September 30, 2005
Over at CAP, Larry Korb and Brian Katulis have released a new plan for withdrawal from Iraq, what they call Strategic Redeployment. The plan itself is well presented, fairly intuitive stuff. During Bush's tenure terror attacks have increased, Iraq has gotten worse, our allies have been bombed, and all the rest. From there, it should be clear that the current strategy isn't working, a new approach is needed. Hence, redeployment rather than withdrawal. Korb's plan is presented as a way to enhance our effectiveness in the War on Terror by changing our troop focus and mission priorities, an approach that strikes me as a smart cooption of Bush's conflation of Iraq with the War on Terror. The redeployment itself would:
• Take 80,000 troops out of Iraq during 2006;
• Demobilize all Guard and Reserve troops so they could focus on Homeland Security;
• Take two active brigades (which means up to 20,000 troops) and use them as reinforcements for Afghanistan and African/Asian counterterrorism operations;
• And put the remaining 14,000 troops in Kuwait and nearby marine bases to strike at terrorist camps in the area and guard against further destabilizing threats to the region.
There's a bit more about communication strategies and reconstruction efforts and better diplomatic initiatives, but that's the nut. What I like about this plan, though, comes in the title. The emphasis on redeployment strikes me as a very savvy resolution to the prime conundrum of those advocating for withdrawal. The American people don't much like losing, retreat, defeat. And withdrawal, while they might agree with it in theory, can easily be spun as one of those nastier heuristics. Redeployment, however, grabs Bush's merging of Iraq and the War on Terror to argue that we need a focus shift, which is exactly the sort of thing you're supposed to do while enmeshed in enduring warfare. That Iraq had made us less safe is an easy case to argue, but when the alternative is a simple return home the discussion gets trickier. When the alternative, as it is here, is a redeployment into formations and positions that'll better protect against terrorism and let us back off from this fruitless war in Iraq, well, Democrats are on stronger ground.
Now, with the Bugman seeming a bit squashed, self-congratulating reformers (particularly Republicans) are happily looking towards a new era of cleanliness and transparency under DeLay's deputy, protege, and close friend Roy Blunt. Said another way, it's time to make my old post on DeLayism new again.
As it stands, Democrats are dashing towards a bit of a wall here. DeLay's indictment is on conspiracy, a relatively minor charge that will, at best, link him to the wrongdoing of others. But Tom DeLay is not a bad, hated dude simply because his campaign financing tactics are questionable and his redistricting schemes are Soviet in style. Nah, the issue with DeLay is that he's the Henry Ford of modern Republican politics, and even if the man himself goes down, the assembly line he's constructed will still be manned. Because that's what he is, really, not a powerful guy, but a new way of running and keeping a majority, of integrating industry and activists and politicians annd idea peddlers into the sort of coherent whole they were never meant to be. So while the "Industry" section may no longer have Abramoff and the "Congressional" quarter may lose DeLay, by and large, the operation will remain essentially unchanged.
And that's what Democrats have to attack. DeLayism is the K Street project is corporate cronyism. It's the Sugar Valley exterminator's decision to absorb the institutional power, memory, and contacts of Washington's lobbyist corps., merge all the different causes into a coherent and partisan organization, and use them to retain control of the House. Used to be that Tobacco Lobbyists lobbied for Big Tobacco while Textile Lobbyists looked after Textiles. But now Tobacco Lobbyists are deployed to convince congressmen from Tobacco-producing states to vote for legislation wholly unrelated to Tobacco, say, the Bankruptcy Bill. And they do this because DeLay promises them, in return, that he'll support Big Tobacco's agenda. Lobbyists act as foot soldiers in return for DeLay deputizing them legislators.
This transformation of Washington Lobbyists into an effective Republican whip organization totally changes the calculus of deliberative democracy. Now that lobbyists are on the inside, they have to be of the right partisan affiliation (one of DeLay's ethical reprimands was for demanding the Electrical Industry hire a Republican as head lobbyist), they have to be loyal on all subjects, they have to be allies during the campaign and, in return, they, and not Congress, end up writing the legislation.
