A new study from the Commonwealth Fund shows that the number of Americans forced to pay high medical expenses has skyrocketed since 2003. The report found that 25 million working-age Americans were underinsured last year, up 16 percent from 2003. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, family premiums have jumped 78 percent since 2001, while wages have only risen 19 percent, barely keeping pace with inflation.
CNN’s Ware: Iraqis Reject Security Agreement Draft, May ‘Go It Alone’ And ‘Take Over This War’ From U.S.
The Bush administration is currently trying to push Iraqis into accepting a indefinite long-term security agreement, with demands including nearly 60 permanent bases, immunity for foreign contractors, control over air space, and authorization for war with Iran.
But Iraqis are rejecting the administration’s stubborn attempts to control Iraq’s future. Today, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki remarked, “The American version of the agreement infringes hugely on the sovereignty of Iraq and this is something that we cannot ever accept.”
Today, CNN’s Michael Ware said the U.S. presented a second draft of the agreement, but Iraqis rejected it because the draft is “the same as the first.” According to Ware, many Iraqis now want to “go it alone” and may even “take over this war”:
WARE: What we’re also hearing from the Iraqi government is they may go it alone, using a hangover snippet of law left over from the original American occupation authority of Paul Bremer.
They could create their own legislation in their own Congress or Parliament, and thereby dictate to America what U.S. troops can and cannot do in this country, where they can go, where they must stay, and how many you’re allowed to have. So you may see the Iraqis taking over this war, and you may see a lot of U.S. gains being drawn back.
Ware explained that in his conversations with U.S. officials, they have accepted that Iraq “going it alone, passing its own laws” is indeed a “legally viable option.”
The negotiations on the long-term agreement are going so poorly that today, a senior government official “expressed doubt an agreement could be reached before the U.S. presidential election in November,” according to the AP.
The administration and its allies are still in a state of denial, however. “We know the Iraqis want us there,” said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino this week. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) absurdly claimed the dissent in Iraq regarding the agreement is a “sign of our success.”
The AP reports that House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has threatened to hold EPA administrator Stephen Johnson and OMB official Susan Dudley in contempt of Congress “for their repeated refusal to provide subpoenaed documents to the Committee. The subpoenaed documents involve the White House role in EPA’s ozone standards and rejection of California’s motor vehicle emission standards.” The Committee is scheduled to meet on June 20 to consider the resolution.
Congress to start Twittering.
As ThinkProgress has often noted, former Bush political guru Karl Rove is an informal adviser to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign while simultaneously appearing as a supposedly independent political analyst on Fox News. Now, in a new article not yet posted online, National Journal’s Peter Stone reveals that Rove “talks periodically” with McCain’s chief political strategist, Charlie Black, while also speaking “fairly regularly” with other top staffers like Nicole Wallace and Steve Schmidt:
“Generally speaking, Rove’s advice is action-oriented and useful,” said another senior consultant to the McCain camp. “It’s always well received.” This McCain adviser noted that Rove talks periodically to Black and a few other top campaign aides on several key matters. “It can be policy ideas, messaging ideas, fundraising prospects, or people who need calls from someone in the campaign.” Rove is “part of the information network that the campaign has,” this adviser said, adding that Rove talks fairly regularly to such key people as Wayne Berman, a major fundraiser for McCain; Nicolle Wallace, a communications adviser; and Steve Schmidt, a senior aide.
Stone, who has previously reported that Rove is “up to his eyeballs” in the coordination of outside political groups supporting Republicans, also reports that Rove is paid “mid-six figures” to provide assistance to the conservative attack group Freedom’s Watch.
I’m not even sure how to characterize this exchange between John McCain and Dana Bash:
BASH: As you know, right now in Iraq, there are negotiations going on about the U.S. presence there. And Iraqis are trying to say that they believe that American troops should be limited to U.S. bases, that their air cover should be limited as well. Limits, pretty much across the board. Would you leave U.S. troops there with severe limitations as to what they could do?
MCCAIN: Well — that’s not going to happen. The Iraqis are engaged in negotiations with us. I know about those negotiations. They have been going on for a long period of time. They are achieving remarkable success. Malaki (ph) is becoming a very strong leader, much to the surprise of some, and very pleasant outcome of this. I believe we will reach a status of force (ph) this agreement with the Iraqis. It’s a give and take. It’s a negotiation. And I am confident that we’ll be able to arrive at an arrangement that is in the best interest of Iraqi and Americans.
In what sense is Maliki declaring that the American proposals are an unacceptable infringement of Iraqi sovereignty a success? I saw on teevee yesterday that it’s “ageist” to say that John McCain is being “confused” when he repeatedly makes statements that are at odds with reality, so maybe he’s just dishonest or dim-witted. Or maybe the key thing here is “remarkable” as in “success” means succeess but “remarkable success” means “impasse and failure.”
