Ed Kilgore, Kevin Drum, and

Ed Kilgore, Kevin Drum, and Josh Marshall are reacting with the expected snarkiness to Republican Dino Rossi’s call for a re-vote in the Washington State gubernatorial race, which he lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire. Kilgore:

I recommend that Washington Democrats speedily begin referring to Governor-elect Gregoire as “Governor,” and to her vanquished opponent as Dino “Loser” Rossi. Sauce for the geese, sauce for the gander.


That’s interesting: I don’t recall any Republicans feeling that way about Florida four years ago. Funny how that works.


So now Rossi has a new angle. He says Gregoire should join him in calling for a whole new election to be held. You know, to ensure the integrity of the process.

Newsflash: she ain’t interested.

I have to say that Drum’s response is the most irritating. It’s silly to think that one party acts on principles in close elections like this, and that the other is just opportunistic. Everyone just wants to win. It’s silly to think that there are other considerations. This isn’t an issue of political beliefs, or philosophy. It’s an issue of partisanship, of winning at any costs. And I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. In elections, people usually make decisions based on either 1) which candidate they agree with most or 2) which party they agree with most. So, trying to win at all costs is really just the logical continuation of holding heartfelt political beliefs. It isn’t cynical; it’s actually quite sincere. So I don’t blame Rossi. I’d be doing the same thing in that situation.

I watch a lot of

I watch a lot of TV. And I mean a lot of TV. There are about 15 shows that I watch on a semi-regular basis. But there has always been one show that meant more to me than all of the others, and that show has been Law and Order. I don’t think that I would have the same deep respect, or even the great interest in government that I currently do if it hadn’t been for that show. And as you’ve no doubt heard, Jerry Orbach, who for 12 seasons played Det. Lennie Briscoe, has died.

Lennie Briscoe was a grandfather figure. He always cracked bad jokes and puns, whatever the situation. He could be interrogating a serial killer and still get a chance to make a crack. He was never funny, at least not in a traditional way, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Part of this had to be pity. His partners and, more embarrassingly, his bosses were invariably younger than he was, he was a troubled alcoholic, and his relationships were always tortured. But he always lifted his head up and got through it. And he was always, always happy. He knew he was never going to be the best detective there was. But that didn’t matter. He was in it for the pleasure that he got from helping people. And that’s probably the noblest thing there is in this world.

I was always more interested in the prosecution aspect of the shows; I found courtroom drama much more intriguing than police work. But none of the prosecutors, not even Jack McCoy, were as well-acted, or beloved by all as Lennie. So long, Lennie. And so long, Jerry.

Southeast Asia has been struck

Southeast Asia has been struck with a terrible, terrible tragedy. Almost 10,000 people are dead in the largest earthquake in 40 years. Our hearts are with people from Indonesia, where most were killed, all the way to Somalia, where 9 lives were taken. I’ll post a link to an aid site when it becomes available.

P.S. Mercy Corps has mobilized to help. Click here to donate.

P.P.S. The toll’s now up to 44,000. Almost 15 9/11s. Please give.

P.P.P.S. 55,000 and rising. Here are some more aid links, via Dan Drezner, who has nobly come out of hibernation to assist in fundraising:

Action Against Hunger

247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201

New York, NY 10018



American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor

New York, NY 10018



ADRA International
9-11 Fund

12501 Old Columbus Pike

Silver Spring, MD 20904



American Friends Service Committee (AFSC Crisis Fund)
1501 Cherry Street

Philadelphia, PA



Catholic Relief Services
PO Box 17090

Baltimore, MD 21203-7090



Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane

Santa Barbara, CA 93117



Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres

PO Box 2247

New York, NY 10116-2247



International Medical Corps
1919 Santa Monica Boulevard Suite 300

Santa Monica CA 90404



International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
PO Box 372

CH-1211 Geneva 19




International Orthodox Christian Charities
Middle East Crisis Response

PO Box 630225

Baltimore, MD 21263-0225



Lutheran World Relief
PO Box 17061

Baltimore MD 21298-9832



MAP International
2200 Glynco Parkway

PO Box 215000

Brunswick, GA 3121-5000



Mercy Corps
PO Box 2669

Portland, OR 97208



Northwest Medical Teams
PO Box 10

Portland, OR 97207-0010



Operation USA
8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200

Los Angles, CA 90069



Relief International
11965 Venice Blvd. #405

Los Angeles, CA 90066



Save the Children

Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund

54 Wilton Road

Westport, CT 06880



US Fund for UNICEF

333 East 38th Street

New York, NY 10016



World Concern
19303 Fremont Ave. N

Seattle, WA 98133



World Relief
7 E. Baltimore St.

