?  Why not suppose that they are working with Democrats to sell health care reform because their story is true
  • Suppose that Owens' family have been left-wing activists.  What reason does that give us to ignore what they have to say?  What if they are left-wing activists because they are victims of the private health insurance industry? 
  • Aren't you embarrassed by the fact that you have to resort to ad hominem arguments to make your point? 
The Democrats are not using human beings as shields.  They are reminding us all about the human cost of Republican ideology and obstructionism. 

Why does Malkin lash out at the Democrats for this video?  Because she does not like to be reminded of the human cost of her self-interested proliferation of propaganda for fear that she might actually be tormented by faint pangs of compassion and guilt.  That's my guess, and I'm trying to be perhaps unjustifiably charitable to Malkin. Maybe she's just a sociopath. 

The result?  A disgusting display of contempt for fellow Americans and human beings.  Sure, Malkin does say that "It’s a heart-wrenching story," but she immediately backpedals when she says that "the tale raises more questions than it answers."  That's wishful thinking, Malkin.  If you can't handle the real-world consequences of your ideology, that's no one's problem but your own.

Help for Democrats addicted to polls

Ezra Klein just posted this pdf produced by Joel Benenson, "Barack Obama's pollster of choice."  The White House is circulating this memo among congressional Democrats in an effort to convince them that their votes for health care reform will be vindicated by voters in November.  Go ahead and have a look, and compare your impressions to those expressed by Republicans reporting from Fantasyland. 

Health care reform angers imaginary Americans

On MSNBC's The Daily Rundown this morning, Rep. John Boehner claimed that Americans are "adamantly opposed" to the health care reform bill taking shape in Congress.

I wonder how he reconciles that claim with this graph:

According to Ezra Klein, health care reform is getting more popular, not less.

The Republican's strategy now is to try to convince everyone that Americans are overwhelmingly against health care reform and that Democrats will pay in November if they pass it.  As usual, however, the Republican strategy is based almost entirely on ideology and lies. 

Update.  Your elected Republican representatives aren't alone in perpetuating the fantasy; their propaganda arm is aiding and abetting them.  It appears that everyone got the memo! 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The New McCarthyites

Known supporters of Keep America Safe, a.k.a. Dick Cheney's Get Out of Jail Free card:
Next time there is a Republican president, which (if any) of these New McCarthyites will decide whether you are an enemy combatant?

Cheney stays out of jail; meanwhile, you're fucked.  I feel real safe now, don't you? 

Most people don't know this, but the full name of Liz Cheney's group is Keep America Safe . . . for War Criminals.  

Bonus!  Michelle Malkin's "argument" against people like me: 
The predictable cries of “McCarthyism” are rising. The demand for public disclosure is now being characterized as a “witch hunt.” Exactly as the Obama White House would have it: Demonize dissent. Freeze it, personalize it, polarize it.
Say what? 

Michelle, when you locate and make contact with your brain (assuming it exists), do let us know. 

Erickson at RedState favors politicization of the Justice Department

Read about it here.

Sounding as if he's channeling Barry Goldwater, Erickson states, "Liz Cheney is right."

Erickson writes:
There will always be lawyers willing to defend the indefensible. And if you are a lawyer willing to defend the indefensible you can get really rich and/or really infamous. Some of them are there just because they like the challenge.

Typically, however, the lawyers willing to defend the indefensible are from the far left — particularly when defending those who are at war with America.

Good for them for being willing to have a niche in the legal field. But it says something not about them, but about the Obama administration that Barack Obama would put these same attorneys into the Department of Justice.
In the second paragraph, Erickson employs Cheney's McCarthyite strategy of questioning the loyalties and values of the Justice Department lawyers in question. At the same time, he reminds us who the real defenders of the Constitution are—not some cowardly risk-averse sociopathic right-wing intellectual lightweights, but rather those on the left who understand that no single person should have the power to decide who deserves due process and who doesn't.  Further, as I understand the law, the Obama administration is under no obligation to take advantage of the "legal" avenues opened to them by the Military Commissions Act.  

