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The LiberalOasis Blog
December 10, 2004 PERMALINK
Q: ...the new...humvees they're bringing over...those doors are not as good as the ones on the up-armored humvees...
...we lost some soldiers due to them...
...The question is, are we going to get more up-armored humvees?...
GEN. RICHARD MYERS: ...You do not have all the up-armored humvees you need...
...Production is ramping up this month...We're trying to get them to you as fast as we can...
...It's not a matter of resources, it's a matter of how fast can we build these things and get them over here.
And I review that probably daily, the status of those machines and that equipment that can help...
...So we're trying. We're trying hard...I understand exactly everything you said, and we'll do our best.
And that's our responsibility.
That is not from Don Rumsfeld's town hall meeting with troops in Kuwait this past Wednesday.
It's from a Don Rumsfeld town hall meeting with troops in Baghdad this past May.
(It so happened that the Chair of the Joint Chiefs fielded the armored humvee question, but Rumsfeld was by his side.)
LiberalOasis resurrects this for a few reasons.
1) This was not the first town hall where Rummy received pointed questions from soldiers.
There were several pointed questions at the May town hall, all of which LiberalOasis posted at the time.
(The New Republic's Spencer Ackerman had noted this as well.)
But this was during the swirl of scandal at Abu Ghraib, when people were speculating about a Rummy resignation.
So Rummy sought to generate some favorable press by orchestrating a "surprise" visit to Baghdad to meet the troops.
And at that town hall he said, apropos of nothing, "It's a fact. I'm a survivor."
The media ate up the sound bite and ignored the rest of the town hall.
Now, they are treating this week's town hall like it's a new development for troops to express their plight in front of Rummy.
But the disgruntlement about Rummy's poor treatment of the troops has been above the surface for some time.
2) Wednesday's question was no plant.
The Right is in a tizzy because a reporter worked with the soldier ahead of time on the question.
Drudge falsely called it a plant, and the right-wing talk show hosts and mainstream media followed suit.
Why is it relevant to the Right how the question came about? (Besides the fact that it serves as a distraction to the story at hand.)
Here's Rush Limbaugh:
...what bugged me about this [is] this just doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen.
You just don't see that kind of near insubordination among rank and file military to the secretary of defense.
Oh, no? Well then explain why it happened in May also.
The fact is, these questions are not new. They were not manufactured by the reporter.
The questioning soldier sincerely spoke from personal experience, and his experience clearly resonated with the audience.
Furthermore, there is nothing insubordinate about communicating what is happening on the ground to your superiors.
There is something immoral about superiors not listening.
3) They lied in May.
Myers answer in May was far more politic and far less insulting than Rummy's on Wednesday.
Myers made it clear he understood the problem, sympathized with the soldiers and ensured them the Pentagon was doing all it could.
But the Pentagon hasn't done all it could.
Armor Holdings Inc., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee military vehicles used in Iraq, said it could increase output by as much as 22 percent per month with no investment and is awaiting an order from the Army.
To sum up:
-- Rumsfeld and Myers were told of this problem in May.
-- They said they would do something about it.
-- They didn't.
-- When reminded of the problem again, instead of taking any responsibility, they in effect told the soldiers to suck it up.
December 9, 2004 PERMALINK
One of the downsides of packing your Cabinet with hacks, is that people of stature tend not to want to be hacks.
As the W. Post reported last month:
Officials familiar with the search process said that...the White House has found it harder to attract a top-flight [economic] team because some candidates are unwilling to give up lucrative posts to come to Washington to be White House cheerleaders.
So when the Bushies casted about for an all-star to take over the Treasury Dept., realizing they could use some heft to sell their Social Security and tax plans, they got no bites.
And despite having gratuitously dumped all over the current Treasury Sec. John Snow via blind quotes in the media, they were forced to keep him around, and try to pretend that's what Bush wanted all along.
The massive disconnect between the past leaks and the current spin led to some very strange reporting.
The NY Times took note that Administration officials were giving out conflicting info.
Yet it inexplicably deferred to the White House in its final analysis: "The White House apparently did not warm to the alternatives [to Snow.]"
Whereas the W. Post reported, by talking to people outside the White House, that at least one person directly rejected an offer:
Snow was kept on only after the White House considered a variety of possible replacements and sounded out at least one top official on Wall Street.
That executive turned the White House down, according to financial executives.
But that makes it sound like only one guy was seriously considered enough to be "sounded out" (read: offered the job).
While the NYT reported that the search process went all the way up to the top, "officials said Vice President Dick Cheney had felt out or interviewed potential candidates for the job."