There is, however, one particular point worth responding to. Charles’ reverie climaxes with his claim that “the most expansive American objective — establishing a representative government that is an ally against jihadists, both Sunni and Shiite — is within sight.”
To understand what a monumental redefinition of “success” this claim represents, let’s look at something Charles wrote back in 2003. Oozing canned-Churchillian brio after the quick collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Krauthammer dismissed Iraqi Shiite protesters as tools of Iran:
The Shiite demonstrators in Iraqi streets represent a highly organized minority, many of whom are affiliated with, infiltrated by and financed by Tehran, the headquarters for 20 years of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
These Iranian-oriented Shiite extremists are analogous to the Soviet-oriented communists in immediate post-World War II Italy and France. They too had a foreign patron. They too had foreign sources of money, agents and influence. They too had a coherent ideology. And they too were highly organized even before the end of the war. They too made a bid for power. And failed. [...]
Tellingly, even the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq sent a delegation to the last meeting with Jay Garner, our proconsul in Baghdad. Even the Islamic radicals know the Pentagon is prepared to move with or without them. They know who’s in charge.
The question is: Does Charles know who’s in charge now? Prime Minister Maliki’s governing coalition is dependent on the support of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), who until last year were known as — can you guess? — the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. ISCI still represents “a highly organized minority…affiliated with, infiltrated by and financed by Tehran,” but, by offering their support for the U.S. occupation, this minority has been able to establish itself in Iraq’s government, with members of its Badr Corps militia (which has now redefined itself as “not a militia“) firmly ensconced throughout the Iraqi security apparatus.
Unlike the Soviet-oriented communists to whom Krauthammer claims these Shiite extremists are analogous, ISCI succeeded in its bid for power, largely by telling the occupier what he wanted to hear. (Here’s the White House press release from President Bush’s meeting with SCIRI chief Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim in December 2006 — a few weeks before Quds Force officers were arrested at Hakim’s compound in Baghdad.)
This doesn’t necessarily mean that partnering with ISCI was the wrong play — though, considering that Bush’s policy has been to stay and stay in Iraq, it was really the only play available — but it does show that Charles Krauthammer has so radically defined victory down that he’s now crowing about about the establishment of an Iraqi government dominated by the very “Iranian-oriented Shiite extremists” he was sounding the alarm on a few years ago.
Virginia, amusingly, has decided to call its state public school tests the Standards Of Learning Exam. Even more hilariously, Ryan Avent reports that the SOL Exam is now going to ask third graders to understand opportunity costs, a concept that all-too-many adults seem to have a shaky grasp of.
On Wednesday, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech to the Chamber of Commerce in which he claimed that China, in cooperation with the Cuban government, is drilling for oil “60 miles off the coast of Florida.” “Even the communists have figured out” that drilling for oil is the solution to the energy crisis, Cheney argued.
It’s a talking point favored by the right wing. Cheney was quoting conservative columnist Geroge Will, who wrote on June 6 that China is drilling “60 miles off Florida,” “closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are.” The same day Cheney spoke, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) wrote that Castro was allowing drilling “45 miles from the Florida keys.” Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) have also raised the specter of Chinese drilling just off U.S. shores.
The problem, of course, is that the claim is completely false. After his claim was thoroughly debunked in the press, Cheney acknowledged that he had, in fact, lied in his speech, though his statement today offered no apology and issued only a half-hearted backtrack of his original claim:
It is our understanding that, although Cuba has leased out exploration blocks 60 miles off the coast of southern Florida, which is closer than American firms are allowed to operate in that area, no Chinese firm is drilling there.
Cheney’s comments were so egregiously false that a member of his own party took to the Senate floor to correct the record. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) decried claims of “some fabricated Cuba/China connection,” saying they have “no merit.”
Peddling stories of false connections that have no merit is hardly a new practice for Cheney. But being called out by his own party — and having to admit error — is certainly an uncommon occurence for him.
At another town hall in Pemberton, NJ today, McCain tried to push back against criticism of his position on the issue by telling the crowd, “I will not privatize Social Security and it’s not true when I’m accused of that.” He then described the kind of private accounts he supports:
MCCAIN: I would like for younger workers, younger workers only, to have an opportunity to take a few of their tax dollars, a few of theirs, and maybe put it into an account with their name on it. That’s their money. That’s their money. So. So when I say that. So when I say that, please don’t let them twist that as they have others. It’s their money, it’s their money. And we will make sure that present day retirees, I will commit, have the benefits that they have earned. And nothing, any proposal would change that.
The problem for McCain is that his current stance means he was either lying in March when he told the Wall Street Journal’s Bob Davis that he supported private accounts “along the lines that President Bush proposed” or he doesn’t understand the nature of the private accounts he campaigned for in 2005.
In ’05, Bush proposed an overhaul of Social Security that would have allowed workers to “divert a portion of Social Security payroll taxes to fund private accounts,” which would have then resulted in “reduced Social Security payments from the government.” In other words, he would be “carving up of Social Security to create privatization accounts.”