Conservatives Continue to Rewrite History on Kyoto

The conservatives are still out there attacking the media for telling the truth, even when it contradicts their myths. For example, Captain’s Quarters accuses NPR of dishonesty today, after making the same claim about AP two days ago. They continue to deny the fact that George Bush was responsible for the United States pulling out of Kyoto. Today’s post ends with:

The media must think that if they keep repeating the same misinformation long enough, it becomes accepted truth. That says volumes about the competence and the bias at these media operations, and it goes to the heart of their credibility.

Remove “media” from the above and substitute “right wing blogs” and you will have a true sentence. It is the right wing noise machine which makes a practice of repeating the same lies in the hopes that some will believe them.

The conservative line is that “Before Bill Clinton ever submitted it to the Senate for ratification, they voted 95-0 on a resolution informing Clinton that they would not ratify any treaty that didn’t include limits for China and India.” They distort a Senate procedural vote to mean that the Senate voted to oppose Kyoto, ignoring the reality that it was Bush who withdrew the treaty over the opposition of many who voted yes on this vote.

I previously reviewed the facts on the vote being distorted by conservatives. The Natural Resources Defence Council provides information on the resolution:

Q. Did the U.S. Senate vote against ratifying the Kyoto Protocol?

The protocol has never been submitted to the senate for ratification. The Bush administration has referred to a vote on the non-binding Byrd-Hagel resolution, which registered views on some aspects of protocol negotiations. The vote on the Byrd-Hagel resolution took place prior to the conclusion of the Kyoto agreement, and before any of the flexibility mechanisms were established. The resolution was written so broadly that even strong supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, such as senators Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) voted for it. In doing so, Sen. Kerry said: “It is clear that one of the chief sponsors of this resolution, Senator Byrd . . . agrees … that the prospect of human-induced global warming as an accepted thesis with adverse consequences for all is here, and it is real…. Senator Lieberman, Senator Chafee and I would have worded some things differently… [but] I have come to the conclusion that these words are not a treaty killer.”

Election Guide 2004 had a similar assessment of the resolution:

An example of this relates to the 1997 passage of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution. 17 The Resolution is often portrayed as anti-Kyoto, though it’s not that simple. 18 According to Hagel, the non-binding resolution, submitted in the midst of international negotiations, was “intended to change the course of negotiations”, 19 not to pull out. The treaty was never submitted to the Senate for ratification, although this vote on the Byrd-Hagel Resolution was used by Bush in 2001 to justify pulling out of negotiations. Bush said,

“The Senate’s vote, 95-0, shows that there is a clear consensus that the Kyoto Protocol is an unfair and ineffective means of addressing global climate change concerns.” 2

Similarly, Bush’s campaign website states that the U.S. Senate rejected the treaty. 1

Kerry sees flaws in the protocol, including the weaker requirements imposed on developing nations, but he wants to reopen negotiations, fix them, and move forward. 20

I do find it amusing that many conservatives both deny the need to take action with regards to global warming, but also deny the fact that it was George Bush who withdrew the Kyoto Protocol. You would think they would at least show some consistency here and commend George Bush for doing what they would prefer rather than attempting to rewrite history. (more…)

Don’t Worry, Be Happy As The Temperature Rises

Denialists say the darndest things. We already saw Sam Brownback dance around denial of evolutionary science today. Denialists typically have an agenda beyond the established facts that they are denying, which leads to many variations and limited consistency. In the case of global warming denialists, most argue that the scientific principles held by virtually everybody in the field are false. However, global warming denialists are more motivated by an aversion to doing anything to change their energy use than by a true belief that the science isn’t correct. Some global warming denialists have even given up the claims that the science isn’t correct and have come up with different claims to justify inaction.

I recall hearing one conservative on the radio (I believe it was Jonah Goldberg, but I could be wrong on this) come up with one way to both accept the science and argue that we don’t need to take action. The argument was that we are much more affluent than in the past, and therefore able to accomplish so much more than in the past. Therefore we are bound to be even more affluent in fifty years, and by then the cost of correcting the problems from global warming will be trivial compared to what they are now. Maybe, but that’s a dangerous gamble.

While I don’t have a link to that interview, there was an interview today which I can link to. NPR interviewed NASA administrator Michael Griffin. We’ve known for some time that the political appointees at NASA, and elsewhere in the Bush administration, weren’t appointed for their expertise in science. Maybe Griffin has worked with enough real scientists at NASA to understand the absurdity of arguing with the science in a consensus statement as strong as the one on climate change. He breaks with many conservatives in accepting global warming as fact, but has come up with a unique way to avoid responding to the problem:

It has been mentioned that NASA is not spending as much money as it could to study climate change — global warming — from space. Are you concerned about global warming?