In the third paragraph, Erickson comes out in favor of the politicization of the Department of Justice. For those of us with the long-term memory of your average goldfish, you can read all about it here and here. And I say "politicization" because Erickson implies that Obama ought to have a litmus test for lawyers: he should hire only those lawyers that share Erickson's point of view regarding the treatment and legal status of Guantanamo detainees.  As I understand it, though, Eric Holder, not Obama, is responsible for running Justice.

We cannot infer anything about the political views of Justice Department lawyers from the work they do at the Justice Department; neither can we make their employment at Justice contingent on their personal political views.  Politicizing Justice in this manner undercuts the very foundation of the legal system in this country; it engenders the belief that we are not all equal before the law, that how one is treated by the legal system may depend on one's own political views.  Perhaps that's what Cheney and her supporters really want.

Polvo, "Beggar's Bowl"

Marc Thiessen's alarming and embarrassing performance on The Daily Show

Perhaps you saw Marc Thiessen on The Daily Show the other night.  Thiessen was there to sell his book, Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack.  But in the end, all he could do was complain about how he had been treated by host Jon Stewart.  "Unbelievable.  I can't get my points out on the air?  You did most of the talking.  That's amazing," he said.  "I think you talked right through me and I was trying to get some points out."  Stewart's apologies, I believe, weren't quite sarcastic enough.  ("People will judge just how poorly you've been treated, and I do apologize," Stewart said.)

To give you an idea how ridiculous Thiessen's complaint is, what follows is a statement Stewart made during the interview, and what Thiessen said at the very same time Stewart was making that statement. Stewart was explaining to Thiessen why a lawyer would defend pedophiles in court:
Stewart: Because you believe in the rule of law and that the country's fabric is decided not by the easiest cases to take but the hardest cases to take.
Thiessen: But . . . but . . . but . . . This is diff . . . again . . . again . . . again . . . no, no, no . . . again . . . I'm telling you.
That's pretty much how the interview went.  Stewart, the host, had the unmitigated audacity to speak when his guest, Thiessen, had his points to make.  Perhaps they should have put Thiessen on a stage under a spotlight and behind a lectern so we wouldn't have been annoyed by Stewart's unpatriotic interruptions. 

Anyway, Thiessen was there to defend Liz Cheney's demand that the identities of Department of Justice lawyers who represented persons suspected of terrorist activity be revealed.  A video released by Cheney's group also questions the loyalties of those lawyers.  The video suggests that the lawyers are themselves terrorist sympathizers: behind the words, "Whose values do they share?" can be seen an image of someone who looks a lot like Osama bin Laden.  The image is moving so that you won't miss it. This is something that I have written about before.  But Stewart's interview with Thiessen must also be addressed. 

Why should we be concerned about the activities of these lawyers, according to Thiessen?
  1. "There is a vast difference between representing someone who's been accused of crimes—everybody gets a lawyer under the Sixth Amendment if you've been accused of a crime," said Thiessen. "The people in Guantanamo Bay have not been accused of crimes. They are being held as enemy combatants in a time of war." Habeas Corpus does not apply in American law to prisoners of war, but Department of Justice lawyers worked to free them.  
  2. It is wrong to demonize the torture memo lawyers but acceptable to demonize the Department of Justice lawyers as the Al Qaeda Seven, according to Thiessen.  Lawyers' time to litigate pro bono cases is limited.  Suppose you spend all of your time on pro bono cases representing pedophiles.  "It would raise a question," Thiessen says: "Why are you trying to free these people?"  
  3. Some of the lawyers in question have radical views.  According to Thiessen, Jennifer Daskal "has written that any terrorist who is not charged with a crime, even though they're being held as lawful combatants . . . should be released from Guantanamo and set free even though we know that they may go out and kill American soldiers.  We know that Al Qaeda terrorists who have been released as a result of habeas corpus cases, the pressure of habeas corpus cases, have gone and killed American soldiers." 
Let's take each of Thiessen's arguments in turn.