Roy Blunt is part and parcel of this operation, taught by DeLay to use it, groomed by him to inherit it. The fight over Dreier happened because Roy is so deep in the protocols that DeLay knows he'll never be able to wrest K Street back -- the difference between him and Blunt won't be great enough to justify the disruption. But even if this is the end of Tom, it's not the end of DeLayism, and if Democrats fail to kill that, none of this will have been worth a damn. So focus on DeLay for now, but only if the larger game is proving how DeLay is omnipresent, how Congressional Republicans are molded in his image and how that, not the man himself, is what must be destroyed.
Right On Time
C'mon, you had to know it'd happen. Sooner or later, at least. It's not as if Shakespeare's Sister could keep writing impassioned posts that made you want to run for something, organizing massive coalitions that left you ready to believe in something, and running the sort of blog that made you want to do something all without ever around an inkling of awareness from the higher-ups. Total Information Awareness has long kept an eye on her and now, as a warning strike, they jacked up her property taxes and forced her out of her job.
Man. That's some bullshit, yo.
So head on over there, buy her some nice things, drop her some cool bucks, or, if you're in the Chicago area, give her a sweet job. You can use me as reference -- there's no one I'd recommend more highly. And that dadgum guv'mint better get off her back. Otherwise, we'll have to take a page out of Shakes's book and organize, forming a fund to send Matthew Lesko out to get some of money back.
September 29, 2005
I wish people would stop saying things like this. From the description for AEI's new book on health care:
America’s health-care system is the envy of the world, but it faces serious challenges.
No, no it's not. The developed world is packed with better health care systems than ours while the developing world knows it wouldn't be covered under our incarnation, it'd have to turn towards our Medicaid/Medicare attempts to copy European systems that they could simply covet instead. Much easier to slice out the middle man there and just envy France.
In fact, Americans don't even want our health care system. It's not like we can't dig up numbers on this. Indeed, you just have to surf over to PollingReport for the polls:
"Canada has a universal health care system run by the government that covers all people. Compared to Canada, do you think the overall health care system in the United States is better, worse or about the same?"
For those struggling with the numbers, "Canada Rocks!" is clearly in the lead. As for the book, it couldn't look hackier. By stamping down on anticompetitive behaviors and reforming the way we tax, we'll save $60 billion and make health care more affordable, thus extending it to 6 million or so folks who don't already have it. That every other industrialized nation boasts full coverage for significantly less is the sort of thing that doesn't make it onto the dust jacket. This is wonkishness with blinders. What makes it so irritating is that these guys know all this. They know Americans aren't satisfied with our care, they know our health system is widely thought regressive, they know single-payer delivers better results for less money. But with ideological tunnel vision and selective statistics, they make the opposite case.
If our health care system was the envy of the world, other nations would duplicate it. That, instead, all those who can afford first world systems have copied the European model really says all you need to know.
There Goes Recruitment
Over at Fablog, Davids' got an enormously well-written and very well framed piece on gays in the church. Take a look.
Man, I usually agree with Oliver, but his latest post is just a 12-car smashup of wrongness. Top to bottom, it's just got less sense than a Heritage intern after a three day bender with David Horowitz. Oliver thinks that Democrats should be out there talking up the DeLay scandal, adding their voices to the chorus, making sure the media pays attention and the American people get the message?
Is he insane?
Democrats have a tried and true protocol for these sorts of situations. Give the media a couple days to peck at the not-yet-dead corpse, and then, when their coverage slows, let the Republicans pop to their feet with an overwhelming counterstrike that sucks up so much televised oxygen that Chris Matthews ends up in the hospital. Meanwhile -- and here's the beauty part -- Democrats get to take a vacation! You see, our caucus is overworked, our congressmen underpaid, our senators jonesing for some time on the links. Now that DeLay has been indicted by a soon-to-be-smeared prosecutor who does yoga and talks about "holistic justice", this election is as good as won. Nancy Pelosi should start buying furniture for that bigger office. It's off to Fiji for the Dems! See ya in 2006, suckas!
As it is, some folks misunderstand the lesson of Newt Gingrich. It wasn't his relentless efforts to publicize and push scandal that helped him torpedo the Democratic majority. Nah, that's but a misconception. His promise to never let a speech go by without mentioning a Clinton infraction? Sheer folly. But even such folly couldn't triumph over such a glorious white mane and funny, reptilian title. Newt! How sweet is that!? And how could you've expected the American people not to elect such a memorable name?
