Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Death by no Insurance

Once again we see another disturbing example of why we need some kind of universal coverage:

A twelve year old boy dies of a toothache with insurance complications.

WASHINGTON - Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

If his family had not lost its Medicaid.

If Medicaid dentists weren't so hard to find.

If his mother hadn't been focused on getting a dentist for his brother, who had six rotted teeth.

By the time Deamonte's own aching tooth got any attention, the bacteria from the abscess had spread to his brain, doctors said. After two operations and more than six weeks of hospital care, the Prince George's County boy died.

Deamonte's death and the ultimate cost of his care, which could total more than $250,000, underscore an often-overlooked concern in the debate over universal health coverage: dental care.

And because we as a society were unwilling to provide him with the $80 treatment, we are in the end left with a tab for a quarter of a million.

That's 'conservative fiscal management' for you.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mexican truck decision

This week, while I was away on a series of (both political and non-political) meetings, the Bush administration went ahead and cleared the way by executive fiat for Mexican trucks to begin operating in the United States. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters said, "This program will make trade with Mexico easier and keep our roads safe at the same time." The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) specifies that they will be allowed to do this, but it has not yet been fully implemented (though the Bush administration has tried before to do so) since there are some concern about safety.

And there still are. Presently, there are not enough truck inspectors to even inspect more than a fraction of the American trucks on the road (and up to a quarter of those they do inspect, fail that inspection and are taken out of service for safety reasons.) There has not been a significant increase in the number of inspectors for years, so it is hard to see how adding Mexican trucks to the thousands of American trucks that are on the road today will do anything but create that many more potential accidents (and sooner or later, more real accidents). Mexican drivers already are operating under laxer safety standards than in the United States (for example, not having to keep a truck log like they do here that will tell whether a driver has been operating the vehicle for too long at a stretch.) But to then try and inspect them with our understaffed force of inspectors is asking for the impossible. And the immigrant-bashing far right not objecting to this one really shows their hypocrisy since it is hard to imagine that undocumented workers won't think of hitching a ride on a (probably not inspected) truck.

I'm not necessarily against free trade agreements in general or NAFTA (which has already been signed and ratified, and which we should adhere to) specifically. I wrote about Free Trade issues in the context of the WTO agreement in 2005. I wrote that while they are not in and of themselves bad, what we should be doing (and haven't) is include and enforce standards relating to labor laws (including safety standards), anti-pollution standards and and anti-corruption standards that match our own. And I still believe that.

But it looks like maybe we need to seriously upgrade our own safety standards first.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mr. Consistency

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, John McCain, while expressing opposition to abortion, said that if his daughter wanted an abortion, he would leave the decision up to her.

But now it is 2008, and he wants the votes of religious conservatives, so the man who wants to be in a position to appoint the next Supreme Court justice (maybe several) has said that he is in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

In other words, he wants for himself and his family a different set of rules than for everyone else.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Consider why a terrorst wanted Republicans in power in Washington.

We've by now seen the news reports that a terrorist donated large amounts of money to the Republican Congressional Committee. The man, Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari (who went by the alias 'Michael Mixon') has been indicted on, among other things, sending money to fund a terror training camp in Afghanistan.

But what is interesting is to look at the dates.

From April 2002 until August 2004, the man also known as "Michael Mixon" gave donations ranging from $500 to $5,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to Federal Election Commission reports and two campaign donor tracking Web sites, and

Why would a supporter of terrorism in Afghanistan suddenly start supporting Republicans in April of 2002?

Well, that is almost exactly when the Bush administration and other Republicans started talking about shifting their focus away from Afghanistan to Iraq.

I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority...."

"I am truly not that concerned about him [in response to a question about bin Laden]."

Both quotes by George W. Bush, March 13, 2002

In other words, during the period in question, the Bush administration was specifically de-emphasizing the war in Afghanistan in order to change their focus to Iraq. Democrats (especially Al Gore, who in 2002 was considered likely to run again in 2004) were sharply critical and suggested pushing harder in Afghanistan.

