Sunday, August 31, 2008

Broder's 'Disappointed' With Obama's Speech, and For Really Stupid Reasons

If Broder had been in another solar system for the past couple of years, this column might have made sense. It's as if he missed Ted Kennedy's cancer, this year's bruising primary fight, the tremendous advantage of generic Democrats over generic Republicans in the polls, and of course McCain's attack on Obama as a lightweight 'celebrity.' Let's roll tape:
Barack Obama, on the climactic night of the conclave, gave an acceptance speech that was no match for the keynote address he delivered at the 2004 convention in Boston. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, introducing his colleague again here, said that first one "changed politics in America."

No one is likely to argue that the speech here "changed politics in America." His jibes at John McCain and George Bush were standard-issue Democratic fare, and his recital of a long list of domestic promises could have been delivered by any Democratic nominee from Walter Mondale to John Kerry.

Well, of course. The last thing Obama could have done was to give another brilliant speech of the 2004 variety, heavy on inspiration and ideals, but light on specifics. Nothing would have reinforced McCain's point half as well. But the speech Obama gave left McCain & Co. with little to say.

And about those domestic promises: as I pointed out yesterday, America still has every problem it had in 2004 and 2000, plus a few more. And the solutions haven't really changed either. Hell, most of the things Mondale would have tried to do as President haven't yet been accomplished: we've had only one Democratic President since then, and he was hamstrung with an exceedingly partisan GOP Congress that wanted to make sure Clinton left no legacy of accomplishments.

And maybe the Obama/Dem case against McCain, Bush, and the GOP is familiar to you, old man, but the fact is that the Dems haven't bludgeoned home their case against the Republicans the way the GOP has done to the Dems over the years - nowhere close.

In fact, they have rarely made this case at all - that the fruits of the GOP of the Bush Administration haven't been just a couple of major failures (Iraq, Katrina) but otherwise a decent job of governance, but have rather been an across-the-board epic failure.

Obama made that case, and said it was time for the GOP to own the failure.

Here's why I think it matters. One of the major questions about Obama, of whom so little is known, is whether he is really serious about challenging the partisan gridlock in Washington or whether his election would simply bring on the regular wish list of liberal policies.

But the Denver speech, like many others he has given recently, subordinated any talk of fundamental systemic change to a checklist of traditional Democratic programs.

That 'checklist of traditional Democratic programs' would represent fundamental change to the people of America if they were actually enacted.

As for challenging the partisan gridlock, it's been clear for 15 years just what the source of the gridlock is. Bush didn't have much trouble getting legislation through Congress in 2001-06, and was even (unfortunately) able to pass some major bills (like FISA) in the current Congress. But during the Clinton Administration, the GOP blocked everything they could, both as minority and then majority in Congress. And in the present Congress, they played the obstruction game to the hilt on the Pelosi/Reid legislative agenda, most of which was supported by vast majorities of the American people.

Ultimately, the only way to compromise with people who aren't interested in compromising is to beat them. That's life in the big city, but Broder's totally oblivious to that reality.

Obama's disappointing speech also reflected what I had thought was the one conspicuous failure of the convention program -- the missed opportunity to introduce the country to others in the younger generation of Democrats than just Obama and his dazzling wife, Michelle.

The convention hall was full of bright, attractive men and women serving as governors or mayors or in other posts. Obama knows many of them from his campaign travels, and he gave the keynote spot to one of them, Virginia's Mark Warner.

But the prime-time spots on the convention program went to Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sen. Hillary Clinton, former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Joe Biden, the vice presidential nominee. All are comfortably familiar figures to members of my generation, and all are part of a Washington that is hardly the favorite of most voters.

Maybe the nets could cover some of the many speakers, such as Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who were powerful new voices. But the reality was that Ted Kennedy, fighting to stay alive, could not be shunted to a lesser time slot. Nor could Hillary Clinton, who ran the strongest second-place nomination campaign in Democratic history. Nor could Bill Clinton, our most recent ex-President, whose Presidency now looks like a golden age. Nor could Joe Biden, Obama's veep nominee.

No, the problem here was one of coverage. That ball's in your court, Broder.

[Obama] is not the first Democrat who has promised a new day. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, in different ways, tried to change Washington, and both wound up frustrated. The status quo forces -- the interest groups, many in Congress and parts of the media -- all are powerful.

The only time a new president can really change Washington is when he makes it the central message of his campaign, as Ronald Reagan did in 1980.

Reagan's skill was his rhetoric; hence the label "The Great Communicator." After the 2004 Obama speech, Democrats thought they had found one of their own. It's too bad that fellow didn't make it to Denver.

I'd say he did, actually. If Broder had been paying attention, he would have heard this:
These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain.

But what I will not do is suggest that the Senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism.

The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.
I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that's to be expected. Because if you don't have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don't have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

You make a big election about small things.

And you know what - it's worked before. Because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping, and settle for what you already know.

...[But c]hange happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.

America, this is one of those moments.
Obama is right: the GOP has repeatedly done its best in recent years to turn big elections on small things, distracting the American people from the real issues at hand. Now, if the GOP keeps playing that game, Obama can use that to reinforce his argument that the GOP is fundamentally unserious.

Broder, you ancient royalist tool, you and your compatriots in the media have refused to do what you could to see that elections were about issues, no matter how deep your professed desire was for that to happen. Obama has done your work for you here. And that should, with any luck, "change politics in America."

Maybe you don't see it, but it was right there in front of you.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gerson the Ignorant

Thank you, WaPo, for moving Michael Gerson's column to the Saturday paper, thereby giving me an easy target to ridicule on a Saturday morning. He'd like to think he's trashing Obama's acceptance speech the other night, but he's only making himself look bad, of course.
In substance, Barack Obama's convention speech could easily have been given by Al Gore or John Kerry -- and, in various forms, was given by Kerry and Gore. It was all in there: the lunchbox economic populism -- based on the assumption that most Americans are filling their lunchboxes with scraps from Dumpsters. The attacks on corporations, millionaires and other sinister job creators. The touching faith in the power of diplomacy.
Well, you know what, Mike? America still has every problem it had in 2004 and 2000, plus a few more: global warming, which your old boss, George W. Bush, conceded was real but never did anything about, is now clearly upon us. New Orleans is still a mess from Katrina, and we can only hope and pray that Gustav goes somewhere else. We got attacked on September 11, 2001, in part because we had a President that was focused on rogue states and ignored terrorism - as demonstrated by his using the terrorist threat as an excuse to invade Iraq, where we're still bogged down, 4,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and a trillion dollars later. Meanwhile, people are losing their jobs, the values of their houses that they can't pay the mortgages on are plummeting, banks are failing, and we're back to the era of mammoth deficits that we'd supposedly left behind forever by the end of the Clinton Administration.

And the result of all this is that Americans, by a wide margin, prefer a generic Democrat to a generic Republican. Maybe it bothers you that Obama's policies are largely generic Democratic policies, but that's what America wants - has wanted for years, in fact, but has been denied by your crew.

Your friends have fucked. things. up. It's that simple, Mike.

Generic Republican ideas - wars, tax cuts for the rich, less regulation - have gotten us into this mess. So maybe it's time to try generic Democratic ideas, to get us out again.
And some of the attacks were simply unfair. Is it really credible to blame McCain for a tripling of oil imports during his time as senator?
Unfair? Awwwwwwwww. Look who's talking about unfair: a shill for a party of smear merchants. Awwwwwwwww.

What is unquestionably fair is to point out that John McCain has voted against everything that might've reduced our dangerous dependence on oil and other fossil fuels: he's voted against higher fuel efficiency standards for cars. He's voted against wind power and other renewables. he abandoned the carbon cap-and-trade proposal that used to have his name on it.