I’m aware that global warming exists. I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we’ve had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I’m also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down — pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a longterm concern or not, I can’t say.

Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change. First of all, I don’t think it’s within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that’s a rather arrogant position for people to take.

In other words, just because Manhattan might be under water, what right do we have to day that Buffalo shouldn’t be able to enjoy warmer weather? Forget all the economic hardships which such a change to our climate would bring. We must not be arrogant.

Needless to say, not everyone working at NASA agrees. ABC News reports that NASA’s top climate scientist has responded:

Griffin’s comments immediately drew stunned reaction from James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

“It’s an incredibly arrogant and ignorant statement,” Hansen told ABC News. “It indicates a complete ignorance of understanding the implications of climate change.”

Hansen believes Griffin’s comments fly in the face of well-established scientific knowledge that hundreds of NASA scientists have contributed to.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Hansen. “I thought he had been misquoted. It’s so unbelievable.”

Edwards Contradictory Stories on Reading National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq


During a Google Town Hall, John Edwards now states that he read the confidential National Intelligence Estimate before backing the Iraq War. (Hat tip to Politico.)

This raises the question of why was it stated last week that he hadn’t read the report:

Edwards spokesman Mark Kornblau emails that Edwards didn’t read the classified version. He adds, “As a member of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, he was regularly briefed on the information that appeared in the NIE, which is essentially a summary report.”

If this week’s version of the story is the correct one, and if he had read the report, it becomes even harder to understand why he supported the war. Bob Graham has often cited the fact that he had access to these documents as reasons why he opposed the war:

From my advantaged position, I had earlier concluded that a war with Iraq would be a distraction from the successful and expeditious completion of our aims in Afghanistan. Now I had come to question whether the White House was telling the truth — or even had an interest in knowing the truth.

On Oct. 11, I voted no on the resolution to give the president authority to go to war against Iraq. I was able to apply caveat emptor. Most of my colleagues could not.

Update: The New York Times reports “A spokesman for Mr. Edwards said the candidate had ‘simply misunderstood the question’ and noted that Mr. Edwards had read only a declassified version of the intelligence report.”

Brownback Rejects Science and Reason

Sam Brownback has an op-ed in The New York Times in which he tries to explain why he has stated he does not believe in evolution. The full op-ed needs to be read to appreciate the total lack of rational thought, but his argument can be summed up here:

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.

In other words, he doesn’t care if science has provided an excellent explanation for the development of complex species. He rejects it because it contradicts his religious views. He starts from the position that his religious views are correct, and therefore anything which he feels contradicts these views must be wrong. By the same logic, if someone follows a religion which claims that volcanos erupt to show the wrath of the gods, any scientific explanation for volcanos must be rejected without consideration of the science. Brownback is not only rejecting evolution. By his logic he is rejecting the entire scientific method.

There are people who manage to reconcile both religious thoughts and science. Brownback understands little about evolution, but does understand enough to realize that it does present a problem for his fundamentalist views. Brownback believes that a creator intended for humans to be present in their current form:

The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

While there is a tremendous body of scientific research demonstrating the validity of evolution, there is no evidence for this belief beyond religious teachings. Once you understand that facts about the universe should be determined based upon scientific research as opposed to religious faith, there is no longer any argument against evolution. Therefore Brownback must dismiss science where he believes it undermines “this truth,” and in the process dismisses the entire scientific method.

Bill Maher on Obama, Clinton’s Multitasking, and Religious Fundamentalism (Playboy Interview)

Bill Maher’s show is on off for a few months, so to help with the withdrawal I’ve posted portions from his interview in Playboy last month. Maher likes Obama, considering him a rock star, and belives Bill Clinton should be able to run again. After all, Clinton’s a “multitasker” who could “do Monica and run the country.”

Playboy: After the Democratic upset in the midterm election and with a year and a half left for the Bush administration, are you feeling more optimistic about the country’s direction?

Maher: Are you kidding? It’s a disaster. Unmitigated. Every day we’re killing more American soldiers for an immoral and unwinnable war based on lies. We’re killing innocent Iraqis. The environment is disintegrating. It’s one debacle after the next. Much of the rest of the world loathes us. We’re infinitely less safe than we were before 9/11. Other than that, everything’s great.

