Re Wikileaks and Clinton: If There Was Ever Any Doubt That Thomas Friedman Is Still A Wanker…


Thomas Friedman has long been considered a wanker by many of his left for his centrist views and support for the status quo, including his support for the Iraq war. In 1992 Duncan Black called him the “one true wanker of the decade.” Alternet followed up with a look at ten of his dumbest “big ideas.” He has shown that he is still a wanker in supporting Hillary Clinton based upon the revelations in the email released by Wikileaks.

Wikileaks did reveal that Clinton is a centrist who is hostile to liberal and progressive viewpoints and a supporter of free trade, but that was no surprise. She has spent most of her career as a DLC Democrat and nonconservative working to undermine liberal goals, promote military interventionism, and move the country to the right.

From an ideological viewpoint alone, this might be understandable as Friedman prefers centrist, pragmatic politicians who will not upset the status quo, and who support globalization and free trade. If this is all that Wikileaks revealed, then I might understand his viewpoint, even if disagreeing on many policies.

While it is no surprise that Friedman is happy with this aspect of the Wikileaks releases, he shows no concern for the dishonesty demonstrated. It is one thing for a candidate to campaign as a centrist and promote their viewpoint. It is far more dishonest when the candidate campaigns as a progressive in response to a primary challenge from the left, when it is doubtful she has any intention of keeping her promises. The unethical behavior demonstrated, especially the exchange of “benefits in return for gifts” involving the Clinton Foundation, is even more unsavory. I would hope that journalists should be concerned about such dishonesty in a politician even when she shares their views. The same could be said about many Democrats who are willing to overlook anything Clinton does because she is their candidate.

Apparently this is all one more example of the cozy relationship between the Clinton campaign and the press, also exposed in in the leaked email. This is also seen in contributions from journalists to the Clinton campaign.We have seen how little attention the press has paid to Wikileaks releases on Clinton compared to Trump’s sexual scandals.

Can we count on these journalists to adequately question Clinton’s arguments over matters such as going to war? It is rather scary to have someone as corrupt and dishonest as Hillary Clinton likely to be elected president in a few weeks, while the news media shows such little interest in her actions.

The Choice This Year Is Between A Center-Left Democratic Party And Far Right Republican Party

If Democrats are to have a chance at retaining the White House and possibly controlling both houses of Congress, it is necessary to get out the message to voters who have voted Republican in the past that this is not the same Republican Party. It has moved so far to the extreme right that it is no longer the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater. Rather than being the party of William F. Buckley, Jr., the Republican Party is now dominated by the type of far right wing extremists that Buckley once fought to exclude from the conservative movement. Today two columnists who often push for a centrist agenda discussed the extremism of today’s Republican Party.

Barack Obama has called the Republican economic plan Romney Hood, or Robin Hood in reverse. Matt Miller has another name for the GOP: Drawbridge Republicans:

Mitt Romney came from wealth and went on to build his own quarter-of-a-billion dollar fortune. Paul Ryan, who has never worked a day in the private sector (outside a few months in the family firm) reports a net worth of as much as $7 million, thanks to trusts and inheritances from his and his wife’s family.

Wealthy political candidates are nothing new, of course. But we’ve never had two wealthy candidates on a national ticket whose top priority is to reduce already low taxes on the well-to-do while raising taxes on everyone else — even as they propose to slash programs that serve the poor, or that (like college aid) create chances for the lowly born to rise.

Call them the Drawbridge Republicans. As the moniker implies, these are wealthy Republicans who have no qualms about pulling up the drawbridge behind them. Such sentiments used to be reserved for the political fringe. The most prominent example was Steve Forbes, whose twin obsessions during his vanity presidential runs in 1996 and 2000 — marginal tax rates and inflation — were precisely what you’d expect from an heir in a cocoon…

Today’s Drawbridge Republicans can’t be bothered. Yes, when their political back is to the wall — as Romney’s increasingly is — they’ll slap together a page of bullet points and dub it “a plan for the middle class.” But this is only under duress. The rest of the time they seem blissfully unaware of how off-key they sound. As the humorist Andy Borowitz tweeted the other day, “As a general matter, it’s a bad idea to talk about austerity if you just had a horse lose in the Olympics.”

