At the National Press Club today, Vice President Dick Cheney raised the ire of West Virginia lawmakers when he made an offhand incest joke about the state, saying he “had Cheneys on both sides of the family and we don’t even live in West Virginia.” West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, Sens. Robert Byrd (D) and Jay Rockefeller (D) and Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R) and Nick Rahall (D) all condemned Cheney’s attempt at humor. This evening, Cheney’s spokesperson, Lea Anne McBride, put out a statement apologizing for the Vice President:
The Vice President’s offhand comment was not meant to hurt anyone. On reflection, he concluded that it was an inappropriate attempt at humor that he should not have made. The Vice President apologizes to the people of West Virginia for the inappropriate remark.
The Associated Press reports that Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) “was hospitalized Monday night at his doctor’s urging after suffering from lethargy and sluggishness at his home,” according to Byrd’s press secretary, Jesse L. Jacobs. The 90-year-old senator was also “hospitalized March 5 for tests after a reaction to antibiotics. A week earlier he was hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after a fall at home.”
For over a week now, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and his right-wing allies have been criticizing Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) over the fact that he hasn’t visited Iraq since Jan. 2006. On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show last Friday, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joined the attack, saying that he can’t believe that “a United States senator who is looking to be the nominee of his party” could “simply avoid going to Iraq.”
Hewitt tried to prod Romney into further criticizing Obama by asking him, “you’ve been to Iraq after the surge began, what do you learn from that kind of a trip?” But Hewitt got a surprise when Romney said he hadn’t visited Iraq as a presidential candidate:
HEWITT: Oh, I was under the impression you had made a trip to Iraq, governor. I’m sorry I got that wrong.
ROMNEY: No, I have…I have been to Iraq, but I’d like to go more frequently than I’ve been able to go. I’ve only been one time and I think, well, I don’t know what year that was. It was probably 2006.
HEWITT: Yeah, I think it was after the surge, I’m glad I wasn’t completely wrong about that.
In fact, Hewitt did get it “completely wrong.” While Romney’s only trip to Iraq occurred in May 2006, President Bush didn’t announce his plan for a surge until Jan. 10, 2007.
Additionally, Romney isn’t the only McCain attack dog whose lack of Iraq trips undermines the conservative critique of Obama.
McCain’s “right arm” in the war on terror, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, has never visited Iraq. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who blasted Obama recently “for not having the first-hand knowledge of the success of Americans troops,” hasn’t visited Iraq since Feb. 2007, months before “surge” troops were sent to the country.
Sen. John McCain had one of his infamous “senior moments” while speaking at a campaign rally in Nashville today. “If we do everything right — and we can and we will — I will win in January,” he said, “and I will be the next President of the United States.” Watch it:
By January, McCain will have nothing to win. The presidential election takes place on November 4 of this year. The inauguration — which McCain will presumably attend as either the new President or a returning Senator — occurs on January 20, 2009.
Retro is back in style again — but this time it’s the four day work week, not bell bottoms, making a comeback. All over the country, employers and employees are seeing the benefit that the four day (ten hour/day) week has to both “employees and businesses bottom lines” by providing commuters with a little relief from high gas prices. City employees in Birmingham, AL, for example, are moving to the four day week because, as the mayor’s chief of staff explains: “We are doing it in an effort to help employees save some money on gasoline.” Counties in Texas, Pennsylvania and New York are following suit, estimating that cutting out two commutes per week could save employees 20% on fuel costs and 65 million gallons of gas per day.
First made popular during the late 1970′s when gas prices first rose to, at that time, astronomical levels, the four day work week is designed to help the 44% of people who report that gas prices have affected their commute. Unfortunately, the late 1970′s was one of the most badly faring economic periods in recent history recent US economic history in terms of inflation, unemployment and general economic unrest.
Although use of mass transit has skyrocketed to its highest ridership in 50 years, still only 5% of workers commute by public transit, and fewer than 20% of households have easy access to buses or trains. Paul Krugman rightly notes that many of our American cities are not equipped with public transportation systems, leaving millions of Americans with no choice but to drive long distances and depend on their employers, or schools, to administer these alternative commuting arrangements.
Although the four day work week might be a short term fix for high gas prices, America needs to make some long term changes both in infrastructure development and in energy consumption — because as much as workers may love the idea of the four day work week, nobody loves the idea of four day pay.
The Fresno Bee reports that Arthur Mkoyan, a California high school valedictorian who has lived in the United States since he was two-years old — after his family fled the Soviet Union — faces deportation to Armenia as early as next month. Mkoyan, who earned a 4.0 GPA, had planned to attend the University of California-Davis. Last October, Congress rejected the DREAM Act, which would have allowed students like Mkoyan who were brought here illegally by their parents to remain in the U.S. as legal residents.