In reality, candidates can communicate a lack of interest to the White House through less formal channels, so Bush can avoid the embarrassment of being directly rejected.
And his minions can spin that people were merely "felt out".
The W. Post's earlier reporting of the White House's general difficulty in attracting talent supports that scenario.
December 8, 2004 PERMALINK
What did you do in the terror war, daddy? I fear my own answer...
On December 2, 2004, The New Republic's Peter Beinart, a fringe figure in the political world, embarked on a bizarre and lonely quixotic crusade to destroy modern liberalism.
Beinart strangely argued that one of the largest (if not the largest) liberal grassroots organizations, and the most commercially successful liberal, must be blacklisted by other liberals like Communists once were, back in the day.
And that this should be organized, like it was in the 1940s, at Washington's five-star Willard Hotel.
It is this kind of embarrassing stance that obscures some of the magazine's better work and has led to The New Republic's falling circulation and fading influence.
In the Dubya Era, The New Republic's first major embarrassment was the attempt to make a liberal argument for the Iraq war.
The second was its endorsement of Joe Lieberman's already embarrassing presidential candidacy.
And the third is surely Beinart's hysterical call for a kind of COINTELPRO destabilization of liberal organizations.
Beinart labels his mostly nonexistent strain of warmongering liberals as "hards" and all other liberals as "softs" (when he isn't calling them "indecent").
He goes on to say:
For [hard] liberals to make such arguments effectively, they must first take back their movement from the softs.
We will know such an effort has begun when dissension breaks out within America's key liberal institutions.
Beinart, a tweedy Rhodes Scholar, has a perverse glorification of intra-party infighting.
Last month, he lamented that there wasn't enough post-election bloodletting among Dems.
And back in 2002, Beinart pined for a Gore v. Lieberman primary, so it would be as knock-down drag-out as possible:
...what the party desperately needs in the 2004 primaries is a credible, unapologetic hawk willing to challenge [Al Gore and] the party's drift toward Pelosi-ism.
And, right now, Joe Lieberman is the only person auditioning for the job...
...Lieberman will probably lose that debate and the nomination. But he will lay the foundation for a hawkish insurgency within the Democratic Party.
Beinart sort of got his wish, except that it was between Dean and Lieberman.
While both lost the nomination, it was Dean's candidacy that advanced the revitalization and modernization of liberalism with a newly energized grassroots network.
Whereas Lieberman's candidacy gave us "Joementum" jokes.
What Dean understood, and Bienart does not, is that liberals are already quite committed to defeating terrorism.
The primary motivation for liberals in dislodging Bush was the belief that Bush's mishandling of terrorism would dramatically worsen the problem.
And that's why liberals were, and are, constantly calling for a far greater focus on Al Qaeda.
That means an honest assessment of what the terror threat is, which will help us design a comprehensive strategy to win support among Arabs and Muslims and deny Al Qaeda the ability to recruit and expand, so it will wither and die.
It does not mean more hawkish posturing.
Having said that, perhaps one of the lessons many liberals have learned is to be a little more flexible about whom we let speak in our name, because we realized that being too exclusionary limits the spread of our ideas.
Dean, for example, wasn't a doctrinaire liberal (if there even is such a thing).
But he embraced core liberal principles, and showed a strong interest in championing them to the broader electorate.
That was more than good enough for many liberals.
While Beinart's Ivy-tinged rants can be thoughtful at times, they convey a basic hostility to the vast majority of liberals.
And, more importantly, a basic hostility to liberal foreign policy principles:
That reckless, excessive violence is morally wrong (as it kills innocents) and impractical (as it gives our enemies crucial propaganda victories).
That's why Beinart can never expect that liberals will ever allow him to speak in our name.
Beinart's desperate, flailing arguments are another signal of decline of the accommodationist wing of the Democratic party.
The symbol of that wing, the Democratic Leadership Council, this week tried to align itself with GOP Sen. Norm Coleman's call for Kofi Annan's resignation.
But soon after, clearly after receiving much negative feedback, the DLC backed down, exposing its weakness.
It issued a correction saying it's call for Annan to "step aside" was intended to pertain to the oil-for-food investigation, not the UN itself.
(Which makes no sense, because Annan has no role in the independent investigation.)
More importantly, incoming Sen. Minority Leader Harry's Reid Sunday performance, was a strong indicator that he, and other Senators, are realizing it is the liberal grassroots that are providing the necessary strategic vision for the party.
Not the accommodationists.