Contrast conservative Prime Minister (and heir) David Cameron’s decision to defer his plans to lower the top 50 percent marginal rate in the UK. “When you’re taking the country through difficult times and difficult decisions,” Cameron said, “you’ve got to take the country with you. That means permanently trying to make the argument that what you’re doing is fair and seen to be fair.” As his spokesman added: “We need to ask those with the broadest shoulders to contribute the most.”

Now that’s a conservative ruling class with a conscience! Can anyone imagine Romney and Ryan saying the same?

Thomas Friedman’s column is about the need for a conservative party, quoting some conservatives who hold reasonable conservative positions as opposed to the extremist positions now held by the Republicans. Friedman, who often calls for centrist policies, now realizes that he is far more likely to see centrist policies from Barack Obama than the current Republican Party, with the extremism of the GOP preventing the government from passing reasonable solutions to today’s problems:

We are not going to make any progress on our biggest problems without a compromise between the center-right and center-left. But, for that, we need the center-right conservatives, not the radicals, to be running the G.O.P., as well as the center-left in the Democratic Party. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has proposed center-left solutions to all four of these challenges. I wish he had pushed some in a bigger, consistent, more daring and more forceful manner — and made them the centerpiece of his campaign. Nevertheless, if the G.O.P. were in a different place, either a second-term Obama or a first-term Romney would have a real chance at making progress on all four. As things stand now, though, there is little hope this campaign will give the winner any basis for governing. Too bad — a presidential campaign is a terrible thing to waste.

This is an important message to get out. This election is not a choice between a liberal Democratic Party and a conservative Republican Party. It is a choice between a center-left Democratic Party and an extremely far right Republican Party. The middle of the road is not somewhere between the Democrats and Republicans–it is near where the Democrats stand on most issues and far from where the Republicans now are. Those who seek centrist, or even old Republican ideas, are more likely to find their views represented by Democrats than Republicans if they go beyond all the misinformation being spread by the far right.

Politics Is A Game Of Inches

Thomas Friedman once again wants Michael Bloomberg to run for president. We currently have a center-left candidate from the Democrats and a combination center-left, centrist, and far-right candidate from the Republicans depending upon which positions Romney decides he wants to hold on any particular day. The big problem with Friedman and others who want to see a centrist candidate run and break the partisan gridlock is that the positions such people tend to advocate are essentially the positions held by Democrats. Steve Benen explained:

Friedman wants a party that will commit to investing in infrastructure, education, and short-term economic growth, but is also willing to make concessions and compromises on long-term fiscal challenges on entitlements. But he’s also under the impression that the two-party system is failing him — even though one of the major parties already agrees with him.

The columnist wants Bloomberg to run as independent in order to push Democrats to be more … Democratic?

Matthew Yglesias argues that this won’t even help Friedman’s problem with dropped calls.

I guess politics is a game of inches. Michael Bloomberg is perhaps inches closer to the center than Obama, making him preferable to people like Thomas Friedman. Similarly it takes just a very slight increase in the top marginal tax rate to make Obama a socialist in the eyes of the know-nothing right while the Republicans (who have done more than any group, including true socialists, to destroy a working system of capitalism) are their heroes.

The Tea Party vs. The American Dream

The debate over the deficit and debt ceiling has been dominated by talk of spending cuts without consideration of what spending is really necessary to maintain the United States as a great nation. The right wing falsely equates freedom with cutting government spending. They believe that we could have our economic prosperity without most of the infrastructure and benefits which we obtain by pooling resources for the public good.

Despite false comparisons to the founding fathers by misappropriating terms such as the Tea Party, the vision of the right wing is to turn the United States into a banana republic which, while it might have a smaller government, would be dominated by a handful of large corporations and religious zealots. It would not resemble anything which most Americans would desire. Such a society would definitely not be more free in any sensible use of the word.

Thomas Friedman wrote on this topic today. While I question the value of some of his suggestions, he makes some important points. He ended by pointing out the toxic message from the Tea Party:

Anyone who says that either entitlement reform or tax increases are off the table does not have a plan for sustaining American greatness and passing on the American dream to the next generation.