The problem with (1) is that it is based on an assumption that people like me simply do not accept.  According to the ACLU, the Military Commissions Act (or MCA) "gives any president the power to declare—on his or her own—who is an enemy combatant, decide who should be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime and define what is—and what is not—torture and abuse."  The MCA was enacted in response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, according to which "the Bush administration's use of military commissions to try terrorist suspects violated the U.S. Code of Military Justice and Geneva Conventions, and were not specifically authorized by any act of Congress."  The Act created an independent system of law alongside the one already in existence but without the usual constitutional protections.  Since anyone, including American citizens, can be declared an enemy combatant, the Act effectively cancels the Bill of Rights and habeas corpus for every United States citizen.  To refuse to make the distinction Thiessen makes is to recognize the unconstitutionality of the Act and the threat people like Thiessen and Cheney pose to our very Constitution.

Consider (2).  As Thiessen points out, if you are lucky enough not to have been named an enemy combatant, then you are entitled to a lawyer under the Sixth Amendment.  We have this right, I presume, regardless of the intentions or motivations of the person hired or appointed to represent us.  That is, the intentions or motivations of a lawyer are legally and constitutionally irrelevant.  Further, notice the assumption Thiessen makes that those who have been accused of crimes or declared enemy combatants are guilty.  Thiessen appears to think that entitlement to legal representation depends on whether you are perceived to be guilty, i.e., if you are suspected of a crime, then you ought not be represented by a lawyer.  This is obviously a rejection of the Sixth Amendment which Thiessen claims to understand.  Even the guilty and not those merely suspected of guilt are entitled to due process.  Otherwise, who is to decide who is entitled to due process?  Marc Thiessen?  Liz Cheney? 

Finally, let's address (3).  Read (3) very carefully.  If one were worried that people held at Guantanamo are a threat and are guilty of something, what is the obvious solution?  Charge them with a crime.  As Stewart pointed out, we must have some reason for holding them.  So that's all you need to do.  Thiessen obviously believes that the people in Guantanamo ought to be handled under the Military Commissions Act rather than our criminal justice system.  But once you recognize how repugnant that approach is, the alternative is obvious. Further, does Thiessen mean to suggest that lawyers ought to be subject to a litmus test?  Wouldn't this politicize the Department of Justice?  Who would make these political decisions?  Is Thiessen so completely stupid that he hasn't learned anything from the crisis at Justice under Alberto Gonzales? 

Second-guessing the motivations of the Department of Justice lawyers is dangerous.  According to the description of Thiessen's book, Thiessen "was locked in a secure room and given access to the most sensitive intelligence when he was tasked to write President George W. Bush’s 2006 speech explaining the CIA’s interrogation program and why Congress should authorize it."  Well, what are Thiessen's values?  Clearly, he has a vested interest in how this debate turns out.  Is he not thereby open to the charge that his values are not American but rather those of self-love, as Kant would put it? 

Stewart ended the on-air portion of the interview with a statement that expresses my own view about this perfectly:
The idea that you can castigate people as though they are purposefully making America less safe and in league with the terrorists that we're fighting because they disagree with your ideas about safety I think is what's offensive about this. 
Stewart is challenging the idea that conservatives and the Republican Party alone know how to keep the country safe, and that anyone who challenges them is both wrong and a traitor.  And that is the idea that is driving both Thiessen and Cheney.  

One unfortunate side-effect of this objection to Thiessen, correct as it is, is that it may appear to concede too much.  Stewart persuasively argued that it is difficult to say what will make us more safe: military commissions or civilian trials.  Since the issues are complex, those on both sides aren't obviously right or wrong.  But this approach makes it sound as if this debate is about safety alone, and it is not.  It is about the rule of law and protecting our way of life in the face of the terrorist threat.  In the end, it doesn't matter whether Thiessen is right about safety.  If we do what he recommends, our way of life is over.  And that is why I say that Thiessen, Cheney, and people like them are a greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist.

A Bill that even Republicans can read

Grayson introduces Public Option Act

Congressman Alan Grayson, (D-Orlando), today introduced a bill (H.R. 4789) which would give the option to buy into Medicare to every citizen of the United States. The “Public Option Act,” also known as the “Medicare You Can Buy Into Act,” would open up the Medicare network to anyone who can pay for it.

Congressman Grayson said, “Obviously, America wants and needs more competition in health coverage, and a public option offers that. But it’s just as important that we offer people not just another choice, but another kind of choice. A lot of people don’t want to be at the mercy of greedy insurance companies that will make money by denying them the care that they need to stay healthy, or to stay alive. We deserve to have a real alternative.”

