Charlie Don't Surf

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terri Schiavo

the Schiavo case... is so riddled with horrible political ironies. Just a few I've wanted to write down:

1) Bush says we must "err on the side of life," enough to conspicuously rush home on Air Force One to sign that bill -- but to my knowledge he did not commute a single death sentence as governor, and in fact he made jokes about that woman who was executed.

2) "Preserving life" is all-important -- but not the 18,000 unncessary deaths each year due to lack of health insurance (CAProgress stat today) -- heck, those are jes' poor sick folks.

3) States' rights and small federal government are important -- except not here. No, here the Giant Federal Fist must burst through the window, after eight years of ceaseless litigation!

4) Marriage is a sacred institution and we have to protect it at all costs -- except for Terri Schiavo's marriage. That's fair game!

5) Terri Schiavo's parents used Medicaid checks and a $1 million medical liability lawsuit award to keep litigating her case -- and the GOP is now trying desperately to limit both of those venues dramatically.

As an aside, I cannot believe the vitriolic, hateful rhetoric these guys use against Michael Schiavo. Watching Bay Buchanan call him "the lowest of the low" on CNN, listening to the vicious way DeLay talks about him -- what the hell do they know about him? It's like this political reflex to destroy the target, whatever it is, just raze it to the ground with words. And last week DeLay was speechifying about how Democrats are using "the politics of personal destruction" against him. Jesus.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

On the ANWR and the 'nuclear option'

an email responding to Gil's message (see previous post)....

yeah, I thought that might get a rise out of you...

Re: the ANWR, I'll accept that many environmental advocates are soft-headed doomsayers who have never been to the ANWR. But not every last one of them; some enviros have been there, have studied the issues and the possible drilling effects (even with high-tech equipment that will minimize the footprint), have looked at the projections for what could be extracted from the refuge, and still oppose opening it to development. I will agree with you that ANWR serves as a direct-mail fundraising tool for many groups -- you need something to rattle in the air to raise money, though lord knows there's no shortage with this administration -- and I'm sure that has shaped their position, away from the more moderate facts about ANWR sometimes. But there remains a persistently large number of experts who know the area, are not raving partisans, and do not believe it should opened. Part of it is the idea, I'm sure, that it is easier to rope something off entirely than to allow the place to be opened and then try, in the decades after, to slow or moderate the expansion of drilling there. Once you open the box, then the force of industry and the drip-drip, chip-chip of lobbying and laws and big-money oil interests in succeeding years ultimately controls how much happens out there. Total prohibition's easier than trying to stop the relentless incremental expansion of drilling in ANWR, backed by industry and GOP legislators, once it's open, despite whatever promises the GOP and the industry make now. I guess that's part of it.

Look at how the timber industry has essentially gutted Oregon's smart-growth laws in the last year -- they backed a "property rights" ballot initiative that passed, that allows landowners to either demand "market-value" compensation from the state for their land (usually farmland) or sell it to developers, in places where development had been prohinited, like rural orchards on the Olympic peninsula. They mounted radio ads with old ladies talking about how they wouldn't be able to pass their land on to their heirs -- a total red herring, when in fact the timber companies just wanted a way to buy and develop or cut huge swaths of protected land in Oregon. The state, of course, cannot afford to compensate these people with tens of millions of dollars per claim, so the land will just be sold and developed. Similar initiatives are getting ready to go in several other states, all of them backed by land-use interests.

I just offer that as an example of how difficult it is to block what developers want to do, so perhaps it's easier to keep the ANWR closed entirely. Can we not have one place where drillers aren't allowed to go, even if tourists don't go there? ANWR was an anomaly in a country where so many places are available for oil exploration, because of that Carter-era law, and now that it's open, I guess we have to just cross our fingers and hope that in the fullness of time, we can rely upon the conscience of lawmakers and the promises of oil companies. Which is, perhaps, not the best position to be in, given precedent. Would it reduce the US' dependency on other countries if ANWR produces as expected -- yes, slightly. In the face of huge US demand for foreign oil that shows no sign of abating, it seems like a drop in the bucket, frankly.

You'll get no argument from me at all about the hypocrisy of enviros who drive SUVs and seem to believe that oil comes out of the ether. And I also agree that environmental advocates should focus on a smart comprehensive energy policy and things like CAFE, which I think many of them do. I would love there to be a much stronger CAFE standards for trucks and SUVs. I would love for the huge-SUV federal tax breaks to go away. I hate SUVs and I think this country is in a state of utter delusion in the way it swallows gasoline and oil. I'm old enough to remember the crises of the '70s, but after the oil glut all those lessons were lost, obviously. And I am as frustrated by the NIMBY-ism of people as you are.