He didn't create the entire problem, but he damned sure did his best to make sure we did nothing about it. As Obama said the other night, it's time for the GOP to own the failure.
What does it mean that McCain "won't even follow [bin Laden] to the cave where he lives" -- that McCain is cowardly? that he knows where bin Laden hides, and won't tell the rest of us? that he doesn't believe in fighting al-Qaeda?
Apparently, Gerson doesn't know that McCain, who said he'd follow bin Laden to the gates of hell, also said this:
KING: If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?

MCCAIN: Larry, I'm not going to go there and here's why, because Pakistan is a sovereign nation.
To the gates of hell, but not past the gates of Pakistan. If bin Laden's in a sovereign nation that won't capture bin Laden itself, and won't let us in, then McCain says our hands are tied.

Now excuse me, but isn't that why we invaded Afghanistan - because they wouldn't let us pursue bin Laden in their country?

There was a bit of a flap about this when McCain said it. Did Gerson entirely miss it? Apparently so.

At any rate, Obama doesn't think these circumstances tie our hands. He believes we need to bring bin Laden to justice, even if he does happen to be hiding in Pakistan.
Obama said nothing interesting about race in America at a moment when that might have been expected. He made no serious effort to reach out to religious conservatives, something that now seems more like a ploy than a project. He offered no creative policy proposals that might transcend partisan divisions.
Maybe Gerson listened to a different speech than I did. The one I listened to (last night via YouTube, since I was sound asleep when Obama's speech began on Thursday night) mentioned some preacher from Georgia at the Lincoln Memorial - who the fuck could that have been, Mike? was that too subtle for you? - and pointed out some things to learn from his example. And if reducing the number of unwanted pregancies, which Obama also mentioned, isn't a place to find common ground with religious conservatives and transcend partisan divisions, then maybe religious conservatives should admit that all their talk about abortion is mere posturing.

Oh, wait: that's not a creative policy proposal. It's a perfectly mundane Democratic idea - part of the backbone of Dem beliefs since Clinton's "safe, legal, and rare" formulation 16 years ago - that the GOP has done its best to keep America from actually trying.
The Democratic ticket [now] offers the purest message of partisan aggression and class resentment.
I guess only the GOP is supposed to practice partisan aggression, and only the rich are supposed to practice class resentment. Whatever, Mike.

The weird thing is, the speech that inspired this "partisan aggression" bullshit is one that went after McCain and the GOP on the issues, rather than attacking their character. If you can't take being on the receiving end of a vigorous debate on the issues, Mike, maybe you should give up politics and take up shuffleboard. Because that's what politics ideally should be about - that's what politics looks like when it's being played cleanly, rather than with all the mud your side slings.

Mike, you claim to be a religious sort of guy. So if GOP attacks on Obama based on Ayers, Rezko, 'celebrity' status, and so forth, don't bother you, but attacking McCain on the issues does, then hear the word of the Lord from Chapter 25 of Deuteronomy:
13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.
That's right, Mike: God says not to apply different measures to one side than you would to the other. Seems like a simple enough message. But I don't think you believe it - to you, God is just another cudgel to use on the other guy.

God's bigger than that, Mike. And you're smaller.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Light Posting Ahead. Then Probably a Short Hiatus.

Life events are intervening in your blogger's life. My wife and I may shortly be headed over to Russia, to keep John McCain and Dick Cheney from re-starting the Cold War for the first of two trips to adopt a child. (First trip, you meet the child; second trip, you complete the adoption and bring him home.)

This has of course been planned for awhile - we've had a home study done, we've completed a dossier (which is basically a mammoth pile of paperwork to satisfy the assorted governments and agencies), gotten our fingerprints taken way more times than should have been necessary, and waited. Then you get a call from the adoption agency, and you get ready to drop everything.

So expect light posting for the next couple of weeks, and then none at all while we travel.

The Perpetuation of Fantasy Columnists

Robert J. Samuelson's fetid pile of worthless verbiage this morning, "The Rise Of Fantasy Politics," probably wouldn't even make decent compost. Let's roll:
By all rights, we should be having a fierce debate over the role of government. What should it do, for whom and why? What can we afford? Who should pay? These questions would suggest a campaign that seriously engages the future. Instead, we have a bidding war between candidates to see who can promise the most appealing package of new spending programs and tax cuts.
The funny thing is, implicit in the differences in McCain's and Obama's policy positions is a pretty fierce debate over the role of government. Obama wants to greatly expand the availability of affordable health insurance through governmental means; McCain wouldn't. Obama's cap-and-trade plan not only goes further than McCain's in its targets, but its permits would be fully auctionable, which would raise a lot of revenue. McCain's permits probably wouldn't be auctionable, and he doesn't seem like he understands that cap-and-trade means mandatory caps, so it's doubtful that he's all that invested in his own proposal. Obama wants to implement a very mild addition to Social Security revenue, appropriate to a program that's hardly in any trouble. McCain wants to privatize it.

The debate's there, Bob. You're just not covering it.
As we watch the conventions, we should recognize that we've entered an era of fantasy politics. Like fantasy football and baseball, fantasy politics is an exercise in make-believe that is intended to keep its players occupied and to make the winners feel good.
I quote from James Fallows' 1996 piece, "Why Americans Hate the Media":
In the 1992 presidential campaign candidates spent more time answering questions from "ordinary people"—citizens in town-hall forums, callers on radio and TV talk shows—than they had in previous years. The citizens asked overwhelmingly about the what of politics: What are you going to do about the health-care system? What can you do to reduce the cost of welfare? The reporters asked almost exclusively about the how: How are you going to try to take away Perot's constituency? How do you answer charges that you have flip-flopped?
And in the 16 years since, nothing's changed. Except that pundits are more likely to slam candidates for trivializing the race - after the newspapers they write for have failed to cover the substantive proposals they've put forward.

This blog's only been up for a few short weeks, but it's already a recurring theme here. It's the perpetuation of fantasy columnists, with their apparent lifetime tenure, and their protection from all the slings and arrows that affect normal people. Speaking of which, Samuelson says:
Eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare should gradually rise to 70; people now live longer and should work longer.
Bob, I'll put this as politely as I can: go fuck yourself with a piece of rusty rebar.

As I was saying in comments the other day, people like Samuelson, who make more than 97% of Americans do while sitting at a desk, have no problem proposing benefit cuts, raising the eligibility age, and other 'hard choices' that would be hardest on those who are usually the ones who get stuck with the shit end of the stick.

People like him don't know people like my wife's parents, who both barely made it to 62 before they had to retire because their bodies just couldn't take any more.

When people like Samuelson start talking about 'hard choices' for Social Security, they're very lucky I'm not in the room with them. Not that I'd hit anyone (I'm well past that point in life), but when the wave of my anger hit them, they'd feel like they'd been punched in the gut.

But I'm jumping ahead. Samuelson's impetus for raising the retirement age:
Last week, I viewed "I.O.U.S.A.," an 87-minute documentary exploring the grim budget outlook. In many ways, unbalanced budgets define the political deadlock. The persistence of deficits over so many years (42 of the past 47) can have only one basic cause: Politicians of both parties prefer spending to taxing.
Or it might be that, even when a President attacks the problem of unbalanced budgets head-on, balances four budgets in a row, and leaves office with the prospect of long-term budget surpluses ahead, his Vice-President can't get elected because the punditocracy turns the election into a referendum on Love Canal, brown suits, sighs, inventing the Internet, and who'd you rather have a beer with.
As everyone knows, the disconnect will worsen, because aging baby boomers will bloat outlays for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs already total nearly two-fifths of the $2.9 trillion federal spending in 2008.

The mismatch between the government's existing spending commitments and the present tax base is so great that we cannot simply tinker a little with government. By 2030, federal taxes could rise 50 percent if all spending programs are kept on automatic pilot, Andrew Yarrow notes in his book "Forgive Us Our Debts."