The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish enrollment periods, coverage guidelines, and premiums for the program. Because premiums would be equal to cost, the program would pay for itself.

“The government spent billions of dollars creating a Medicare network of providers that is only open to one-eighth of the population. That’s like saying, ‘Only people 65 and over can use federal highways.’ It is a waste of a very valuable resource and it is not fair. This idea is simple, it makes sense, and it deserves an up-or-down vote,” Congressman Grayson said.

In keeping with the “Grayson style,” the bill is clear and concise. It is only four pages.
Sources: http://westorlandonews.com/2010/03/09/grayson-introduces-public-option-act/, http://grayson.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=175363

You can read the bill here. At four pages, it is short enough that even Republicans in Congress can read it. They can even draw on the pages with their crayons if they want.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Revision Thing

A history of the Iraq war, told entirely in lies

By Sam Smith

From the October 2003 issue of Harper's Magazine

All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. In places, tenses have been changed for clarity.

Once again, we were defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself. September 11 signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We faced perils we had never thought about, perils we had never seen before. For decades, terrorists had waged war against this country. Now, under the leadership of President Bush, America would wage war against them. It was a struggle between good and it was a struggle between evil.

It was absolutely clear that the number-one threat facing America was from Saddam Hussein. We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda had high-level contacts that went back a decade. We learned that Iraq had trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and deadly gases. The regime had long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. Iraq and Al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven opportunities in Iraq. Iraqi officials denied accusations of ties with Al Qaeda. These denials simply were not credible. You couldn't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talked about the war on terror.

The fundamental question was, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer was, absolutely. His regime had large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons--including VX, sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox. Our conservative estimate was that Iraq then had a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agent. That was enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. We had sources that told us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons--the very weapons the dictator told the world he did not have. And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as forty-five minutes after the orders were given. There could be no doubt that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.

Iraq possessed ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles--far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations. We also discovered through intelligence that Iraq had a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We were concerned that Iraq was exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States.

Saddam Hussein was determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. We knew he'd been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believed he had, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. The British government learned that Saddam Hussein had recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources told us that he had attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear-weapons production. When the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied-finally denied access, a report came out of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I didn't know what more evidence we needed.

Facing clear evidence of peril, we could not wait for the final proof that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. The Iraqi dictator could not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Inspections would not work. We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. The burden was on those people who thought he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they were.

We waged a war to save civilization itself. We did not seek it, but we fought it, and we prevailed. We fought them and imposed our will on them and we captured or, if necessary, killed them until we had imposed law and order. The Iraqi people were well on their way to freedom. The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad were breathtaking. Watching them, one could not help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

It was entirely possible that in Iraq you had the most pro-American population that could be found anywhere in the Arab world. If you were looking for a historical analogy, it was probably closer to post-liberation France. We had the overwhelming support of the Iraqi people. Once we won, we got great support from everywhere.

The people of Iraq knew that every effort was made to spare innocent life, and to help Iraq recover from three decades of totalitarian rule. And plans were in place to provide Iraqis with massive amounts of food, as well as medicine and other essential supplies. The U.S. devoted unprecedented attention to humanitarian relief and the prevention of excessive damage to infrastructure and to unnecessary casualties.

The United States approached its postwar work with a two-part resolve: a commitment to stay and a commitment to leave. The United States had no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belonged to the Iraqi people. We have never been a colonial power. We do not leave behind occupying armies. We leave behind constitutions and parliaments. We don't take our force and go around the world and try to take other people's real estate or other people's resources, their oil. We never have and we never will.

The United States was not interested in the oil in that region. We were intent on ensuring that Iraq's oil resources remained under national Iraqi control, with the proceeds made available to support Iraqis in all parts of the country. The oil fields belonged to the people of Iraq, the government of Iraq, all of Iraq. We estimated that the potential income to the Iraqi people as a result of their oil could be somewhere in the $20 [billion] to $30 billion a year [range], and obviously, that would be money that would be used for their well-being. In other words, all of Iraq's oil belonged to all the people of Iraq.

We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. And we found more weapons as time went on. I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. But for those who said we hadn't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they were wrong, we found them. We knew where they were.

