Talking to reporters aboard Air Force One, White House adviser Dan Bartlett said that the White House plans to veto the the House Democrats’ bill to withdraw troops from Iraq by the fall of 2008. He said, “It would unnecessarily handcuff our generals on the ground. … Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looks like what was described today.”
Well, both, of course.
Your love life has hidden overlap with global warming (tip- the former you want more hot and steamy, and there are better routes than cheating/offsetting each).
Treehugger.com has a series on greening your sex life, which Canadians have happily welcomed. And ClimateProgress isn’t one to object. With the same cultural reach that Marvin Gaye has to get it on, let’s hope Bill McKibben can step it up.
Yesterday, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released the “Pig Book,” its annual compilation of all the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. This year’s edition contained some welcome news: “thanks to voter outrage and a one-year moratorium imposed by Democrats after taking over Congress,” the “number and cost of pork-barrel projects is way down” after years of record pork-barrel spending.
But the news was not all good. CAGW found that in last year’s defense spending bill, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) included $209,900,000 for projects in his state. The level of spending represented “an increase of 127 percent over the $92,425,000 for Alaska in the fiscal 2006 defense bill.” Stevens is no stranger to pork — he championed the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” and is one the Senate’s most prolific earmarkers. One egregious pork request from Stevens could be called the “Polar Express to Nowhere”:
$4,000,000 for the Northern Line Extension … The Northern Line Extension will provide a direct route from North Pole (pop. 1,778 in 2005) to Delta Junction (pop. 840 in 2000), which is a whopping 82.1 mile drive on one highway between the two villages … The Alaska Railroad Corporation said, “The proposed rail line would provide freight and potentially passenger rail services serving commercial interests and communities in or near the project corridor.”
For a sense of the metropolises that are the “communities in or near the project corridor,” here is a map of the area via Google:
Stevens is no fan of CAGW or their reports. “All they are is a bunch of psychopaths,” he said in 1999. “They are idiots.”
Jacob Weisberg has a very excellent column on “four unspeakable truths about Iraq” that, frankly, surprises me for making all four dovish truths about Iraq, without some token poke at liberals. I actually don’t think his fourth truth is true, though:
fourth and final near-certainty, which is in some ways the hardest for politicians to admit, is that America is losing or has already lost the Iraq war. The United States is the strongest nation in the history of the world and does not think of itself as coming in second in two-way contests. When it does so, it is slow to accept that it has been beaten.
I really think this is wrong. We won the war in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his regime were deposed. We installed a new regime. The Sunni Arab insurgency remains active and will continue to remain active for osme time, but shows no realistic capability of defeating the regime we installed. We won the war. This is not Vietnam where the VC and PRVN drove US forces from the country, toppled the US-backed regime in Saigon, and unified the country under control of the Communist Party.
The problem in Iraq is that, we won a hollow victory. Defeating Saddam and replacing him with a new regime based around exiled Shiite political parties has a negative impact on America’s strategic position in the world. Even were Iraq to grow substantially less chaotic over the next 2-5 years this would continue to be the case. The win-lose frame, while factually wrong, is also politically counterproductive. As Weisberg indicates, voters are reluctant to declare defeat for understandable psychological reasons. But there’s no need to do that here. It’s the fact of American victory that makes further involvement so untenable — this is what winning looks like and, frankly, it looks like shit; there’s no earthly reason to keep doing this; becoming “more successful” at backing the Maliki government wouldn’t accomplish anything.
In the midst of yet another post on unions, Tyler Cowen observes: “By the standards of labor economics, it does not suffice to note that the 1950s had both a more equal income distribution and more unions, or to call Western Europe a kinder, gentler place. Those citations don’t sort out cause and effect, and in fact we do have more advanced ways of scrutinizing the data.”
Obviously, that is true. Equally obviously, it sounds bad to speak in a disparaging way about empirical studies. That said, the result of my meta-survey of the empirical economics literature on unions is that it’s . . . rather murky. Under the circumstances, I’m really not sure there’s anything wrong with the heuristic methods Cowen disparages here. High levels of unionization are associated with politico-economic orders that are congenial to those of us of a certain political persuasion. Strong unions are simply part of the social democratic issue suite; social democrats support strong unions, strong unions support social democracy, and strong unions are partially constitutive of social democratic politics and policies.
Efforts to empirically disentangle the precise nature of the interrelationships here are, of course, an interesting scholarly endeavor and I don’t begrudge anyone for spending their time looking into it. As a matter of political commitment, though, there’s great wisdom in the example of anti-union semi-liberal Mickey Kaus who wisely recognizes in his book that he’s abandonned egalitarian politics as they are traditionally understood. Consequently, I’m not sure it’s in any real way worthwhile for non-specialists to engage in this debate since I assume we can all do an adequate job of Googling to try to find papers that support our conclusions or asking readers with access to superior specialized search tools to help us out.
Today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House leaders held a press briefing to announce their Iraq war spending plan, which would redeploy U.S. forces out of Iraq by August 2008 at the latest. More details HERE.