That would be, I think, an unconscionable burden on workers (the main taxpayers) and a huge threat to the economy. Over the years, I've suggested changes to minimize these dangers. Eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare should gradually rise to 70; people now live longer and should work longer. Medicare premiums for middle-income and richer retirees should increase; the young shouldn't bear most of the expense of growing health-care costs.
Social Security, as I (and half the blogosphere) have been reiterating, is not facing any sort of crisis. The only point of lumping it in with Medicare and Medicaid is to confuse the issue.

But what of Medicare and Medicaid? It seems that all the other advanced nations have universal health care. And oddly enough, they only spend about half as much as we do on health care costs. Maybe Samuelson could take a look at how France and Germany, England and Canada, and countries like that, control health care costs? Maybe there's some lessons to be learned from our peer group here?

Apparently not. That's the sort of pundit Robert J. Samuelson is: a guy who knows less than you do, and is happy to share it with you.
Government programs that have outlived their usefulness or are wasteful should end: farm subsidies and Amtrak, for instance.
I can't argue with him on farm subsidies. But we subsidize cars by building a huge network of highways. At a time when we know energy costs are going to keep on going up, and when we know we can't afford to keep pumping carbon into the atmosphere, then maybe, just maybe, we ought to subsidize public transportation nearly as much as we've been subsidizing cars all these years.

That's just stupid.

The rest of his column kinda drivels on like that. And sure, the deficits are big, but dammit, the Dems fixed this problem once already, and pundits like Samuelson didn't exactly scream to the heavens when the Bushies broke it again. This time, Dems get to fix other things first. Otherwise, they might never get the chance.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007

The PDF is here. (I've got a hard copy, neener neener neener.) Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein have already posted about it. Krugman thinks median household income in 2007 is less than it was in 2000; I've already pointed out that the difference between the Census Bureau's estimates for those two years isn't statistically significant. (Since posts at the NY Times have to be reviewed before they appear, my comment there isn't visible yet.)

Unfortunately, I've got to get back to work, and I won't have time this afternoon to play with the numbers in the IPHI report, as we cognoscenti (i.e. geeks) call it. But if you've got time on your hands, and are even half as geeky as I am, click the link and dive right in.

Another Day, Another Disingenious AEI 'Scholar'

Why, exactly, does the WaPo give op-ed space (and legitimacy) to disingenious nutcases like the AEI's Michael Rubin?
Bush has been a polarizing figure, but most senators realize that partisanship should never trump national security. In early 2007, evidence mounted that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was planning terrorist activities in Iraq. An August 2007 National Intelligence Estimate found that "Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants" and that "Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically." The next month, the Senate considered a bipartisan amendment to designate the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, an important step to aid nonviolent efforts to deny it funds and financing. Biden was one of only 22 senators to vote against it. "I voted against the amendment to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization because I don't trust this administration," he said. Distrust of the U.S. president is the nature of politics, but skepticism about foreign dictators and their Brown Shirts is the backbone of judgment.
Look, we know what the game was here, Mike. Our military had every bit of authority it needed to respond to terrorists in Iraq. What it didn't have was the authority to hit Iran. The purpose of this designation was to give them Congressional cover if they should choose to do so, but without the public spotlight that a debate over a formal AUMF resolution would have brought with it.

Because either the Revolutionary Guard is an arm of the Iranian government, or it isn't. Presumably it is. If so, then declare Iran itself a terrorist state, not just the Revolutionary Guard, and if you want to bomb-bomb-Iran, have the guts to say so, and push for an AUMF. Don't dump on better men than yourself because they had the guts to say 'no' to such a chickenshit approach. Don't pretend that this was simply about calling a spade a spade, because it damned sure wasn't.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fred Hiatt Thinks We Need To Fix Social Security (Part 2)

Fred Hiatt had an online chat today. I took advantage of the opportunity:

Me: Why does The Washington Post's editorial board have such a jones for "fixing" Social Security? If it's broke, it ain't very: the Congressional Budget Office says the trust fund's not expected to run out for another 40-plus years, which means its demise hasn't gotten any closer during the past 15 years. The trust fund has a better than 20 percent chance of outlasting the youngest Boomer's 100th birthday. The 75-year actuarial imbalance amounts to 0.38 percent of GDP, or 1.06 percent of taxable payroll. That's really not very big. And you mention none of this in this morning's "Social Security on Ice" editorial.

Meanwhile, we've got much bigger problems to deal with in the same time horizon. Climate change is much more in need of being addressed quickly, and the long-term consequences are considerably more severe. We're paying a much bigger share of our GDP on health care costs than the European and East Asian democracies are, and that's going to bust the Medicare trust fund. But for some reason, you guys harp on "fixing" Social Security to a much greater degree than these other problems. What's the deal?

Fred Hiatt: We agree that health care costs, and the looming Medicare deficit, are a bigger problem than the Social Security deficit--and will be harder to fix. When you put them both together, the US is on an unsustainable path that will put huge burdens on younger workers to take care of more and more retirees. What we've said is, if SS is easier to fix, let's at least do that, because the longer you wait, the harder it gets--and if we can't do that, it doesn't bode well for fixing the more complicated ones.

Me: Isn't that a universally applicable argument in favor of dealing with more trivial problems before dealing with more substantive problems? Why should the next president burn a good deal of his political capital on a fight regarding Social Security that doesn't need to be fought for at least five years, when time's a-wastin' on climate change and health care costs?

Fred Hiatt: Look, if Congress would enact a serious cap and trade or carbon tax bill, that would make us happy too--as we've said probably more times than our readers care to recall. We don't argue to do the trivial first. What we do say is, to NOT do Social Security because Medicare is more serious is also a silly argument. SS needs fixing, the longer you wait the harder it gets, so why wait? (Plus, in a Washington that worked better, the outlines of a SS compromise would be pretty obvious to most.)

Durn, he just twists every which way, doesn't he? Let's count the twists and twirls:

1) Lumping Social Security in with Medicare: "[w]hen you put them both together, the US is on an unsustainable path..." yada yada yada.

Look, if a 170 pound man and a 500-pound man get on a scale together, it's clear that the 170-pound man and the 500-pound man need to get their combined weight under control. Hiatt's answer is to write a pile of editorials recommending that the 170-pound man face up to painful choices regarding diet and exercise.

2) Social Security as test run for dealing with more major problems: I responded to that, and Hiatt retreated to:

3) "We don't argue to do the trivial first. What we do say is, to NOT do Social Security because Medicare is more serious is also a silly argument."

OK, then, let's take up fixing Social Security after passing effective climate change legislation, and after controlling health care costs. I'm good on that. So why's the Washington Post editorial page been far more relentless in its advocacy of 'fixing' Social Security than it has on health care and climate change? It hasn't been saying, "deal with climate change and health care costs first, but it shouldn't lose sight of Social Security." It's been maintaining a relentless 'fix Social Security' drumbeat for years.

4) "SS needs fixing, the longer you wait the harder it gets, so why wait?" Bzzzzt! The longer we've waited, the harder it hasn't gotten: the point on the horizon when the Trust Fund will run out, keeps on receding. As long as it keeps doing so, it doesn't need fixing at all.

5) "The outlines of a SS compromise [are] pretty obvious."

Here's my 'obvious' solution: wait until the Trust Fund is expected to run out in only 35 years, then write legislation to be triggered when the expected exhaustion date is 30 years away. Then if we never reach that date, we never have to 'fix' anything.

I doubt that remotely resembles Hiatt's 'pretty obvious' compromise. But then, Hiatt's a dumbass. But you knew that.

Fred Hiatt Thinks We Need To Fix Social Security (Part 1)

The unsigned editorial, "Social Security On Ice" is subtitled, "The presidential candidates appear eager to avoid a serious debate about how to fix it," which is as much as one needs to know.