I'm not suggesting that there was any quid pro quo with Mr. Alishtari's donations (which in the overall scheme of things probably did not make much difference). What I am suggesting is simply that a terrorist supporting other terrorists in Afghanistan saw that what the President and the GOP was doing was going to help his friends (those who attacked us on 9/11) and therefore did what he could to push the Republican agenda forward. The Republican party has claimed they had no idea who he was and I believe them. But they should heed the call to give back the money now that it is known.

And he was right, Bush policy has helped them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

56 for. 34 against. 1 unable to vote. And 9 afraid to vote.

On the Senate vote to end the filibuster and move forward with the nonbinding resolution opposing the President's troop increase plan for Iraq, it failed to get the necessary 60 votes, failing 56-34.

Seven Republicans (Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), Hagel (NE), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Spectre (PA) and Warner (VA)) joined 49 Democrats in voting to move forward on the resolution. Democrat Tim Johnson of South Dakota is still recovering from emergency brain surgery and was unable to vote.

Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut joined 33 Republicans in voting against moving forward. I don't agree with this position, but at least they were all willing to stand up and be counted for what they believe in.

If you do the math, you will see that this means that nine Republicans did not vote on this at all. They in fact hold the key-- if even half of them had voted to move the resolution forward it would have, and if seven of them had voted with their party-mates then it would have clearly sent a message that the GOP could block such a resolution in the Senate and won't support it (since their own party leaders are pushing a plan that would also require sixty votes, not just to end debate, but to actually pass the resolution-- a very unusual requirement for a floor vote).

In other words, this is a resolution on a plan that will either result in a turning point in Iraq (if the President, against mine and a lot of other expectations turns out to be right) or a catastrophic increase in American casualties and more to the point, giving insurgents if they are still around next year the ammunition to claim they took our 'best shot' and still came through it (therefore making our failure worse). And these nine couldn't even muster the backbone to have a position.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Republicans claim living on the street is a 'choice.'

It's tough being homeless. Last week I reported on the dumping of a homeless paraplegic out onto the street with no wheelchair in Los Angeles by Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center. Today another shocking story comes out of San Francisco. And this time it highlights the hazard that people on the edge of society often face simply because they are easy targets.

Homeless woman burned to death in revenge for reporting to the police that she had been beaten and robbed.

SAN FRANCISCO - Two women were accused of soaking a homeless, drug-addicted prostitute with gasoline and burning her to death after she reported that one of them had robbed her.

Leslie "Jill" May, 49, was abducted from the street and killed at Candlestick Park the day she told the police that Mia Sagote, 30, robbed and beat her over a debt May's boyfriend owed, authorities said.

May's boyfriend owed money. So she was robbed to pay the debt. That already makes the case that homeless people can be a target, even for situations they haven't created. But then when she told the police-- well, we see what kind of people target them in the first place.

The irony is contained in the last paragraph of the story:

After being selected for a city program that tries to find services and housing for the chronically homeless, she got a place to live in the fall.

"She was permanently housed," Amyes said. "She was happy. She was successful. They were little baby steps. The average American would say that's nothing ... but to live inside successfully for six months was huge."

So she was moving ahead with her life. Until it was brutally snuffed out. Like so many, many others that we don't hear about.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Will John McCain face a recall?

I've gotten a number of interesting posts in my mailbox from a discussion on Arizona blog net. It seems that a few people are punting around an idea to push a recall petition against John McCain because of his stance on the Iraq war.

One argument that has come up has to do with its legality. Because the Senate is a Federal, not a state office it may be that such a recall, even if successful would not cause his removal from office.

I also doubt that this will get very far. The number of signatures needed-- over 380,000-- is way too high a number to collect, especially since we will sooner or later have to be worrying about signatures just to get our candidates on the ballot for 2008. McCain is also still somewhat popular (among people who don't know him), and he did win re-election to the Senate in 2004 with over 70% of the vote.

Nevertheless it is interesting that this is even being bandied about. Just the fact that it is shows how angry people are over the Iraq war, and McCain's stubborn refusal to acknowlege the obvious.

