“Have You No Shame, Sir?”

A long time ago, I harshed soon-to-be-former Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA). The post was titled “Why My Ostensible Party, The Democrats, Will Not Be Able To Use Bush’s Corporate History Against Him,” and the story was a simple one, from the New York Times:

Among the biggest beneficiaries [of the proposed bankruptcy bill] would be the MBNA Corporation of Delaware, which describes itself as the world’s biggest independent credit card company. Ranked by employee donations, MBNA was the largest corporate contributor to President Bush’s 2000 campaign.

The company has also recently acknowledged that it gave a $447,000 debt-consolidation loan on what critics viewed as highly favorable terms to a crucial House supporter of the bill only four days before he signed on as a lead sponsor of the legislation in 1998. Both MBNA and the lawmaker, Representative James P. Moran Jr., Democrat of Virginia, have denied that there was anything improper about the loan.

I was appalled.

Clearly, I had my appall-o-meter set too low. Because this week, Billy Tauzin (R-LA) announced that he will resign before the expiration of his term, to take a new job – at well over the $1 million/year he’d been offered to head the MPAA. The job is working for Big Pharma at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the trade group that represents drug giants such as Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co.

The Post notes today that:

Tauzin was one of the principal authors of the Medicare prescription drug bill, which included several provisions expected to vastly expand the market for prescription drugs among the elderly. In addition to adding hundreds of billions of dollars for drug benefits, the law bars the federal government from directly bargaining down the price of drugs, a provision PhRMA pressed for.

Moran was obviously a piker. Why settle for a piddly $400K loan – on favorable terms – when you can shepherd a bill through, resign your seat, and get a couple of million a year.

I can’t decide if they think we’re stupid or just inattentive. Or if it’s just that they don’t give a damn and don’t need to. Now I think that approbation is well and good, but when I read about things like this, I begin to wonder why it is that tar and feathers went out of fashion just a little too soon.

Someone once said on the Senate floor: “Have you no shame?”

Obviously not.

Update: Did this without looking around the blogs, and went to Kaus and Simon and Instapundit to see if they’d covered it before I emailed them to rattle their cages, and discovered as usual that I’m behind the news curve and they all have. I’m emailing all the conservative bloggers I know, because if this is the kind of kleptocracy – and there’s really no other word for it – that the GOP stands for, GWB deserves to get skinned in November. I’m going to make this guy my hobby, and see if some of the bigger bloggers and eventually the press get on board. J’accuse!

Iraq’d

Lots of folks are pointing to the new TNR blog, Iraq’d. I’m of two minds on it (as I am on many things), so let me hit the three points that define the gap.

The blog opens with a strong statement:

If you’re a pro-war liberal, chances are you’re probably feeling burned right now. The case for the Iraq war rested on three pillars: The danger of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, with the clock ticking on a nuclear capability; the danger of Saddam Hussein’s connections to Al Qaeda; and the human rights imperative of deposing one of the world’s most despicable regimes and assisting newly-freed Iraqis in building a democracy. Well, it turns out that Saddam didn’t have much in the way of WMD, or even ongoing WMD programs. And it also appears that his ties to Al Qaeda were tenuous at best. So all that’s left for the war rationale is the human-rights-and-democracy argument, which for liberals is intuitively appealing (or should be).

Uh, no. In fact, hell no.

The case for the war in Iraq was made on September 11, 2001, in New York City. Earlier, less powerful arguments had been made in Beirut, the Red Sea, Dhahran, and again in New York City. The notion that each of the increasing in scope acts of terrorism against Americans and American interests was an independent act is a charming conceit, much like that which suggests that the rash of murders that periodically break out in disputed gang territories are individual acts of passion.

We are confronted with a multinational terrorist enterprise that has declared war on us. Much as I might ignore a twelve-year old who announces his intention to rob me, and even treat his efforts to attack with amusement when they are limited to taking swings at me as I hold him away by his forehead, I am likely to feel and act differently when he shows up with a loaded shotgun.