Alas, that is the Tea Party. It is so lacking in any aspiration for American greatness, so dominated by the narrowest visions for our country and so ignorant of the fact that it was not tax cuts that made America great but our unique public-private partnerships across the generations. If sane Republicans do not stand up to this Hezbollah faction in their midst, the Tea Party will take the G.O.P. on a suicide mission.

Unfortunately the Tea Party risks not only taking the Republican Party on a suicide mission, but risks taking the entire country down with them.

Friedman Is Right (But Not In The Way That He Means)

Thomas Friedman pushes for the establishment of a third party. He is essentially right about the problem:

But there is another angle on the last two years: a president who won a sweeping political mandate, propelled by an energized youth movement and with control of both the House and the Senate — about as much power as any president could ever hope to muster in peacetime — was only able to pass an expansion of health care that is a suboptimal amalgam of tortured compromises that no one is certain will work or that we can afford (and doesn’t deal with the cost or quality problems), a limited stimulus that has not relieved unemployment or fixed our infrastructure, and a financial regulation bill that still needs to be interpreted by regulators because no one could agree on crucial provisions. Plus, Obama had to abandon an energy-climate bill altogether, and if the G.O.P. takes back the House, we may not have an energy bill until 2013.

Obama probably did the best he could do, and that’s the point. The best our current two parties can produce today — in the wake of the worst existential crisis in our economy and environment in a century — is suboptimal, even when one party had a huge majority. Suboptimal is O.K. for ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times. We need to stop waiting for Superman and start building a superconsensus to do the superhard stuff we must do now. Pretty good is not even close to good enough today.

His solution is to have a serious third party challenge the current major parties:

We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.

It is not surprising that this column has led to a lot of opposition in the blogosphere. Steven Taylor doesn’t necessarily object to a third party but outlines some of the reasons why it is unlikely to succeed. Steve Benen objects, pointing out how close the agenda he proposes for a third party is to Obama’s agenda:

And what would be better than “pretty good”? A more ambitious health care policy that conservatives blocked; a more ambitious stimulus that conservatives opposed; a comprehensive energy/climate package that conservatives killed; more crack downs on Wall Street that conservatives have vowed to fight; and an education reform agenda that the president has already launched.

In other words, Friedman has effectively endorsed the entirety of President Obama’s agenda, most of which has passed, can’t pass, or has to be severely watered down because of unprecedented Senate obstructionism. But instead of calling for reforming the legislative process, or calling on Republicans to start playing a constructive role in policymaking, or calling on voters to elect more candidates who agree with the agenda the columnist espouses, Friedman says what we really need is an amorphous third party that will think the way he does.

There is no reason to believe a third party would have any more success in pursuing the policies which Obama wasn’t able to complete than the Democrats have. The problem isn’t necessariy the two party system but the two parties we now have in a system where Senators representing a minority of the country from a minority party  can so easily block legislation.

As the Founding Fathers realized, often it is a good thing to have a high bar to passing legislation. As Friedman would undoubtably counter, there are times, such as the present, when we are faced with problems which do require government action.

The problem is that the Republicans have a philosophy based upon opposing virtually any government action (unless it involves invading other countries, torture, redistrubing wealth to their supporters, or imposing the social agenda of the religious right upon others). They are also engaged in political tactics based upon blocking solutions to problems so they can blame Democrats when they are not fixed.

This is not to say that Democrats necessarily have the best solutions and that they are not influenced by special interests (as the Republicans also are). At present the Democrats are the only party which is acting like it is run by grown ups and which is making any serious attempt to solve problems. We should have a conservative opposition which forces a Democratic majority to prove the merits of their spending proposals. Unfortunately the Republicans fail to provide a serious opposition when they have a knee jerk opposition to virtually everything and, by their own admission, would prefer to see Obama fail. A political party which spends its time questioning whether Obama is an American citizen, or which outright opposes modern science in the 21st century, is of no value. The tea party movement serves to make the Republicans even more extreme and out of touch with reality.