Playboy: President Bush may disagree. He maintains the world is safer now.

Maher: The world is not safer. We took Saddam Hussein out, but the idea that he was in league with Osama bin Laden was a direct lie, a bigger lie than the weapons of mass destruction. Being a power-hungry dictator, Hussein would never have given somebody a nuclear weapon, especially someone like Bin Laden, who hated him because he was a secularist. Even three years ago the world wasn’t safer because we’d gone into Iraq. Now even Iraq isn’t safer. We want to keep Muslim extremists who hate Americans from coming here and hurting us, so what do we do? We go into the heart of the Muslim world and start this cockfight. Muslims around the world do not look at our invasion of Iraq as an attempt to install democracy and freedom. They’re far more cynical, and they have reason to be. America has meddled in foreign affairs many times, usually for its own self-interest. We meddled in Iraq in 1963 under Kennedy and put a young assassin named Saddam Hussein on the case of killing its leader. We abandoned the Kurds in 1991. When Bush’s father encouraged the Shiites to rise against Hussein, we pulled a Bay of Pigs and didn’t show up; they were massacred. In their view we went in for oil and perhaps just to fuck with Muslims. There will be angry Muslims for generations. To those on the right who say Muslims hated us anyway, yes, a certain number of them did. But I don’t see how taking that hate and raising it from a simmer to a boil has helped matters. We were having a picnic and a couple of hornets were stinging us, so we went over and hit the nest with a stick. Exactly how is the world safer?

Playboy: What would you have the U.S. do at this point?

Maher: Get out of Iraq. Having troops and bases in the heart of the Muslim world is a thorn in the side of the people who live there. Throughout the region, we are building giant bases with Pizza Huts and car dealerships, stuff that goes over really well in that part of the world. Next there will be a Spearmint Rhino gentlemen’s club.

Playboy: If we pull out, there will likely be increased chaos and slaughter.

Maher: The sooner we get out, the sooner it will end. Turkey will come in? Iran will come in? Maybe, maybe not. It’s Allah’s will. Who knows? Maybe it will shake out in a not so horrible way. The country of Iraq has existed only since 1932. It’s seven years younger than Paul Newman. So what if it breaks apart into three countries? It’s not worth one more dead American to uphold a line on a map that Winston Churchill drew, probably when he was drunk. We disbanded the Iraqi army, which was not a great idea because now there’s a group of Sunnis who know how to use weapons, have no future and have reason to hate us because we put the Shiites in power. We created a massive insurgent guerrilla army. We painted ourselves into a corner, and Bush still doesn’t get it. The Iraq that was is gone and will never rise again. It has already partitioned itself into three countries: Kurdistan is completely autonomous in the north, the Shiite southern part is a theocracy mostly allied with Iran, and the middle is a mess. The Sunnis are still trying to hold on. They’re never going to put it back together again. When we went in, we were told Iraqis would throw flowers at us. Anyone who was of a mind to throw flowers is either dead or gone. Moderate Iraq doesn’t exist anymore.

Playboy: Did the 2006 election vindicate your views on Iraq?

Maher: It was a breath of fresh air. Democrats may differ from Republicans only in that they are bought off by a slightly less scary group of special interests, but at this point a slightly less scary group looks pretty good.

Playboy: What will a Democratic Congress do better?

Maher: Put pressure on the administration to end the war. Barbara Boxer said she’s going to hold hearings on global warming. With scientists! In America! Wow. Bush’s theory is we should teach intelligent design along with creationism–treat stupidity as if it’s a competing school of thought. In addition, in medical school, along with what ob-gyns normally learn, we’re going to teach that storks bring babies.

Playboy: You once said that if we get any stupider about science, soon we won’t even be able to make our own crystal meth.

Maher: Look at our leader. He doesn’t believe in evolution. I’m embarrassed by the cretins who have taken over. Luckily they’re on the way out. In the next election, even if the Republicans win the presidency, at least it won’t be Bush.

Playboy: What Democratic candidate would you support?

Maher: Barack Obama is exciting. Everyone says he’s a rock star, which is one of the most overused phrases these days; everybody’s a rock star. You know what? If you’re not getting blown after the event, you’re not a rock star. But okay, Obama is a rock star. Fine, if that’s what it takes. He seems articulate and serious and thoughtful and electable.

Playboy: Some people say he’s inexperienced and unprepared to be president.