We changed the regime of Iraq for the good of the Iraqi people. We didn't want to occupy Iraq. War is a terrible thing. We've tried every other means to achieve objectives without a war because we understood what the price of a war can be and what it is. We sought peace. We strove for peace. Nobody, but nobody, was more reluctant to go to war than President Bush.

It is not right to assume that any current problems in Iraq can be attributed to poor planning. The number of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region dropped as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This nation acted to a threat from the dictator of Iraq. There is a lot of revisionist history now going on, but one thing is certain--he is no longer a threat to the free world, and the people of Iraq are free. There's no doubt in my mind when it's all said and done, the facts will show the world the truth. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind.

Source: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2003/10/0079780

The Evpatoria Report, "Taijin Kyofusho"

The Evpatoria Report

My pick for Best Original Score

Good luck, Hans Zimmer.

(Based on what I've heard of the nominees this year, they're all good and deserving. Zimmer's score is just my favorite. Sample the scores for yourself here.)

Where to find textbooks for your private little Madrassa

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Home-school mom Susan Mule wishes she hadn't taken a friend's advice and tried a textbook from a popular Christian publisher for her 10-year-old's biology lessons.

Mule's precocious daughter Elizabeth excels at science and has been studying tarantulas since she was 5. But she watched Elizabeth's excitement turn to confusion when they reached the evolution section of the book from Apologia Educational Ministries, which disputed Charles Darwin's theory.

"I thought she was going to have a coronary," Mule said of her daughter, who is now 16 and taking college courses in Houston. "She's like, 'This is not true!'"
Read more here.

It is often said that citizens ought to be prepared to make sacrifices in times of war.  Those fighting the culture war are prepared to sacrifice their children's science education.  I guess this isn't really surprising: children often are the innocent victims of war.

These are the children who will grow up to complain to deans in colleges and universities that the evolutionary biologist teaching their biology course is ramming evolution down their throats.  And they will be told that that is what evolutionary biologists do for Christ's sake, and that they don't actually have to believe what they're being taught in order to learn it.  And they will go on to live in their self-imposed intellectual dark age, complaining that they are being persecuted in a land drowning in the irrationality of religion, waiting for an afterlife that doesn't exist, oblivious to the fact that they have been used as mere tools in the culture wars. 

And as my wife just pointed out to me, even if evolution turns out to be false, to indoctrinate your child into believing that evolution is false is to cripple your child by hindering her future efforts to participate in the practice of science if as an adult she chooses to.   It borders on child abuse. 

And some Republicans want us to privatize virtually everything in our lives, and allow Apologia "Educational" Ministries to prey upon our children?  Are we out of our freaking minds?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Race to the Bottom

This is an excerpt from "Come Together," Hendrik Hertzberg's commentary
on the Health Care Summit, which appeared in the March 8 edition of The New Yorker.
The Democrats made it clear that they intend to cover the uninsured before another lifetime or two elapses; the Republicans made it equally clear that they do not. “We just can’t afford this,” Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, said, adding dismissively, “In a perfect world, everyone would have everything they want.” But, even when the two sides seemed to agree on a particular goal, the similarities were irreconcilable, so to speak. For example, both sides say that they favor making it impossible for people with “preëexisting conditions” to be refused insurance. Obviously, this can’t be done by simply ordering insurance companies to accept such people. Too many of the young and healthy, knowing that they couldn’t be refused, would wait to buy insurance until they got sick; the ranks of the insured would grow thinner and sicker, and premiums would balloon. Without the universal or near-universal coverage that Democrats support, just telling insurance companies that they must accept everyone becomes another way of distributing health care by ability to pay. We have enough of that already. Segregating the sick into “high-risk pools”—the oxymoronic Republican solution—has generally flopped in states where it has been tried. A similar logic holds for allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, another point of nominal bipartisan agreement. Without the sort of standards that Democrats want and Republicans don’t, those among the young, the healthy, and the poor who bought insurance at all would choose the cheapest, skimpiest policies from companies in the least regulated states, leaving people who need the kind of insurance many of us are lucky enough to have in shrinking pools with increasingly unaffordable premiums—the “race to the bottom” that the Democrats kept talking about.
Source: http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2010/03/08/100308taco_talk_hertzberg

"The fault . . . is not in our stars, but in ourselves."

