Monday, October 15, 2007

It's Over

Republicans wave the white flag and acknowledge that seeming to oppose universal healthcare is political suicide--a landmark shift and rare rhetorical victory for the Dems.

All that remains now is for the Democrats to implement some shitty, piecemeal plan that fattens their insurance industry contributors whilst pissing off Americans who thought that universal coverage meant universal coverage.


Akbar Ganji, a leading Iranian dissident, weighs in on the effect of US saber-rattling on Iranian foreign and domestic policy. Hers' an excerpt:

A military attack on Iran would also yield terrible political consequences. It would foster the growth of fundamentalism in the region, which would be bad for the United States and other Western countries and even worse for the Islamic world. Fundamentalism—with its inhuman view of women, hatred of freedom and democracy, and denigration of human rights—is a significant factor in the underdevelopment of Islamic communities. Fundamentalists largely reject Western art, morality, philosophy, culture, and science, though they make an exception for technologies of violence. This narrow-minded view of some of humanity’s great achievements is particularly harmful to Muslims. But a military attack on Iran would reignite the conviction that the Judeo-Christian West, led by the United States, is assaulting the world of Islam, from Afghanistan and Palestine to Iraq and Iran; and it would encourage the view that fundamentalist methods are the best way to fight the non-Muslim invaders. Western governments must not equate the battle against fundamentalism with a battle against Islam—as President Bush does when he describes the “war on terror” as a “crusade,” or when he speaks of “Islamic fascism.” It not only isolates moderate and democratic Muslims; it also provides fertile ground for fundamentalists among them.

We can already see this dynamic at work. After the 1997 election of Mohammad Khatami as president of Iran, civil society, human rights, and political freedoms became the dominant concerns in Iranian political life. The current U.S. military threat has given the Iranian government a freer hand in repressing Iran’s budding civil society in the name of national security, provided a pretext to entrust key political posts to military and security officers, and so eclipsed democratic discourse that some Iranian reformists see themselves caught between domestic despotism and foreign invasion.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Those tax and spend Republicans

I was reading the New York Times story this morning about embattled Congressional Republicans and noted the line about how "Republicans have been scrambling for a health care response at a time when they had hoped to be pounding Democrats over excessive spending and re-establishing their image as the party of fiscal restraint." And I thought how bogus.

That thought led me to thinking, I wonder where the data is to demonstrate that this point is bogus. So, thinking I was looking for raw data I could put into Excel and create my own graphs, I started Googling. It didn't take me long to find that someone had already done this work.

At right is federal taxation as percent of GDP sorted by year. Party leadership is at bottom. Blue is Democrat; Orange is Republican. Top row is President; middle is House; Bottom is Senate.

Next chart is federal spending as percent of GDP sorted by year. And the third chart is federal deficit as percent of GDP sorted by year. All three of these through FY 2004. I haven't independently confirmed data; I am trusting the presentation from

The most generous analysis of this data that taxing and spending is randomly distributed independent of who is running the store. But that is generous to the Republicans.

Actually, in defense of the Republicans, they fare reasonably well on the taxation side. They seem to want to tax us less. But the lower taxes have not halted their spending. The top ten spending years - across three different Presidential administrations have been Republican years in the White House -- seven of them with Republican Senates (tempering the counter argument that spending is something Congress does that the White House can't stop.)

And with low taxes and high spending, the deficit has been a disaster under the Republicans. Fourteen of the fifteen worst deficits in recent history have been under Republican Presidents, the lone Democrat entry on that list was Clinton's FY 93 budget that was pretty much inherited from the GWB administration (none of the top 14 Republican Presidential deficits were immediately inherited from a Democrat.)

The Republicans do a great PR job of labeling Democrats as "tax and spend", but only the "tax" part of the label has any potential legitimacy. Spending - and spending when there is no cash in the bank to pay for it - has been a Republican trait for quite some time now.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rudy's Cellphone

40 times?!!! What an unbelievable dickhead this guy is.

The Washington Monthly

RUDY'S CELL PHONE....John Fund writes in the Wall Street Journal about Rudy Giuliani's habit of taking phone calls from his wife in the middle of presentations:

Mr. Giuliani's deputy press secretary Jason Miller told me the NRA incident was definitely not a stunt. Instead it was a "candid and spontaneous moment" that would humanize the tough-guy former mayor with voters.

Nice try....The fact is that people inside the Giuliani campaign are appalled at the number of times their candidate has felt compelled to interrupt public appearances to take calls from his wife. The estimate from those in a position to know is that he has taken such calls more than 40 times in the middle of speeches, conferences and presentations to large donors.

....[Giuliani] admitted he had taken calls from his wife "before in engagements, and I didn't realize it would create any kind of controversy." That's hardly possible. Giuliani staffers say he has been warned over and over again that the phone calls are rude and inappropriate and have alienated everyone from local officials to top donors to close friends.

OK. I'm sitting here trying to figure out what to say about this. But what? It's obviously nuts, but nuts in what way?

First way: Rudy genuinely doesn't realize that taking a phone call in the middle of a speech is rude. But this suggests a lack of emotional intelligence so stunning that even I don't think Rudy is capable of it — and that's saying a lot.

Second way: He knows it's rude, but has somehow convinced himself that it's a political winner despite the repeated entreaties of his staff. I dunno. I guess it's possible.

Third way: He and Judy are literally so enthralled with each other that he can't stand to shut off the phone for even a few minutes. If he were 17 I might buy it. At age 63 it suggests codependency issues so severe he ought to be on medication.

Fourth way: Judy has told him in no uncertain terms that he'd better take her calls 24/7. Rudy is so terrified of her that he's given in on this.

Fifth way: He's so enormously full of himself that he doesn't think the ordinary rules of common courtesy apply to him. This strikes me as quite plausible.

Overall, this is one of the weirdest damn things I've heard in a long time. Does Rudy take calls during television interviews? On radio call-in shows? In meetings with his staff? Does Judy really require this level of emotional sustenance? What the hell is going on?


They say that data is not the plural of anecdote, and the dead-enders who still support this administration do not appear to be persuaded by either. Here are another couple of anecdotes about the Republicans' Culture of Accountability:

Parody Surge Hits Mil Contractors in Iraq

A few days ago the State Department released what it called a "first blush" report on the Blackwater incident in Baghdad, a report which largely exonerated the Blackwater personnel involved.

I noted at the time that "first blush" was something of an understatement since the report was based exclusively on statements the State Department took from Blackwater operatives on the scene. In other words, the Blackwater employees who did the shooting gave State an account that largely exonerated themselves. A truly shocking development.

But it seems that I was behind the curve on the level of caricature and self-parody that is the military contracting biz in Iraq these days.

The report was written out of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the folks who hired Blackwater to provide security for US diplomats in Iraq. But it turns out that the State Department employee who interviewed the Blackwater folks and wrote the report, Darren Hanner ... well, he wasn't a State Department employee. He was another contractor from Blackwater.

So yes, you've got that right. We've now reached what can only be called the alpha and the omega of contracting accountability breakdown ridiculousness. We're outsourcing our investigations of Blackwater to Blackwater.

Still More Blackwater Goodness

Back in December, when a drunk Blackwater contractor blew away one of Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mehdi's bodyguards, an official with State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security decided to low-ball the financial compensation for the man's family so as not to give an incentive for Iraqis to "try to get killed to set up their family financially."

The initial suggestion from Embassy personnel of $100,000 to $250,000 was lowered to $15,000 to the man's family.

--Josh Marshall