Forty years in prison is a lot to pay for not knowing much about computers.

It's happened to a lot of people. It's happened to me.

I have gone to a website that had nothing pornographic about it, hit the wrong link and all of a sudden a barrage of pornographic pictures shows up on the screen. There is even a term for a link that does this. It is called a 'mouse trap.'.

Should a substitute teacher get forty years in prison because it happened to her?

WINDHAM, Conn. - Until recently, Julie Amero says, she lived the quiet life of a small-town substitute teacher, with little knowledge of computers and even less about porn.

Now she is in the middle of a criminal case that hinges on the intricacies of both, and it could put her behind bars for up to 40 years.

She was convicted last month of exposing seventh-grade students to pornography on her classroom computer. She contended the images were inadvertently thrust onto the screen by pornographers’ unseen spyware and adware programs.

Prosecutors dispute that. But her argument has made her a cause célèbre among some technology experts, who say what happened to her could happen to anyone.

“I’m scared,” said Amero, 40. “I’m just beside myself over something I didn’t do.”

It all began in October 2004. Amero was assigned to a class at Kelly Middle School in Norwich, a city of about 37,000 people about 40 miles east of Hartford.

Amero says that before her class started, a teacher allowed her to e-mail her husband. She says she used the computer and went to the bathroom, returning to find the permanent teacher gone and two students viewing a Web site on hairstyles.

Amero says she chased the students away and started class. But later, she says, pornographic images began popping up on the computer screen by themselves. She says she tried to click the images off, but they kept returning, and she was under strict orders not to shut the computer off.

“I did everything I possibly could to keep them from seeing anything,” she says.

I've had to turn a computer off. It's the only way to stop this from happening.

But what really amazes me is how technologically obtuse the prosecutors and those who doubt her story seem to be.

What is extraordinary is the prosecution admitted there was no search made for spyware — an incredible blunder akin to not checking for fingerprints at a crime scene,” Alex Eckelberry, president of a Florida software company, wrote recently in the local newspaper. “When a pop-up occurs on a computer, it will get shown as a visited Web site, and no ‘physical click’ is necessary.”...

Principal Scott Fain said the computer lacked the latest firewall protection because a vendor’s bill had gone unpaid. “I was shocked to see what made it through,” he said.

But Fain also said Amero was the only one to report such a problem: “We’ve never had a problem with pop-ups before or since.”

Uh, do you think the vendor's bill has since been paid? Of course he hasn't had the problem since then. And in any case, I've only had that problem once or twice, so it's not a common problem. But it does happen. And tossing someone in prison for up to forty years because she didn't know what a mousetrap is seems the height of idiocy.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Bush proposes to cut Veteran's Health care after this year.

Never unpredictable, our President has proposed, in his attempt to balance the budget while preserving his massive tax cuts and fighting the Iraq war, that we continue cutting veteran's healthcare. Of course his record on veteran's issues is already dismal, having closed several V.A. hospitals and made other cuts in veterans' health care. It has on the whole risen because of the Iraq and Afghan wars, but that is despite the best efforts of this administration to oppose that.

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans' health care two years from now — even as badly wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system....

The number of veterans coming into the VA health care system has been rising by about 5 percent a year as the number of people returning from Iraq with illnesses or injuries keep rising. Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans represent almost 5 percent of the VA's patient caseload, and many are returning from battle with grievous injuries requiring costly care, such as traumatic brain injuries.

All told, the VA expects to treat about 5.8 million patients next year, including 263,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House budget office, however, assumes that the veterans' medical services budget — up 83 percent since Bush took office and winning a big increase in Bush's proposed 2008 budget — can absorb a 2 percent cut the following year and remain essentially frozen for three years in a row after that

Yup, support the troops.

Sometimes I don't even have to comment on some things this administration does. They speak for themselves.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Paraplegic dumped in skid row by hospital. Without a wheelchair.

Sadly, this isn't the first time I've had to blog on Los Angeles hospitals' unique way of dealing with the homeless. In fact, in my second post on the topic, just this past October, I wrote about how this practice had become the target of a criminal investigation.