As Hilzoy pointed out (and I reiterated) the other day, the CBO has just stated the following facts about Social Security:
1) The expected date of the Trust Fund's exhaustion has moved back to 2049, over four decades away. (In other words, over the past 15 years, the expected date of exhausting the Trust Fund has gotten further away from the present, rather than closer.)
2) Even if those reserves get exhausted, benefits supportable by ongoing Social Security tax revenues after that time will be greater, adjusted for inflation, than they are now.
3) The expected 75-year shortfall amounts to 0.38 percent of GDP, or 1.06 percent of taxable payroll.

And let me add one more:

4) The CBO says there's about a 25% chance that the youngest Baby Boomer will turn 100 before the Trust Fund is exhausted. (Social Security was designed as a pay-as-you-go program, which would work fine if our population grew at a steady rate. The whole point of having a Trust Fund on top of the regular tax revenue was to deal with the bulge in the U.S. population distribution known as the Baby Boom.)

But the Washington Post is fixated on 'fixing' Social Security, whether it needs it or not, whether it's urgent or not. Last year, the WaPo commenced a series of 'ideas primary' editorials. Five of the first 15 addressed, yep, the need to fix Social Security. They're obsessed.

This Wasn't In the WaPo, But...

From the Politico:
"If you're a little bit critical of Barack Obama, you get really a pie of vilification right in the face," Cohen said, adding that his liberal critics "were born too late, because they would have been great Communists."
As Markos said, "Remember, Richard Cohen is supposed to be one of the Washington Post's 'liberals'."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One of My Favorite Fiction Writers Gets (McCain and) Arizona Wrong, Part 2

I'm sure J.A. Jance knows the people of Arizona far better than I do, since I've spent essentially no time there. But I've been reading Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm lately, so when Jance writes a piece titled, "In Arizona, We're Not Afraid to Stand Alone," I can't help but remember Perlstein's account of how greatly the rugged individualists of Arizona were empowered by tax dollars funneled from Washington.

The government created army bases in Arizona Territory to fight the Indian Wars of the 1860s and 1870s, which pumped revenue into the territory through Army contracts and soldiers' paychecks; the building of the Roosevelt Dam, beginning in 1905, caused the population of Phoenix to double, thanks to the construction contracts; Federal outlays for highways, health, and vocational education made up 15% of Arizona's economy in the 1920s, and of course there were reclamation projects to subsidize farmers and ranchers; in the New Deal, $342 million of Federal tax dollars were pumped into the state, and only $16 million was collected in return; and so forth and so on: according to the conservative Tax Foundation (they're the guys who brought you Tax Freedom Day), between 1981 and 2005, Arizona received anywhere between $1.08 and $1.29 in Federal largesse for every $1 they paid, with the median figure being $1.18.

So when Jance says:
The neverending tide of illegal immigrants coming across the Mexican border is a huge problem in Arizona, and it's often part of the complications in the stories I write about my fictional Cochise County sheriff, Joanna Brady. In real life and fiction both, the burden of federally mandated and unreimbursed emergency health care has put a terrible strain on local hospitals and has resulted in the closing of several trauma centers.

People in Arizona are mad as hell about that. They believe that if the feds order something, they need to pay for it. And the Constitution says that the federal government will provide for the common defense -- but who's protecting the rights of the landowners whose property is being trampled and whose livestock is being damaged by the uncontrolled entry of illegal migrants crossing the border on foot and in vehicles?

I can't argue that the dollars Arizona gets from Washington need to be better matched to the costs incurred by particular Arizona institutions and localities, as well as individual Arizonans, BUT the fact remains that Arizonans are coming out way ahead overall.

It's easy to pretend to be a state full of rugged individualists when you're floating on a sea of Federal dollars. Is it true that every rancher who grazes his livestock on BLM lands wants the Federal government to get the hell out of his life, or does it just seem that way?

One of My Favorite Fiction Writers Gets McCain (and Arizona) Wrong, Part 1

I hate, I absolutely hate, to say bad things about J.A. Jance. I've read every single one of her excellent Joanna Brady mysteries, which I love, including the most recent one which was released just last month.

But it looks as if I must. Because Ms. Jance has a longish piece in today's Outlook section about McCain and Arizona, and a lot of it is, quite frankly, full of shit.

"What I know about McCain reminds me of a lot of people I've known in my home state over the years. He seems to be a straight shooter," Jance says. Well, we've all known a lot of people who were good at giving the impression that they were straight shooters. I'm sure Arizonans know the breed just as well as the rest of us do.

And that's exactly what McCain is - someone who's done a good job of conveying the impression of being a straight shooter. But he's not: here's Steve Benen's list of McCain's flipflops - 74 and counting. By the time a man is 70 years old, and running for the Presidency to boot, he ought to know where he stands on most things. He shouldn't be reversing himself on literally dozens of positions on major issues like Iraq, Gitmo, tax cuts, and Social Security.

Jance adds that McCain "has what we in Arizona like to call cojones, and from what I know of Arizonans, that's something they like and respect in a leader."

We all do. But most of us like it if those cojones are tempered with a sense of the possible.

Jance's fictional sheriff, Joanna Brady, has to deal with limitations all the time, and it's one of the things that lends a sense of realism to her books. There are always numerous demands on Brady's small police force, and limited staff, vehicles, money, you name it, to deal with those demands.

It's the same in the wider world. If you're President, and you've decided to throw every available soldier into Iraq, that means you've got nothing left for the next emerging crisis, whenever and wherever it raises its head. To then say, "We're all Georgians now" isn't demonstrating one's cojones, but is rather an exhibition of meaningless bluster. It sounds good, but if he'd already been President, he wouldn't have been going to the aid of the Georgians any more than Bush did, because he, like Bush, would have had no troops to go to their aid with.

As Si Kahn once sang, "It's not the fights you dream of, but those you really fought."

Jance: "Like my parents, he's...someone who's not afraid of hard work and who's determined to get the job done."

Pardon me, Ms. Jance, but what evidence is there that McCain's a hard worker? One of the distinguishing features about McCain as Senator and Presidential candidate is how little he works to understand difficult issues - even those, like Iraq, that are supposedly in his wheelhouse.

He's demonstrated his ignorance about who's for and against whom in Iraq, lumping Sunni and Shi'ite opponents of the U.S. occupation into an imaginary alliance that neither side is interested in. In an interview, he disagreed with an interviewer who pointed out that he was going to limit carbon emissions through the use of mandatory caps, apparently not realizing that that's what the 'cap' part of his own 'cap-and-trade' proposal really means. And these are just two of many for-instances. If he was a hard worker, he'd know these basics about his own proposals, and about the issues he takes most seriously. I have to believe he's not.

Finally, Jance says:
Some people complained that he moved here for the sole and calculated purpose of starting his political career in a place where his second wife's family connections could help make that happen. But how is that different from generations of miners who were also "opportunists" when they came to this patch of desert looking for better jobs or better lives -- the same way my father did?
McCain's real bit of opportunism was wooing and winning the daughter (and eventual sole heir) of a very rich man, while still married to his first wife. There he was, a man in his forties, putting the moves on a woman in her early 20s, who just happened to be worth more money than most of us can imagine, while he was still married to wife #1.

In the long-ago words of SNL's Chico Escuela, "Charlie Hustle, you bet."

Yeah, that's just a wee tad different from moving to Arizona for the dry desert air, or in the hopes of striking it rich with a copper mine claim.

Broder's Alternate Reality

This year, Broder's vacationing in New Hampshire rather than Michigan. But it's still the same old crap.