The only thing that crowd has going for them is a handful of weak-kneed, myopic Dem Senators who could side with the GOP, prevent their own party from filibustering, and muddy the Dem message.
But it is liberals that continue to have energy and ideas, along with a growing infrastructure to effectively channel it.
There is some solace for Beinart.
When he heads up to the Willard Hotel, he won't find any liberal allies to play with, but he can drown his despair in a fine martini at the hotel bar.
December 7, 2004 PERMALINK
From CNN's Ed Henry, at about noon today:
Republican Susan Collins...called this [intel reform deal] a big victory for the President...
...But that victory is coming with a bit of a cost.
For the last couple of hours, House Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors [and] it got pretty tough...
...lawmakers [have been] coming out [and] telling us that there is deep division over the fact that James Sensenbrenner's immigration provisions were taken out...
...we're told that when Mr. Sensenbrenner got up to speak, there was sustained applause for him.
Democrats should not let Republicans like Collins get away with spinning this as a victory for Bush without challenge.
That fact is that Bush did this under pressure, including pressure from Sen. Harry Reid, who demanded on Sunday that Bush spend his relentlessly hyped political capital on this: "Let him pull a few bucks out of that pocket of mandate".
As LiberalOasis noted last week, Bush's earlier actions were a clear sign that he didn't believe the 9/11 bill deserved his political capital.
He wanted to save that for tough stuff like social security privatization and tax reform.
And he knew that to spend political capital here would not result in earning more, because it would alienate narrow-minded conservatives who want to scapegoat immigrants.
A key constituency in the party now feels that Bush owes them.
That makes it harder for Bush to do what he wants. That's a loss in political capital.
Bush did not lead. He followed the calls of Democrats and 9/11 families, and he bruised his party in the process.
Reforming our intelligence system is a victory for the country, but it is no personal victory for George Bush.
A Reminder: Report Frist
Don't forget to report Sen. Bill Frist for violating the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics by spreading grossly misleading public health info.
He should be reported to the president of the Nashville Academy of Medicine, Dr. Kenneth Lloyd. NAM's main contact info is:
Salon.com's War Room has more on Frist.
Also, LiberalOasis is selling "I Took An Abstinence Ed Class And All I Got Was This Lousy STD" shirts, available here at Zazzle.com. You will first need to register for free with Zazzle, and set your account to view "PG-13" products.
December 6, 2004 PERMALINK
LiberalOasis can't decide what should lead today's Breakdown.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's egregious violation of medical ethics while on ABC's This Week, which should result in the loss of his medical license (and what you can do to make that happen).
Or incoming Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's feisty debut performance on NBC's Meet The Press.
Frist's Ethical Violation
Two of the nine principles that make up the foundation of the Code are:
2. A physician shall uphold the standards of professionalism, be honest in all professional interactions, and strive to report physicians deficient in character or competence, or engaging in fraud or deception, to appropriate entities.
5. A physician shall continue to study, apply, and advance scientific knowledge, maintain a commitment to medical education, make relevant information available to patients, colleagues, and the public, obtain consultation, and use the talents of other health professionals when indicated.
On This Week, George Stephanopoulos pressed Frist about the Henry Waxman report on federally-funded abstinence-only programs.
(Crooks And Liars has a video clip of the interview.)
Stephanopoulos set up the segment by noting that the report found "11 of 13 of these programs are giving out false information."
Here's a (long) transcript of what followed:
STEPHANOPOULOS: One of programs [said] "the actual ability of condoms to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS, even if the product is intact, is not definitively known."
Another: "The popular claim that condoms help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is not supported by the data."
A third...suggested that tears and sweat could transmit HIV and AIDS.
Now you're a doctor. Do you believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV?
FRIST: I don't know. I can tell you --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You donít know?
FRIST: I can tell you things like, like --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Wait. Let me stop you there. You don't know that, you believe that tears and sweat might be able to transmit AIDS?
FRIST: Yeah, no, I can tell you that HIV is not very transmissible as an element, like compared to smallpox, compared to the flu, it's not.
But, the first line -- because I think it's dangerous to show that, and then sort of walk away...
...About condoms for example, we know there's about a 15 percent failure rate.
You know, this is a deadly virus. And you know it is directly transmissible, with a relatively high degree of infectivity by sexual relations.
If there's a 15 percent failure rate in condoms, itself --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But this is suggesting that they don't work even if the condom is intact.
FRIST: No, no. But let me just say, because the whole success, if you look in Africa today, where as you know, 28 million people are infected today, is on this A - B - C:
"Abstinence," which is sort of the initial thrust itself, which is the only way to prevent, only way to prevent --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only sure-fire way.
