duminică, 23 ianuarie 2011

Kinsley Gets It, Rest of MSM???

Michael Kinsley gets it. He gets the fact that the media can criticize the Bush administration's arguments against Democrats and for war, especially when the arguments are flat wrong. He gets that Cheney's attacks on critics consist of flat out false statements. More so, Cheney's depictions as Democrats as reprehensible, dishonest, corrupt and shameless only can be accurately referred to Cheney and his regressive Republican cohorts.

The good stuff:
Interestingly, the administration no longer claims that Hussein actually had such weapons at the time Bush led the country into war in order to eliminate them. "The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight," Cheney said on Monday. So-called WMD (weapons of mass destruction) were not the only argument for the war, but the administration thought they were a crucial argument at the time. So the administration now concedes that the country went to war on a false premise. Doesn't that mean that the war was a mistake no matter where the false premise came from?
Cheney and others insist that Bush couldn't possibly have misled anyone about WMD since everybody had assumed for years, back into the Clinton administration, that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That's why any criticism of Bush on this point is corrupt, reprehensible, distasteful, odiferous, infectious and so on. But this indignation is belied by Cheney's own remarks in the 2000 election. In the vice presidential debate, for example, Cheney was happy to agree with Bush that Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction would be a good enough reason to "take him out." But he did not assume that Hussein already had such weapons. And he certainly did not assume that this view was the general consensus. "We'll have to see if that happens," he said. "It's unfortunate we find ourselves in a position where we don't know for sure what might be transpiring inside Iraq. I certainly hope he's not regenerating that kind of capability."
If you're looking for revisionist history, don't waste your time on the war's critics. Google up Cheney's bitter critique, in the 2000 campaign, of President Bill Clinton's military initiatives, specifically the need for more burden sharing by allies and a sharply defined "exit strategy." At the time, there were about 11,000 American troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, working alongside about 55,000 from allied countries. If only!

It's time for the mainstream media to say "enough." There must be an end to the Bush administration's nihilistic accusations and empty rhetoric. Voices outside the liberal blogosphere must bring hold this administration accountable for their shameless political attacks and their failed policies.
I've had a number of conversations with friends recently about the problems with the mainstream - particularly print - media. The NY Times and Washington Post simply have been unable to keep up with the pace of public opinion and the public's desire to make the Bush administration and their mouthpieces. It's infuriating and it's making me read them less and less -- and I've been reading the Times pretty much my whole life.

I don't understand why journalists covering politics are such ineffective wimps. I don't understand why they're so scared of telling the world when they know the administration is lying, bending the truth, or unfairly attacking their critics. The problem ISN'T journalists, but political journalists. A Times reporter covering a Broadway play or SoHo restaurant can be brutally honest, vocally critical, and publicly confrontational, but a reporter covering Cheney's statements won't call a lie a lie, a distortion a distortion, or revisionism revisionism. It's simply absurd and it's increasing my contempt for these organizations every day.

The mainstream media needs to earn back my readership and my trust in their ability to do their job. I'm waiting...

MD-2006: The Smoking Ban and The Howard Executive Race

Current Howard County Executive James Robey has proposed a law that would ban smoking in public spaces, including restaurants and bars. It's about time. I've lived in Baltimore, San Francisco, and New York and I can say unequivocally that the absence of smoke in SF and NY bars and restaurants is fantastic. Even Ireland, bastion of stereotypical drinking establishments, has banned smoking in its bars. I detest the smoke in Maryland and fully support Robey's initiative. I'd like to see O'Malley or Duncan propose the same for the entire state.

It puzzles me why Merdon, who is running for county Executive, would oppose the ban.

Compared with the 90% of Howard County residents who don't smoke, the restaurant and bar lobby can't possibly tip the balance in favor of Merdon.

Compared with the universally accepted dangers of smoking, the benefits of maintaining the status quo are miniscule.

Why would Merdon give his Democratic opponent, Ken Ulman, a slam dunk campaign issue?

It's because we can't trust Merdon to put health and welfare before a business lobby. Merdon simply cannot cut his ties to business and the liquor board. I wonder if he has ties to the tobacco industry? He is quoted a number of times on Tobacco.org, but mostly in connection with this bill. He has fought against self-service cigarette machines. Whatever the case, Merdon is bucking a national trend towards smoke-free public spaces (Montgomery and Prince George's counties have already passed bans). His vote will put him on the losing side of history and ally him with emphysema, lung cancer, and stinky laundry.

MD-2006: Kissin enters the race for House

Barry Kissin, lawyer from Frederick, has entered the race for the 6th District Congressional seat. He faces Andrew Duck (see Philo's profile here), Iraq War vet, in the primary. He is running on a platform of immediate withdrawal from Iraq and universal healthcare.

"Not one more American soldier should die or be maimed in Iraq. Not one more Iraqi citizen should die or be maimed because of our presence in Iraq," Kissin told supporters at the C. Burr Artz Public Library in downtown Frederick last week.
Kissin said the Bush administration misled the nation before the war and said it "was capable of manufacturing incidents" to justify the war in the future.

He also denounced the use of depleted uranium -- which is slightly less radioactive than purified natural uranium, according to the World Health Organization -- in armor-piercing munitions in Iraq. (Depleted uranium, also known as DU, is also used in commercial aircraft counterweights and in radiation shields used in medical offices, WHO said.)
If elected, Kissin said he would work to curb arms exports, push for universal health care coverage, improve education funding beginning with Head Start and leave Social Security as is.
"I believe in the innate goodness of human beings. I believe in the sanctity of all life. I believe we are at a point in history when we face cataclysmic catastrophe," Kissin said, adding, "We must harness the power of collective consciousness, the power of love, to survive."
Kissin supports:
  • Ending the Death Penalty,
  • Immediate withdrawal from Iraq,
  • Expanding Medicare to all US residents,
  • Repealing Bush's tax cuts on the wealthy,
  • Closing loop holes for corporate taxes,
  • Repealing No Child Left Behind,
  • Paper trails for voting machines,
  • Renewable energy,
  • A living wage instead of a minimum wage
  • etc., etc. etc.
Kissin's website is unique among campaign sites--it clearly defines his positions, philosophy, and beliefs in his own words. His positions are obviously his own and not the result of a consultant's prodding. This is a man of strong personal conviction. Seriously, go check out his issue page and tell me if you know of ANY other politician who so clearly stakes his place in the ideological spectrum on every single issue.
Some of his issue statements sound pretty socialist, even if they are grounded in American capitalism. At his announcement, a band played Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'."
That said, I'm glad his voice is in the race. He's got a progressive platform that I agree with and that I'd like to hear Duck and GOP incumbent Bartlett respond to.

What Is Bush Thinking?

The Left Coaster, DailyKos, and AmericaBlog, all have good speculation on the future of our dear leader vis a vis his questionable mental state and newly found relationship to future historians' view of his presidency. Sy Hersh was the catalyst, but the others are worth a read.

Left Coaster:
This scenario, encapsulated by the venerable Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker and summarized in a Wolf Blitzer interview over the weekend on CNN, pulls together several threads we are all too familiar with regarding Bush and his behavior. In short, Bush will withdraw some troops next year, but will substitute an increased Vietnam-type Air Force commitment in support of the failing Iraqi troops, a policy with huge risks that the military itself is against. Bush will refuse to disengage totally from Iraq because he is convinced of the wisdom of his war and only really cares about how he is judged decades from now. Hersh paints a portrait of a Bush who is almost totally detached from the real world, detached from alternate viewpoints, and only caring about messages and advice that comports to his own view of the world.

Ademption of Kos, quoting the Wolf Blitzer transcript:

HERSH: Suffice to say this, that this president in private, at Camp David with his friends, the people that I'm sure call him George, is very serene about the war. He's upbeat. He thinks that he's going to be judged, maybe not in five years or ten years, maybe in 20 years. He's committed to the course. He believes in democracy.
HERSH: He believes that he's doing the right thing, and he's not going to stop until he gets -- either until he's out of office, or he falls apart, or he wins.
BLITZER: But this has become, your suggesting, a religious thing for him? HERSH: Some people think it is. Other people think he's absolutely committed, as I say, to the idea of democracy. He's been sold on this notion.
He's a utopian, you could say, in a world where maybe he doesn't have all the facts and all the information he needs and isn't able to change.
I'll tell you, the people that talk to me now are essentially frightened because they're not sure how you get to this guy.
We have generals that do not like -- anymore -- they're worried about speaking truth to power. You know that. I mean that's -- Murtha in fact, John Murtha, the congressman from Pennsylvania, which most people don't know, has tremendous contacts with the senior generals of the armies. He's a ranking old war horse in Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The generals know him and like him. His message to the White House was much more worrisome than maybe to the average person in the public. They know that generals are privately telling him things that they're not saying to them.
And if you're a general and you have a disagreement with this war, you cannot get that message into the White House. And that gets people unnerved.
BLITZER: Here's what you write. You write, "Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the president remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding."
Those are incredibly strong words, that the president basically doesn't want to hear alternative analysis of what is going on.
HERSH: You know, Wolf, there is people I've been talking to -- I've been a critic of the war very early in the New Yorker, and there were people talking to me in the last few months that have talked to me for four years that are suddenly saying something much more alarming.
They're beginning to talk about some of the things the president said to him about his feelings about manifest destiny, about a higher calling that he was talking about three, four years ago.
I don't want to sound like I'm off the wall here. But the issue is, is this president going to be capable of responding to reality? Is he going to be able -- is he going to be capable if he going to get a bad assessment, is he going to accept it as a bad assessment or is he simply going to see it as something else that is just a little bit in the way as he marches on in his crusade that may not be judged for 10 or 20 years.
He talks about being judged in 20 years to his friends. And so it's a little alarming because that means that my and my colleagues in the press corps, we can't get to him maybe with our views. You and you can't get to him maybe with your interviews.
How do you get to a guy to convince him that perhaps he's not going the right way?
Jack Murtha certainly didn't do it. As I wrote, they were enraged at Murtha in the White House.
And so we have an election coming up -- Yes. I've had people talk to me about maybe Congress is going to have to cut off the budget for this war if it gets to that point. I don't think they're ready to do it now.
But I'm talking about sort of a crisis of management. That you have a management that's seen by some of the people closely involved as not being able to function in terms of getting information it doesn't want to receive.
John has a solution to Bush's teleological obsession:
There's increasing chatter hat Bush may not longer be mentally fit for office. There is a way to remove a president from office that has nothing to do with impeachment. It's called the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
The question is no longer whether Bush is an idiot. The question is whether he's mentally competent, or whether he's an unreformed alcoholic who is suffering from a massive depression combined with religious megalomania, all of which have made him totally detached from reality.

Say what you will about Bill Clinton, we never had to worry about whether he had gone crazy.

We'll just have to wait and see what other gaffes, disturbing anecdotes, slurred speeches, and painful interactions with locked doors Bush comes up with before a final decision can be made...

MD2006: Steele Hoping For More Falling Poll Numbers

He must be, since he's choosing to tie himself even closer to Bush! It's hard to explain, given that Bush has, at best, a 33% approval rating in Maryland.
The president will headline his first fundraiser for Steele on Wednesday at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens. Tickets to the lunch, for which business attire is required, range from $125 for general admission to $5,000 for a photo opportunity with Bush. The event marks the second Steele fundraiser to feature a major administration official. Presidential adviser Karl Rove hosted a closed-door July event for him in Washington that netted about $75,000.

Wow, so I'm guessing the grand total raised by Bush & Rove will top $150,000. Not only is Steele cozying up to Bush, but he's encouraging Bush to continue to avoid offering any leadership on Iraq or a real solution to our national healthcare crisis. Why spend time leading a country at war when you can go raise money from big-shot donors. I think Steele is making a big mistake appearing with Bush while the president's approval rating in MD is so far below the Mendoza Line (40% or a .200 batting average).
Melissa Deckman, an assistant professor of political science at Washington College in Chestertown, said appearances with the president won't help Steele shed his conservative image and appeal to more moderate voters, a group he needs to win over. But she's not sure that voters are keeping tabs on the candidate's appearances so early in the race.
"It wouldn't help him next November to be lumped together with Rove and [Vice President Dick] Cheney and Bush, not in a state like Maryland," Deckman said. "But I think it's going to raise a lot of money for him, and he needs to do that. It's going to be a very expensive campaign."
Carol L. Hirschburg, a Republican consultant who sits on the host committee for Steele's fundraiser, said she believes the timing is right for Bush's visit. Hirschburg said that at this point in the race voters are looking at how adept an individual is at raising money and whether he is a viable candidate. The president, she said, is a proven money raiser and can only help Steele energize his base.
"I don't think having a president come in and help you raise money is a sign that you're proving your undying support to him," Hirschburg said. "Michael Steele has the next year to tell people what he believes in, what his issues are, how he feels about national issues."
John Kane, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party and a member of the fundraiser's host committee, said no matter how people in Maryland feel about the president, Bush's support for Steele validates the lieutenant governor's candidacy.

So let me get this straight. The Maryland GOP is banking on the fact that Marylanders will forget that they don't like Bush if they see Steele successfully raising money via Bush? It's nonsensical. Steele is campaigning in a markedly blue state that gives Bush one of the lowest approval ratings in the country. Marylanders don't care about who's raising money -- if they did, Mfume wouldn't be doing as well as he's doing against Steele (Cardin is outraising Mfume by a few hundred thousand dollars).
It doesn't matter that Marylanders might not be closely tracking who the candidates are appearing next to in November 2005. What matters is the pictures of Bush at the rostrum for Steele, Bush hugging Steele, Steele smiling as he cozies up with the money Bush has brought him. These pictures will be played over and over in TV ads throughout the senatorial race by either Democratic candidate, juxtaposing with rising body counts, rising gas prices, and criminal negligence in response to Katrina. Maryland's voters are clear: they don't like what Bush is doing with the country.
"President Bush is coming to town to tell Marylanders why Michael Steele is his choice to advance the Bush administration's agenda in the U.S. Senate," Shur said.
It's sad that Steele has been picked by Bush. I'm not sure why the MD GOP think tying a candidate for a national administration to a failed president is advisable. In any event, we can expect Maryland voters to see Steele as he is: a long-time shill for George Bush, Karl Rove, and the administration that ended America's moral leadership in the world at a cost of over 2,100 American soldiers and untold tens of thousands of Iraqis.

Sensible Opposition Policy

atrick Doherty at TomPaine.com has a great analysis on why Democrats need an explicit policy on Iraq. The Democratic Party's non-policy policy is no longer an option, especially when so many Americans believe we should leave Iraq.
Such an attitude just confirms the old Republican adage that Democrats are weak on defense. First, such a tactic assumes that Iraq will simply continue on in its current state, causing political pain to the GOP but no lasting damage to the United States. Beyond the obvious lack of regard for the 2,100 troops who have died and those continuing to fight and bleed, the situation in Iraq is precariously close to civil war.
Doherty is referring to a Rahm Emanuel's claim that Democrats don't need a national position on Iraq:
But [Rahm] Emanuel, [D-Ill.] and other party leaders are reluctant to give in to such pressure and come up with a party plan. “At the right time, we will have a position,” Emanuel said.
Doherty goes on:
Sophisticated tactics cannot compensate for strategic ignorance. By refusing to seriously engage the Iraq issue, indeed to educate themselves on the basics of national security and peacemaking, some Democratic leaders are confirming our worst suspicions.
It's time for Democratic politics to be based on sound policy. That's what America wants from Congress.
Doherty makes two great points here, both of which I agree with. Democrats need a policy on Iraq because America needs a policy on Iraq for our national safety and because the voting public wants to see coherent opposition to the choices the Bush administration is making for them.

The simple reality is that the time has past for Democrats to not have fully formulated, coherent, thoughtful, principled positions on what we are doing in Iraq. The Lieberman, Hillary, Kerry, Biden wing of the Democratic senate cannot continue to straddle the fence between an idiotic non-policy (Bush) and no policy (the Democratic establishment). I've written before on my Andrew Duck and Barry Kissin -- the primary candidates in the MD-06 race. A primary race in one of the smallest states in the country (as dear as it is to my heart).

Enough is enough. We're almost 11 months away from the 2006 mid-term elections. That's not a lot of time for Democrats to create a clear presentation of their policy on Iraq. Now we're a true big tent party and though I may go back on these words I don't think we necessarily have to have every Democrat in every race pushing for withdrawal. It's not feasible. But we need to be presenting either (a) concrete plan for safe, timely, sensible withdrawal or (b) a concrete plan for safe, timely, sensible change of course for success.

This is even more important because 11 months is still a lot of time. Bush's poll numbers could rebound. No other Bush officials may be indicted for Plamegate. DeLay's indictment by Ronnie Earle might get tossed. Democrats might be tied to the Abramoff scandals. The economy could turn around and oil prices could continue to drop. Democrats may look like they're ready to roll the GOP in the mid-terms, but we have a long way to go. No matter what else happens, though, Democrats will not win in 2006 without a solid plan for Iraq. Without a plan, as Doherty says, we'll be forever confronted with "confirming [their] worst suspicions" that we are weak on defense.