We have to dismantle this terrorist enterprise, and to do so will take a long time, a lot of money, and not a few lives. Some of them will be American, although I wish it were not the case.

I believe that we will not win until we manage to dismantle the philosophical outlook and social conditions that have bred it, but that while we figure out how to do that we also need to keep the bad guys away from our homes.

I believe that the Clinton Administration – who I disliked because I felt they had sold out to corporate interests and were not populist or liberal enough to suit my politics – did a pretty good job of mobilizing international sentiment and working the international system. The FBI, for all its failings, worked damn hard to bring the terrorists they could find to justice, and met with not a little success.

But it didn’t stop 9/11. And little that they proposed or could have done would have, because 9/11 was a doctrinal failure. It was a doctrinal failure at a tactical level on three of the four planes, where the passengers did what they were supposed to do and sat and waited for the grownups to take care of things. And it was a doctrinal failure at a national security policy level as well, because the international efforts and criminal prosecutions hadn’t blocked the growth of the movement.

The national security doctrine failed because as long as the terrorists had the tacit support of state actors, our criminal justice system and the international criminal justice system were essentially helpless.

So we had to remove that support.

On March 16, I wrote:

…I believe the answer is to end the state support of terrorism and the state campaigns of hatred aimed at the U.S. I think that Iraq simply has drawn the lucky straw. They are weak, not liked, bluntly in violation of international law, and as our friends the French say, about to get hung pour l’ecourager les autres…to encourage the others.

Now this may seem like a week reed on which to base a war.

But it is stronger than it appears.

First, there is a legitimate case for regime change in Iraq, regardless. I’ll refer the reader back to Salon in 1998

And nothing since then has come close to changing my mind.

The war was briefer and less bloody than I anticipated, a testimony to the effectiveness of our men and women in the military (soon to be joined by my son).

The aftermath, while chaotic, and less simple than some may have wished, is moving slowly in the right direction. I certainly held no illusions that Tikrit would, a week after we invaded, suddenly become Anaheim. This is going to be a long, slow, painful, and messy process. And what we need more than anything is an ‘iron butt’ – the clear willingness to simply sit it out and win.

And here, the Iraq’d blog has a point to make.

But then along comes the Bush administration’s November 15 Agreement to relinquish sovereignty by June 30, which tells the Iraqis that, owing to election-year considerations, the United States can’t be bothered right now to midwife a democracy. You might say you’ve been Iraq’d.

One of the premises of Iraq’d is that the U.S. decision to cease nation-building jeopardizes our own national security as well as Iraq’s. After all, if we believe that Iraqi democracy would be a model for the region, then the converse is also true: If we leave behind a failing state in Iraq, then we provide Middle Eastern autocrats with a pretext for cracking down on the reformers and liberals in their midst, since they can point to the chaos in Baghdad as the likely fruit of democracy. And since Islamist terrorism feeds in part on Middle Eastern tyranny, then we’re in a lot of trouble.

Yes. In fact, hell yes.

I also wrote:

Look, for me it’s simple. I’m willing to overlook a lot of what I don’t like about the Bush Administration because I believe that he’s the only candidate whom I believe (today) is resolute about this whole war thing.

The second it looks like he’s planning to ‘declare victory and leave,’ I can promise you that Atrios will look like Karl Rove in comparison to me.

That’s because I’m convinced that decision leads almost certainly to nukes in the U.S. and then the real possibility of a genocidal war abroad.

Now on one hand, I tend to have a high tolerance for ‘fluff’ or spin; it’s the language of modern politics. And it’s certainly possible to make pronouncements about how things are to be turned over o the Iraqis by a deadline of X, and mean it in the narrowest legalistic sense, as a sop to both the Iraqis and to the opponents of the war here in the US.

But I’m damn concerned that that’s not what’s going on, and there I’m happy to see Iraq’d holding the Administrations collective feet to the fire.