Maher: Bush was woefully unprepared. It obviously doesn’t prevent Americans from voting for you. If Obama wants it, he’s one of the Democrats’ most viable candidates. John Edwards too. In America you can’t get elected president unless you can pronounce all four e’s in the word shit. Clinton, Carter and Bush could. Edwards can.

Playboy: Can you?

Maher: She-e-e-e-it.

Playboy: You’d be a great candidate.

Maher: Yeah, right. I think religion is bad and drugs are good. You want to be my campaign manager?

Playboy: Sure. We like a challenge, especially when dealing with your checkered past.

Maher: Who has more of a checkered past than Bush? He was a drunk until he was 40. He wouldn’t answer the cocaine question, which was a way of saying, “Yeah, I did it, and go fuck yourself.” That’s one of the few things I admire him for. He basically said, “I was a sinner, and now I’m not.” Americans love that. What they don’t like is when you get blown in office.

Playboy: Speaking of Bill Clinton, you have said he should be allowed to run again.

Maher: In a democracy, the people should be able to elect whomever they want. It’s not a very clever tribe of Indians that prevents its greatest warriors from taking the field of battle.

Playboy: The Constitution would have to be changed for him to do so.

Maher: We’ll change it so both he and Arnold Schwarzenegger can run. Can you imagine the interest if Clinton ran against Schwarzenegger? The debate could be on pay-per-view.

Playboy: Would you support Clinton?

Maher: Sure. He has a reputation as a party animal because of the Monica Lewinsky situation, but basically he’s a wonk. He can do Monica and run the country. He’s a multitasker. If he had been president when Katrina hit, he would have been in New Orleans three days before the storm. He wouldn’t have slept. Yes, he would have been getting blown–come on, Slick Willie in the Big Easy? He would have had some excellent étouffée. But he would have been working the whole time. I think the country has learned a lesson: If he can do the job, let the guy be who he is. People don’t care about sex. (more…)

Bush Losing Republicans on Iraq

Poor Choices In 2008 For Those Leaning Libertarian

The choice of presidential candidates for those of us who want to move the country in a more libertarian direction is pretty disappointing. After siding with the liberal blogosophere out of agreement with the opposition to the authoritarian tendencies developing on the right, I’m disappointed to see so many liberal bloggers fall for John Edwards, previously a major backer of both the war and the Patiot Act. There had been some hope that Bill Richardson might present a more libertarian alternative for Democrats, but he has failed to live up to the potential first seen in him, and the best thing that could be said about his appearance on Meet the Press is that few probably watched on a holiday weekend. There was a time in which I thought that Rudy Giuliani might present an alternative worth considering should the Democrats nominate Clinton or Edwards, but as is apparent in my posts on him, the more I see of him the less I like him.

There is some benefit in having a Republican support some liberal positions such as abortion rights and toleration towards gays, but this is hardly sufficient to make him acceptable as President. While faux libertarians like Eric Dondero push Giuliani as a libertarian alternative, there are many of reasons for both liberals and libertarians to oppose him. David Boaz of the Cato Institute has an op-ed in today’s New York Daily News warning, Libertarians, beware the rigid reign of Rudy (emphasis mine):

Behind Rudy Giuliani’s impressive lead in the polls is one fact that puzzles the pundits: Many cultural conservatives are backing a pro-choice, pro-gun control candidate. But what should be equally surprising is the strong support Giuliani is finding among libertarian-leaning Republicans, who also make up a big slice of the GOP base.

Here’s why: Throughout his career, Giuliani has displayed an authoritarian streak that would be all the more problematic in a man who would assume executive powers vastly expanded by President Bush.

As a U.S. attorney in the 1980s, Giuliani conducted what University of Chicago Law Prof. Daniel Fischel called a “reign of terror” against Wall Street. He pioneered the use of the midday, televised “perp walk” for white-collar defendants who posed no threat to the community – precisely the sort of power play for which conservatives reviled former state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. And Giuliani’s use of federal racketeering statutes was so disturbing that the Justice Department changed its guidelines on the law.

As mayor, Giuliani had many successes. Crime came down. He cut taxes and held down spending. But his prosecutorial personality sometimes threatened personal freedoms. He cracked down on jaywalkers and street vendors. His street crime unit used aggressive tactics to confiscate guns from city residents, resulting in wholesale searches and detentions of citizens, especially young minority males, and occasional tragedies like the shooting of the unarmed Amadou Diallo.