How would you like to be discharged from the hospital, still in pain or not completely well, and dropped off someplace where you did not come from, perhaps didn't know where you were, and among people who you did not know? If someone-- homeless or not-- requests to be taken downtown, then it is fine to take them there. But absent such a request, discharge from a hospital is just that-- they can walk out the front door.

We also know that some of the homeless dumped on skid row 'paid' their hospital bill another way-- apparently being abducted, murdered and their bodies 'donated' to UCLA medical center in the infamous UCLA cadaver scandal.

But a story out today makes even that nauseating turn of events seem like old news:

a homeless paraplegic was dumped on skid row by an L.A. hospital:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- A hospital van dropped off a paraplegic man on Skid Row, allegedly leaving him crawling in the street with nothing more than a soiled gown and a broken colostomy bag, police said.

Witnesses who said they saw the incident Thursday wrote down a phone number on the van and took down its license-plate number, which helped detectives connect the vehicle to Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site.

Police said the incident was a case of "homeless dumping" and were questioning officials from the hospital.

Outrage is too mild a word for what I felt when I read this story. No matter how horrid some of these stories have gotten, it's always possible to think 'well, there is still something left they won't do.' Get a hint: NO, there is nothing they won't do. If they will even toss a paralyzed hospital patient out onto the street, then these goons will do anything. In fact, this should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

I know that hospitals lose a ton of money treating the indigent (welcome to America 2007, even as our President submits a budget that calls for another round of cuts in Medicaid) but if this is the best they can do, then there is indeed a strong argument for not just increasing Medicaid payments on behalf of the indigent, but in fact just plain nationalizing some hospitals (this one would be a prime candidate). Obviously the Presbyterian Church (which apparently has lent its name to the medical center) is incapable of running an institution that shows even the most minimal level of decency.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Taliban making a comeback while we are fixated on Iraq

While all the focus is (still) on Iraq, it seems like no one is paying attention to 'the forgotten war' in Afghanistan.

Like Iraq, the situation is deteriorating and has been for over four years. Like Iraq, we have seen poor leadership from this administration that has played into why we are stuck in such a bad situation. And like Iraq, our troops have become targets in an ongoing civil war.

There is a difference however. Lest we forget, those who actually did us harm on 9/11 were hiding out in Afghanistan, not Iraq. And unlike Iraq, which was simply a war of George Bush's choice, and which was therefore not supported widely within the international community, there was very little opposition from that community to our invading the Taliban-run country.

But Afghanistan has just never been a major concern for this administration. As former President Clinton astutely noted, there are more than seven times as many American troops in Iraq as there are in and around Afghanistan. The whole argument about 'fighting terrorists over there...' falls flat on its face when we see how little the war against al-Qaeda in the place where we know for a fact they are strongest fits into the priority scheme. In fact, we even have President Bush on record:

I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority.

-- George W. Bush on March 13, 2002 (more than a year before the Iraq war, but when he was starting to ratchet up the rhetoric against Saddam Hussein).

Obviously he was telling the truth when he made that quote. Because Afghanistan has not been a priority at all. Well, maybe for a few short weeks during election season (as I wrote in a post entitled Terrorism and the Afghan War (written last year, exactly two months before the November election). The President had at the time been talking a lot more about the Afghan war and al-Qaeda than he had for-- well-- since the 2004 election:

I bet that by Christmas, Afghanistan will be relegated to the same second thought that it has been over the past few years.

I was right about that. Came Christmas, and it was. Fortunately, the Bush administration had gone to that well one too many times and the American people didn't buy it.

I believe two (not necessarily contradictory) things about Afghanistan. The first is that we actually have a real reason for being there and we should stay until the Taliban and bin Laden are gone. The second, on the other hand, is that we have already compromised our position in Afghanistan because of the focus on Iraq. If we are not ready to make fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda there our priority then getting out is a much better option than continuing to fight the war of attrition we see going on right now.