We do need a new political party–one to replace the irresponsible Republicans. We need a rational center or even conservative party to serve as a serious opposition party rather than a bat-shit crazy party of  No.

Thomas Friedman Is Right About The Problems In Our System But Wrong In His Comparisons to China

I could never apply a simple classification of those I agree with vs. those I disagree with to Thomas Friedman. He is certainly worth reading for the insights he often expresses, but sometimes he also comes up with things which are totally off the wall. I do sympathize with his objections to the Republicans who  simply say “no” without any coherent policy ideas of their own, as expressed in this column. Still, as bad as our “one party Democracy” is, it remains far better than a one-party oligarchy as in China. Sure there have been a number of abuses of civil liberties by the United States government, but freedom of expression is not suppressed in the way it is in a one party state such as China.

There might be some areas where the Chinese government can bring about modernization more efficiently than we can in the United States, just as Mussolini might have kept the trains running on time. That does not mean that overall their systems are preferable.

That said, if we can ignore any thought that the Chinese system might be better than our flawed system, Friedman is right in his assessment of the Republicans:

With a few notable exceptions, the Republican Party is standing, arms folded and saying “no.” Many of them just want President Obama to fail. Such a waste. Mr. Obama is not a socialist; he’s a centrist.

Friedman also has a few words about the Republicans blocking health care reform:

“The central mechanism through which Obama seeks to extend coverage and restrain costs is via new ‘exchanges,’ insurance clearinghouses, modeled on the plan Mitt Romney enacted when he was governor of Massachusetts,” noted Matt Miller, a former Clinton budget official and author of “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas.” “The idea is to let individuals access group coverage from private insurers, with subsidies for low earners.”

And it is possible the president will seek to fund those subsidies, at least in part, with the idea John McCain ran on — by reducing the tax exemption for employer-provided health care. Can the Republicans even say yes to their own ideas, if they are absorbed by Obama? Without Obama being able to leverage some Republican votes, it is going to be very hard to get a good plan to cover all Americans with health care.

“Just because Obama is on a path to give America the Romney health plan with McCain-style financing, does not mean the Republicans will embrace it — if it seems politically more attractive to scream ‘socialist,’ ” said Miller.

Cabinet Choices Might Suggest Direction of Obama Administration

The announcements of two major choices for the cabinet provided opportunity for speculation about the nature of an Obama administration. Cabinet members will ultimately wind up promoting the policies of the president they serve under, and legislation from Congress might alter all the intentions of the executive branch, but it is reasonable to wonder about the type of advice that cabinet members will be offering to the president.

Glenn Greenwald has reviewed some information on Eric Holder, Obama’s choice for Attorney General. It will be important for the next Attorney General to reverse the course of the Bush administration to return to the rule of law and to reverse the politicalization of the Justice Department. Greenwald provides evidence to suggest Holder might be a good candidate to promote these goals, along with showing promise on human rights issues:

The bulk of what I’ve read about and from Holder suggests, with a couple of ultimately marginal exceptions, that this appointment would be a very positive step.  Digby yesterday quoted at length from an impassioned speech Holder gave in June of this year in which he condemned Guantanamo as an “international embarrassment”; charged that “for the last 6 years the position of leader of the Free World has been largely vacant”; complained that “we authorized torture and we let fear take precedence over the rule of law“; and called for an absolute end both to rendition and warrantless eavesdropping.  He proclaimed that “the next president must move immediately to reclaim America’s standing in the world as a nation that cherishes and protects individual freedom and basic human rights.”

One major disappointment is in his position on the drug war as reported by Reason:

Barack Obama’s selection of Eric Holder as his attorney general is a very discouraging sign for anyone who hoped the new administration would de-escalate the war on drugs. As Dave Weigel noted earlier today, Holder pushed for stiffer marijuana penalties when he was the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and the details are strikingly at odds not only with Obama’s signals regarding marijuana but with his opposition to long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. According to a December 1996 report in The Washington Times excerpted at TalkLeft, Holder wanted “minimum sentences of 18 months for first-time convicted drug dealers, 36 months for the second time and 72 months for every conviction thereafter.” He also wanted to “make the penalty for distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana a felony, punishable with up to a five-year sentence.” The D.C. Council made the latter Holder-endorsed change in 2000. Holder thought New York City’s irrational, unjust crackdown on pot smokers was a fine idea and worth emulating, saying “we have too long taken the view that what we would term to be minor crimes are not important.” His rhetoric on the seriousness of marijuana offenses was indistinguishable from that of the most zealous Republican drug warrior.