Mel Martinez of Florida voted against the Cantwell amendment yesterday in exchange for a promise that there would be no drilling off Florida's coast until 2012, Talk about hypocrisy.

Re: the filibuster. I'm afraid I have to disagree completely. Partly because the filibuster is essentially the only protective tool left to Democrats against Republicans who control all three branches of government and are utterly -- I mean, utterly -- in thrall to the business lobby. If that wasn't clear to me before, it is now that I work for a [censored] and see it in action every day -- the huge amounts that corporations pay to lobbyists and donate routinely to members of Congress; the big-business legislation that moves quickly to the top of the agenda. It's the way business is done here. If Bill Frist does decide to go with the "nuclear option" over judicial nominees -- even though Democrats have blocked a tiny proportion of really awful judges, compared with the dozens, the dozens of Clinton judges that were blocked by the GOP -- you will see the Senate shut down completely, and it should. The Senate rules give a constitutional right to individual senators that is designed to force either compromise or gridlock, and I frankly could not be happier. Many of the problems the GOP is so mad about re: the filibuster could be easily solved simply by slightly moderating their policies and compromising ina few areas, as every single previous administration and congressional majority has inevitably done -- but they refuse to, they just insist on doing it their way with no consultation of the minority at all, and instead want to trash the rules of the Senate for the first time in American history. All because they think of this as a brief moment of total control they may not see again. I say, thank God for the filibuster, and let the whole damn Senate shut down except for 12 spending bills, and we can play the blame game in public with them just like in 1995, when they got their asses kicked.

So that's MY rant for the day.

Gil on the ANWR opening

An email from my father-in-law, a former Alaska oil geologist who was among the first to map Proudhoe Bay, which later became a fertile U.S. source of oil on the North Slope. After I'd sent out a note bemoaning the 51-49 Senate vote yesterday to open the Arctic Refuge to drilling. The GOP inserted the provision into a budget reconciliation procedure, meaning it cannot be filibustered. W

Hi there:

Yeah, I just happened to catch that on the radio while ago. LONG overdue. I'm just constantly amazed at the doomsday predictions of the environmental community---which has so incredibly over-hyped the dangers of exploration on the coastal plain of ANWR. And unfortunately, a large segment of the Democratic party has jumped on that band wagon in a misguided effort to attack big business. To me it has smacked of the ultimate in hypocrisy---a large segment of the elitists who have been waving flags and preaching doomsday scenarios in ANWR have never been there and haven't a clue as to what they are talking about----and are themselves huge consumers of the resources that they so vigorously oppose. If the environmental community spent more time campaigning for a national energy policy and for alternative energy sources, energy efficiency, and better transportation, and less time opposing virtually EVERY effort of industry to produce the energy resource that they consume---I would be a supporter of their cause. I have no idea of whether the ultimate discoveries will come close to the predictions----BUT I do know that the environmental consequences will be minuscule.

The hypocrisy is one of the things that bugs me most. Just take a look at any issue of the Sierra Club Bulletin or Audubon Magazine---and then look at the worldwide tours that they offer-----and how do they get there? By jet airplanes---of course, which burn large amounts of petroleum products. Some of them of course do go treking, but a lot end up in luxury hotels. They are the sort of folks who flock to Alaska every summer on their luxury tours, expecting that the quaint locals will come out of the woods to cater to their whims in the brief tourist season, and expect them to go back into hibernation for the next nine months. And you know damned well that most of those people are those who have large disposable incomes, and are among the largest consumers of resources. And I'd be willing to bet that a large percentage of them also are SUV drivers who commute large distances every day---I suspect damned few of them ride their bikes everywhere they go. The resources that make all that possible HAVE to come from somewhere---and I still contend that it is better to have them coming from a remote area of northern Alaska than from the middle of a lot of agricultural land in the Midcontinent---or how about that sort of development in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area? Did you hear about the elitists on Cape Cod who were opposing a wind generator way off shore form their beachfront properties---they're all for alternative energy, but not in my backyard. That is illustrative of the way I think a large number of the environmental community think----and unfortunately the Democratic party seems to have embraced that philosophy in a misguided effort to attack big business. I ain't happy with the Bush folks on many issues---but this is one issue on which I agree with them. I would like to see a Democratic platform that proposed a viable alternative and supported responsible development rather than pandering to the elitists who are opposed to production of resources.