Continuing to send American troops to fight and die in Afghanistan while we send the resources they would need to Iraq is the worst of all worlds, and if that is the Bush administration's plan then we owe it to our troops to get them out of there.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Texas considering the death penalty for child molesters

It seems that Texas, not happy with being the number one state in the country in executions is the latest state to propose the death penalty for some child molesters.

Now, I blogged last year on why the death penalty for child molesters was both a bad idea and a sterling example of political cowardice (which is linked here). In part, I wrote:

What could be more pleasing and more just, than to execute child molesters, right? Well, no actually. I know, it's tough to make any argument against doing something to a child molester, but I will make it here.

Begin with the gut reaction. Yes, what child molesters have done is horrible. And we have to protect our children ahead of any other consideration (one reason I recently added the Code Amber Alert ticker at the top of my screen). But is executing them the answer? It is true, after all, that child molesters are that way by nature, and that they can't be truly 'cured,' even if they want to be (there is ample scientific as well as criminal evidence to back that up.) However, let me make some points why executing them is not the answer.

Start with a bald fact that I have to state anyway and which overshadows the rest of the discussion: It won't hold up in court. That is pretty much conceded by nearly all legal scholars. No one has been executed for a crime other than murder in the U.S. since the Rosenbergs were executed for a 1950 conviction for treason, for giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. No one has been executed for a sex crime in the U.S. since the early part of the last century (and then child molestation wasn't even an issue, and the people executed were invariably black men convicted rightly or wrongly or raping white women.) So the courts will virtually certainly strike this down as 'cruel and unusual punishment' not proportional to the crime, and what is really infuriating is that the politicians know it better than anyone, but they are doing this to be popular...

But more to the point here is that it is exactly the kind of 'red meat politics' that has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

I used to live in Texas (only for a year, but it was an educational year, with 'Shrub' running for re-election as governor in a state that seemed to have lost its collective mind. A prime example was the race for railroad commissioner that year. One of the candidates (who ultimately won the race), instead of commenting on anything that had to do with being railroad commissioner ran ads touting his support for the death penalty. Now, it's hard to see what the railroad commissioner would have to do with the death penalty anyway, unless maybe they were considering using 'tying to the tracks ahead of the train' as a method of execution (think Snidely Whiplash) but no matter, apparently it doesn't matter if you get an unqualified lunk in the office, as long as he is pro-death penalty.

And that's the way the death penalty is in Texas. It's a little like when the Dallas Cowboys win on Sunday. People may be falling behind in their bills, have a leak in the roof and Little Johnny may be getting F's on his report card, but if the Cowboys win on Sunday then it seems like everyone in Texas feels much better on Monday. True that the bills still have to be paid, the leak still has to be fixed and Johnny still has to get caught up in school, but people think that because the Cowboys have won, their life is better somehow. The same thing with the death penalty. Never mind that everyone on death row is safely behind bars and away from the general population, or that the murder rate in Texas (6.2 per 100,000 population in 2005) is higher than the national average or for that matter than any of the twelve states that have no death penalty, nor does it matter that the man executed may not even have been guilty, nor the fact that if everyone on death row were executed tomorrow the prison population would catch up to what it is now within two weeks, the fact that some miscreant has been sent to the next life makes people feel better the next day. They still can't pay their bills, the roof still leaks, Johnny is still failing, but doggone it, we sure showed that loser a thing or two.

What is worse though is the cynical politicians who demagogue this issue (and the death penalty for child molesters, though it will be thrown out in court, is a demagogue's dream-- and when the courts throw it out then they can demagogue some more about 'liberal judges' or some such tripe and still avoid having to tackle anything that matters) because they'd rather pass this kind of bill and then bash the courts than deal with the really hard issues (and in Texas, there are a lot of them that need dealt with).

It does make the rise of Shrub a little easier to understand though.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Rush is a racist, and nothing brings that out like the NFL

Today while discussing the Super Bowl, Rush Limbaugh went into a tirade about how the media wanted Chicago Bears quarterback Rex Grossman to fail (which Grossman did, throwing a pair of late interceptions and adding two fumbles to make a strong case for why he should be Super Bowl MVP-- for the Colts.) It is true that last week the media kept asking whether Grossman might be the worst Super Bowl quarterback ever (which he also made a case for yesterday).