I had hoped during the campaign that Obama would go even further than he has stated in the past in changing drug policy but was avoiding this topic while campaigning for political reasons. The appointment of Holder is discouraging on drug issues, but this could be an area where the underlying beliefs of the president trumps those of the AG.

The other major cabinet position announced was Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Upon hearing the news I placed an order for his book Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis and hope to obtain more specific information on his views than is currently available on line.

An overview of Daschle’s thoughts on health care can be seen in an article he wrote at Huffington Post back in March. He does call for comprehensive reform as opposed to incremental change, but even before the financial crisis I suspected that economic and political realities will result in incremental change, even if more significant than seen in recent years, as opposed to an immediate plan for universal health care. The appointment of Daschle might indicate that Obama does see a push towards universal health care as part of an immediate economic package, along with seeing the value in having Daschle to push a plan in Congress.

Daschle’s ideas on health care reform center around creating a Federal Health Board:

The time is now for us to take this challenge head-on. What we need is a change in approach. In my book, Critical: What We Can Do About the American Health-Care Crisis, I have proposed a Federal Health Board that would be a foundation from which we could address all three problems. In many ways, the Federal Health Board would resemble our current Federal Reserve Board for the banking industry. Just as the Federal Reserve ensures certain standards, transparency and performance for our banking industry, the Fed Health would ensure harmonization across public programs of health-care protocols, benefits, and transparency. Ultimately, the Fed Health would offer a public framework within which a private health-care system could operate more effectively and efficiently.

The Fed Health could help reduce administrative costs. Roughly 30 cents of every dollar in health care is spent on administration rather than health benefits. Our administrative costs, on a per capita basis, are seven times higher than that of our peer nations. Each state has their own system for Medicaid and insurance regulation. We have different health-care systems for active duty military members versus veterans. And private insurers spend billions trying to enroll the healthy and avoid the sick. A Federal Health Board that sets evidence-based standards for benefits and quality for federal programs and insurance will lower this complexity and thus costs.

The Fed Health could also promote quality and save money by making the health-care system more transparent. Today, the lack of transparency in the system makes it virtually impossible for people to grasp what they are paying for and who provides them with the best care. This shroud of secrecy allows for wildly different prices for similar quality care. For example, a Pennsylvania report on heart surgery found hospitals with similar outcomes charge from $20,000 to $100,000. The Board, by ensuring transparency, would increase competition based on price and quality rather than cream skimming and cost sharing.

Additionally, the Fed Health could set standards for quality and coverage, promoting best practices and identifying the trade-offs on services. It would use information on the comparative clinical and cost effectiveness of different treatment options to set standards for Federal programs. The Congressional Budget Office recently credited this idea with the potential to produce substantial system-wide savings.

Such a board may or may not be incorporated in Obama’s health care plan. Regardless of its value, this does not really tell either health care professionals or consumers how he envisions changing the health care field when providing universal coverage. The devil is in the details of any health care plan considering how directly such details affect large numbers of people. These details are far more important than structures in Washington such as a Health Board, and failure to understand this quickly doomed Hillary Clinton’s attempts at changing health care.

There is still speculation that Hillary Clinton might become Secretary of State, provided that the problems with Bill’s associations can be resolved. The major advantages in having Clinton in this position would be to remove her from domestic policy, and limit the chances of her opposing Obama from a separate power base in the Senate. David Broder presented some arguments as to why Clinton is the wrong person for Secretary of State, primarily because “What Obama needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy.” I agree with his reservations about Clinton as Secretary of State but we disagree on the value in keeping Clinton away from domestic policy. Thomas Friedman has also pointed out the problems of having a Secretary of State whose views differ from the president.