Another provision of the bill was detailed by Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), chairman of the defense spending subcommittee. Murtha explained that the Pentagon has repeatedly stonewalled information about the role of private contractors in Iraq. “I asked the Under Secretary of Defense. He says, ‘I’ll let you know tomorrow.’ We’ve never gotten an answer back,” Murtha said.
Now, Murtha says, both the Government Accountability Office and the Special Inspector General for Iraq have come to him and said, “Help us get a handle on the contractors.” So Murtha is going to play hardball. “[W]e took five percent of their money out, and that’s about $800 million. We also fenced 10 percent of their money. We want answers about whether these contractors — how much it costs us, how many we have, and how the contracts are being, are being given to these various organizations.” Watch it:
Also today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is marking up the Accountability in Contracting Act, which would require federal agencies to limit the use of abuse-prone contracts and increase transparency and accountability in federal contracting.
Transcript: Read more
Rep. Heather Wilson’s (R-NM) pressure call to U.S. Attorney David Iglesias may have violated ethics rules, but House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) is sticking by her. On Wednesday, Blunt defended Wilson and said he did not believe she did anything wrong. “I have confidence in her,” Blunt said.
UPDATE: Media Matters notes that ABC and NBC still haven’t covered the U.S. Attorney firings.
I’ve finally gotten the chance to get through Joseph Cirincione’s report for the Center for American Progress on recommended Iran policy options. They come out in favor of a sensible strategy they call “contain and engage.” The basic idea is that you maintain a running dialogue with Iran offering carrots in exchange for verifiable steps at disarmament, while simultaneously maintaining a running dialogue with America’s main allies and the other major powers about ratcheting-up Iran’s diplomatic and economic isolation. The idea is to ensure that the United States is consistently the reasonable party, consistently the one prepared to strike a deal, and therefore that international diplomatic momentum remains on our side.
Among sensible people this is one major school of thought. The other, represented by Flynt Leverett’s late 2006 report for the Century Foundations holds that we should be aiming at a “grand bargain” to resolve all the outstanding bilateral issues. This is, obviously, an appealing vision. The Center’s authors say they “agree with the vision of a ‘grand bargain’ outlined by Middle East expert and former Bush administration official Flynt Leverett, who argues that the resolution of the nuclear issue requires ‘an overarching framework in which outstanding bilateral differences are resolved as a package’” but that they think this is “not practical.” Leverett, by contrast, thinks it’s not practical to separate the issues.
I have no idea how to decide who’s right about that, but it’s a pretty small difference at the end of the day, since “engage and contain” could easily become “grand bargain” if the “engage” track seemed headed in that direction. It would be nice to have sensible people running the country.
Back in 1993, Rudy Giuliani plays the family card, deploying Donna Hanover’s love and affection for him and his legendary skills as a father for political gain:
Nowadays, of course, young Andrew Giuliani is a bit older and not on speaking terms with his father. The source of the fight seems to be that Rudy not only divorced Andrew’s mother, but insisted on publicly humiliating her in that uniquely classy Giuliani way. Mitt Romney, famously, is the only practicing monogamist among the Three Stooges.
Congressional Quarterly confirms today that senior House conservatives, including the chairmen of the appropriations and oversight committees, knew about the neglect and deplorable conditions at Walter Reed years before they were exposed by the Washington Post.
Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL), former chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said he stopped short of going public with the hospital’s problems “to avoid embarrassing the Army while it was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”:
“We got in Gen. Kiley’s face on a regular basis,” Young said, adding that he even contacted the commander of the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda in the hopes of getting better care there for the patient with the aneurysm, though doctors at Walter Reed declined to transfer him. …
“We did not go public with these concerns, because we did not want to undermine the confidence of the patients and their families and give the Army a black eye while fighting a war,” Young said.
Young claims he regularly “got in Gen. Kiley’s face.” But Kiley never responded to Young’s complaints. Nevertheless, as ThinkProgress noted last week, Young was publicly praising Kiley during a congressional hearing as recently as January:
YOUNG: Well, Mr. Chairman, I want to join you in welcoming our guests and our witnesses today, having known especially Don Arthur and General Kiley very, very well over the years. I thought they’d get tired of seeing us in their hospitals. And we haven’t had as much opportunity to visit with the Air Force, General. But I know that these gentlemen are committed to providing our war heroes with the very, very best medical care that is possible.
Also, while Young claims he didn’t want to go public with the problems at Walter Reed, he was more than willing to use wounded veterans publicly as a political cudgel. Here is Young on the House floor on 11/18/05, speaking against Rep. John Murtha’s (D-PA) redeployment plan:
YOUNG: So tonight, Mr. Speaker, we need to send a strong message to our troops and to their families. For those families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, for those families who are dealing with a seriously wounded soldier or marine who might be at Walter Reed Hospital or at Bethesda Hospital or at Landsthul in Germany, we need to let them know that we are here to support them. (CR, p. H11009)