God Meddling in Party Politics

God is getting involved in our party politics, at least if you believe anything Tom Delay says:

DeLay says that when, in the coming years, he is not fighting the indictment in Texas (he insists that he is not guilty) he will be building a conservative grass-roots equivalent of MoveOn.org. “God has spoken to me,” he said. “I listen to God, and what I’ve heard is that I’m supposed to devote myself to rebuilding the conservative base of the Republican Party, and I think we shouldn’t be underestimated.”

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, George Bush believes God chose him to be President and advised him to go to war in Iraq. Some have also claimed that Rumsfeld’s decisions on the war were also inspired by God.

Soldier Questions Why We Are in Iraq

On Memorial Day, a soldier in Iraq asks, Why Are We Here? (Emphasis mine.)

My name is Donald Hudson Jr. I have been serving our country’s military actively for the last three years. I am currently deployed to Baghdad on Forward Operating Base Loyalty, where I have been for the last four and a half months.

I came here as part of the first wave of this so called “troop surge”, but so far it has effectively done nothing to quell insurgent violence. I have seen the rise in violence between the Sunni and Shiite. This country is in the middle of a civil war that has been on going since the seventh century.

Why are we here when this country still to date does not want us here? Why does our president’s personal agenda consume him so much, that he can not pay attention to what is really going on here?

Let me tell you a story. On May 10, I was out on a convoy mission to move barriers from a market to a joint security station. It was no different from any other night, except the improvised explosive device that hit our convoy this time, actually pierced through the armor of one of our trucks. The truck was immediately engulfed in flames, the driver lost control and wrecked the truck into one of the buildings lining the street. I was the driver of the lead truck in our convoy; the fifth out of six was the one that got hit. All I could hear over the radio was a friend from the sixth truck screaming that the fifth truck was burning up real bad, and that they needed fire extinguishers real bad. So I turned my truck around and drove through concrete barriers to get to the burning truck as quickly as I could. I stopped 30 meters short of the burning truck, got out and ripped my fire extinguisher out of its holder, and ran to the truck. I ran past another friend of mine on the way to the burning truck, he was screaming something but I could not make it out. I opened the driver’s door to the truck and was immediately overcome by the flames. I sprayed the extinguisher into the door, and then I saw my roommate’s leg. He was the gunner of that truck. His leg was across the driver’s seat that was on fire and the rest of his body was further in the truck. My fire extinguisher died and I climbed into the truck to attempt to save him. I got to where his head was, in the back passenger-side seat. I grabbed his shoulders and attempted to pull him from the truck out the driver’s door. I finally got him out of the truck head first. His face had been badly burned. His leg was horribly wounded. We placed him on a spine board and did our best to attempt “Buddy Aid”. We heard him trying to gasp for air. He had a pulse and was breathing, but was not responsive. He was placed into a truck and rushed to the “Green Zone”, where he died within the hour. His name was Michael K. Frank. He was 36 years old. He was a great friend of mine and a mentor to most of us younger soldiers here.

Now I am still here in this country wondering why, and having to pick up the pieces of what is left of my friend in our room. I would just like to know what is the true reason we are here? This country poses no threat to our own. So why must we waste the lives of good men on a country that does not give a damn about itself? Most of my friends here share my views, but do not have the courage to say anything.

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Waxman Returns Oversight Function to Congress

Congressional oversight used to be expected from Congress, regardless of which party controlled Congress and the Executive Branch. When Jimmy Carter was in the White House, the Democratic Congress continued its responsibilities to provide oversight of the Executive Branch. Such oversight functions were destroyed after Congress fell under Republican control. Oversight of Bill Clinton degenerated into investigations of sexual misconduct which did not justify the Republican over-reaction, and oversight of George Bush has been non-existent.

Henry Waxman’s actions to restore Congressional oversight are reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle:

Since he became chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in January, Waxman, 67, has been probing some of the more contentious issues surrounding the administration, including prewar intelligence on Iraq, corruption in postwar reconstruction, White House contacts with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, allegations that administration officials used political party e-mail accounts to conduct government business, and the misinformation surrounding the friendly fire death in Afghanistan of former NFL star Pat Tillman.