When a police officer fatally shot another unarmed black man, Patrick Dorismond, Giuliani had police release Dorismond’s sealed juvenile arrest record. The city later settled with Dorismond’s family for $2.25 million.

And it should distress many conservatives that Giuliani took umbrage at affronts to his dignity, perhaps most notoriously when he tried to stop city buses from carrying a New York magazine ad saying the publication was “possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn’t taken credit for.” The First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams notes in his book, “Speaking Freely,” that “over 35 separate successful lawsuits were brought against the city under Giuliani’s stewardship arising out of his insistence on doing the one thing that the First Amendment most clearly forbids: using the power of government to restrict or punish speech critical of government itself.”

As a presidential hopeful, Giuliani’s authoritarian streak is as strong as ever. He defends the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. He endorses the President’s power to arrest American citizens, declare them enemy combatants and hold them without access to a lawyer or a judge. He thinks the President has “the inherent authority to support the troops” even if Congress were to cut off war funding, a claim of presidential authority so sweeping that even Bush and his supporters have not tried to make it.

Giuliani’s view of power would be dangerous at any time, but especially after two terms of relentless Bush efforts to weaken the constitutional checks and balances that safeguard our liberty.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater declared it “the cause of Republicanism to resist concentrations of power.” George W. Bush has forgotten that; Rudy Giuliani rejects it.

While Giuliani is a poor candidate for those with libertarian leanings, he is gaining support among the right, where it appears Giuliani’s authoritarian views are outweighing his social views among many Republican voters.

More Evidence Released That Plame Was Covert Agent

By now so much evidence has come out demonstrating that Valerie Plame was a covert agent at the time her identity was leaked that this is hardly news. However, the right wing blogosphere, which never lets facts get in the way of their claims, continues to deny this. If all the evidence released so far hasn’t shut them up yet, this probably won’t either, but further information was released proving that she was a covert agent:

WASHINGTON – An unclassified summary of outed CIA officer Valerie Plame’s employment history at the spy agency, disclosed for the first time today in a court filing by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, indicates that Plame was “covert” when her name became public in July 2003.

The summary is part of an attachment to Fitzgerald’s memorandum to the court supporting his recommendation that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Cheney’s former top aide, spend 2-1/2 to 3 years in prison for obstructing the CIA leak investigation.

Update: In further discussion of the hearing, Dan Froomkin writes:

To those of us watching the investigation and trial unfold, Cheney’s presence behind the scenes has emerged in glimpses and hints. (The defense’s decision not to call Cheney to the stand remains a massive bummer.) But I suspect that people looking back on this story will see it with greater clarity: As a blatant — and thus far successful — cover-up for the vice president.

Update II: As found in the trackbacks to this post, the conservatives never fail to prove we are right about their total disregard for the facts. Once the right wing noise machine makes something up, it gets repeated indefinitely and no amount of evidence will change this. Not only does BitsBlog continue to claim Plame was covert, they repeat the right wing meme that Democrats oppose the CIA, even claiming that “lefties” were “were calling for the destruction, the utter demise of the CIA.” They base this on a claim that Democrats were “dissing the CIA and it’s handling of intel as regards Iraq and WMD.”

There are a couple of major flaws in that logic. First of all, virtually everybody, except those with an ideological aversion to the truth, has criticized the CIA for some faults in its intelligence prior to the Iraq war. Everyone except the authoritarian right realizes that government agencies make mistakes, and a function of the free press is to investigate and report on these mistakes. However, the goal here is to improve government, not to bring about the “utter demise of the CIA.”

Secondly, the major problem which liberals discussed with regards to the Iraq intelligence was the manner in which the Bush administration distorted the intelligence reports to make their phoney case for the war. This was primarily a criticism of the Bush administration, not of the CIA.

Glenn Greenwald reviews many more of the conservatives fantasies regarding Plame.

Obama to Unveil Health Care Plan

We have the first clues about the type of health care plan to expect from Barack Obama. The information in the first media reports are sketchy, but Obama follows the general trend among Democratic candidates to advocate universal health care based upon our present insurance system. Obama’s plan has many of the features of John Kerry’s 2004 plan, including using aspects of the plan offered to members of Congress and reinsurance for catastrophic cases, but adds a mandate. Kerry’s plan had the advantage of consisting of voluntary methods to increase access to health care coverage, but fell short of providing universal coverage. Mandates have the obvious problem of placing government requirements on individuals and businesses, but also solve the problem of cost shifting caused by the uninsured. Universal coverage also increases the number of healthier individuals in the insurance pool, reducing the cost required to insure each individual.