Rush then inserted two words that he used to explain why the media was (as he put it) 'rooting for Grossman to fail,' and those two words, almost inserted as an afterthought were 'white quarterback.' Of course words that people casually insert into a conversation often tell much more about who they really are and how they think than what they think through before they say.

His comment is in fact stupid on the face of it. Not only were the media simultaneously commenting on how superlatively good (white) Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning was (so that the notion that they root for white quarterbacks to fail is plainly absurd), but the reason for the negative questions about Rex was because we've seen the 'bad Rex' this year, and he has been really, really bad (as he showed the world last night). It was really a question of which Rex Grossman would show up-- he is inconsistent, and there is no way around it.

There was a racial angle on the game, to be sure, but it had nothing to do with the quarterback matchup-- the notion that black quarterbacks weren't as good as white quarterbacks was ended when Doug Williams and Washington won big almost twenty years ago. The racial angle yesterday was that two black coaches, Tony Dungy of Indianapolis and Lovie Smith of Chicago, both directed their clubs to the Super Bowl and Dungy became the first black coach to win a Super Bowl (which the NFL has done an outstanding job of ending racial hiring preferences across the league-- too bad that college football hasn't done the same).

What is really amazing is that this isn't the first time that Rush has talked about media coverage of a quarterback and added race into the equation. Recall that in 2003 he lost his job providing commentary on Monday Night Football by saying that Eagles' quarterback Donovan McNabb was 'overrated' because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed (again, that was over 15 years after Williams' performance in Super Bowl XXII had ended the race issue in regard to quarterbacks for anyone other than obdurate racists like Limbaugh shows himself to be).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Randy Pullen drives away GOP staff.

2006 was a bad year for the Republican party in Arizona. Arizona was one of three states west of the Mississippi river where the GOP lost multiple seats in Congress (the other two were Texas and Iowa). Governor Napolitano and Attorney General Goddard were re-elected by huge margins. Hardliner Len Munsil got absolutely crushed in the Governor's race. And in the legislature the GOP lost six house seats and one in the Senate. Symptomatic of their problems were their steadfast insistence on nominating hardliners. Anti-immigration hardliner Randy Graf lost big to Gabrielle Giffords in the race for an open seat in Congress, after Graf had beaten out two more moderate Republicans in the primary, and in house district 26 the hardline conservatives in the GOP kicked out two moderate Republicans in their primary in order to nominate two hardliners from what can be considered the 'nutbag right,' and ended up with two Democrats instead (here in Arizona legislative districts are represented by two house members and one senator).

One would think that given the disastrous performance of hardline candidates and their issues (even the gay marriage amendment failed here in Arizona) that some common sense would prevail in the party and that members of the GOP would realize that if they want to win in the next round of elections they need to nominate candidates who are more palatable to the voters.

One would think that, but one would be wrong.

Last week they picked ultra hard-liner Randy Pullen as their party chair. It seems as if they have it in their mind that the harder to the right they run, the better it will go for them. They seem to think that if they control the party apparatus of the party with the larger number of registered voters then they will run the state. Only they are wrong. Republicans are overall a diminishing minority in Arizona (the real growth has been among registered independents) and it is hard to see how candidates of the type that a Randy Pullen would support would be very appealing to most independents (or for that matter to a lot of moderate Republicans-- remember that Janet Napolitano got the votes of a third of all the Republicans who voted on election day-- so one out of three Republicans would prefer a competent Democrat to a hardliner like Munsil.)

And the staff at the state GOP is voting with their feet. the paid staff has resigned. They'd rather start sending out resumes than work for Randy Pullen.

It is hard to think of anything other than a guy with his foot on the accelerator thinking only of getting ahead, while the parts of the car are falling out behind him.

Should be an interesting election cycle.

There are very few things you can get for free anymore, and blogger is one of them. And I appreciate it.

But I've seen how some (mostly right leaning sites) have pitched a hissy fit over the latest round of glitches to hit blogger.

So let me post what I wrote on one of them (specifically Althouse:)


This service is, like, FREE!!!

There is an old adage that you get what you pay for.

I expect that the people who complain about blogger are mostly the same kind of people (generally conservatives) who want something for nothing-- they rush to cut taxes but then they are the first ones in line to complain when police patrols get cut back, the school is a little slower about fixing a leak in the roof, or the city starts collecting trash once a week instead of twice a week.

As long as I'm paying nothing for the service, I appreciate whatever the folks at Google do to provide me with this FREE service and I don't complain about the glitches.

I wonder why righties always want to look a gift horse in the mouth?

Molly Ivins leaves us with a last word:

Molly Ivins died yesterday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was sixty two.

I thought about a lot of things I could say about her. Her insightful columns were all at the same time funny, authoritative, thought-inspiring, fun to read and enjoyable. Certainly we on the left have lost a very articulate voice.

She has been very outspoken about a number of topics during the past few years, especially the Patriot Act. She has wondered openly why we are so afraid that we are willing to sacrifice basic freedoms for the perception of increased security. So I could have done something on that.

But instead I will post Ivins' last column, against the troop surge. In many ways it is classic Molly Ivins, but it also seems more humorless and direct than some of her ealier columns (of course it hard to make light of the horrible situation we now find ourselves in in Iraq, so she can be excused for not being more humorous here). She clearly died much before it was time. She says much in here that I agree with, and she as usual calls it like she sees it:

The purpose of this old-fashioned newspaper crusade to stop the war is not to make George W. Bush look like the dumbest president ever. People have done dumber things. What were they thinking when they bought into the Bay of Pigs fiasco? How dumb was the Egypt-Suez war? How massively stupid was the entire war in Vietnam? Even at that, the challenge with this misbegotten adventure is that WE simply cannot let it continue.

It is not a matter of whether we will lose or we are losing. We have lost. Gen. John P. Abizaid, until recently the senior commander in the Middle East, insists that the answer to our problems there is not military. "You have to internationalize the problem. You have to attack it diplomatically, geo-strategically," he said.

His assessment is supported by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the senior American commander in Iraq, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who only recommend releasing forces with a clear definition of the goals for the additional troops.

Bush's call for a "surge" or "escalation" also goes against the Iraq Study Group. Talk is that the White House has planned to do anything but what the group suggested after months of investigation and proposals based on much broader strategic implications.

About the only politician out there besides Bush actively calling for a surge is Sen. John McCain. In a recent opinion piece, he wrote: "The presence of additional coalition forces would allow the Iraqi government to do what it cannot accomplish today on its own — impose its rule throughout the country. ... By surging troops and bringing security to Baghdad and other areas, we will give the Iraqis the best possible chance to succeed." But with all due respect to the senator from Arizona, that ship has long since sailed.

A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country — we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls (about 80 percent of the public is against escalation, and a recent Military Times poll shows only 38 percent of active military want more troops sent) and at the polls.
We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented.

Congress must work for the people in the resolution of this fiasco. Ted Kennedy's proposal to control the money and tighten oversight is a welcome first step. And if Republicans want to continue to rubber-stamp this administration's idiotic "plans" and go against the will of the people, they should be thrown out as soon as possible, to join their recent colleagues.

Anyone who wants to talk knowledgably about our Iraq misadventure should pick up Rajiv Chandrasekaran's "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone." It's like reading a horror novel. You just want to put your face down and moan: How could we have let this happen? How could we have been so stupid?

As The Washington Post's review notes, Chandrasekaran's book "methodically documents the baffling ineptitude that dominated U.S. attempts to influence Iraq's fiendish politics, rebuild the electrical grid, privatize the economy, run the oil industry, recruit expert staff or instill a modicum of normalcy to the lives of Iraqis."

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we're for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush's proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on Jan. 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, "Stop it, now!"
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