FRIST: That's right. Only sure-fire. Very hard culturally, and [there are] lots of approaches.
"Being Faithful." Again, one partner, and in certain cultures, that's very hard.
And then third, "Condoms."
If you take out, just condoms, and say that is the answer, with a 15 percent failure rate, with a highly infective virus through sexual relations --
STEPHANOPOULOS: But not "that's the answer," these [programs] are suggesting that they're really "never the answer."
FRIST: No, well that's, clearly -- I'm telling you that the program that the federal government supports, is officially, this A - B - C approach.
We put $15 billion into this, what I would regard as one the great moral and public health tragedies of the last 100 years, fighting HIV/AIDS.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you think these abstinence programs should be reviewed, and that they should be required to be give out scientifically accurate information.
FRIST: Oh, I think of course they should be reviewed...
[But they can be scientifically inaccurate? --ed.]
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...Let me just clear this up though, do you or do you not believe that tears and sweat can transmit HIV?
FRIST: It would be very hard...for tears and sweat to -- I mean, you can get virus in tears and sweat.
But in terms of the degree of infecting somebody, it would be very hard.
So, what's wrong with this picture?
Some things are garden-variety political disingenuousness.
Like that Frist kept talking about abstinence programs in Africa, in order to dodge the questions Stephanopoulos was asking about programs in the US.
And like that we haven't exactly "put $15 billion" into fighting AIDS in Africa.
Bush proposed that much over a five-year period (only $10B of it actually being new money).
Yet, as the Denver Post noted on World AIDS Day, Bush has allowed Congress to skimp on the proposal each year, and what has been spent has been spent very inefficiently.
However, as you probably noticed, Frist said some other extremely misleading things that aren't just political in nature, but involve public health.
First, on the "tears and sweat" question.
Here's what the Centers for Disease Control said about it:
HIV has been found in saliva and tears in very low quantities from some AIDS patients.
It is important to understand that finding a small amount of HIV in a body fluid does not necessarily mean that HIV can be transmitted by that body fluid.
HIV has not been recovered from the sweat of HIV-infected persons.
Contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV.
For a doctor to say he doesn't know if tears and sweat can transmit HIV clearly perpetuates ignorance about the disease, and does not "advance scientific knowledge".
Saying that the virus can be found in sweat, when there has never been a reported case of it, does not provide "relevant" info to the public.
And it should not be a saving grace for him to say (after repeated grilling) that transmission would be "very hard," because it still leaves the impression that it has happened, when it never has.
His second ethical violation was his repeated assertion that condoms have a "15 percent failure rate".
Where he's getting that stat from isn't entirely clear.
The discussion was about STD transmission, not pregnancy.
Though it is standard for the anti-contraception crowd to say condoms have a 15% failure rate when it comes to pregnancy.
That makes it sound like the condoms themselves are defective 15% of the time.
But that is the approximate rate of failure when human error is taken into account.
Of course, that's why we have sex ed.
So people will know 1) how to use condoms properly, and 2) that you need to use two forms of birth control to best prevent unwanted pregnancies.
If Frist wanted to more specifically mislead about failure rates for STD or HIV transmission, he could have cited a recent UN AIDS report estimating a 10% failure rate.
But again, the failures were largely attributed to human error, not defective condoms. And again, that can be remedied with good sex ed.
(Waxman's report goes into much detail about failure rates.)
It should also be noted that what "failure rate" actually means is not as literal as it sounds.
Just like you don't get pregnant every single time you have unprotected sex, you don't contract HIV every time you unsafe sex with an infected partner.
(One study pegged a wide range of .01% and 30% infectivity for homosexual anal sex, depending on the stage of infection).
So if a condom is, say 95% effective at preventing HIV transmission, it doesn't mean you'll contract the virus 5% of the time, because most of the times the condom is ineffective, the virus doesnít transmit anyway.
This rigorous scientific study of studies, which estimated between 90 to 95% effectiveness, makes this same point using more mathematical jargon, concluding that:
...though imperfect, even 90 to 95% effective condoms provide substantial individual protection against HIV transmission.
So for Frist to crudely and repeatedly say on national TV that condoms have a "15 percent failure rate" without properly explaining what that stat really refers to, and what the full truth really is, amounts to nothing less than professional dishonesty.
And as all that is a violation of the AMA's Code of Medical Ethics, Frist should be reported.
The AMA says ethical violations should be reported to the state medical society.
And the Tennessee Medical Association says complaints should be directed to the president of the doctor's local medical society.