Preliminary reports also note that Obama’s plan will prevent insurance companies from excluding individuals for pre-existing conditions. There’s no word as to whether he will change to community wide rating, or if insurance companies could still limit care to those with medical problems by charging prohibitive premiums as commonly occurs now. There’s also no word as to whether the plan will do anything about those who currently have insurance but are under-insured due to inadequate plans. Obama will include a National Health Insurance Exchange to monitor insurance companies but there is no clear information yet as to what aspects of insurance will be more heavily regulated.

While there is a mandate for individuals and businesses, Obama proposes benefits on a sliding scale to assist in purchasing the insurance. Other cost savings aspects include improved use of electronic medical records and increased concentration on management of chronic diseases. He estimates that the plan will save $2500 for the average person now purchasing health insurance.

Update: A little more information is coming out. There may not actually be an individual mandate, which is preferable from a libertarian standpoint but could be detrimental from the point of view of a smaller risk pool. The National Health Insurance Exchange will not only regulate insurance companies, but will also offer an alternative product for those who do not qualify for programs such as Medicaid, but who do not receive insurance through their employers. This would include the self-employed, and small businesses would have the option of utilizing it. Private insurances will be required to meet the same standards as the new plan.

This raises far more questions than it answers. The plan sounds similar to John Edwards’ proposal to create a new plan modeled on Medicare. It is not clear what Obama’s plan would be like. There would be a tremendous difference between offering a plan comparable to Medicare, as opposed to a plan modeled more after Medicaid. One difference is that Edwards would have his new plan compete with all insurances, while it appears that those covered by employers will not have this option under Obama’s plan. Of course, should there be demand to allow others in, this could easily be changed.

Obama deserves continued credit for including a provision to end the waste of the Medicare Advantage plans, which I’ve already commended him for. Another notable difference is that, while John Edwards addressed malpractice in 2003-4, his current plan does not, raising questions if this is a payback in response to all the money Edwards is bringing in from the trial lawyers. Obama does include a call for malpractice reform in his plan.

David Brooks’ Assault on “The Assault on Reason”

David Brooks writes a negative column on Al Gore’s recent book, The Assault on Reason (which I reviewed here) and in the process shows how devoid of reason much of the right wing has become. Rather than using meaningful arguments, Brooks tries to revive some of the old memes on Gore, startng with his title, The Vulcan Utopia. Brooks cherry picks some of Gore’s arguments to claim, “Gore is, for example, a radical technological determinist. While most politicians react to people, Gore reacts to machines, and in this book he lays out a theory of history entirely driven by them.”

He writes that “the idea of self-government became feasible after the printing press.” With this machine, people suddenly had the ability to use the printed word to debate ideas and proceed logically to democratic conclusions. As Gore writes in his best graduate school manner, “The eighteenth century witnessed more and more ordinary citizens able to use knowledge as a source of power to mediate between wealth and privilege.”

If one wants to take a very limited view of Gore’s book, this thead is present. Gore goes from the printing press to describe changes in how people get their news, but this is ultimately about people, not just machines. Gore is critical of the poor manner in which television presents the news, dwelling on topics such as Anna Nichole Smith as opposed to real news. If not for his partisan dislike of Gore, I would think that under other circumstances Brooks would agree with this criticism of television news.

The final chapter of The Assault on Reason deals with the internet, giving Brooks more ammunition to mischaracterize the book:

Fortunately, another technology is here to save us. “The Internet is perhaps the greatest source of hope for re-establishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish,” he writes. The Internet will restore reason, logic and the pursuit of truth.

Of course Gore has far more to say on the topic, but Brooks ignores most of Gore’s arguments to make it easier to argue with him. At least he doesn’t bring up the false claim commonly heard from conservatives that Al Gore had said he invented the internet. Brooks also ignores the bulk of the book which does not fit into the narrative he invented of Gore having a theory of history entirely driven by machines.

The progression from the printing press to the internet is only a small part of Gore’s book, but even this could be used as one means to summarize the history of human knowledge. This is exactly what is done in the narrative to Spaceship Earth at Epcot. Spaceship Earth is a brief ride, and therefore it makes sense to concentrate on such means of communication in its attempt to briefly summarize all of human history. Al Gore has a full book, and goes well beyond this idea, but you couldn’t tell this from Brooks’ misleading description of the book.