Baltimore, MD 21202



World Vision
PO Box 70288

Tacoma, Washington 98481-0288



Back from Christmas Break. Kevin

Back from Christmas Break. Kevin Drum continues to ask the tough questions:

Question #1: Who wrote this op-ed about how healthcare costs are low for some people but high for others?

For instance, elderly people who use a Medicare discount card and have to pay $1,299 annually for a drug that the Department of Veterans Affairs purchases for $322, according to a comparison by Families USA. Or middle-class families that lose health insurance and have to pay $29,500 for an overnight hospital stay, when Medicaid would have paid only $6,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It just doesn’t make any sense. And, not surprisingly, the companies with the biggest profits — those in the drug industry — have been fighting hardest to maintain the status quo.

….A 2001 study by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that drug companies’ favorite customers paid just a little over half the retail price. This leaves the 67 million Americans without insurance to pay cash, with no rebates, at double the prices paid by the most-favored customers.

Answer: Peter Rost, vice president of marketing at Pfizer.

Question #2: How much longer do you think Peter Rost will remain a vice president of marketing at Pfizer?

Question #3: Is Peter Rost still a vice president of marketing at Pfizer? As appalling as this looks, I still think that the costs of adopting single-payer health insurance don’t justify the benefits. According to Just Health Care, a pro-single-payer group that’s been created by the U.S. Labor Party (and, yes, there is a U.S. Labor Party), creating universal health insurance would cost $1.213 trillion dollars a year. They propose paying for this by taxing stock and bond transactions (down goes the Dow) and creating a 5.5% employer payroll tax (away go our jobs). Not exactly attractive options. And this is the most popular way to do it; it essentially adopted by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-OH], the pro-single-payer Presidential candidate this year; in fact, his plan drops the stock and bond tax, and bumps up the payroll tax to 7.7%, which could arguably do more damage. But the taxes aren’t the only damaging part about it. Just Health Care estimates that 1.25 million workers would lose their jobs because of the decimation of the health care industry. All in all, I think that the tremendous job losses, and the possible damage to the stock market, that this would ensue are not worth it.

Wow. I had sensed a

Wow. I had sensed a liberal slide in the writing of Kevin Drum, what with his crusade against Social Security privatization, but this is just extreme:

…50,000 troops in Iraq for 10-15 years? With losses of 1,000 soldiers a year because that’s not enough boots on the ground to do the job? This is the calculus that persuades me we need to figure out a way to pull out of Iraq — although I agree with conservatives that doing so would do considerable damage to U.S. prestige.

Even war enthusiasts ought to agree that you either fight a war to win or you don’t fight at all, and the Bush administration has made it clear they’re not willing to take the political risk needed to increase troop strength enough to put down the insurgency and stabilize Iraq, a step that everyone agrees is a precondition for democracy. Don Rumsfeld won’t do it because he wants to prove he was right all along about using a small, light force, and George Bush won’t do it because George Bush never changes his mind — ever.

“Staying the course” is the worst possible strategy we can follow in Iraq. We either need to commit enough troops to get the job done or we need to pull out. Since the Bush administration isn’t willing to do the former, the only option left is the latter. We should no longer be asking American soldiers to pay the price for Don Rumsfeld’s vanity and George Bush’s stubbornness.

It seems to me that the potential for disaster following an American withdrawal is far greater than the potential for a long, bloody occupation. This isn’t Vietnam. If we pull out, there isn’t any government that is ready to step in and stabilize the situation. If we withdraw, there will be a civil war. That isn’t a hypothetical. It is very possible that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and even Syria could be pulled into the conflict, creating the most far-reaching conflict since World War II. Heck, it could even descend into World War III, if a great power intervenes. Now, is an occupation going to be any better? Yes. Of course it is. There is no doubt in my mind. Just see this Andrew Sullivan piece from early December. Things are looking a lot better than they did a few months ago:

Take the little-heralded breakthrough the week before Thanksgiving, when Iraq’s major Western creditors agreed to forgive 80 percent of Iraq’s debt. Yes, that includes those prickly states in “Old Europe,” like France and Germany. Imagine if a president-elect Kerry had announced such a breakthrough. It would have made headlines across the globe. But Bush consigliere James Baker pulled it off–and who wants to celebrate him?

And there was an even less-noticed development this past month: the relative silence across Iraq after the devastating coalition assault on Falluja. The military campaign led to the deaths of thousands, including civilians caught in the crossfire, and left much of the city in rubble. It included the awful imagery of a scared U.S. Marine blowing a wounded Iraqi’s head off, a scene replayed endlessly on Arab television. Did the rest of Iraq rise up in protest, as happened in the spring during a similar aborted attack on Falluja? Not even close. The Kurds and the Shia understand that their interest today lies in a successful election. They’re not unhappy to see Sunni and Baathist rebels get pummeled by American arms. In that, you see the beginning of the new Iraqi reality: a place where 80 percent of the country wants the democratic transition to succeed.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t support invading Iraq. It was a stupid decision with absolutely no merit whatsoever. But so is leaving now. The choice is civil war or democracy. I’ll take democracy, thank you.