“We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a worldwide divestment campaign,” John McCain said in his AIPAC speech, “As more people, businesses, pension funds, and financial institutions across the world divest from companies doing business with Iran, the radical elite who run that country will become even more unpopular than they are already.” And then down comes Sam Stein pointing out that McCain’s top strategist Charlie Black has been lobbying on behalf of Iran-linked firms:
But, as demonstrated by the CNOOC anecdote, if choking off Tehran’s economic lifeblood is McCain’s goal, he could have personally started down that road years ago — with his own advisers.
But beyond the narrow hypocrisy point, the real moral of the story here is just to remind us of the limited practicality of a sanctions and divestment approach to Iran. In a highly globalized economy, it’s difficult to try to hermetically seal off Iran economically. You start divesting from firms that do business with Iran, but then you still have firms that do business with firms that do business with Iran. Divest all you like, but Iran still has oil that people want to buy, which gives Iranians money they want to use to buy things with. Which isn’t to say that economic pressure is totally ineffective, but how effective it is has a lot to do with how wide the network of pressuring entities is. A really global sanctions and divestment campaign can deliver enormous blows, while unilateral measures are difficult to really enforce in a serious way.
This is one of several reasons why there needs to be a good-faith negotiations component to dealing with the Iranian nuclear program. On the one hand, we ought to recognize the limited utility of coercion alone in changing Iranian behavior. And on the other hand, as we seek coercive measures, or credible threats of coercion, we need to make the coercing coalition as broad as possible and to do that we need to be seen by world opinion as approaching this subject in a serious way. Ultimately, international consensus against the idea of an Iranian nuclear weapon is the only way to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and to preserve and strengthen that consensus we need to act reasonably. Ideally, reasonable U.S. behavior will be met by reasonable Iranian behavior. If it’s not, then reasonable U.S. behavior will set the stage for international cooperation that, unlike the all-bluster approach favored by conservatives, might actually accomplish something.
So I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr city are quiet and it’s long and it’s hard and it’s tough and there will be setbacks.
McCain and his advisers quickly dismissed any criticisms of the statement, calling it a case of “nitpicking” a “verb tense.” They claimed that McCain meant to say that troops will eventually be drawn down to pre-surge levels. Last week, a reporter gave McCain a chance to correct his statement, asking, “Did you misspeak yesterday?” McCain replied, “Of course not.”
Apparently, however, McCain is now acknowledging that he did misspeak. At a campaign event today, McCain “nitpicked” his “verb tense” and said that U.S. forces are currently in the process of drawing down to pre-surge levels:
[Petraeus] is gonna come back in July, when our drawdown from the surge. Three of the five brigades are already back. There’s two more brigades that will coming back at the end of July. … But we are drawing back down from the surge. And then in July, he said that he wants to pause.
This assertion is still inaccurate. In February, Joint Staff director for operations Lt. Gen. Carter Ham testified that even after the Bush administration’s draw down, troops will still be higher than pre-surge levels:
Q: General, coming back to Iraq and the troop numbers, so what you’re saying is by the time we get to the end of July, we’re going to be at 140,000, which looks to me like we’re still talking about significantly higher than pre-surge levels in Iraq. Am I reading that correctly?
GEN. HAM: Yes.
McCain is wrong, no matter which verb tense he’s in.
Here’s a story out of Colorado — Republican state legislature candidate wants to build a monorail while his Democratic opponent “said mountain rail is secondary to basic road upkeep at this point.” A Republican on the transit side of the angels? Apparently so.
In response to my books post, commenter robert said: “Yes, it would be nice for politicians to realize that social problems are not so easily soluble, and that many are based in human nature and not changing political arrangements.”
I think of that as the traditional conservative point of view, and while I’d probably prefer it to the nihilistic bloodlust and weird busybodyism of John McCain, that’s not quite what I meant. What I was trying to say about literature is that I think it’s a reminder that even if we halt nuclear proliferation, prevent catastrophic climate change, vastly improve public health, and maintain strong economic growth people will still frequently feel sad (or angry or frustrated or jealous or bored or nervous or whatever else) about this or that. Not because social problems are irredeemable but because social problems have a limited relevance to people’s actual lives. I feel like that’s the kind of thing — the bounded importance of the entire politics ‘n policy game — that one can lose sight of the closer one gets to the corridors of power. It’s not that I think we can’t solve our social problems, it’s that even if we did life would still go on, just as it will still go on if we make our problems worse.