Republicans complain that such investigations represent “Bush-bashing” but Waxman just replies, “I believe in government, and I want the government to be effective. I want us to look and make sure that government agencies are doing a good job for the American people.”

Los Angeles Times Calls for Carbon Tax

Ithas become increasingly rare for many newspapers to review a topic in depth, and provide real background as opposed to limiting discussion to the day’s headline. The Los Angeles Times has an excellent review of proposed plans to deal with climate change, but first outlines the problem:

IF YOU HAVE KIDS, take them to the beach. They should enjoy it while it lasts, because there’s a chance that within their lifetimes California’s beaches will vanish under the waves.

Global warming will redraw the maps of the world. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels will rise 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century; as the water gets higher, the sandy beaches that make California a tourist magnet will be washed away. Beachfront real estate will end up underwater, cliffs will erode faster, sea walls will buckle and inlets will become bays. The water supply will be threatened as mountain snowfall turns to rain and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta faces contamination with saltwater. Droughts will likely become more common, as will the wildfires they breed.

Global warming is happening and will accelerate regardless of what we do today, but the scenarios of climatologists’ nightmares can still be avoided. Though the cost will be high, it pales in comparison to the cost of doing nothing.

The article looks at various solutions and, as does Al Gore, ultimately supports the carbon tax:

There is a growing consensus among economists around the world that a carbon tax is the best way to combat global warming, and there are prominent backers across the political spectrum, from N. Gregory Mankiw, former chairman of the Bush administration’s Council on Economic Advisors, and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to former Vice President Al Gore and Sierra Club head Carl Pope. Yet the political consensus is going in a very different direction. European leaders are pushing hard for the United States and other countries to join their failed carbon-trading scheme, and there are no fewer than five bills before Congress that would impose a federal cap-and-trade system. On the other side, there is just one lonely bill in the House, from Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont), to impose a carbon tax, and it’s not expected to go far.

The obvious reason is that, for voters, taxes are radioactive, while carbon trading sounds like something that just affects utilities and big corporations. The many green politicians stumping for cap-and-trade seldom point out that such a system would result in higher and less predictable power bills. Ironically, even though a carbon tax could cost voters less, cap-and-trade is being sold as the more consumer-friendly approach.

A well-designed, well-monitored carbon-trading scheme could deeply reduce greenhouse gases with less economic damage than pure regulation. But it’s not the best way, and it is so complex that it would probably take many years to iron out all the wrinkles. Voters might well embrace carbon taxes if political leaders were more honest about the comparative costs.

The world is under a deadline. Some scientists believe that once atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have doubled from the pre-industrial level, which may happen by mid-century if no action is taken, the damage may be irreversible.

John Edwards’ Populism Called a Risky Bet

The Los Angeles Times reviews how Edwards’ populist campaign has kept him alive for the Democratic nomination, but is a risky platform for the general election:

In adopting poverty and low-wage work as his themes, Edwards has struck a far more combative, populist tone than in his 2004 presidential campaign. And that has helped him elbow into the top tier of a field dominated by better-financed candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) — and has even boosted him to a lead in polls in the key early-voting state of Iowa.

But Edwards’ 2008 strategy carries risks, in part because it speaks most directly to a slice of the electorate that has notably little political clout. Perhaps the last major presidential candidate to make fighting poverty a central theme was Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) in 1968, before his assassination that June. Some analysts warn that an agenda that might suggest “class warfare” risks alienating middle-class swing voters and moderate Democrats who do not want to revive criticisms that theirs is the party of the poor.

“It is very brave to take on an issue that he himself says has no constituency that has power, but it’s a tough road to be trodding to the White House,” said Matt Bennett, a vice president of Third Way, a centrist Democratic research organization.

