2008/03/20

My, my, so many issues...

So many stories, where does one begin?

New York Times joins President Bush's attack on PBS by citing familiar right-wing talking points. Can't be bothered to do any original reporting, can't be bothered to get comments from PBS or PBS defenders, can't be bothered to examine how public feels about PBS (Attitudes are generally highly positive), makes lazy assertion that cable news covers much of what PBS covers (Tens of millions of Americans either can't afford cable or don't want to spend the money on cable) and

Despite the fact CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News broadcast more than 2,000 hours each month, those PBS news programs -- broadcasting less than 10 hours each month, combined -- still manage to cover issues and topics, as well as conduct interviews with prominent guests, that the cable channels ignore.

Of course, this attack occurs just when:

PBS' distinguished Frontline series will mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion by airing Bush's War, which PBS describes as television's definitive documentary analysis of the war.

Gee, I wonder if there's any connection?

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In positive news, Norfolk VA had 60 people protesting the Fifth Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War (I spent from 1991 to 1996 in Norfolk as a sailor, so I recognized where they were). New Jersey protests are covered here and I did a photo-essay here. The progressive Darcy Burner helped to devise a Democratic plan for withdrawal from Iraq. Strongly recommend that anti-war forces push for this plan!

But Burner herself must take a back seat to the plan, which is perhaps even more impressive: a thorough, comprehensive approach not just to solving the immediate issues around the Iraq conflict but also the systemic issues that go deeper. The idea is not just to end the war and bring peace and stability to Iraq, but to keep such a blunder from happening again.

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Asked about his meeting with family members of those killed in battle, Bush responded: "I try to get them to talk about their loved one. I want to learn about each individual person who sacrificed,...And to a person, nearly, I have been told that whatever you do, Mr. President, complete this job. Don't -- and basically what they're saying is, don't let politics, don't let the Gallup poll, don't let a focus group cause you to make a decision that is not in the best interests of our country...

And if the family members don't follow the approved script? "Chen described one encounter in August 2006, when Bush told an accusing widow: 'I'm really not here to discuss public policy with you,' " "Rather than entering into a substantive debate with angry relatives, he disengages."

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Raddatz: "Two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting, and they're looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives."
Cheney: "So?"
Raddatz: "So -- you don't care what the American people think?"
Cheney: "No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. Think about what would have happened if Abraham Lincoln had paid attention to polls, if they had had polls during the Civil War. He never would have succeeded if he hadn't had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there."
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Twice now, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has had to correct Senator John McCain (R-AZ). The latest was when McCain called the Jewish holiday of Purim the local "version of Halloween." Lieberman manfully took the blame:

And it's my fault that I said to Senator McCain that this is the Israeli version of Halloween. It is in the sense because the kids dress up and it's a very happy holiday and actually it is in the sense that the sweets are very important of both holidays.

Which is fine, but shouldn't someone who's basing his whole campaign on his national-security expertise be aware of details like that? If McCain got something wrong on price supports for wheat or the US negotiating position on steel tariffs, that would be understandable. But to confuse the Sunni al Qaeda with Shiite Iran is just absolutely amazing (In the piece, Joe Klein tries to describe McCain's mistake as a "brain fart," meaning McCain normally knows better, but just slipped up this once, Greenwald cites two more instances within the week where McCain said the same thing, meaning no, it wasn't a "brain fart," McCain is either consciously and deliberately lying or McCain, like President Bush, doesn't think the distinctions between the myriad problems in Iraq are terribly consequential.) Greenwald then examines the hesitancy of liberals to criticize McCain for statements like this, noting that this is an entirely one-sided problem. Conservatives don't seem to have any difficulty criticizing Clinton or Obama. The point where the press corps' being "in the tank" got just absolutely ridiculous was when Wolf Blitzer actually edited a tape (or demanded that a flunky edit it for him) so as to make McCain appear more on the ball than he really was. Very, very sad when one has to physically alter evidence so that the facts appear to fit one's storyline.

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Jon Stewart interviewed Grover Norquist on the 11th. Norquist is the Republican strategist who says: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years," he says, "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." A poster of a flooded New Orleans with this statement superimposed over it shows us what Norquists' goal actually means for us in real life. My problem with Norquists' idea is that when one walks into a shoe store (Or a motorboat shop or a real estate office, or a lawnmower shop), one brings two things in with them: a desire to purchase the product and the means to do so. Capitalism works fine when these two factors are present.

But when one needs an education, the means aren't always there. It's not the case that society can tell in advance who needs an education and who doesn't. General Ulysses S. Grant was okay at being an Army officer, but did poorly at business. He was unsuccessful at pretty much everything before he rejoined the Army and was put in charge of the Army of the Tennessee, where he took Vicksburg. In command of all Union forces, he prevailed over the South. As President, he was again pretty unsuccessful and he died broke. It's simply impossible to tell whether one is making a successful investment with the costs of an education until many, many years after the fact.

The market model doesn't really apply to health care, either. One requires medical care whether one can pay for it or not. Sure, one can limit medical care to those who can pay for it, but that means that millions of families will go broke due to elder relatives who have used up their retirement savings and who still need expensive care, which in the absence of national health care plans, will drain the family finances.

Sure, we could adopt a very cold, heartless attitude towards those who need care, but I was once watching a TV movie where a woman was trapped under a fallen section of roof. Her lover wanted to stay with her, even though the area was rapidly filling with water. I said "He can still get out. Why doesn't he take off?" The fellow with me said "Why? What would his purpose in living be if he has to live without her?" Callow youth though I was, I didn't have an answer for that and still don't. There are things that are more important than mere survival.

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