Frist's TMA records show his local society is the Nashville Academy of Medicine.
The president of NAM is Dr. Kenneth Lloyd. NAM's main contact info is:
Reid Gets Fiesty
(Crooks and Liars has a video clip of the interview.)
If you were watching Meet The Press, after the first question, you might have been very worried that Sen. Harry Reid was going to be a mushy milquetoast DLC sellout:
TIM RUSSERT: In 1994, when the Republicans seized control of both houses of Congress, this is what Senator Harry Reid said.
"We all have to swallow a little bit of our pride and go toward the middle."
Is that still your advice to the Democrats?
REID: I think there's no question about it.
But Reid did not let that first "gotcha" question set the tone for the whole interview.
In fact, he did a number of things suggested by this humble website.
Last Tuesday, LO said Dems to hit Bush on his so-called political capital, to ensure he either spends some of it now on intelligence reform, or exposes that he doesn't have that much to begin with.
And Reid jacked up the pressure yesterday:
The president, who controls both houses of Congress, should use his power.
And he has said that he has power, he has a mandate.
Let him pull a few bucks out of that pocket of mandate and give it to the House and Senate and say, "Here's part of my mandate. I want this legislation to pass."
Reid was also on fire when talking about Social Security, properly laying down the principles Dems will fight for:
RUSSERT: Will you work with [Bush] in privatizing part of Social Security?
REID: Tim, I can remember as a little boy my widowed grandmother with eight children.
She lived alone, but she felt independent because she got every month her old age pension check.
That's what this is all about.
The most successful social program in the history of the world is being hijacked by Wall Street.
Yes, Social Security is a good program. And if the president has some ideas about trying to improve it, I'll talk to him, and we as Democrats will.
But we are not going to let Wall Street hijack Social Security.
It won't happen. They are trying to destroy Social Security.
RUSSERT: No private accounts?
REID: They are trying to destroy Social Security by giving this money to the fat cats on Wall Street, and I think it's wrong.
RUSSERT: Would you look at increasing or raising the age of eligibility? Would you look at means testing? Would you look at any reform?
REID: Of course. There are reforms that probably can happen in Social Security, and we're not, you know, saying don't even touch it.
Let's take a look at it...but don't give the ball to Wall Street.
RUSSERT: No private accounts of any kind?
REID: Not as far as I'm concerned.
And Reid also took an aggressive posture on the upcoming judicial battles.
Finally, he ended on a strong note.
When asked how Dems would fare with just 45 Senate seats, Reid did not act like Dems were a minority party:
I think we have a pretty strong group of people, and we're going to do what we're entitled to do under the Constitution because we represent the American people.
This is not to say that every answer of Reid's was perfect, but his overall tone and strategy was pretty damn good.
It just may be that this party has not yet begun to fight.
The Blog Wire
The Head Heeb sizes up the field for the Palestinian prez election
Abu Aardvark: "al Jazeera really does make the best enemies. When you're pissing off not only the Americans, not only the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Iraqi interim government, but also Iran... you must be doing something right"
Just World News blogs from Iran: "we spent nearly four hours at a conference in the Education Ministry where cutting-edge thinkers from today's Iran ... grappled with fundamental issues in the relationship between religion and democracy"
Bradford Plumer: A Liberal Foreign Policy... Roughly
The Free Speech Zone: Things just got very interesting in Ohio
The American Street has an "exclusive" look at Time's Person of the Year (not work safe)
Washington Monthly: How Bob Novak created his own ethics-free zone
Back To Iraq 3.0 is back in Iraq
The Village Gate: "Things are looking better for secular-religious Left unity compared to earlier this year"
Feministing on Rep. Henry Waxman's report dissecting abstinence-only programs
The Nation's Daily Outrage: "Under pressure from the Bush Administration, House Republicans celebrated World AIDS Day a week early. How? By cutting funding for the internationally-supported Global Fund to Fight AIDS by $200 million"
War and Piece has the link roundup on the FBI raid of AIPAC in the Larry Franklin case
Xoverboard: All right-wing pundits who berate out-of-touch liberals for not shopping at Wal-Mart should submit their Wal-Mart receipts for verification
Salon.com's War Room: No more embeddeds on the front lines
The Stakeholder: More DeLay funny business
The Hill: "incoming Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is consolidating staff operations under his control while establishing a press operation that is planning more aggressive attacks on Republicans"
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"It's like a freakin' candy store!"
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July 26, 2002
"The parallel dimension in which supporters of Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein and various and sundry other shitheels live."
July 29, 2002
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