Friday, July 17, 2009

Learning the Wrong Lesson

I was listening to Morning Joe as they were going on and on about how horrible it was for the CIA that, yet again, they violated the law. This time by not informing Congress of a on-going program.
According to reports based on leaks and anonymous sources, the CIA had a program in place to insert assassination squads into different places to go after senior Al Queda operatives that we could not get other ways or that we could get by bombing but only at the cost of lost of civilian casualties as collateral damage.
Correct me if I am wrong here, but sending somebody out to put a bullet in Osama Bin Laden's head strikes me as a good idea. I don't know that anyone of the 8 members of Congress that the CIA is supposed to notify about this program would have had any objections to hunting down and killing senior Al Queda personnel if we didn't think we could capture them or kill them by other means.
I think it s good idea.
So we had this program though, according to the reports, we never actually sent a team anywhere to carry out these target killing/assassinations. Not because we didn't want to, but it just never came together well enough to risk the assets.
But instead of notifying Congress, as they are required to do by law, the previous administration decided to ignore law and never informed Congress.
Both Democrats and Republicans have stated, without acknowledging the content of the published reports, that Congress should have been notified.
So Bush/Cheney/the CIA collectively broke the law.
And that violation of the law now appears to have been exposed.
And what do we hear from Conservatives all over the place??
Exposing this operation and talking about investigations into potential violations of the law is bad for morale at the CIA.
Is that really the lesson here??
The Attorney General is considering appointing a Special Prosecutor to investigate if some CIA Operatives or their Contractors didn't exceed the written guidance that they had for the treatment of prisoners in our custody.
He is not investigating if the CIA followed the rules laid down in the noxious torture memos, he is considering and investigation into whether or not even those rules were violated.
And again we are supposed to pity the CIA???
In all the noise about the assassination program, I have heard few voices say this is a bad thing. We already kill them from the air with 500 pound bombs or Hellfire missiles, this is different only in that shooting a terrorist is far more personal than dropping high explosives on their ass. But the terrorists are still dead.
What the CIA and the Bush Administration did is break the law by not informing Congress.
The lesson here is not that we will destroy the effectiveness of the CIA by exposing their crimes, its that WE DON'T WANT THE CIA TO BREAK OUR LAWS.
We are after all, a nation of laws.
Why should I feel sorry for the CIA when they get caught breaking the law???
Can anybody explain this?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Single Payer and Poster Children

In the past week or so Senator Mitch McConnel has been telling the story of a Canadian woman who ended up getting treatment (at her own cost) at a facility here in the United States because she would have had to wait months to see the needed specialists in Canada under their Single Payer system
Senator McConnel is using this woman's story as a cautionary tale about the failures of Single Payer and why we cannot possibly adopt anything close to that here.
I won't pretend to understand what happened in this woman's case that caused the delays.
What I do know is that this failure in the Canadian system is relatively rare.
A good friend of mine is Canadian. Her mother was ill with a serious disease and a shortage of the appropriate specialist resulted in her recieving treatment in the US - paid for by the Canadian Single Payer system.
The Canadian Single Payer model is not perfect.
But Senator Mitch McConnell has a good Poster Child for his case.
I have 47 million.
What ever the weaknesses in the Canadian system, the Canadian system covers EVERYONE IN CANADA. No one in Canada has to rely solely on the Emergency Room for their only medical care, and then only when they are really sick. No one in Canada has to go into Bankruptcy because of their medical bills.
Senator McConnell and the Republicans point out that the Canadian system is not perfect.
What a newsflash. The Canadians don't have a perfect system.
But for far less money per person than we spend, the Canadians have longer life spans, lower rates of infant mortality, and universal coverage.
He has his poster child
I have 47 million uninsured poster children.

Shared Resources

My Sister and I talk about a lot of stuff and agree about a little. I love the conversations because she not only knows what she believes, as most of us do, but she is able to describe why, which many on both sides seem incapable of.
I don't know how but we ended up talking about water policy. She lives along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, which is actually quite arid. Her water supply is almost completely dependent on the Spring snow melt. So if they get lots of snow in the mountains, their reservoirs fill up and if the snow fall is low the reservoirs don't fill up. Colorado recently went through a drought that lasted about 5 years, during which many of the reservoirs got quite low.
At some point during this drought, the water department instituted restrictions on water usage including limitations on watering the yard and using a running hose to wash your car. In talking about that period, she noted that some of her neighbors ignored the water restrictions and watered their yard anyway.
Later in the drought, the water department abandoned the restrictions and went to a tiered cost structure so people who used lots of water payed a significantly higher rate/gallon than those who only used a small amount of water.
To my sister, that was the right way to resolve the problem of water usage during a drought. If you can afford the higher bills, then use all the water you want in any way you want. I guess you could call it a market based solution as opposed to a regulatory solution.
I thought about that conversation alot. It seems to me to be an almost perfect metafor for one of the core differences between Republicans/Conservatives and Democrats/Liberals.
We all have to share the same environment.
And just because you can afford the gasoline/natural gas/electric bill/water doesn't mean that profligate use of those shared resources is actually good for society as a whole.
Now my sister personally recycles virtually everything she can. She has been known to wash and reuse ziplock bags. They have converted a large chunk of their yard to lower water demand plants and have a sprinkler system that makes more efficient use of the water they do use. She doesn't use the dry cycle on her diswasher, saving about 40% of the energy the system would otherwise use. She has a compost heap. All in all, she leads a pretty green lifestyle. As is her choice.
But she has no problem with those that are willing to waste our shared resources.
If they can afford what they use, then thats up to them.
Which is pretty much the Republican position on things like the environment.
If you can afford an Escalade or a 4.5L V-8 pickup, then have at it, the environment will take care of itself. Interfering in the market by Cap and Trade on Carbon emissions, or raising the CAFE standards, or making the CAFE standards apply to pickup trucks, or requiring that a growing percentage of the cars/power plants/factories produce less or even zero carbon emissions is usually defined as a bad idea gaurenteed to make America less competitive in the world and lose jobs.
The problem with their arguments is that everytime they have made similar arguments (against the Clean Air Act, or the Clean Water Act, or against the original CAFE Standards, they have been wrong. The world didn't end, the economy didn't collapse.
But because of their resistance to such things, we now have giant dead zones in the ocean and in the Chesapeake Bay where run off from non-point sources is killing entire water ecosystems. We have human accelerated global warming that literally theartens the lives of millions of people world wide.
And we are facing water crises. Much of California gets its water from snow melt, like Colorado. And snow fall in California has been decreasing and will likely continue to decrease as the climate warms up. The agricultural miracle that is California's Central Valley cannot exist without huge water projects bringing water from the mountains of Northern California. California's population continues to grow and the pressure on the limited water resources of the Sierra is growing as snow fall appears to be decreasing.
As a Liberal/Democrat, I think it is not only a good idea for the government to interfere in the water and carbon markets, I think it is absolutely necessary for our continued health and prosperity.
Left to their own devices, the markets won't solve these problems, despite what Conservatives/Republican try to tell us.
Just because you can afford to use lots of a shared resource, doesn't mean you should, nor does it mean you should be allowed to waste just because you can afford it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Is this really news?

When so much is happening in the world, why is it breathlessly awaited breaking news that Michael Jackson's will has been filed with the courts.
Its not like that is a suprise or unusual or even really interesting
I know there is a 24 hour news cycle now, but is the sad passing of such a sad character really the most important thing that has happened this past week.
He was an amazingly talented and equally flawed man who let his life get away from him.
But is this really headline news?