I'll skip over the usual 'I talked to real people who see things just the same as I do' nonsense, and go directly to this gem:
Sununu, Norm Coleman in Minnesota and Gordon Smith in Oregon are three relatively young senators the GOP hopes can survive this difficult year and provide a base for the future. All three stress their independent credentials, while their opponents try to categorize them as Bush clones.
But somehow, even a veteran political reporter such as Broder is incapable of marshaling any evidence to indicate which story is closer to the truth. With a job that consists of writing two op-ed columns a week, you'd think he could look up some cloture votes on the Internet or something. I guess when you're as old as Broder, that's just too much work. (I'll try to do that later.)

But only in Broderland are these three "a base for the [GOP's] future." Even though these three only occasionally deviate from the party line, that's still too much deviation for them to be regarded as trustworthy. They're still the outliers who are tolerated because they're holding off the Democratic deluge - at least for now. But nobody in the GOP leadership sees these guys as the core of the party's future.

The Beltway pundits are in love with the idea of centrism, so they drool over the least evidence of moderate Republicans.

There aren't any. Get over it.

The Brawlers, Cont.

This part of Ignatius' column seemed to rate a post of its own:

Pelosi and Reid rose to leadership positions during the hyper-partisan years of Republican control of Congress, and it shows. They are the people who refused to be Swift-boated, DeLay-ed or otherwise crushed by the Republican attack machine. They attacked back and were as vengeful as the Republicans.

Pelosi describes with relish her strategy for trouncing Bush's plan to privatize Social Security -- which was to blast it mercilessly, without offering an alternative. The implicit message is that negotiation and compromise are for losers. The reality that Social Security is facing bankruptcy seems not to interest either Pelosi or Reid.
Let's unpack this, shall we?

First of all, how did pundits like Ignatius react to the "hyper-partisan years of Republican control of Congress"? With barely a peep. With maybe a shrug and a "politics ain't beanbag" remark or two.

That's a reasonable position. Just don't get alarmist when Dems decide to play that way, too. (And especially when they haven't.)

Ignatius' sole example of Dem ruthlessness is Pelosi's approach to Social Security privatization: blast it, without offering an alternative.
1) This was a one-off. Despite its having been a smashing success, the Dems never went back to that well.
2) An alternative to what?? The Administration never offered up a plan of their own. Apparently that was A-OK with Ignatius.

Ignatius continues: "The reality that Social Security is facing bankruptcy seems not to interest either Pelosi or Reid."

Dear David: this is because Pelosi and Reid live in this reality, where, according to the CBO (h/t Hilzoy), "the 75-year actuarial imbalance in the program amounts to 0.38 percent of GDP, or 1.06 percent of taxable payroll." That's a pretty small imbalance over a 75-year horizon to get worked up about - which is why Pelosi and Reid aren't interested.

Especially when the date at which the Social Security reserves will be exhausted keeps on staying four decades away. In the 1990s, that date was in the 2030s, and now, in 2008, it's moved back to 2049. And even if those reserves get exhausted, benefits supportable by ongoing Social Security tax revenues will be greater, adjusted for inflation, than they are nOh yeow.

There ain't no Social Security crisis, except in the propaganda of the GOP and in the minds of the Beltway pundits. Dummies.

Finally, we can't neglect "They attacked back and were as vengeful as the Republicans."

Excuse me, David, but were you alive in the impeachment year of 1998? Did you miss the way the GOP trashed Max Cleland in 2002? Were you asleep in 2004 when the GOP turned John Kerry into a liar about his war record?

I'm trying to remember the last time the Dems trashed a GOP politician - not his positions, but his fundamental character - with a bunch of made-up stuff the way the GOP does to Dems routinely. Sure, politics ain't beanbag, but raising the alarm the first time the Dems throw an inside pitch, after the GOP has been plunking batters and throwing behind them all day, is just ridiculous. And is, unfortunately, par for the course for the Beltway pundit double standard.

Mr. Cool and the What???

I'm out on the back deck (an island in a sea of trees) with my laptop, enjoying the cool of the early morning. This is the way to blog.

And the WaPo is a blessedly target-rich environment this morning, starting with David Ignatius' column, "Mr. Cool and the Brawlers." Let's get to it:

As the Democrats assemble in Denver, there's an odd dissonance to the party. The star of the show is "Mr. Cool," Barack Obama, the ultra-charismatic senator who landed on the national stage as if from outer space -- seemingly untouched by the usual racial and political scars -- promising a new era of bipartisanship and national healing.

Well, yeah. Because the moment Obama reminded anyone just the least bit of Jesse Jackson, he could pack his campaign up and go home. That's the way it is for the first black man to have a real shot at winning the Presidency: damned if you do, and painted as aloof and untouchable by the likes of David Ignatius if you don't.

But here comes the good part:
But the supporting cast is a collection of red-hot politicians I've come to think of as the Get-Even Gang -- led by the party's congressional leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
That's right - Nancy "Impeachment is off the table" Pelosi, and Harry "I'm gonna ignore Feingold's 'hold' in order to pass the President's FISA bill" Reid. They're the "Get-Even Gang."

That's Harry Reid, who only intermittently blocked cloture on GOP bills while in the minority, and didn't once force the GOP to actually filibuster a bill that they'd blocked cloture on, once the Dems were back in the majority. Not when the GOP blocked cloture on the minimum wage increase, or veterans' benefits, or anything else that was wildly popular, and would have educated the public on just how bad the GOP is, and to the great lengths they're willing to go to block legislation that the vast majority of Americans support.

Yeah, that's "Get-Even Harry."

And when Rove, Miers, and so many other Administration officials said "screw you" to subpoenas from both houses of Congress last year, Pelosi and Reid are the "Get-Even Gang" that moved at a glacial pace in going through the steps of holding them accountable, allowing them to run out the clock on testifying during this Administration, despite the fact that that clock had started ticking back in mid-2007.

And they're the "Get-Even Gang" that, when it became clear that the "Principals Committee" including Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft, had specifically authorized the torture "enhanced interrogation" techniques used in Gitmo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, that instances of people tortured to death by Americans hadn't even stepped up the oversight of such activities by the Administration, and Bush openly acknowledged that he had approved the whole program, 'got even' by...doing nothing.

Yep, that's Ignatius' "Get-Even Gang."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Who Needs Russia? Two Words, Fred: Loose Nukes

Fred Hiatt asks, "Who Needs Russia?" He argues that Russia hasn't been a very helpful partner in dealing with Iran, North Korea, terrorism, and so forth, and maybe working with them is a waste of time:
Iran provides a useful example. Russia has participated, with Germany, France and Britain, in talks aimed at persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear program and even has gone along with some sanctions enacted by the U.N. Security Council. But Russia's principal contribution has been to slow the process and resist meaningful sanctions, stringing the Bush administration along just enough to convince it that truly effective measures -- sometime, somewhere down the road -- might be possible. Iran's nuclear program has proceeded without inhibition. Meanwhile, Russian experts help develop Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, and Russia sells Iran air-defense weapons it can use to protect its nuclear sites and anti-ship weapons it could use to menace Persian Gulf shipping traffic in the event of conflict.
Yeah, Russia's a bad actor. But we still need to preserve enough harmony in the U.S.-Russia relationship that the work of accounting for and securing all the fissile material produced by the former U.S.S.R. reaches a conclusion sometime in the not-too-distant future.

Without nukes, no terrorist organization is likely to do much worse to us than al-Qaeda did on 9/11. With nukes, they could blow up a city. So how about let's keep working with the Russians to secure their nukes, and to downblend as much of their bomb-grade uranium as they're willing to do?

Yeah, we need Russia. Seems like a no-brainer.