David Luban at Balkinization compares Liz Cheney's Keep America Safe television ad and the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy:
Liz Cheney and her group "Keep America Safe" is after the lawyers who work for the government but (her ad disgustingly insinuates) are secret sympathizers with Al Qaeda. "Whose values do they share?" appears in bold white letters across the black screen, as the voiceover intones the same words against a background of ominous music. The slanders against government lawyers who represented detainees is an uncanny repetition of Senator Joseph McCarthy's hunt for Communists in government 60 years ago. In one of the most dramatic moments, McCarthy went after a lawyer.
It is easy to see the parallel between the accusation that Department of Justice lawyers are Al Qaeda sympathizers and the accustation that certain lawyers 60 years ago were communist sympathizers. Luban suggests that what Cheney and McCarthy also have in common is that they both seized on an opportunity to take advantage of our fear of an enemy for political gain. Read the entire entry here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Killers, "For Reasons Unknown"

The Redistribution of Wealth

Source: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/030310-snapshot1.jpg

To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his father’s has acquired too much, in order to spare others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association — the guarantee to every one of his industry and the fruits acquired by it. —Thomas Jefferson

Public Enemy No. 1

Dahlia Lithwick explains more clearly than I ever could why Liz Cheney is one of the most reprehensible people in the history of the United States. And unlike the losers at RedState, when I say something, I freaking mean it. Here's a taste:
Wednesday night, Liz Cheney told Bill O'Reilly that Guantanamo prisoner Omar Khadr "killed Americans." His trial doesn't start until July. So before you call the Justice Department to question the loyalty of the "al-Qaida Nine," ask yourself whether you really want to take the Bill of Rights out of the hands of the lawyers, courts, and officials sworn to defend it.
Liz Cheney: you are a far greater threat to this nation and its constitution than any single terrorist. If anyone deserves a one-way ticket to Guantanamo, it is you.

Sen. Byrd's reply to barkings from Glenbeckistan

It has been said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In the Daily Mail's March 2 editorial regarding health care reform legislation, "Using reconciliation would hurt Democrats: Choking off debate is no way to muscle through health legislation," the newspaper's misunderstanding of congressional procedures misinforms readers who, in rapidly increasing numbers, find themselves unable to obtain or afford medical insurance.

The editorial correctly quoted me as saying in the spring of 2009 that using reconciliation to enact a huge health care package would "violate the intent and spirit of the budget process . . .".

I believed then, as now, that the Senate should debate the health reform bill under regular rules, which it did. The result of that debate was the passing of a comprehensive health care reform bill in the Senate by a 60-vote supermajority.

I continue to support the budget reconciliation process for deficit reduction. The entire Senate- or House- passed health care bill could not and would not pass muster under the current reconciliation rules, which were established under my watch.

Yet a bill structured to reduce deficits by, for example, finding savings in Medicare or lowering health care costs, may be consistent with the Budget Act, and appropriately considered under reconciliation.

With all due respect, the Daily Mail's hyperbole about "imposing government control," acts of "disrespect to the American people" and "corruption" of Senate procedures resembles more the barkings from the nether regions of Glennbeckistan than the "sober and second thought" of one of West Virginia's oldest and most respected daily newspapers.

My commitment to protecting the best interests of all West Virginians and the American people remains as firm and consistent as my devotion to observing the necessary and essential Senate rules and procedures intended to guarantee debate and the airing of diverse views.

Robert C. Byrd

Washington, D.C.

Byrd is the senior U.S senator from West Virginia.
Source: http://www.dailymail.com/Opinion/LetterstotheEditor/201003030609

RedState, Abortion, and the Senate Health Care Bill

Brian Faughnan of RedState recently claimed that "Obamacare" pays for abortion. His evidence for this claim was a quotation of Sen. Barbara Boxer appearing in California Catholic Daily:
Boxer, who played a prominent role in brokering the ‘compromise’ in behind-closed-doors meetings with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska (who insisted on the abortion provision to obtain his yes vote), came under withering attacks from her longtime pro-abortion supporters following the inclusion of the Nelson provision. . . .