On the third hand…

There’s something disingenuous about the antiwar left that, on one hand, howls at the human and financial cost of the war and occupation, and with the next breath, busts Bush for cutting and running.

I don’t know this blogger, and don’t know his or the magazine’s history on the war. But when the anti-war, anti-Bush side (and note that I haven’t begun to get my head around this election yet) plays this game, it’s somewhere between annoying and infuriating to me. It’s dishonest at best, and if that’s in fact what’s going on I mean to call people on it.

Lessons From The Dean Bubble

Lots of people are talking about the collapse of the Dean campaign – and a collapse it certainly has been. While the race to the nomination isn’t nearly done, there’s no other word for what happened to him. I wanted to toss in my $0.02 by suggesting a few things to consider.

First, people have talked about the ‘echo chamber’ effect of the online tools the campaign used; I think it’s not so much the fault of the tools as a misinterpretation of reality on the part of those who used them.

Here’s the model:If there is 1.5% of the market that’s predisposed to buy what I’m selling, and I have good tools to get to that 1.5% – because they already read the media that I advertise in, or already use the tools that I intend to reach them through – I can go from 0 – 1.25% of the market pretty damn fast. The mistake, of course, is in assuming that I can continue that trend in any kind of a linear fashion.

The busted dot-coms typically made the same mistake; they went from 0 – 10,000 customers in six months, so obviously in 36 months, they’d have 60,000 – or even more as they built momentum! Not quite so obvious. I call that ‘the miracle of compound interest. If I model the future and assume a growth rate of W%/year on a base of X, relative to a growth in costs of Y% on a base of Z, well it’s pretty clear that I ought to be ordering my G-IV in about 2009.

Dean got a huge lift because he tied into an existing base of people who share certain political and social characteristics, and could build his support in that group amazingly fast using new peer-to-peer techniques enabled by web technology.

He stalled because he assumed he could keep doing the same thing in a linear fashion, and mentally ‘bought the G-IV’. In fact, once he fully mobilized that base, he did a piss-poor job of leveraging them into other ‘layers’ of the polity. My example of his shout-out to his San Francisco cadres in his speech after the New Hampshire primary is an example of speaking into the core of the existing support, not thinking about how to widen it.

First, you need to understand that in my view the model for the voting public isn’t a uniform mass, or a granular one, but a layered one. There are geographically dispersed communities of interest, taste, and belief. West Los Angeles has more in common with the West Side of Manhattan than it does with Inglewood or even Culver City. When I travelled last week, I talked to Jeff Jarvis in Manhattan, and met with Rob Lyman in Charlottesville and Scott Talkington in Arlington VA. The four of us have a lot in common; we read the same media, are interested in the same issues, and in essence, form a part of a geographically dispersed (actually, a spatially dispersed, since it’s possible to talk about nonspatial geographies) community.

Had he used the volunteer energy and cash he raised to thoughtfully pick another lateral slice through the voter community and gone after it – using web tools, but with a strategy carefully calibrated to go past his ‘Deaniacs’, he’d have been able to add another layer, and still been in the race.

It’s obvious that the race is still fluid, and that Kerry has some huge vulnerabilities. Dean may mount a comeback. But he won’t do it if he keeps doing what he’s been doing to date.

Our Culture Of Personal Responsibility

From CNN:

BUTLER, Pennsylvania (AP) — A judge ordered a woman to carry a photo of the man she killed in a head-on collision, and the man’s parents complied by sending a picture of him in his casket. Now, her lawyer is crying foul and the family is refusing to provide another picture.

Prosecutors said Jennifer Langston was drunk and talking on a cell phone in June 2002 when she crossed the center line and hit a pickup truck carrying teacher Glenn Clark and his pregnant wife, Annette. He died, his wife remains in a coma and their son, born by Caesarean section five months after the crash, is being raised by relatives.