The WaPo Is Upset About the House Issue

Maybe Fred Hiatt could write a letter to the editor, complaining about the WaPo's news coverage.
Really, do the McCains' real estate holdings and his failure to keep count of his wife's Coronado condos make Mr. McCain oblivious to the concerns of ordinary Americans -- any more than their family estates made Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy incapable of feeling the pain of the common man? Do Mr. Obama's four fireplaces, music room, wine cellar and four-car garage count against him? Likewise, Mr. Obama has long said that he had a lapse in judgment in getting entangled with Tony Rezko, a friend and fundraiser who in June was convicted of 16 counts of felony corruption in an influence-peddling scheme, in buying his house.

But anyone who votes on the basis of this sound-and-fury politics deserves the president he gets.

Hey, I've got an idea! Maybe, when ads like these are run, the WaPo could dig into the substance in its news stories. For instance, when it asks, "do the McCains' real estate holdings and his failure to keep count of his wife's Coronado condos make Mr. McCain oblivious to the concerns of ordinary Americans?" it could take a look at his tax cut proposals, his plans to privatize Social Security, his health coverage plan, and other policies that might address the pocketbook concerns of ordinary Americans - and see whether or not they reflect that obliviousness.

And then, of course, do the same with Obama's.

Or even better, the WaPo could be proactive, so that candidates wouldn't have to play games like these to get their messages across. Maybe when either candidate makes a speech about a particular issue (as opposed to his regular stump speech), the WaPo could treat it as news, and have a front-page story that primarily addresses the specifics of the candidate's proposals, and only secondarily addresses how it will play.

Radical, huh?

It could even, from time to time, do news stories comparing what the candidates say on their websites about different issues. It's not like they even have to wait around for a speech anymore, unless the speech says something new.

But if candidates can't get coverage when they talk seriously about policy, who can blame them for talking about how their opponent doesn't know how many houses he has? If that's what the TV and the newspapers will cover, then what else should they do?

It's a shame there's nothing Fred Hiatt can do to change this state of affairs.

Gone Bicycling

I'll be back later in the day to chop up a couple of rather idiotic WaPo editorials. But it's too damned fine a morning out there to not get on the bike for a few hours. The back roads of Anne Arundel County call. See you later.

The Obama-Biden Ticket: It's All About The Bitch-Slap

Hope you don't mind if I take a break from the op-eds long enough to say I'm happy with Obama's choice of Biden. Looking at it in terms of Josh Marshall's bitch-slap theory of politics, what we know is that Biden can give as good as he gets. It's often helpful if the veep choice has a bit of attack dog in him, so that the Presidential candidate can float somewhat above the fray. Biden is a fighter, and has a gift for words (he was the originator of the 'noun-verb-9/11' meme that finished Rudy off last fall).

Obama choosing Biden is (for us geezers) like Pat Benatar singing, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." Bring it, baby, because we can throw it right back atcha.

Game on. :)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Broder: Conventions Were Much Better When I Was A Boy

Broder video snippet about the 1956 and 1960 conventions

"I'm David Broder of the Washington Post. I started covering political conventions in the 1950s and they have changed so much in that time. I love conventions, but they're not today what they were then."

Yeah, whatever, you old fart. You forgot to mention that you can't buy a Coke for a nickel anymore. And zoot suits probably aren't going to make a comeback, either.

McCain Takes It To the House (all 6 7 10 ??? Of Them)

I have a mansion, forget the price
Ain't never been there, they tell me it's nice
-Joe Walsh, "Life's Been Good"

Most of us have gotten used to the fact that many rich people have multiple residences. But when a guy has so many houses, he doesn't even know how many of them he has, that's really something. Few things convey the idea of having way more money than you can really use, than having more houses than you can remember being at.

So it's good to see the WaPo jump all over this one - not just with a front-page story, but with a Style section profile.

It's a beautiful weekend here in the D.C. area (I'm off work today), and I expect to be outside much of the time. It's been a hell of a week at work, and my psyche needs it. Light blogging, I expect.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

How Do You Write 50 Paragraphs About Steve Schmidt, and Not Mention Rove?

OK, Lois Romano's Style section puff piece on Schmidt does mention Rove twice, if you want to be technical.

Once in the 21st paragraph, where Rove is quoted as a knowledgeable but uninvolved observer.

And three paragraphs later, where Romano says, in passing that "it bothers [Schmidt] to be called a protege of Rove's."

Here's what the WaPo's Chris Cillizza reported back in December 2006:
[P]rior to [the 2006 campaign season, Schmidt] was a member of the Bush political inner circle. He handled the strategic communications efforts during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr., and during the 2004 presidential election he was a member of the "breakfast club" -- a small gathering of top level Bush advisers who met regularly at the home of senior strategist Karl Rove.
'Rove protege' or not, Schmidt clearly worked closely with him on both the 2004 campaign and on 'strategic communications' for the Supreme Court appointments: it's not like Rove would have been only lightly involved in selling Roberts and Alito.

Romano adds this nugget:
Schmidt's sister, his only sibling, is gay, and he has made it clear that he is appalled by the party's hostile attitudes toward gay rights.
I can only respond that Schmidt is so "appalled by the party's hostile attitudes toward gay rights" that he was an integral part of the message machine for Bush's 2004 campaign that, in part, won by rallying conservative Christians against the specter of gay marriage.

And after that, he led the propagandizing for two new Justices who could be counted on to vote against gay rights in any decision that came before them.

In other words, Schmidt is a guy who would sell his own sister down the river to get his candidate elected. I guess there just wasn't room in that 50-paragraph puff piece to mention that.

But she does have room for:
Steve Schmidt has made a career out of not being a creature of Washington.
Yeah, I thought that was pretty funny, too. Washington state? Maybe. Washington, Virginia? Nah, I'll bet he's dined at the Inn. Washington County, Oklahoma? That's probably safe.

And she also has room for:
"The Internet has created a wave of venom that is very disturbing," he says of the e-mails and calls he receives. "People who run these campaigns have become targets very directly. Who needs it?"

I think the phrase is, "what goes around, comes around." Or, "turnabout is fair play." Or "pot, meet kettle." Or "he who lives by the smear, whines at the smear (and then everybody makes fun of him)."

He curtailed McCain's media availability because he found journalists were more interested in filing hour-to-hour for the Web, rather than reporting more in-depth looks at the day on the trail.
Yeh, riiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Even by the standards of the Style section, this is an incredible display of taking a public figure at his word. If Lois Romano looks in the mirror, does she see Roland Burton Hedley?

George Will, Paternalistic Schools, and Liberalism

George Will's column today is about a marvelous little (only 200 students) inner-city charter school, being run by a Native American who made a fortune in real estate, then decided to do Good Works. The teachers, Will tells us, come from "come from places such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Oberlin, Columbia, Berkeley, Brown and Wesleyan." Needless to say, the school is excellent.

What it isn't - and someone with half a brain could see this, but that manifestly excludes Will - is a solution for what ails our schools.

The problem is replicability. Let's take a city with a population of 1,000,000. It has, say, 150,000 school-age children. Will's model school has 200 students. You'd need 750 such schools for this one city.

Now, where are you going to get 750 school administrators who have the smarts and drive to make a fortune in the business world, but would rather run a school, let alone several thousand grads of elite schools to teach at them?

And that's just one city. Now scale that up to the level of the U.S.A.

You'd think George Will would be able to think this through. You'd be wrong.

According to Will, what stands in the way of this movement of "paternalistic schools" curing the ills of America's public school system is, of course, the Usual Culprits: teachers' unions, Democrats, liberals:
Unfortunately, powerful factions fiercely oppose the flourishing. Among them are education schools with their romantic progressivism....Other opponents are the teachers unions and their handmaiden, the Democratic Party. Today's liberals favor paternalism -- you cannot eat trans fats; you must buy health insurance -- for everyone except children. Odd.
The funny thing is, you know where I first heard about this movement? In approving posts in lefty blogs.