Reihan Salam has a good,

Reihan Salam has a good, philosophical post about the decline of true conservatism. I happen to disagree with him about Social Security being antithetical to the “ideology of self-reliance”, his definition of conservatism; after all, even the most motivated, self-reliant worker, if born into poverty, will not earn enough money for retirement. However, he links to an interesting article by Philip Longman of the New America Foundation, which describes an exciting possibility for Social Security:

The idea starts with the creation of Early Retirement Accounts. Individuals could put one-sixth of the money they and their employers currently pay to Social Security into 401(k)-like accounts, which they could use to finance retirement beginning at age 62. How would Social Security make up for the loss of revenue? Monthly Social Security benefits would remain what they are today, but the age at which future retirees qualified for them would be delayed. Today you can qualify for early, reduced benefits at age 62; that age would gradually increase to 68. The retirement age for full benefits would be pushed back from 65 to 72. Preliminary analysis by the SSA indicates that the rollback in retirement ages would not only save enough money to fund the Early Retirement Accounts, but also return the system to solvency.

Increasing retirement ages by six or seven years isn’t a particularly attractive option. But universal 401(k)s are. I, for one, would be more than willing to sacrifice a few years of Social Security benefits so that the working poor, and the middle class, for that matter, can build up a pension that a person can actually live on. Also, Longman suggests that the increased retirement ages wouldn’t be that big of a problem:

Research shows that people with 401(k)s tend to delay retirement. Why? Because the money’s theirs. If they don’t spend it, they can live higher on the hog later. Also, under this plan, people who continue to work until age 65 wouldn’t be sacrificing Social Security benefits as they often do today; instead they would be building up credits for bigger benefits in the future.

Even though I don’t think that Social Security is in a crisis, as Longman seems to, this still seems attractive. Also, it averts the folly of privatization as shown by Michael Kinsley. Kinsley defines “working” as a plan increasing benefits for retirees. This will do this for every single person. It is impossible for it not to. This definitely warrants discussion by the blogosphere, and by policymakers.

The Bush administration is revving

The Bush administration is revving up to destroy Social Security with a policy that is doomed to fail, Iraq is falling apart as we speak, and what is the blogosphere talking about? Why, making higher education free, of course! Matt Yglesias chimes in his support, as Ross Douthat, guest-blogging for Andy Sullivan, asks whether most people would a) want to go to college or b) benefit from it. Kevin Drum even manages to throw NCAA sports into the mix. Everyone seems to be ignoring the biggest problem with this: the cost. This would undoubtedly cost trillions, if not tens of trillions, of dollars a year. And, assuming that the Democratic party isn’t willing to rack up trillion-dollar deficits, this warrants gigantic tax increases; we could be talking about a 60, or even 70% top bracket. This is where Europe is now, and look what they’ve gotten for it: high unemployment, and comparatively weak economies, next to Japan and the United States. If we want to damage our economy and cost our nation jobs, then we should go for it; after all, everyone would be getting a college education. However, I’m not certain that the benefits of this outweigh the costs.

Hanukkah’s come and gone, Christmas

Hanukkah’s come and gone, Christmas is less than a week away, and Kwanzaa will be over before we know it. I don’t know the specific dates of Tet, and Ramadan doesn’t exactly seem like an occasion for presents. But here’s a very inconveniently timed Holiday gift suggestion: The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor (NSA), wrote the book in 1997, as a how-to guide to retaining America’s hegemony. It offers great insight into the crises of the moment. See his section on Ukraine (page 46):

Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would become a predominantly Asian imperial state, more likely to be drawn into debilitating conflicts with aroused Central Asians, who would then be resentful of the loss of their recent independence and would be supported by their fellow Islamic states to the south. China would also be likely to oppose any restoration of Russian domination over Central Asia, given its increasing interest in the newly independent states there. However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia.

In Brzezinski-speak, the “Eurasian chessboard” is simply Eurasia’s geopolitical arena, and a “geopolitical pivot” is a relatively minor nation, that is important because of its geography or resources. Other pivots are Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan (because of its oil and role as a former Soviet republic), and South Korea. Brzezinski is also interesting in what he says about Islam (page 53):

A possible challenge to American primacy from Islamic fundamentalism could be part of the problem in this unstable region [the Middle East]. By exploiting religious hostility to the American way of life and taking advantage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Islamic fundamentalism could undermine several pro-Western Middle Eastern governments and eventually jeopardize American regional interests, especially in the Persian Gulf. However, without political cohesion and in the absence of a single genuinely powerful Islamic state, a challenge from Islamic fundamentalism would lack a geopolitical core and would thus be more likely to express itself through diffuse violence.