But not to worry, Boxer told McClatchy News Service. Boxer, reported McClatchy, “said it's only an ‘accounting procedure’ that will do nothing to restrict [abortion] coverage.”
So is it true? Does the Senate bill provide for government funding of abortion as California Catholic Daily, that paragon of objective and impartial reporting, claims?

Here's what Timothy Noah of Slate has to say about the matter:
"If you go to Page 2069 through Page 2078 [of the Senate bill]," Stupak told George Stephanopoulos on March 4 on Good Morning America, "you will find in there the federal government would directly subsidize abortions, plus every enrollee in the Office of Personnel Management-enrolled plan, every enrollee has to pay a minimum of one dollar per month toward reproductive rights, which includes abortions." Stupak is here referring to the exchanges created under health reform and to a nonprofit plan managed by the Office of Personnel Management that would be sold through the exchanges. The latter was a consolation prize to supporters of a public-option government health insurance program that didn't make it into the bill.

Let's go to Page 2069 through Page 2078 of the Senate-passed bill. It says, "If a qualified plan provides [abortion] coverage … the issuer of the plan shall not use any amount attributable to [health reform's government-funding mechanisms] for purposes of paying for such services." (This is on Page 2072.) That seems pretty straightforward. No government funding for abortions. (Except in the case of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother's life—the same exceptions granted under current law.) If a health insurer selling through the exchanges wishes to offer abortion coverage—the federal government may not require it to do so, and the state where the exchange is located may (the bill states) pass a law forbidding it to do so—then the insurer must collect from each enrollee (regardless of sex or age) a separate payment to cover abortion. The insurer must keep this pool of money separate to ensure it won't be commingled with so much as a nickel of government subsidy. (This is on Pages 2072-2074.)

Stupak is right that anyone who enrolls through the exchange in a health plan that covers abortions must pay a nominal sum (defined on Page 125 of the bill as not less than "$1 per enrollee, per month") into the specially segregated abortion fund. But Stupak is wrong to say this applies to "every enrollee." If an enrollee objects morally to spending one un-government-subsidized dollar to cover abortion, then he or she can simply choose a different health plan offered through the exchange, one that doesn't cover abortions. (Under the Senate bill, every insurance exchange must offer at least one abortion-free health plan.)
When Boxer said that the bill would do nothing to restrict abortion coverage, then, she was claiming that those who enroll in a health plan through the exchange would be able to obtain coverage for abortion if they so chose; she was not claiming that taxpayers would pay for those abortions, as California Catholic Daily claims.

If I had to speculate, I would say that the folks at California Catholic Daily made an honest mistake. Their belief that Democrats want people to have abortions, combined with their own incompetence, resulted in their mistaken reporting. The losers at RedState, on the other hand, did not make an honest mistake. They want health care reform to fail, and they are willing to say anything, true or false, to help bring that about.

Another swing and a miss by RedState. You're the gift that keeps on giving. This is too easy.

RedState's incoherent take on the torture memo lawyers

Leon H. Wolf of RedState is a very confused man.

Recently, he criticized liberals for criticizing the Justice Department's treatment of Bush II lawyers who wrote legal memos authorizing the torture of suspected terrorists. The men, John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven Bradbury, were accused of exercising poor judgment. This ruling superseded the original judgment of the investigation, which was that the lawyers were guilty of professional misconduct. That judgment could have led to their disbarment or even criminal prosecution. Read more from my sources here and here.