To quote Will, "Well."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Kathleen Parker Is Confused About SOCAS

Wasn't there a smart woman that the WaPo could have added to its op-ed roster?
At the risk of heresy, let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister -- no matter how beloved -- is supremely wrong.

It is also un-American.
Oh, really? And why? Would it have been un-American if the interrogation had been about race by a black preacher at the NAACP convention? Or by a labor leader at an AFL-CIO forum?

Last time I checked, neither the Establishment Clause nor the Free Exercise Clause implied that religion was shut out of the public square. But no governmental unit may give one religion a leg up over another, or give religion itself an advantage over nonreligion.

And in the case of Rick Warren's candidate forum at the Saddleback Church, no government was playing any role at all. So from the First Amendment perspective, game on.

After some rambling, Parker reveals her concern: that every candidate will have to pledge fealty to the likes of Warren:
What's next? Interrogations by rabbis, priests and imams? What candidate would dare decline on the basis of mere principle?
Getting a little hysterical, aren't we? I mean, the reason why this forum happened at all was that both candidates very much want to appeal to voters who are more than nominally Christian, and Warren was trusted enough by both that they were willing to take a chance on his asking reasonable questions, which he did. A rabbi, a priest and an imam may try to walk into host a candidate forum, but it's hard to see wh

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Richard Cohen Wants To Be a Realist

Yeah, I know. Let the snark begin. :)
Scowcroft was asked about the first Bush administration's decision to look the other way as Saddam Hussein's attack helicopters slaughtered Shiites in the south of Iraq. He seemed unmoved. It is not for nothing that he is called a "realist."
There's nothing wrong with being a foreign-policy realist. What's wrong, of course, is giving idealists reason to believe you're going to back them up, and then turning all 'realist' on them.

In the wake of the first Gulf War, when we'd bombed Iraq for six weeks, then kicked the Iraqi army out of Kuwait in four days, of course Kurds and Marsh Arabs and Shi'ites were going to rise up against Saddam when Bush I encouraged them to do so. Surely he'd have their back, or he wouldn't have said such things, right?

Yeh, right.

And it's the same thing every time - if you're the United States of America, and you make promises you aren't willing to keep, someone else may wind up dead due to your duplicity. Bay of Pigs 1961, Hungary 1956, Iraq 1991, Georgia 2008, wherever, whenever. Being a realist isn't something you want to be for a day, like Cohen does, but rather all the time. You might ask questions like "Do the people of South Ossetia really want us to ride to their rescue? How about the Ukrainians?" (That would be no, and no.) "Are we already actively engaged in that part of the world?" (No, not really.) "If Russia can move into Georgia that easily, does it mean Ukraine's next?" (No. Ukraine's got 10 times as many people, and 8 times the land area, of Georgia. Besides, the people of Ukraine already desire good relations with Russia; they just don't want a Soviet-style ruler.) And "with all our troops tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, what could we send to Georgia?" (Nothing.)

There's an argument to be made that if we hadn't gone into Iraq, then maybe we should have invited Georgia into NATO and been prepared to come to its aid - not including its two breakaway republics. But that's the thing about realism: it forces you to recognize limits and face choices. Staying in Iraq meant no more land wars, no more projection of force at the level where it really counts, until that was done.

Realism is good. This Administration, and its cheerleaders such as Cohen, could have used a continuous dose of it. Unfortunately, few wanted to administer the medicine.

Monday, August 18, 2008

John McCain and the Mysterious POW Integrity Effect Time Lag

“The insinuation from the Obama campaign that John McCain, a former prisoner of war, cheated is outrageous,” [McCain campaign spokesperson Nicolle] Wallace said.

John McCain, former prisoner of war, cheated on his first wife. Repeatedly. While a former prisoner of war.

Apparently being a former POW magically turns one into a person of integrity.

But apparently it takes a pretty substantial chunk of time for this to happen: not only did McCain cheat on his first wife numerous times in the 1970s, but of course there's his Keating Five days in the 1980s, too.

Maybe a member of our supposedly liberal press corps could call up the McCain campaign, point out these facts, and ask just what the lag time is on the POW Integrity Effect.

Nice Strawman, Fred


As Russian forces loot and occupy a neighboring state, conscripting Georgian civilians at gunpoint to sweep their city streets, it's not uncommon, in Moscow or in Washington, to find America at fault.

Russia has gone over to the dark side -- or, in the Moscow version, has finally stood up for itself -- in understandable reaction to U.S. disrespect, according to this view. And the next president should learn a lesson from this: that there are limits to how far Russia can or should be pushed.

This narrative of American provocation cites a long list of grievances, but the principal and original sin is NATO expansion. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States encouraged the newly free nations of Central and Eastern Europe to join a military alliance whose founding purpose had been containment of the U.S.S.R. Russia hated the idea from the start, and the United States should have known that Moscow, once it recovered its strength, would exact retribution.

So who are these mysterious hate-America-firsters who are peddling this narrative? Can we check out their claims, to see if Hiatt's fairly representing their arguments? Are any public figures of significance espousing this narrative, or are these simply random mutterings that Hiatt has heard secondhand, or from someone at a party?

How is this line of reasoning so important that Hiatt needs to rebut it, but not important enough for us to see the argument presented by those who espouse it?

No way of telling, is there?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More Flatulence from George Will

[McCain might win] if McCain can make it turn on the question of who is ornery enough to give Putin a convincing, deterring telephone call at 3 a.m.
I'm trying to imagine how this call would have worked, if McCain were already President. I'm sure he would have given Putin what for - maybe like this:
"Vladimir? Buddy, if I had any troops to spare, you'd be in BIG TROUBLE. Yeah, I'd hit you with everything I've got. I won't always have the whole U.S. military tied down in an irrelevant war, you know. And next time, I'll even be able to see it coming when you pull a stunt like this, because my spy satellites will be watching you, instead of keeping track of Iraqi insurgents. So you better watch out, Buster, because next time, I'll get you, but good!!"
Putin would be shaking in his boots, I'm sure.

Flatulence from George Will, Cont.

A slightly more serious take:

McCain...should ask Obama to join him in a town meeting on lessons from Russia's aggression. Both candidates favor NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine, perhaps Vladimir Putin's next victim. But does Russia's behavior cause Obama to rethink reliance on "soft power" -- dialogue, disapproval, diplomacy, economic carrots and sticks -- which Putin considers almost an oxymoron?
There are times when you've got to be ready to back up soft power with hard power. But if you use soft power first, you're more likely to have hard power in your back pocket when you need it. McCain wants to use hard power for everything, and then one day when you need it, you're out - just as we are now, having followed the course he advocated. And it isn't like you can just go down to Safeway and buy another ten brigades of combat troops.
Does Russia's resort to military coercion, and its arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles, cause Obama to revise his resistance to missile defense?
Does George Will think that missile defenses actually work against a Russia-sized arsenal? and does Will think putting ineffective missile defenses in Poland was worth blinding ourselves to Russia's troop movements, so we'd be caught by surprise in Georgia?

Gawd, what a bozo.
Obama, unlike McCain, believes that Russia belongs in the Group of Eight. Does Obama think that Russia should be admitted to the World Trade Organization? Does Obama consider Putin helpful regarding Iran? Does Obama accept the description of the G-8 as an organization of the largest "industrialized democracies"? Does he think China should be admitted?
I guess this is the sort of trivial shit that Will thinks the election should be about. It really doesn't matter worth a rat's ass whether Russia or China is in the G-8.

Bush: Not So Terrible As You Think

Or so say Fareed Zakaria, David Frum, and Robert Kagan, according to a blurb in today's Outlook section.

It's a shame there isn't some treacker of the Villager attitude towards Bush over the years. Because there's never been a point where they've said: yes, Bush really is a fuckup. Instead, they've managed to go from "he's not so bad" to "well, he was really bad, but he's not anymore" without ever having to say, "yeah, he's really a terrible President." Which he was, and is - and having done a few things right at the end doesn't change the reality that his Presidency has been a disaster, at home and abroad.