Despite the excellent arguments made against the appointment of Clinton by Broder and Friedman, the need for Obama to keep his enemies close might outweigh these considerations. The choice of Clinton would certainly mean that the advice of the Secretary of State would be worthless and generally should be ignored. This dilemma makes me glad to hear that John Kerry is expected to be named Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, assuming he does not wind up becoming Secretary of State. Kerry’s advice would be of value from either position, and there is a certain satisfaction in seeing John Kerry advance over the years from a young veteran protesting the Vietnam War before this committee to becoming its chairman.

McCain Has Lost The Media

John McCain has managed to go far in politics due to the press uncritically spreading the myth that he is a straight talker, a maverick, and a moderate. The problem with running as a straight talker is that sooner or later the press will go after you should you turn out to be a liar. The days of uncritical favorable coverage of McCain might be over as he has lost the trust of centrist journalists such as Joe Klein and Thomas Friedman.

Joe Klein is especially angry at the McCain campaign for the manner in which they have begun to attack the press in a manner reminiscent of Spiro Agnew after McCain picked an unqualified right wing extremist reminiscent of Spiro Agnew. He writes:

Steve Schmidt has decided, for tactical reasons, to slime the press. He wants the public to believe that there is an unfair–sexist (you gotta love it)–personal assault going on against Palin and her family. This is a smokescreen, intended to divert attention from the very real and responsible vetting that is taking place in the media–about the substance of Palin’s record as mayor and governor. Sure, there are a few outliers–and the tabloid press–who have fixed on baby stories. That was inevitable….the flip side of the personal stories that the McCain team thought would work to their advantage–Palin’s moose-hunting and wolf-shooting, and her admirable decision to have a Down Syndrome baby. And yes, when we all fix on the same story, whether it’s a hurricane or a little-known politician, a zoo ensues. But the media coverage of the Palin story has been well within the bounds of responsibility. Schmidt is trying to make it seem otherwise, a desperate tactic.

There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is “a task from God.” The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme.

Thomas Friedman warns those concerned about the environment that John McCain is not really on their side:

As we emerge from Labor Day, college students are gathering back on campuses not only to start the fall semester, but also, in some cases, to vote for the first time in a presidential election. There is no bigger issue on campuses these days than environment/energy. Going into this election, I thought that — for the first time — we would have a choice between two “green” candidates. That view is no longer operative — and college students (and everyone else) need to understand that.

With his choice of Sarah Palin — the Alaska governor who has advocated drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and does not believe mankind is playing any role in climate change — for vice president, John McCain has completed his makeover from the greenest Republican to run for president to just another representative of big oil.

Given the fact that Senator McCain deliberately avoided voting on all eight attempts to pass a bill extending the vital tax credits and production subsidies to expand our wind and solar industries, and given his support for lowering the gasoline tax in a reckless giveaway that would only promote more gasoline consumption and intensify our addiction to oil, and given his desire to make more oil-drilling, not innovation around renewable energy, the centerpiece of his energy policy — in an effort to mislead voters that support for drilling today would translate into lower prices at the pump today — McCain has forfeited any claim to be a green candidate.

So please, students, when McCain comes to your campus and flashes a few posters of wind turbines and solar panels, ask him why he has been AWOL when it came to Congress supporting these new technologies.

Thomas Friedman’s Not Believing The Administration Claims on the Surge

It might have taken Thomas Friedman too long to realize that the Iraq war was a foolish mistake, but at least he is not going to be fooled by claims that the surge has been a success:

There’s only one thing at this stage that would truly impress me, and it is this: proof that there is an Iraq, proof that there is a coalition of Iraqi Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who share our vision of a unified, multiparty, power-sharing, democratizing Iraq and who are willing to forge a social contract that will allow them to maintain such an Iraq — without U.S. troops.

Because if that is not the case, even if U.S. troops create more pockets of security via the surge, they will have no one to hand these pockets to who can maintain them without us. In other words, the only people who can prove that the surge is working are the Iraqis, and the way they prove that is by showing that violence is down in areas where there are no U.S. troops or where U.S. troops have come and gone.