Among the risks is that his populist platform is bringing out charges of hypocrisy:

But Edwards’ focus on the disenfranchised has also left him open to allegations of hypocrisy. Wealthy from his career as a lawyer, Edwards has been pummeled by reports that he spent $400 for haircuts, built himself a 28,000-square-foot mansion on a 100-acre estate, and did consulting work for a hedge fund that trafficked in offshore investing of the sort he had criticized.

“It has hurt him, and I say that as someone who admires and respects John Edwards a tremendous amount,” said Fischer.

I believe Edwards could survive charges of hypocrisy if it was limited to this issue, but his credibility is further damaged by similar changes in position on multiple issues. It was bad enough defending a candidate such as Kerry from charges of being a flip-flopper when the charges were untrue. It will be impossible to defend a candidate such as Edwards who is guilty as charged.

Some Democrats on the left on economic matters see Edwards as a welcome change from the Clinton years, but fail to recognize why Democrats won in 2006, and lost so many elections previously. With the breakdown of the old New Deal coalition, the Democrats won in 2006 with a new coalition which might be better characterized by their opposition to many of the Republican policies than support for a single platform.

There are many core liberal issues which the Democrats can defend as a majority party, including protection of civil liberties, a foreign policy which is both strong and sensible, providing better access to affordable health care, restoration of our traditional principles of separation of church and state which is necessary for true freedom of religion, eliminating the collusion between big business and Republican government which violates the fundamental principles of the free market, and restoration of the checks and balances on government which were damaged under the Republicans. However, if the Democrats see their victory as a mandate to move to the far left on economic issues, they will quickly lose the support of the independents and “Starbucks Republicans” who voted for them in 2006, and once again become a minority party.


Paul Krugman On How The Troops, and America, Was Betrayed by George Bush

Paul Krugman celebrates Memorial Day by noting that the war has predictably turned into a disaster and asks how it all went so wrong:

Future historians will shake their heads over how easily America was misled into war. The warning signs, the indications that we had a rogue administration determined to use 9/11 as an excuse for war, were there, for those willing to see them, right from the beginning — even before Mr. Bush began explicitly pushing for war with Iraq.

In fact, the very first time Mr. Bush declared a war on terror that “will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated,” people should have realized that he was going to use the terrorist attack to justify anything and everything.

When he used his first post-attack State of the Union to denounce an “axis of evil” consisting of three countries that had nothing to do either with 9/11 or with each other, alarm bells should have gone off.

But the nation, brought together in grief and anger over the attack, wanted to trust the man occupying the White House. And so it took a long time before Americans were willing to admit to themselves just how thoroughly their trust had been betrayed.

It’s a terrible story, yet it’s also understandable. I wasn’t really surprised by Republican election victories in 2002 and 2004: nations almost always rally around their leaders in times of war, no matter how bad the leaders and no matter how poorly conceived the war.

The question was whether the public would ever catch on. Well, to the immense relief of those who spent years trying to get the truth out, they did. Last November Americans voted overwhelmingly to bring an end to Mr. Bush’s war.

Yet the war goes on.

To keep the war going, the administration has brought the original bogyman back out of the closet. At first, Mr. Bush said he would bring Osama bin Laden in, dead or alive. Within seven months after 9/11, however, he had lost interest: “I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s at the center of any command structure,” he said in March 2002. “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

In all of 2003, Mr. Bush, who had an unrelated war to sell, made public mention of the man behind 9/11 only seven times.

But Osama is back: last week Mr. Bush invoked his name 11 times in a single speech, warning that if we leave Iraq, Al Qaeda — which wasn’t there when we went in — will be the winner. And Democrats, still fearing that they will end up accused of being weak on terror and not supporting the troops, gave Mr. Bush another year’s war funding.

If only the insanity would end when Bush when Bush leaves office. As discussed yesterday, the Republican candidates are repeating the same lies we’ve heard from the Bush administration, even if thoroughly debunked, and finally rejected by the voters in the last election. Krugman tells how these absurd claims from the Republican candidates should be answered:

Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.

But they aren’t, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people’s children to graves at Arlington.