This is consistent to his thoughts post-9/11, as seen in this NewsHour interview:

JIM LEHRER: And now some closing thoughts from Zbigniew Brzezinski and Walter Russell Mead.

Walter, how do you read the potential for terrorist attacks to flow directly from the war in Iraq?

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: I think there is a real possibility. Again, some critics of war say there is no connection between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, but we see that all kinds of radical groups, including al-Qaida are using the U.S. attack on Iraq as a rallying cry. And I think there are a lot of people out there who would like to wreak some serious havoc us and this is a time they would really like to accomplish that.

JIM LEHRER: Do you think the American people were properly prepared for this possibility, this potential fallout from this military action?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I think they’re being over prepared.

JIM LEHRER: Over prepared?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Over prepared in the sense that I think we are creating an atmosphere of panic in the country, which is unhealthy. We can’t anticipate all terrorist acts. They may occur from time to time; in a number of countries in recent years, there have been a lot of terrorist activity, but they have learned to live with it and to cope with it. We have been struck once, very badly. But since then, I think we have been hyping the issue, both in the mass media and the government. And I think it is creating a situation which is quite unhealthy. I think potentially there is a real danger to civil rights in this country. And we have a situation in which a kind of pervasive but undefined fear dominates increasingly our domestic scene, and at the same time we’re sitting here and watching a concrete war elsewhere almost like a spectacle, like a sport spectacle. And I think there is something profoundly unhealthy about it. I don’t have a remedy for it. I may not even be putting it well, defining it precisely, but this combination troubles me. I think the government has been pumping up the terrorist business to an excessive degree. If we are really serious about it, we would greatly increase our intelligence capabilities because that’s the best protection — but not orange codes or other colored codes, periodic announcements, huge massive bureaucracy, tens of billions of dollars. We can’t protect everything anyway but we can induce so much fear in our society that something very precious is going to be lost.

Needless to say, I strongly agree.

Even I didn’t think that

Even I didn’t think that Bush was this incompetent. He appointed a man with a) alleged nanny problems b) a financial conflict of interest c) mafia links d) political corruption charges e) an outstanding arrest warrant f) an unfaithful sexual history, and, now, f) a secret wife, to head the Department of Homeland Security? What the? Who vetted this guy? Oh, yeah, the next Attorney General. Wow. And the worst part about it is that most of these charges are getting no press. It’s like it’s irrelevant. This guys is worse than Larry Flynt, and there’s no uproar? It makes me wonder if there’s any decent media outside of the good people at Newsday and Newsweek. Must be something about having “News” in the title.

As if I needed another

As if I needed another reason for not supporting Hillary, she becomes a xenophobe:

    Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is staking out a position on illegal immigration that is more conservative than President Bush, a strategy that supporters and detractors alike see as a way for the New York Democrat to shake the “liberal” label and appeal to traditionally Republican states.

    Mrs. Clinton — who is tagged as a liberal because of her plan for nationalized health care and various remarks during her husband’s presidency — is taking an increasingly vocal and hard-line stance on an issue that ranks among the highest concerns for voters, particularly Republicans.

    ”Bush has done everything he can to leave the doors wide open,” said Robert Kunst, president of HillaryNow.com, a group dedicated to drafting Mrs. Clinton to run for president. “Hillary is the only one taking a position on immigration. She will win that issue hands down.”

    In an interview last month on Fox News, Mrs. Clinton said she does not “think that we have protected our borders or our ports or provided our first responders with the resources they need, so we can do more and we can do better.”

    In an interview on WABC radio, she said: “I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants.”

    ”Clearly, we have to make some tough decisions as a country, and one of them ought to be coming up with a much better entry-and-exit system so that if we’re going to let people in for the work that otherwise would not be done, let’s have a system that keeps track of them,” she said.

    Unlike many pro-business Republicans, Mrs. Clinton also has castigated Americans for hiring illegal aliens.

    ”People have to stop employing illegal immigrants,” she said. “I mean, come up to Westchester, go to Suffolk and Nassau counties, stand on the street corners in Brooklyn or the Bronx. You’re going to see loads of people waiting to get picked up to go do yard work and construction work and domestic work.

Via Taegan Goddard. Wow. You know, she could have gone to the right on trade, or on crime, or even, God forbid, on healthcare. But no. She had to speak out against the millions of impoverished Mexicans who just want to make a decent livelihood. We can’t have that! As Matthew Yglesias said: the reason that Kerry and Bush didn’t address the immigration “problem” during the campaign is that it is not a problem.