Besides vehicular homicide, Langston pleaded guilty in September to reckless endangerment and reckless driving. A judge sentenced her to 30 days in jail, plus house arrest and probation, and ordered her to carry a picture of Clark for five years.

She got 30 whole days in jail?? But wait, there’s more…

Clark’s parents gave court officials a photo of their son in his coffin.

At a hearing Wednesday, Langston’s attorney, Michael Sherman, said the “spirit of the agreement” was that the photo be of Clark when he was alive.

“It was very unreasonable and cruel that she was given that picture,” Sherman said.

He must mean something different by ‘cruel’ than I usually do.

Great News, And Help The Canadians Invade!!

As some of you know and others may have discerned, TG has consented to marry me in March.

I’m obviously happy as can be, and as soon the psych evaluation her friends have demanded is done (really guys, she’s not crazy for marrying me…), we’ll be buried in wedding plans. We’re doing a couple of truly cool things I can’t disclose in order not to blow the pseud, but I can tell you that I’m truly looking forward to the party.

Since I started blogging here, I’ve spent a lot of time emailing and talking to Joe, but I have never met him. Yet.

I’m hoping he can be here for the event.

Sadly, times being what they are, the trip isn’t in Joe’s budget, and so I’m asking you – our readers – to hit his PayPal button below in order to bring him here to L.A. for the Wedding. Once we reach our goal and raise the required funds, we’ll turn it off.






Shifting Sands, Indeed

I was listening to the radio as I drove from DC down to Charlottesville (where I am right now, having enjoyed a great evening with former blogger and frequent commenter Rob Lyman who is another in the string of smart fascinating people I’ve met through blogging), and Scott Ritter was on, pointing out that of all the analysts, his take on Iraqi WMD was the closest to what we’ve found.

He gets some points for that, in my view.

But…He was asked what the accusation that he’d been “bought by the Iraqis” was based on, and he explained that it was baseless, because an Iraqi-American had used his own money to finance Ritter’s $400,000 documentary “On Shifting Sands”. I remember wondering as I drove “Hmmm. Wonder where the Iraqi guy got his money.”

Today I got my answer.

ABC news published a list of the people who got money from Saddam’s Bribes for Oil program, and among them…

“Shakir Alkhalaji: 10.5 million barrels of oil, sold at below-market prices”

. That would be the same guy who financed Ritter’s movie.

So now I’m left with a second question; how did the budget for the film break out? What did Ritter get as a producer’s fee?

And, if he was bought and paid for, even indirectly, how does that effect my views on what he said?

This Is Smart?

I’m sitting here in my hotel in Charlottesville watching Bill Maher’s new show, and I’m kind of stunned. As I keep mentioning, we don’t have TV in the house, and so this is all new to me.

Reading about the show, the common theme that I saw was that Maher’s wit and intelligence would bring back a certain kind of intelligent discussion abut politics.

The only intelligent discussion I saw was from actor Sean Astin – the guy from the LotR series. WTH??

Maher is the guy (and you all probably know this better than I did) who stepped in it when he said on his old show that Atta and the other 9/11 attackers were “brave” in the form of their attacks, while Clinton had been less so for just lobbing over some cruise missiles.

The show tonight has comedian Larry Miller – an old friend of Maher’s, a young woman (who never got a name label) who is a Republican strategist, and actor Astin.

The crowd – or the laugh track – cheers and laughs loudly at whatever Maher says – while groaning whenever one of the panelists disagrees with him.

Maher has some mildly witty comments on Administration foibles, attacks the Iraq invasion, using the relatively typical arguments – and overall, my response to him is, I’ve heard it all before. I’ve heard it at a thousand dinner parties in West Los Angeles, and Maher is a perfected example of the model.

The guy I want to have dinner with is Astin – hobbit Sam – whose comments are surprising, personal, and somehow feel genuinely thoughtful. I have no idea what his politics are, but I’d like to find out.