On my view, this ruling is troubling. There is no doubt that the Bush II administration used torture, and torture is illegal. Those responsible for the torture are guilty of war crimes. David Margolis, the man at Justice responsible for this latest judgment, has exonerated the men responsible for the torture memo and thus saw to it that they will not be punished for war crimes. The memos themselves justified the Bush II administration's use of torture, and therefore those in charge of the torture can avoid responsbility for their criminal acts. In the end, everyone involved in these war crimes will not be prosecuted and are therefore in effect above the law. As Scott Horton argues, this is a very serious matter:
Open criminality is a cancer on democracy. It implicates all who know of the conduct and fail to act. Such compliance presents a practical crisis, in that a government that is allowed to torture will inevitably transgress other legal limits. But it also presents an existential political crisis. Many democracies have simply collapsed as the people permitted their leaders to abandon the rule of law in the face of alleged external threats. The turn to torture was rapid, for instance, in Argentina at the time of the Dirty War and in Chile after the American-directed coup against Salvador Allende. In both cases, that turn had little to do with a perceived benefit from the use of torture in interrogation. To the contrary, the very criminality of the act had a talismanic significance. It asserted the primacy of the will of the torturer. It made the claim, for all to accept or reject, that the ruler was the law. Such a claim is, of course, intolerable to democracy, which presupposes, as Thomas Paine wrote, that “the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”
So, what is Wolf's take on this? I'll quote his post at length:
Like a spoiled and petulant child who has tattled on a sibling to Daddy to no effect, angry liberals who are mad that Bush Administration lawyers suggested it was legal to put a terrorist in a box with a caterpillar have decided to try the other parent to see if they get a more satisfactory response. . . . Ever content to parody themselves, outraged liberals offended at our very uncouth treatment of people who plot our national destruction have been busy demanding the heads of current law professor John Yoo and current federal appeals judge Jay Bybee ever since. . . .

Of course, as everyone (most especially the Obama Administration) realizes, this course of action is preposterous and dangerous for the future of our country.
In the first place, . . . it’s preposterous to go on a witch hunt against lawyers for the crime of rendering a legal opinion, simply because that legal opinion proves to be politically unpopular with certain sets of the population. . . .

More to the point, the ridiculous hyperventilation directed at Messrs. Yoo and Bybee by people who haven’t the foggiest clue of these basic principles - and the politically-motivated witch hunt that has followed, will lead inexorably to the practice of defensive (read: bad) law. . . . In a rare exercise of foresight, it appears that someone in the Administration has posed the question, “Say, what’s to prevent people from going after our license if we, say, opine that it’s legal for the EPA to enact cap-and-trade without legislative authorization?”
This, however, is a point that is lost on the bungling left, who seemingly have no guiding star or principle other than being nice to people who want to kill Americans and destroy this country.
One can immediately see that Wolf is going to use whatever fallacious, non-rational means of persuasion are required to convince his readers, who are all too ready to believe what he says anyway and whose intelligence Wolf obviously does not respect. For who is the opposition here? The "bungling left," composed of "spoiled and petulant" children who want only to "[be] nice to people who want to kill Americans." If Wolf's actual arguments are so good, what purpose does the abuse serve? But think about it: how plausible is it that liberals, who are actual Americans, really want to be nice to actual terrorists? Last I heard, they want to convict them in civilian courts and execute them. So the portrayal is not only false; it is ludicrous.

Second, notice that, according to Wolf, the reason why liberals want to go after the torture memo lawyers is that their "legal opinion proves to be politically unpopular with certain sets of the population." This is, of course, false, as Horton makes clear. And, of course, it is also ludicrous.

Third, Wolf argues for the claim that punishing the lawyers will produce bad law. But his argument for this claim is that, if the torture memo lawyers are punished, then other lawyers might also be held responsible for their own actions. But what is wrong with that, exactly? The Bush administration wanted a specific legal opinion for political reasons, and it was the job of the torture memo lawyers to provide it. Holding lawyers accountable for their actions would not only give them additional incentive to do their jobs competently, it would also protect them from politicians would would prey on them. This might not have occurred to Wolf: as I have said before, those on the right have spent so long avoiding responsibility for their actions that by now it is probably second nature for them.

Finally, Wolf mischaracterizes the nature of the torture. He writes that the lawyers said only that "it was legal to put a terrorist in a box with a caterpillar." And this is where Wolf's post is not only false and misleading, it's just freaking incoherent. The justification of torture on the right is that it works, i.e., that it rapidly produces actionable intelligence better than alternative methods—a claim that is almost certainly false, by the way. (Just ask John Kiriakou.) Now, how could torture be so effective if it involves merely putting people in boxes with insects? It couldn't be, of course, so it must involve techniques that actually traumatize its victims. But then the liberal concern about the use of torture seems justified. I would be willing to waterboard Wolf it would help him see the point. But I doubt that he would sign up for it.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson