Is Jon Stewart bad for democracy?
Jon Stewart? Bad for democracy? Am I losing my mind?
At the Post, columnist Richard Morin points to a study by two East Carolina University political scientists which found that "young people who watch [The Daily Show] develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting".
College students. Those non-voting bums!
Now, there's a good deal wrong with the study — and I don't just say that as one of Stewart's most ardent fans. As Liz asks at BlondeSense: "[W]hat is wrong with American citizens being less trustful of their government and political candidates?… What is wrong with questioning our governments policies?"
Nothing. It's the American way, isn't it? Revolution may or may not be a good thing every now and then, but a healthy skepticism of government is a central democratic impulse. I'm sure Locke and the Founders would agree. Perhaps even Socrates would agree.
For more, see also Shakespeare's Sister. And Kevin Hayden at The American Street: "You know what the greatest disincentive for voting is? The way the Republicans rigged the vote in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere in the last two presidential elections. The whole electronic voting scam. Politicians that practice cronyism. Leaders who torture in our name… That’s not cynicism. That’s a broken political system."
And Gloria at The All Spin Zone, who counters this lame study (of which Morin is but the lame messenger) with some reporting of her own: "According to a study done by PA's Annenberg Election Survey, TDS viewers were the most informed viewers on the issues in 2004. Political knowledge has a direct effect on political choices. Young voters were John Kerry's strongest supporters and George W. Bush's most vocal detractors."
Of course, the anti-Stewart right buys the study completely. See, for example, Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters, who assumes, without anything to back up his assumption, that "people who [find] Jon Stewart hilarious [suffer] from a form of superficiality". He also claims that "reliance on satire and sarcasm alone requires little real courage, especially in a free society".Has he even seen The Daily Show? If so, does he get it?
Jon Stewart is an educational satirist. In contrast to the news media, which often report the latest political spin without so much as an inkling of irony, Stewart educates us all — and not just the collegiate among us — in the ways of politics. For example, while the MSM will report on Cheney's latest remarks on Iraq, and do so virtually context-free, Stewart will juxtapose those remarks with previous, and often contradictory, remarks.
If some of Stewart's viewers turn into cynics, laughing at leaders who make fools of themselves, that's only because current political reality itself breeds such cynicism. How is it possible to look at what's going on at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and not become something of a cynic?
I would hope that many of Stewart's viewers don't stop and cynicism and do what they can to remake political reality, but I would much rather have America's young people, its first-time voters, understand American politics as it is rather than as the Republicans and their spin machine and the news media that report that spin as truth would have them understand it. I would rather have them turning away from the polls holding their noses than voting out of ignorance and fear.
Not voting is a political statement. Voting with knowledge of things as they really are is the essence of democratic responsibility. Jon Stewart puts his views on a path to knowledge and responsibility.
Jon Stewart is good for democracy.
The vice president just makes it too easy.
"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people," Mr. Cheney said, in impromptu remarks at a fund-raising luncheon for a Republican Congressional candidate in Chicago. " That offends me."
"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that the vice president took it upon himself to disclose vital national security information, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent Iran from future attacks against the American people," Mr. Creature said, in impromptu remarks at a fund-raising luncheon for a Democratic candidate in Wisconsin."Mr. Vice President, you offend
Thank you, Mr. VP, for so clearly showing your hypocritical stripes.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
Iraqi government declares state of emergency in Baghdad
Reality in Iraq is not always what it seems. Sometimes it's worse. Consider that highly sensitive cable sent from Ambassador Khalilzad to Secretary Rice, the one WaPo recently acquired and made public, the one that says that Iraqis who work for the U.S. in the Green Zone live in constant fear of being found out, the one that references abductions and ethnic cleansing.Well, reality in Baghdad now includes a state of emergency and a curfew, as the AP reports here:
Iraq's government clamped a state of emergency on Baghdad and ordered everyone off the streets Friday after U.S. and Iraqi forces battled insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and rifles near the heavily fortified Green Zone.
This state of emergency will "continue for an indefinite period". It includes "a renewed prohibition on carrying weapons and [gives] Iraqi security forces broader arrest powers".
As Carla of Preemptive Karma puts it, "[t]he most tightly watched city in Iraq is barely under control". (See also Steve Soto at The Left Coaster and Michael Signer at Democracy Arsenal.)
But, hey, what's a state of emergency? What's a curfew? Just a number, maybe some sort of meaningless benchmark. Isn't that right, Tony Snow?
I'm sure everything's going superbly well over there. At least that's what the mouthpieces of delusion want us to believe.
Them misguided Dems: Iraq, the media, and the success of White House "happy talk"
About a week and a half ago, as some of you may remember, the Carpetbagger wrote about "the new media narrative," the one where "Bush and the GOP have momentum and are on the upswing". He argued that, in truth, there is no such "comeback" or "resurgence" for the Republicans.
I responded here at The Reaction, referring to "the shame of America's free press". What's going on here, I argued, is that the White House's "happy talk," the key communications element of Chief of Staff Josh Bolten's six-month campaign to resurrect the Bush presidency and Republican electoral fortunes, is working. The media, even major news outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, are buying it. If they don't buy it, of course, they'll be tagged with the liberal label, which, given the success of Fox News and the influence of the right-wing spin machine, no one wants. Which is why they buy it. Or, at least, which is why they make every appearance of buying it.
And so, we are informed, Bush and the Republicans are back. Similarly, for the sake of "fairness" and "balance," we are informed that the Democrats don't have a plan. Democrats are divided, what with that crazy Dean guy running the DNC and the unstoppable Hillary out in front for '08 and Kerry bitterly sniping from his perch in the Senate and, well, all the other dysfunction that seems to be weighing down the party (which now probably also includes the Kos-TNR feud).
More than anything, though, it is Iraq that divides Democrats, and Democrats from the American people. At least according to the news media. At Editor & Publisher, Greg Mitchell outlines what the media are up to and why they're getting it all wrong:
The new efforts by Republicans in Congress, and in the media, to use Iraq to their advantage by branding Democrats as favoring a "cut-and-run'" policy, has received wide coverage in the past week. Often pundits, and even reporters, have suggested that this is working, because Americans are not in favor of a "hasty" withdrawal. Democrats are in shambles, they report, as they fear that proposals for setting a timetable for withdrawal put forward by Sen. John Kerry and Rep. John Murtha will prove disastrous for the party in the November elections, due to the alleged unpopularity of this stance.
This conclusion, however, flies in the face of surveys by all major polling firms…
It's one thing when polls are dismissed, ignored or twisted by political or media spinmeisters. But when journalists in their news stories do it, it is downright misleading.
Misleading indeed. Which is precisely how Republicans win (and govern).
Bush and the Republicans get what they want from all this, which is the perception of a divided and largely ineffectual Democratic Party, justification for their disastrous Iraq policy, and an electorate, or at least a huge chunk of the electorate, that remains just ignorant enough, because misled by the "fair" and "balanced" news media, to mark an X next to the name of whatever candidates the GOP machinery upchucks onto a ballot.
I'm rarely one to join the blogospheric assault on the much-maligned MSM, but, more and more, I cannot help but be disturbed and enraged by its refusal to do its job properly. The shame continues.
On a related note, I find this from Andrew Sullivan:
The Democrats, alas, seem hopeless to me. Their ambivalence about the war before and during it makes them seem unreliable stewards of a fight we have no choice but to join. Their flirtation with withdrawal only reinforces this impression. But they do have an opening, if they only had the conviction. If a Democratic candidate emerged who promised to stick to the Iraq war to victory, but conduct it in a more aggressive, ethical and competent way than the current crew, Americans would be more than receptive. Such a position would also help them expose the scandalous incompetence in the White House, while not being vulnerable to charges of defeatism. It won't happen, alas. And Rove will ruthlessly exploit the war for partisan gain, as he has from the beginning. He has no scruples. For him, national security is simply part of a political game. I should therefore break the news to my liberal and Democratic readers: Rove is winning this game for now. If you stick to your anti-war position, you are left with hoping for catastrophe, which a great political party should be above. Until the Democrats confront this, the rest of us are left with the hope of McCain - but not much else. Well: prayer, I guess.
I like Andrew quite a bit, not least for his condemnation of the use of torture and for his ardent support for same-sex marriage and other basic liberties, but I'm not with him here. Democrats have different views on what to do about Iraq, but they're not, I think, "hopeless". A parliamentary opposition party may need to stand united against the governing party, but in the American system the "opposition" party needn't coalesce uniformly around common policies until a presidential campaign (and perhaps not even then, given simultaneous races for different levels of government).
In addition, there must be some alternative to McCain or a McCain-style Democrat. With respect to Iraq, McCain is just a more competent and compelling Bush. That isn't the mean between the extremes of the incompetence of the Bush Administration and the "cut-and-run" inclinations of some on the anti-war side. While Cheney et al. continue to believe in their own infallible righteousness, as well as in the unwavering righteousness of their war, Democrats, in seems to me, are engaging in a healthy debate over what to do about a situation that has spiralled out of control. That isn't hopelessness, it's thoughtfulness. And it's what precedes effective and visionary leadership.
I have nothing but confidence that Democrats could be reliable stewards of American foreign policy — not just of the "fight" in Iraq but of troubles around the world, including Iran and North Korea. They should absolutely be given that opportunity once again.
(For more in response to Andrew's anti-withdrawal argument, see Kevin Drum.)
A case of genital mutilation in Kenya
Sometimes it's hard to know what to say. This horrific story out of Kenya is from the BBC:
Kenyan villagers have been shocked by the death of girl who bled to death after trying to perform female genital mutilation (FGM) on herself.
Pamela Kathambi did the procedure on her own because she was being teased by her friends for not being circumcised in the remote village of Irindi.
Her mother told the BBC that she had refused to allow her 15-year-old to be circumcised last year.
FGM is banned in Kenya, but remains common in some areas.
In some communities it is believed that circumcision will maintain a girl's honour and is part of a girl's initiation into womanhood.
What can I say? That I'm grateful to live in a country like Canada? That at least the girl's mother did the right thing? That, in the end, social/peer pressure won out? Regardless, this incident, surely not an isolated one, should remind us that providing aid — specifically related to sexual education and women's health care — to underdeveloped countries should be a priority for the developed West.
I know I would be a bad blogger if I didn't comment on the latest revelation of Bush administration overreach into our private lives, but I'm just finding it hard to find the words, or the outrage, this time around. By now you all know the details: 9/11 happened and Dick Cheney took it upon himself to turn the world upside down and inside out (war, illegal surveillance, you name it). Or, more specifically, he used 9/11, as the BooMan reminds us, "to take us back to a pre-Watergate situation where the intelligence agencies do whatever they want and Congress need not know boo about it." Fine, I'll be even more specific, this from today's NYT:
WASHINGTON, June 22 — Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.
Whatever. Mind you, if I trusted the Bushes to stay within the law I would have no problem with this, but time and time again they have proven that the temptation to circumvent the law is just too great for them. Again, 9/11 was Cheney's wet dream, a gift with a bow on top that just keeps on giving. And why do I put all this law circumvention on his shoulders? Watch Frontline's The Dark Side, and then tell me it's not all about Dick.
Plus, I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the story behind the story. That being the Bush administration and the Right-wing nut-o-sphere having a conniption over the fact that the press ran with this story in the first place. It's a matter of national security, you know. Well, I do know, and you know what? The terrorists know too, and they knew before this morning that their money transfers were being monitored, so please get off your high national security horse already. And, if you're going to go nuts over the Times, then go nuts over the Wall Street Journal as well.
My fellow bloggers have more. Please stop by War and Piece, Shakespeare's Sister, Hullabaloo, The Heretik and Taylor Marsh.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
Two items of note from yesterday's Pentagon press briefing on Iraq. First, and this is big news because such a public portrayal of Iranian influence can only mean one thing... Cheney and Rummy are itchin' for more war.
Iranian support for extremists inside Iraq has shown a "noticeable increase" this year, with Tehran's special forces providing weapons and bomb training to anti-U.S. groups, the top U.S. commander in Iraq said yesterday.
Other U.S. officials have complained about Iranian meddling in Iraq, but the criticism of Tehran by Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. was the most direct and explicit so far.
And this bit is not news, but it always amazes me that on our Iraq watch, this is allowed to continue.
Casey expressed confidence in the growing strength of the Iraqi army but voiced concern about the state of the Iraqi police, especially in the Baghdad area, where, he said, their operations are influenced by militias. Sunnis often accuse the police, who are controlled by the Ministry of the Interior, of working closely with Shiite death squads.
The emphasis is mine, because WTF? Death squads led by the government we are there to prop up. Again, not news, but how come when Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the terrorist fightin' crew running this war speak of Iraq they don't mention that we support our own version of terror. Shiite death squads. Thanks America, the world really is a safer place.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
Should the U.S. bomb North Korea?
In yesterday's WaPo, former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, both under Clinton, argue that "if North Korea persists in its launch preparations" — which I recently discussed here — "the United States should immediately make clear its intention to strike and destroy the North Korean Taepodong missile before it can be launched".
Here's the core of their argument:
Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy…
This could be accomplished, for example, by a cruise missile launched from a submarine carrying a high-explosive warhead. The blast would be similar to the one that killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. But the effect on the Taepodong would be devastating. The multi-story, thin-skinned missile filled with high-energy fuel is itself explosive — the U.S. airstrike would puncture the missile and probably cause it to explode. The carefully engineered test bed for North Korea's nascent nuclear missile force would be destroyed, and its attempt to retrogress to Cold War threats thwarted. There would be no damage to North Korea outside the immediate vicinity of the missile gantry.
It's a compelling case, and I recommend that you read it in full. And, upon reflection, I must say that I'm not necessarily against it. Which is to say, I'm not against taking the North Korean threat seriously. It is, after all, much more serious than any threat Saddam ever posed to U.S. interests leading up to the Iraq War (although he of course posed a serious threat before the Gulf War and the containment that followed). Indeed, my problem here isn't so much the use of force as it is the failure of the Bush Administration to engage North Korea in direct, one-on-one talks with respect to its nuclear program and possible efforts to find a suitable, mutually beneficial solution — conditional aid and trade, for example — to what has long been a crisis in the Far East.
But let's not rush into this. As Noah Shachtman of Defense Tech notes, there may not be a missile, let alone a test of any missile. And there certainly isn't much sense of what such a missile would be "capable of doing". Kevin Drum is similarly skeptical, as is Laura Rozen. See also Peter Howard at The Duck of Minerva, who wonders if North Korea isn't playing a game of "tit-for-tat" with the U.S., and The Heretik, who takes the policy of preemption to its logical conclusion and wonders if we haven't "finally lost it".
If nothing else, just consider the risks associated with such a preemptive strike. How would North Korea respond? Would it attack the South? Would it lob missiles at Japan? Would it now, or eventually, use its nuclear technology in some way against American interests? Is Kim's regime irrational? Or is it playing an escalating game of chicken? Is this a prelude to war or to diplomacy, negotiation, and some sort of "cold" peace?
What should the U.S. do about North Korea? There are no easy answers.
Santorum's spin on Iraqi WMD; or, what happens when desperation takes over
As Steve Benen noted the other day at The Carpetbagger Report (where I'm guest blogging yesterday through Sunday, with posts both here and there), Rick Santorum, arguably the Senate's most offensive member, still lags well behind his Democratic rival in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey. A recent poll puts the margin at 18 points. And Santorum's job approval rating stands at an anemic 38 percent.
Santorum must be desperate. Desperate to do something, anything, to narrow the margin. His very political career hangs in the balance. If he loses in November, he's through, likely for good. If he wins, his Clinton-like comeback will be celebrated in Republican circles and — who knows? — a Veep spot could be in the offing (or, eventually, perhaps even the top spot).
How do I know he's desperate? Consider the latest bit of evidence, his latest episode of rabble-rousing spin. Yesterday afternoon, Senator Santorum announced this: "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons." Huge news, no? After all this, after all the fumbling and bumbling, the White House shilling and the indiscriminate killing, it may all have been worth it after all. For if Saddam really did possess WMD, if he really was such a threat not just to the Middle East but to America's national security itself, well, perhaps the exoneration of Bush can commence (with demands for mea culpas from Democrats, of course), perhaps the tide truly has turned, perhaps the GOP upsurge will begin and Republicans will re-embrace the Iraq War in earnest and sweep through the November elections, Democrats be eternally damned.
Fox News, as expected, lapped up the story with characteristic glee, "fair" and "balanced" only with respect to its unabashed partisanship and shameful disregard for journalism. It's uncritical lede: "The United States has found 500 chemical weapons in Iraq since 2003, and more weapons of mass destruction are likely to be uncovered, two Republican lawmakers said Wednesday."
Needless to say, the right-wing blogosphere has joined in. That sound you hear coming from that spin-struck echo chamber is a collective seizure of jubilation. (Captain) Ed Morrissey, for example, is calmer than most, but a tone of told-you-so righteousness peeks out from behind his post's thin veneer of wait-and-see optimism. And he's not alone. Glenn Reynolds thinks the WMD issue could now rebound on "war opponents". At Outside the Beltway, Chris Lawrence thinks that this discovery "further undermine[s] claims from the anti-war fringe that Iraq had declared and destroyed its stocks of non-conventional weaponry". (Uh, the "fringe"?) And so on and so on. Go check out Memeorandum for more of the same.
So what to make of this? Well, here's Powerline's John Hinderaker, who deviates from all this enthusiasm to throw in some healthy perspective:
This is certainly significant, but what they're talking about is old munitions left over from, presumably, before the first Gulf War. This doesn't appear to constitute evidence that Saddam's regime had continued to manufacture chemical weapons in more recent years. What it does demonstrate is that the picture with respect to Iraq's WMDs is much more nuanced than the usual "he didn't have any" mantra.
Fair enough. Saddam had some, once upon a time, and he may have sought to acquire them once again, but he didn't have them before the second Gulf War, the Iraq War, and he certainly didn't have them in the way that the war's chief proponents — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, the neocons, etc. — said he did. (Remember all those "mushroom cloud" comments?)
But this is really nothing more than Santorumnal (my neologism for today) grandstanding. And I can't put my response to this nonsense any better than the Maha of The Mahablog, Barbara O'Brien:
I keep reading, and find that this is not a new discovery, but an account of some stuff found in Iraq since May 2004. And it wasn’t exactly “500 chemical weapons,” as Fox News reported, but 500 chemical weapons shells. These shells contained old, degraded mustard OR sarin “nerve agents” dating from before the Gulf War, but for some reason nobody was interested enough to analyze the stuff to find out for sure what it was. The declassified document detailing the “discovery” — released by our old pal John Negroponte, note — is artfully vague about how much toxin was actually contained in the shells and what condition the toxin was in. Or even exactly what it was.
Apparently Rick Santorum, whose Senate career is in its final throes, got his hands on a classified document from the National Ground Intelligence Center. He pulled key points out of the document and had them declassified, and then made a big whoop-dee-doo announcement that he had in his hand proof that there were WMDs in Iraq…
As Barbara implies, Santorum is the new McCarthy. When all else fails — and it's all failing for the junior senator from Pennsylvania — pull a stunt like this. How stupid does he think we are? How stupid does he think the voters of his great state are? Pretty stupid, one must presume.
But such is what happens when desperation takes over. I expect little else from Santorum, not to mention from Fox News and the right-wing blogosphere, but it's all quite distasteful nonetheless.
Distasteful? It's pathetic. And it won't work.
Spinning the positive
My fair and balanced article on today's Senate Iraq withdrawal vote:
Democrats stay united behind change
NEW YORK (SotD) - Senate Republicans today have overwhelmingly voted to stay the course in Iraq despite a growing desire by a majority of the American people for a change in U.S. strategy.
While Senate Republicans chose to back the president's failed policy, Senate Democrats stood united in their effort to force a change in the Administration's Iraq policy. An optimistic Sen. Smiley (D-OH) touted today's vote as a Democratic victory. "Today," he said, "we have forced the GOP to go on record in support of the President, and in support of the incompetent, misguided way this war has been waged." For Democrats, taking the lead on Iraq policy and showing their support for the troops has been the driving force behind the amendments voted on today. "This is a referendum," added Sen. Smiley, "against the President and his failed stay-and-pay strategy in Iraq. The GOP must now defend, from today until the mid-term elections, why they chose to support such a failed policy against the wishes of the American people."
The Associated Press version can be found here.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
The Angelina factor
Angelina Jolie.She's beautiful, she's eccentric, she's dedicated to good causes, and she's right about what's wrong with U.S. foreign policy.Sometimes celebrity can be a good thing.
Bush and the flag: A case for impeachment?
At AMERICAblog, John Aravosis asks if President Bush defaced American flags in Vienna today. Well, he certainly defaced some in 2003. What else would you make of this image to the left?Given that writing on the flag is illegal, John thinks that Republicans should add it to their constitutional amendment against flag burning. "Then let the Republicans decide if they're going to vote that George Bush defaced the flag, or whether they're going to defend defacing the flag."A good idea, if you ask me. It's a stupid wedge of an amendment that would sully the Constitution with a partisan restriction on freedom of expression. America can surely withstand the burning of its flag (and the writing upon it) without having to ban it. Or do these self-appointed gatekeepers of patriotism in the Republican Party think that America is so weak as to crumble from such expressions of protest?Regardless, I'll go further than John. Why not begin impeachment proceedings against Bush? Is that not how Republicans ought to respond to Bush's transgression? If he writes on the flag, he must also hate mom, baseball, and apple pie. He must have nothing but contempt for the United States of America. He may pledge his allegiance, but defacing the flag... well, that says it all. Think how they'd respond if the transgressor was, oh, say, Bill or Hillary.So, Republicans? Are you prepared to do what you know you must do? Or are you just a bunch of hypocrites looking to score cheap political points.Your move.
Making the minimum
Do you make the minimum wage? Tough, say Republicans. You won't be getting an increase anytime soon. From the AP:
The Republican-controlled Senate smothered a proposed election-year increase in the minimum wage Wednesday, rejecting Democratic claims that it was past time to boost the $5.15 hourly pay floor that has been in effect for nearly a decade.The vote was 52 to 46. Now, I'm just speculating here, but I doubt that any of those 52 make $5.15 an hour. As Ted Kennedy noted, that hourly wage amounts to just $10,700 a year, "almost $6,000 below the poverty line for a family of three".Think about that. $5.15 an hour. That's, like, a grande something-or-other at Starbucks. Or a couple of slices of cheap pizza. Or a couple of bus rides. I don't think I'm a terribly extravagant person, but it's rather easy to blow through the equivalent of US$5.15 in a relatively expensive place like Toronto.Even if you budget well, even if you're careful with your money, what's $5.15?Well, that's all some people make. And, to them, $5.15 surely means a lot. Democrats want to help those people, to give them a chance at a decent life, to help them put food on the table and take care of their kids, maybe even save a bit for an increasingly uncertain future.But Republicans won't even boost the minimum to $5.85.That's 70 fucking cents, less than a cup of coffee. Even after two years, Kennedy's proposed minimum would only be $7.25. I say only, but I'm not critical of Kennedy. He's doing what he can for those who make the minimum and that extra $2.10 would make a huge difference in their lives.Republicans rubber stamp Bush's adventures in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthy even as they ignore the very people who need all the help they can get. These are Americans who are struggling, who are hurting, who are barely making it from day to day. If you still need a reason to vote for the Democrats this coming November, and again in '08, think about those people, the people who don't have millions to spend on lobbyists, who can't cram their agenda through Congress, who don't have a friend in the Oval Office, who don't have a voice in Washington.And think about $5.15. Take it out of your pocket and look at it. And consider your life on that much an hour. Why allow others to be paid what you'd never want to be paid yourself?Shame on the GOP.
The abortion wedge
By The (liberal)Girl Next Door
I was a guest on “The David Goldstein Show” last Sunday night, and during the discussion, David took a call from a woman (a lifelong Democrat) that expressed her displeasure with the Democratic Party for its stance on abortion. She made a good point when she asked (I’m paraphrasing a bit), “Why in the world would the Democratic Party think that the same people who work for peace, for the poor and for healthcare for all, would not also be concerned about protecting the lives of the most vulnerable among us?” She was clearly speaking about the “unborn” and she is clearly a “pro-life” Democrat that feels left out and ignored by her Party. Luckily for me (or her, depending on your perspective), her call came at the very end of the show and there was not enough time for me to respond, because as I discussed the issue with Will Kelly-Kamp (one of the other guests) after the show, I realized that I would have given a reactionary response rather than a measured and thoughtful one, and I do know that little progress is made through exchanges like that. I mean really, how many social problems has Rush Limbaugh solved?Will mentioned to me that 40% of Democrats are pro-life and I was shocked by that number but my reaction was still, “That means that 60% are for choice and we don’t need two anti-choice Parties.” Of course that is true, but what if we stopped engaging in the debate about abortion rights on the Republicans’ terms and started defining the issue for ourselves? We all know that abortion gets the religious right out to the polls, but we also know that Republicans have no real interest in outlawing abortion on the national level, if they did, they could have done so already. What the Republicans want is the option of taking the moral high ground while doing nothing other than paying lip service to the abortion issue. Why don’t we take that issue away from them and put them on the defensive for a change?Now I am firmly pro-choice and I have no moral issue with abortion whatsoever, but to ignore the fact that many people do, many Democrats even, would not be politically productive. The Republicans have managed to make this a very divisive issue, but really, it doesn’t have to be and it can be a winner for Democrats if they take the initiative and define the issue properly and in a way that we can all understand and support. What would it do to the Republicans if the Democrats put reducing the number of abortions in this country into the Party platform (without changing the language on choice of course, but in addition to it)? It would be devastating to the Republicans and would energize people like the woman who called in to David’s show. If done right, it could turn abortion into a unifying issue for the Democrats and neutralize the Republicans’ favorite perennial wedge. That kind of payoff is certainly worth taking a look at.Whether abortion is legal or not, abortions will still take place, they took place before it was explicitly made legal and they took place privately when they weren’t available openly. Making abortion illegal does not save lives, it only puts more at risk. If we really want to reduce the number of abortions in this country, we must take a serious look at the underlying causes of unwanted pregnancy and the factors that drive women to terminate them. Doing this would show the Democrats’ commitment to the issue and expose the Republicans’ plan of simply making abortion illegal, as the ineffectual sham that it is.But, before we can find solutions, we must recognize that we don’t all have the same problem with abortion. For those who consider themselves “pro-life”, the problem is that there are too many abortions performed. For those who are “pro-choice”, the problem is that our right to make our own reproductive decisions is constantly under threat. But just because we define the problem differently, doesn’t mean we can’t find solutions in common. I’m not particularly concerned with reducing the number of abortions per se, but I am interested in providing women with more choices, and by doing that, those who are concerned with reducing the number of abortions would get what they want as well. We may not have the same reasons for addressing the underlying factors that contribute to abortion, but we can still come up with a plan that we can all get behind.We all know what causes pregnancy. It’s not a secret and we should stop acting like it is when it comes to our children. They need to be taught about sex and how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and from unwanted pregnancy, sticking our heads in the sand and telling teenagers to “just say no” is asinine. We have to be realistic and give kids the knowledge and the tools they need to make good decisions when it comes to sex. And birth control should be easily and widely available, it’s just common sense that universal access to birth control will dramatically reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, thus reduce the need for abortion. I understand that some religious folks in this country don’t believe in birth control, but in the spirit of solving the problem (however we each define it), they are going to have to give on this issue as well. It flies in the face of logic to argue against birth control in an effort to reduce unwanted pregnancies. If some of the dietary restrictions set forth in the Bible can now be safely ignored, certainly the “every sperm is sacred” rule can be set aside as well. Sometimes rules become unnecessary and in this case, counter-productive to solving a problem. Far be it for me to tell God’s followers how to interpret the Bible, but if the issue of abortion is as important as they claim, they’re going to have to give a little too.Now, Democrats for Life have proposed the 95/10 Initiative that sets a goal of reducing the number of abortions by 95% over the next ten years. Seems like a good idea, but for the most part, their proposals on how to get there are unrealistic and fly in the face of what the Democratic Party stands for. They advocate parental notification for minors seeking abortions, ultrasound machines so that women can see their “unborn child” before they chose to abort and prohibit the transport of a minor over state lines for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. Shame and criminal penalties won't work. But they have some good ideas in there as well, such as making the adoption tax credit permanent, funding childcare on college campuses, giving more funds to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, federal funds for pregnancy prevention education and a federally funded toll free number where women can get information about resources available in their area. These are great ideas, as long as the information provided is done so without judgment and without a specific end result in mind. But what they propose is just a start, there are much bigger issues that contribute to the number of abortions that are more in line with a progressive agenda and would be received much better by pro-choice Democrats that still make up the majority of the Party.Many women that choose to have abortions do so for economic reasons. We do not have universal healthcare, so pre-natal care is a daunting proposition not to mention the cost of giving birth and the cost of well baby check-ups and doctor visits when your kid gets sick. If you have a job that provides healthcare, once you leave to have a baby, that healthcare goes away.We do not have universal childcare, and let me tell you, childcare is expensive. I chose to stay home with my children for many reasons, but one of the contributing factors was the outrageous cost of childcare, in Seattle it runs around $1000 a month per kid. If we build a birth to college education system in this country, women could return to work and not have upwards of 50% of their income going towards childcare.We also have a failing education system that is leaving far too many of our kids behind, kids that grow up with few opportunities to make a decent living and when they get pregnant, they see those options shrink even further. We have an economy that is loosing family wage jobs at an alarming rate and without economic security, it is sometimes difficult to carry on a pregnancy when you know it will only put the children you already have in further economic jeopardy.By focusing on these issues in a concerted effort to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, Democrats could gain broad support from pro-choice and pro-life voters at the same time. I have no problem with trying to reduce the number of abortions, I just cannot get behind any effort to do so that marginalizes the rights of women to have sovereignty over their own bodies. But increasing resources for pregnant women and women with children, well, I say, when can we get started? I’m certainly not going to get hung up on the objective if the path we take to get there benefits women and working families at the same time it brings more disenchanted Democrats (and maybe even a few Republican “values voters”) back into the fold.I’m tired of arguing about abortion. It would be nice to solve a few problems for a change rather than spending so much time defending the rights we have. This is one way that we can move forward as a society without having to take the Republican mandated two steps back first. I think it’s at least worth a discussion.
(Cross-posted at The (liberal)Girl Next Door.)
The mother of all lies
Since I'm picking through yesterday's talking head transcripts, here's another one for you that should get some attention. The show is Hardball, the topic is Iraq, and the lie comes from Republican shill Kate O'Beirne. Thankfully, the much maligned Bob Shrum was quick to put an end to the spin:
O‘BEIRNE: .... But al-Zarqawi was in Iraq before the invasion, as a representative of al Qaeda.
SHRUM: As you know, Kate—wait a minute, Kate, as you know, every commission that has studied this, everybody except the fantasists Dick Cheney says there is no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.
O‘BEIRNE: I didn‘t say there was. I said al-Zarqawi was in Iraq before the invasion.
SHRUM: You just tried to leave that little impression because it promotes the administration‘s case. If this country had believed that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and had no weapons on mass destruction, we never would have been in this war.
It's the most dangerous lie the Republicans have used to date. It got us into a war, it kept Bush president, and now it's being used to keep us on a steady course of stay-and-pay in Iraq. Shrum cut off O'Beirne when she begin the spin, and every Democrat, every pundit, every talking head should take Shrum's lead and stop the GOP in their tracks the moment they try to slip this mother-of-all-lies in as truth.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
Just the facts please
This, from yesterday's Situation Room, is why the media needs a good hard kick in the ass. The story being reported is the conviction of David Safavian on four of five charges of lying and obstructing justice in connection with the Abramoff scandal. The story should have stayed focused on Safavian (a former Bush administration official) and Abramoff, but no, in order to stay "balanced" Ed Henry, reporting, not commenting, for CNN, had to drag the democrats into the story.
HENRY: The guilty verdict on four felony counts will undoubtedly give Democrats more fodder in their election-year claim that there's a Republican culture of corruption that extends from the White House all the way to Capitol Hill.
But that Democratic case could be undermined a bit by the fact that there have been some high-profile Democrats caught up in ethics cases of their own, most notably Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana, who has denied wrongdoing, but allegedly kept $90,000 in bribes in his freezer here in Washington -- Wolf.
So, a story about Safavian convictions ends with a hit on the democrats. Henry should have ended his report with the facts, not with politics and spin.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
How the Iraqi insurgents treat American soldiers
A sad, horrific story, no matter what your position on the Iraq War:
Two U.S. soldiers, missing for three days since their abduction in an insurgent stronghold south of Baghdad, were found dead, a military spokesman said Tuesday, and a top U.S. commander ordered an investigation into why the men were isolated from a larger force in such a dangerous part of Iraq.Although details remain sketchy, it seems that privates Kristian Menchaca and Thomas L. Tucker were captured by insurgents, brutally tortured, and beheaded.Perhaps these two men never should have been there in the first place, just as all U.S. troops never should have been there in the first place, but there is absolutely no moral equivalency here, whatever the inclination of some of the war's anti-American critics to suggest otherwise. Yes, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib were (and, in the case of the former, still is) bad -- and I've made that case repeatedly here at The Reaction, arguing that the U.S. should be held to, and should aspire to, higher standards -- but we do not do this to our enemies.This is not a justification for the war, just some necessary perspective (of which there is often far too little).
The land of the setting sun
The so-called Coalition of the Willing in Iraq is losing one of its members. Japan has announced that it will withdraw its troops, likely by the end of July.They did good work in a non-combat role, I'm sure, but, as the BBC notes, "[t]he decision [to send troops to Iraq] was unpopular with the Japanese public, many of whom said it violated Japan's pacifist constitution".
"I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we've encountered." - Vice President Dick Cheney 06/19/06
Mr. Cheney, anticipating the level of violence was your job. They were depending on you...
BAGHDAD, July 20--Two U.S. soldiers missing since an attack on a checkpoint last week have been found dead near a power plant in Yusifiyah, south of Baghdad, according to an Iraqi defense official.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Muhammed-Jassim, head of operations at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, said the soldiers had been "barbarically" killed and that there were traces of torture on their bodies.
Now tell these parents about last throes and turning points.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
Leading by example
If the NSA does it, why can't we...
WASHINGTON - Numerous federal and local law enforcement agencies have bypassed subpoenas and warrants designed to protect civil liberties and gathered Americans' personal telephone records from private-sector data brokers.
These brokers, many of whom advertise aggressively on the Internet, have gotten into customer accounts online, tricked phone companies into revealing information and even acknowledged that their practices violate laws, according to documents gathered by congressional investigators and provided to The Associated Press.
The law enforcement agencies include offices in the Homeland Security Department and Justice Department — including the FBI and U.S. Marshal's Service — and municipal police departments in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia and Utah. Experts believe hundreds of other departments frequently use such services.
Why do I blame the degradation of our civil liberties on this law-breaking administration? Well, who do you think these brokers look up to? Yes, Big Brother.
James Bearden, a Texas lawyer who represents four such data brokers, compared the companies' activities to the National Security Agency, which reportedly compiles the phone records of ordinary Americans.
And the FBI conveniently uses the same BushCo excuse for not using proper channels.
A federal agent who ordered phone records without subpoenas about a half-dozen times recently said he learned about the service from FBI investigators and was told this was a method to obtain phone subscriber information quicker than with a subpoena.
The agent, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with reporters, said he and colleagues use data brokers "when he have the need to act fairly quickly" because getting a subpoena can involve lengthy waits.
Remember folks this time it's NOT about terrorists. This is what happens when the bar is lowered. Checks and balances are so cumbersome, not to mention passe.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
The president is an embarrassment to the country in many ways. Language -- and I use the term loosely -- like this is just one more example:
He called the new Iraqi Defense Minister an "interesting cat" and Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi, the deceased al-Qaeda leader, "a dangerous dude."
And in case you had forgotten:
President Bush today said he had tried to avoid war with Iraq "diplomatically to the max."
Wait, there was this gem to the U.S. Winter Olympic team:
"We want to thank all the dudes of dudesses of the snowboarders who are here," Bush said.
And it's not over yet:
"Let's, first of all, pray there's no hurricanes," Bush said. "That would be, like, step one."
Mr. President, you certainly are an interesting cat, but you are also a dangerous dude. So maybe you could stop ruining this country to max. That would be, like, step one.
(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)
That's the talk.(And I can see Bush going either way on this in the short term. In the long term, however, a pardon is likely inevitable. Which is a shame. Not because I want to see Libby scapegoated as the only one who did anything wrong, which is what's happening now, but because he clearly didn't act on his own. Whatever happens to Libby, wouldn't it be nice to know what Plamegate was really all about? A trial would at least be somewhat enlightening.)
The dream of Republican dominance
No, not my dream. Karl Rove's.At the Times, James Traub looks at Rove's attempt, now almost comical, to build a long-term Republican majority out of the Bush presidency similar to the one Rove's hero, Mark Hanna, built out of the McKinley presidency. In this recurrence of the same, Bush is McKinley, Rove is Hanna, and 2000 was 1896 all over again.How things have changed.Traub deconstructs the historical analogy. Rove may be a Hanna figure, but Bush is no McKinley and 2000 wasn't 1896. Indeed, the analogy doesn't hold up at all.Traub: "Walter Dean Burnham, the political scientist, defined political realignments as America's 'surrogate for revolution.' It may be that Karl Rove's revolution was one Americans did not want and have now begun to reject."And not a moment too soon.
Reality in Iraq
According to Editor & Publisher, The Washington Post has acquired a "sensitive" cable detailing the situation in Iraq sent from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad (perhaps from Ambassador Khalilzad himself) to the Secretary of State just before Bush's recent surprise visit:
This cable outlines, the Post reported Sunday, "the daily-worsening conditions for those who live outside the heavily guarded international zone: harassment, threats and the employees' constant fears that their neighbors will discover they work for the U.S. government."The White House may wish it were otherwise, and it may spin it differently, and it may even believe its own spin, but there is a truly disturbing disconnect between what Bush and his apologists are telling us about Iraq and what's really going on there.No, this isn't news. Many of us have been saying this for a long, long time. This cable just reinforces what we've been saying (both about Iraq and about the spin).The White House will no doubt offer some of the usual spin in response to "KHALILZAD". (Or it'll hope no one pays this story much attention.) But shouldn't the U.S. embassy in Baghdad know what it's talking about? Its report of reality in Iraq surely bears far more resemblance to the truth than anything we've ever heard from Bush and his various mouthpieces of delusion.**********Digby responds to the cable here.
It's actually far worse than that, as the details published below indicate, which include references to abductions, threats to women's rights, and "ethnic cleansing."
North Korea set to test new ballistic missile?
Speaking of another major threat that the Bush Administration has steadfastly refused to talk to directly -- Iran's the other one, and yesterday I spoke of it here -- it looks like North Korea may be planning to test a new weapon. The NYT reports here:
North Korea appears to have completed fueling a long-range ballistic missile, American officials said Sunday, a move that greatly increases the probability that Pyongyang will go ahead with its first important test launch in eight years.Please note: This ain't no dud of a Scud. This "would be North Korea's first flight test of a new long-range missile that might eventually have the capability to strike the United States". Not to mention far closer to home: South Korea, Japan, China.Here's what a "senior Bush administration official" said yesterday in response to the impending test: "Why they are doing this, you will have to ask them. It is not in anyone's interest; certainly not theirs. For our part we will not be derailed by their temper tantrums nor have any of our own."This official is right that this is "a multilateral problem" and that the U.S. ought to "support the six-party process". But being the world's superpower, the one that hopes to spread democracy hither and thither, comes at a price. Ultimately, rogue regimes like Kim Jong-il's North Korea, much like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, want to talk directly to -- and negotiate directly with -- the U.S. And the U.S., it seems to me, needs to respond in kind. Is there not room in such cases for both multilateralism and a bit of unilateral leadership?Talks won't stop North Korea's test of its Taepodong 2 missile. Talk soon... or else. Or else what? The prospect of a nuclear Iran is frightening enough. Think of a nuclear North Korea with far more advanced technology.Diplomatic leadership, Bush ought to know, is just as important as, if not more important than, the capacity to wage shock-and-awe campaigns against perceived threats.**********For more on the need to talk directly to North Korea, and its ilk, see an excellent post by Suzanne Nossel at Democracy Arsenal. Key passage:
A senior American official said that intelligence from satellite photographs suggested that booster rockets had been loaded onto a launch pad, and liquid-fuel tanks fitted to a missile at a site in North Korea's remote east coast.
While there have been steady reports in recent days about preparations for a test, fueling is regarded as a critical step as well as a likely bellwether of North Korea's intentions. Siphoning the liquid fuel out of a missile is believed to be a complex undertaking...
A launch would be a significant milestone in the North's missile capability and effectively scrap a moratorium on such tests declared by the North Koreans after their last test in 1998.
I understand the notion that by engaging directly in talks with countries that make threats and flout international norms, the US risks dignifying and publicizing these nations' illegitimate positions and causes. I also recognize that amid bitter and longstanding policy conflicts, the chances that direct talks between diplomats with vastly different objectives and value-systems will help bridge differences may be slim indeed. I don't think that pushing for direct talks with either North Korea or Iran comes close to proffering a "solution" to either crisis. It merely advocates a change in the process by which the conflicts are currently dealt with.
With that said, I wonder whether the US might not be better off with a blanket policy of unconditional willingness to talk directly to North Korea, Iran, and any nation that asks to meet with us face-to-face. We would not be offering to change our positions, concede any of our arguments, or give credence to any of theirs, but rather simply to meet with no strings attached and no promises implied.
Read the whole thing. Suzanne makes a solid case for "such a policy shift".
Just another day in the life and death of Iraq VI
You won't get this from Tony Snow and the White House spin machine. The Sunday Times (of London) reports on the daily "horror show" at the Al-Tub al-Adli morgue in Baghdad, which "has become synonymous with the seemingly unstoppable violence that has turned Baghdad into the most frightening city on earth".This is a very disturbing story. But it's important to know what's really going on over there.
In 2003, according to WaPo, the State Department received "a proposal from Iran [via Switzerland] for a broad dialogue". Apparently, "everything was on the table -- including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups". But this was in the wake of the fall of Baghdad, and "top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative".Why the outreach from Tehran? One expert suggests "the U.S. victory in Iraq frightened the Iranians because U.S. forces had routed in three weeks an army that Iran had failed to defeat during a bloody eight-year war". At the time, then, the U.S. could have dealt with Iran from a position of strength. Not so now. The Iraq War has spawned a civil war, or at least something very much resembling a civil war, Iran has developed its nuclear program to the point where it's enriching its own uranium, and the tension between the U.S. and Iran has deepened. Washington is now talking to Tehran, but that strength has devolved into a desperate weakness. Iran may have been serious about negotiating in 2003. Why should it be serious now?Of course, Iranian President Ahmadinejad should not go without much of the blame. His Iran, a nationalist theocracy, is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons. But shouldn't some of the blame also be levied at the Bush Administration? Instead of looking at reaching some sort of accord with Iran, it succumbed, as it so often has, to cockiness, to the arrogance of perceived power, to self-intoxication, to unreflective righteousness. It got Iran wrong at a time when getting Iran right could have prevented this emerging crisis.So much of our focus has been on Iraq, which has been such a disaster both for Bush and for the U.S. generally. We mustn't forget, though, that the incompetence of Bush's foreign policy extends well beyond Iraq's borders.
Destroying the deep seas
According to the U.N. (via Guardian Unlimited), "[d]amage to the once pristine habitats of the deep oceans by pollution, litter and overfishing is running out of control". Consider:
Last year some 85 million tonnes of wild fish were pulled from the global oceans, 100 million sharks and related species were butchered for their fins, some 250,000 turtles became tangled in fishing gear, and 300,000 seabirds, including 100,000 albatrosses, were killed by illegal longline fishing.Are we not meant to be the stewards of our environment rather than its destroyers? It's like we don't care. And many of us -- too many of us -- don't.Misanthropy is fully justified, in my view. There is simply no excuse for what we're doing.
Into the water in their place went three billion individual pieces of litter -- about eight million a day -- joining the 46,000 pieces of discarded plastic that currently float on every square mile of ocean and kill another million seabirds each year. The water temperature rose and its alkalinity fell - both the result of climate change. Coral barriers off Australia and Belize are dying and newly discovered reefs in the Atlantic have already been destroyed by bottom trawling.
What a difference a vote makes
Guest post by Greg PrinceIn Hudson v. Michigan, 04-1360, the Supreme Court scaled back long held interpretations of the Fourth Amendment, ruling that in some cases illegally obtained evidence may indeed be admitted in court.
The Supreme Court made it easier Thursday for police to barge into homes and seize evidence without knocking or waiting, a sign of the court's new conservatism with Samuel Alito on board.
The court, on a 5-4 vote, said judges cannot throw out evidence collected by police who have search warrants but do not properly announce their arrival.
This is a case in which there is almost certainly a difference than what would have remained with O'Connor on the court. The case was first argued with O'Connor still seated, then reargued later, apparently to break a 4-4 tie. O'Connor was seen as favorable to Hudson. This represents a significant rolling back of the court's traditional strict interpretation of the exclusionary rule.
Hudson was not a sympathetic defendant. Police with a warrant announced themselves at the door but forgot to knock. Hudson was found with a loaded gun and cocaine in his possession. The majority observed that the exclusionary rule shouldn't be a "get out of jail free" card for guilty defendants based on police blunders.
I don't disagree in principle, but in application there are trust issues within a lot of communities where police are involved. Going by the book is for the protection of everyone involved. Moreover, when mistakes don't have negative consequences, how long is it before accidental mistakes become intentional shortcuts?
Four of the justices seemed more than willing to give police even more latitude, but Justice Kennedy limited them to the half loaf approach:
Kennedy joined in most of the ruling but wrote to explain that he did not support ending the knock requirement. "It bears repeating that it is a serious matter if law enforcement officers violate the sanctity of the home by ignoring the requisites of lawful entry," he said.
Kennedy said that legislatures can intervene if police officers do not "act competently and lawfully." He also said that people whose homes are wrongly searched can file a civil rights lawsuit.
Yes there may be means of redress when abuses occur, but the point was to prevent civil rights abuses in the first place. Legislative action after the fact is meaningless to those abused in the first place, and not all wrongs can be made right through lawsuits.
Orin Kerr has a delightful piece, too, which is a must read, especially for "original intent" fetishists:
Am I right that Scalia is saying that the meaning of the Fourth Amendment can change over time as the staffing of police departments and public interest law offices changes? The Constitution — It’s alive! This is a plausible view based on Fourth Amendment precedents, I should point out. Still, it’s sort of funny to read it in an opinion by Justice Scalia.
David Schaub, Justin Gardner, Kevin Drum, Proceed at Your Own Risk, and Captain's Quarters.