But "Nancy's" kinda dull. So the thing to do is completely disappear from the scene while the Republicans mount their counterattack. We did it with the SwiftVets and we'll do it now. Folks like Oliver should settle back and watch some pros -- we're Democrats, we know how it's done.
So Many Choices
Prof. Bainbridge is joining the right's call for Bush to keep his campaign promises and nominate a judge in the mold of Thomas or Scalia (who, it should be said, were radically different molds when they were first nominated). He's joined, today, by the Wall Street Journal, who I won't link to out of a generalized distaste for subscription walls. So expect that to be the next move. In the runup to Roberts, the quieter, more influential papers were talking about the pressure business was exerting to get an ally on the Court. At that moment, with privatization flagging and Schiavo having turned off more than a few folks, Bush decided to give the corporate world what it asked for.
But now, with DeLay under investigation, Rove under investigation, Frist under investigation, conservatives rioting over Bush's big government response to Katrina, and all the other fissures opening up in the Republican majority, expect Bush to pick a fight. A real one. He's on infinitely safer ground mobilizing his base for standard-issue partisan than playing it cool and hoping they don't stay home on election day. In 1994, it's an undernoticed fact that much of the Democratic losses came from a lethargic base that yawned at Democrats and refused to mobilize. If Bush doesn't do something to fire up his folks, 2006 will work the same.
Tom DeLay gets an Edite.
The Washington Post has a good editorial on a hugely important, and wholly undernoticed, bill currently winding its way through Congress:
TODAY, THE SENATE Judiciary Committee takes up the so-called Streamlined Procedures Act, a bill that radically scales back federal review of state convictions and death sentences. Calling what this bill does "streamlining" is a little like calling a scalping a haircut. A better name would have been the Eliminating Essential Legal Protections Act. What it does, in effect, is curtail the federal role in policing constitutional violations in state criminal justice systems using the venerable mechanism of habeas corpus. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has moderated some of the worst provisions, but this bill is beyond rehabilitation. If it passes, the chances that innocent people will be executed will go way up.
Even after Mr. Specter's efforts, the bill creates onerous procedural hurdles for convicts. It tries to speed up habeas corpus proceedings by making it easier for convicts to lose their right to appeal to federal courts.
Blech. One of the few decent moments of Bush's most recent State of the Union was his eloquent call for more DNA testing to ensure guilt and prove innocence in those convicted for serious crimes. That the Republican majority is now trying to push suspects through the Court system because the redundancies ensuring just outcomes are proving burdensome is a sad commentary on exactly who it is they've decided they're working for.
This is one of those issues where long periods of Republican rule and enough demagoguery to render already-spineless Democrats complicit have created some really nasty outcomes. Our prison system is a mess, overcrowded by a fruitless war on drugs and packed with felons whose convictions are, in the light of new evidence, proving questionable at best. Meanwhile, we're arresting, convicting, and mistreating so many people that nearly everyone files appeal after appeal, at least when they have the money or severity of punishment to do so, gumming up the justice system and slowing things down.
But that's the problem with the presumtpion, and emphasis, our system offers innocence. This is just a way to sidestep that. Everyone from the National Conference of Chief Justices to the American Bar Association to former Rep. Mickey Edwards (who was part of the House Republican Leadership) opposes this attempt to shred Habeas Corpus. And if that weren't enough? Here are 13 folks who were wrongly convicted, eventually exonerated, but would've instead languished under the rules of this Act. That's not the sort of thing we should even be risking. And yet, for no apparent reason and to fulfill no obvious need, we are. If money to create new Courts, hire more judges, and push more people through the system was the issue, they could dial back the pork or stop giving Halliburton cash to misplace. As it is, they're going to ruin some lives because it's the path of least resistance.
September 28, 2005
Well that was quick. Dreier's out Blunt's in. Blunt is a run-of-the-mill, DeLay-style, power amasser and corporate conservative. Speculation was that DeLay wanted Blunt, who was the whip, passed over because Blunt could too easily become permanent. Looks like he lost that one. Ah well, welcome to the new Republican party, same as the old Republican party.