Just take a look from the air sometime when you're flying back from Salt Lake City at the transportation network that funnels everything into the New York City area, or into Washington DC----the closer you get to those centers---the more concentrated the infrastructure is and the more concentrated is the urbanization. And a big percentage of that network is heavily used in the transportation of the resources inward to supply all the people who live there. Most of those resources are not produced there at home.

I shed no tears for the folks on the losing side this time. MY prediction is that exploration will happen eventually, something, or maybe nothing , will be discovered----but either way, the caribou and and the polar bear and migrating water fowl and the summer time recreationalists will continue to come and enjoy the area---and will see absolutely no effects of that exploration. It has all been a huge tempest in a teapot. I'll be glad to see it end. And hopefully the environmental community will redirect its efforts at something useful, such as national energy policy, energy efficiency, and conservation, population control, etc.

So much for my rant today. I'm sure the level of overblown rhetoric is going to escalate markedly in the weeks to come.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

they speeded up to us, and we shot them.

reading this whole story, you slowly get the sickening sense that our guys are terrified and isolated and that checkpoint carnage happens all the time in Iraq, just not to rescued Italian hostages.

[....] Military officials in Iraq ... have declined to estimate how many civilians such as Calipari have been killed accidentally by U.S. forces -- at checkpoints or elsewhere in Iraq.

But Army documents indicate that the 3rd Infantry Division -- the military unit that includes the troops responsible for shooting Calipari -- was involved in other shootings of civilians at checkpoints. In April 2004, Army criminal investigators asked a sergeant serving in the division if he and his fellow soldiers had shot at women and children in cars, and the soldier answered, "Yes." Asked why, he replied, "They didn't respond to the signs [we gave], the presence of troops or warning shots."

The soldier, whose name was redacted in documents released by the Army on Friday in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, went on to say: "We fired warning shots at everyone, they would speed up to come at us, and we would shoot them. You couldn't tell who was in the car from where we were, we found that out later. . . . We didn't go through the cars digging around for stuff, we would just look in and see they were dead and could see there were women inside."

Another member of the division told investigators that he also saw women and children shot while approaching checkpoints.

"Basically, we were at a checkpoint, we had two Arabic signs that said to turn around or be shot. Once [they passed] . . . the first sign, they fired a warning shot. If they passed the second sign, they shot the vehicle. Sometimes there would be women and children in the car, but usually it was soldiers."

"Sometimes it bothers me," the man said. "What if they couldn't read the signs? But then what if they had a bomb in the car? We fired warning shots and they kept coming, so I think we did the right thing."

A third man in the unit separately told investigators that a colleague shot his weapon at "a hostile vehicle and it missed and hit a truck behind it, which housed a group of people."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Shades of the Palm Bach recount...

Nice to see the GOP's gassing up their "grassroots" buses again...


1 March 2005
Political Transcripts by Federal Document Clearing House

[...] MILLER: I'm Brad Miller. I represent the 13th district of North Carolina, which is about two-thirds what we in North Carolina think of as urban, Rally and Greensboro, and about one-third rural, small-town North Carolina.

I love my district. But as I'm hearing my colleagues today, I really am tempted to trade districts with someone, if I could.

I had a somewhat different experience. President Bush came to North Carolina a month or so ago, to my district, had a town hall meeting that consisted entirely of an audience screened, that was Republican Party activists, people who were of the same mind, who were reverent of his every word.

David Price and I decided that we would do it differently, that since our nation was working so hard to spread democracy around the world, that we would try democracy here.

We had a town hall meeting that we did not screen folks. We had people who were bused in from all over the state. They were told to get there an hour early and take every available seat. And we faced a roomful of 150 or 200 entirely hostile folks and crowded out the people who would have come just at random to hear the discussion of Social Security.

[...] We are debating in very vague terms. We don't have a plan. President Bush said in the State of the Union debate he wanted to have a thoughtful, honest debate about Social Security. Let's have it. Let's get started. I'm ready. Where's the plan? When can we talk?

Mr. Clyburn mentioned that the one person from his district who favored the plan was his likely opponent in the next election, who thought it would be like the congressional thrift plan. And when Mr. Clyburn explained that, no, we also pay Social Security taxes and it's in addition to that -- and we would love to have some kind of savings in addition to Social Security while protecting Social Security.

I got confronted with the same argument yesterday. I explained that, well, members of Congress do in fact pay Social Security and the thrift plan is on top of that. The leader of the group that had come in opposition called me a liar, loudly, publicly.