Because many Americans no longer believe anything President Bush says about Iraq, he has outsourced the assessment of the surge to the firm of Petraeus & Crocker. But this puts them in an impossible position. I admire their efforts, and those of their soldiers, to try to salvage something decent in Iraq, especially when you see who we are losing to — Sunni suicide jihadists and Shiite militants, who murder fellow Muslims by the dozen and whose retrograde visions offer Iraqis only a future of tears. But we could never defeat them on our own. It takes a village, and right now too many of the Iraqi villagers won’t work together.

Most likely the Bush team will say the surge is a “partial” success and needs more time. But that is like your contractor telling you that your home is almost finished — the bricks are up, but there’s no cement. Thanks a lot.

The Democrats should not fight Petraeus & Crocker over their answer. They should redefine the question. They should say: “My fellow Americans, ask yourselves this: What will convey to you, in your gut — without anyone interpreting it — that the surge is working and worth sustaining?”

My answer: If I saw something with my own eyes that I hadn’t seen before — Iraq’s Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni leaders stepping forward, declaring their willingness to work out their differences by a set deadline and publicly asking us to stay until they do. That’s the only thing worth giving more time to develop.

Conservatives Still Try To Deny Consensus of Scientific Thought on Climate Change has listed the factual errors presented in last night’s Republican Debate. One of the biggest lies came from Tom Tancredo as he repeated the typical conservative denialist line on climate change:

Tancredo: Okay. First of all, the whole issue of global warming, for every single scientist that tells you it’s happening and that it’s our fault and they’ll stack up to here in this reports I can stack up another group of reports that say just the opposite.

Actually, we find that an overwhelming majority of the scientific community agrees that global warming is taking place and that human activity is predominantly to blame. Most recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), overseen jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization, released a report representing the work of 600 authors from 40 countries and 113 government representatives, saying:

IPCC: The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the pre-industrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution.

Also, the National Research Council, chief adviser to the U.S. government on science and technology, issued its own report as far back as 2001 that reads:

NRC: Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.

It’s true that there are dissenters to this consensus view. Among them are the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels, chief editor of the World Climate Report Blog, and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. But the split is by no means 50-50 as Tancredo claimed.

Yes, the Republicans have the petroleum industry on their side (or vice versa might be a better description) but few reputable scientists. Senate Republicans also tried to pass off the same false claims with this report released by Senator Inhofe’s office. As usual, the right wing bloggers show off their ignorance of science in citing this as a valid resource. For example, The Strata-Sphere writes, “I hate to say to the liberals I told you so, but I have been saying the ‘science’ on the matter of what is the force behind the Global Warming does not exist in the sense of established fact or accepted theories.”

As points out, global warming, and not the views of Senator Inhofe or other shills for the petrolium industry, does represent the consensus of scientific thought. Republicans have been making claims such as those from Inhofe’s office for quite a while. Typically they misquote scientists, distort statements to make them appear to contradict the views of others who have discussed climate change, or quote the views of people who are not recognized experts in the field.

In matters of science, such documents from someone who has a vested interest in the outcome are irrelevant. For someone who has denied the scientific consensus all along to make a phoney claim that scientists are reversing their views on the topic is meaningless. Only reports in peer reviewed journals, not those coming from partisans, or even newspaper articles, have any significance in indicating a change in the scientific viewpoint.

Related Posts on Global Warming:

Gingrich Admits Liberals Right and Republicans Wrong on Global Warming
Thomas Friedman on Bush Administrations Suppression of Climate Change Reports

Why it is Important to Refute Those Who Wage War on Science
The Truth Behind the Anti-Climate Change Documentaries
Report Predicts Dire Consequences of Climate Change

AAAS Issues Consensus Statement on Global Warming

How Conservatives Determine The Truth
Oil Companies Attempt to Bribe Scientists to Dispute Global Warming Report

Bush Administration Covers Up Reports on Climate Change
Global Warming and the Anti-Science Right

Conservatives Dominated by Flat Earth Mentality

Hysteria and Anti-Science In Conservative Attacks on Climate Change

Watchdog Group Accuses Bush Administration of Suppressing Climate Change Research

Mars Warming; Right Wing Still Hostile to Science