Take the Surge, which along with some purely Iraqi events has improved the security situation over there. The deliberately uncounted hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead are still dead; the millions of exiles are still exiled. It's good that things are better now, but that shoudn't get him off the hook.

I suppose we could say, "Good job, Bush - in the past year, you haven't caused any new foreign-policy disasters!" which would be grading on quite a curve right there, except that his overcommitment to Iraq meant that we had nothing left for any other international crisis, and Putin knew it.

L'il Debbie: Too Much Obama Coverage!

Deborah Howell:

Democrat Barack Obama has had about a 3 to 1 advantage over Republican John McCain in Post Page 1 stories since Obama became his party's presumptive nominee June 4. Obama has generated a lot of news by being the first African American nominee, and he is less well known than McCain -- and therefore there's more to report on. But the disparity is so wide that it doesn't look good.

In overall political stories from June 4 to Friday, Obama dominated by 142 to 96. Obama has been featured in 35 stories on Page 1; McCain has been featured in 13, with three Page 1 references with photos to stories on inside pages....

Well, how else should it be?

Obama's campaign is, of course, mostly about what Obama would do as President.

But McCain's ads are also all about Obama.

In addition, the Republican Party's website is all about Obama.

So to the extent that the WaPo is covering the race as it actually is, what should their coverage be about?

The McCain and Obama campaigns, and the Democratic and Republican parties all agree: it's about Obama. The WaPo's coverage is reflecting reality.

This Morning's Broder: More Inside Baseball

Broder has what's actually a flattering column about the operations at Obama HQ in Chicago.

Who cares?

I mean, it's nice and all that the Obama operation is running smoothly and without drama, keeping their focus on the big picture, and not worrying about the latest ups and downs in the polls.

But this is still inside-baseball crap. Similar stories could have probably been written about the Bush campaign in 2000, and look where we've ended up.

In the three weeks I've been writing this blog, Broder's written seven columns, and they've been almost entirely about process stuff - and he's complained that the campaign needs to be more about the issues.

Ain't enough rolleyes.

It's Sunday, and My Outlook Section Runneth Over

I''ll be posting shortly; consider this an open thread, and an opportunity to say 'hi' if you're reading.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Why I Read the WaPo Business Section

First of all, it's not the editorial or op-ed page. And while the WaPo has some reporters who tend toward political stenography, it's also got a number of genuinely fine reporters.

Second, a lot of important stories show up in the business section, rather than on the front page. A few examples from today's WaPo:

Quebec Wal-Mart Workers Unionize: Pact Ordered By Labor Board Covers 8 Employees

A small group of employees at a Wal-Mart store in Canada secured yesterday the only union contract with the company in North America, a victory for labor groups that have campaigned for years to organize the world's largest retailer.

The three-year contract covers eight workers in the tire and lube department of a Wal-Mart in Gatineau, Quebec, and increases starting wages from $8.40 to $10.89 an hour. The contract was imposed by the Quebec Labor Relations Board after negotiations between the company and employees fell apart.
You've got to wonder how soon WallyWorld will shut down that tire and lube department, but if you're keeping an eye on the efforts to give Wal-Mart employees the opportunity to unionize - which many people in the netroots are - this is part of that story.

Another for-instance:

Giant of Internet Radio Nears Its 'Last Stand': Pandora, Other Webcasters Struggle Under High Song Fees

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Pandora is one of the nation's most popular Web radio services, with about 1 million listeners daily. Its Music Genome Project allows customers to create stations tailored to their own tastes. It is one of the 10 most popular applications for Apple's iPhone and attracts 40,000 new customers a day.

Yet the burgeoning company may be on the verge of collapse, according to its founder, and so may be others like it.


Last year, an obscure federal panel ordered a doubling of the per-song performance royalty that Web radio stations pay to performers and record companies.

Traditional radio, by contrast, pays no such fee. Satellite radio pays a fee but at a less onerous rate, at least by some measures.

As for Pandora, its royalty fees this year will amount to 70 percent of its projected revenue of $25 million, Westergren said, a level that could doom it and other Web radio outfits.

This is a big deal, if you care about music. Broadcast radio has increasingly become a desert, as it's gotten bought up by Clear Channel and other conglomerates. Satellite radio is better in some respects, but it doesn't alleviate the problem of far too few people being able to control what music we have the opportunity to hear. Internet radio solves that problem, by letting anyone be a broadcaster.

But if they have to pay fees that the radio stations don't, the whole thing kinda falls apart.

I'd hate to see Pandora go. It's a great service. You can give it a few of your favorite songs, and it'll play other songs it thinks are similar. As it plays songs, you can tell it which ones you like and which you don't, and it'll increasingly shape what is effectively your personal Internet radio station to your tastes. And there's nothing that says you can have only one: it lets you design as many as you have time to listen to. I've heard numerous songs on Pandora that I've liked, and never heard anywhere else.

But whether Pandora sinks or swims, the great thing about the Web is its ability to give everyone a voice. Just as we can all be pundits, we should all be able to be broadcasters.

Anyhow, that's two pretty good for-instances, and that's on a quiet Saturday morning. That's why I check out the WaPo business section.

McClatchy's Landay on the Georgian Conflict

While I'm highlighting articles on the Georgian mini-war, it would be a crime to skip past this article by Jonathan Landay of the excellent McClatchy chain, which illustrates the depth of the Bush Administration's strategic clusterfuck:

One problem in under-estimating the Russian response, another U.S. official said, was "a dearth of intelligence assets in the region."

U.S. "national technical means," the official name for spy satellites and other technology, are "pretty well consumed by Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan," the official said, and there was only limited monitoring of Russian military movements toward the Georgian border.

Additionally, the United States had lost access to vital information when Russia dropped out of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in December to protest U.S. plans to build missile defense sites in Europe.

Under the treaty, Russia had been required to exchange reports on troop, armor and aircraft deployments with the United States and other members on a monthly basis. But once Russia dropped out, that information was no longer available.

"I wouldn't say we were blind," the official said. "I would say that we mostly were focused elsewhere, unlike during the Cold War, when we'd see a single Soviet armor battalion move. So, yes, the size and scope of the Russian move has come as something of a surprise."

So: the Iraq war deprived us of the resources to deal with other potential conflicts, as we DFHs had been warning for years. And in this particular case, it's even worse: it deprived us of the resources to see what was coming.

Though as Landay points out, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty gave us another (if weaker and more intermittent) set of eyes to watch Russian troop movements with. But we decided we'd rather give Poland and the Czech Republic a somewhat porous missile defense than be able to see.

This is the Bush/neocon attitude towards the world: we can be as aggressive as we want - invade Iraq, rattle sabers at Iran, back out of a deal with North Korea, abrogate the ABM treaty with Russia, and put missiles in Poland - and none of it will have any consequences. Until it does.

Speaking of actions with consequences, as everyone now knows, we gave Saakashvili mixed messages. He evidently heard the part he wanted to hear, as people will. Giving him the slightest reason to believe we might help him out militarily in a pinch, in a time when we were already desperately scrounging for enough troops for Iraq, was absolutely crazy on our Administration's part.

Bush lavished praise on the U.S.-educated Georgian leader as a "beacon of democracy." He gave military training and equipment to Georgia, which supplied the third-largest contingent to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and had promised NATO membership, they said. He visited the country in 2005 and addressed a huge crowd from the same podium as Saakashvili.

"The Russians have clearly overreacted but President Saakashvili . . . for some reason seems to think he has a hall pass from this administration," said former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

And then there's the coup de grace. You know how, for neocons, the year is always 1938, and the place is always Munich? Well, guess who, under that characterization, got to play the Neville Chamberlain role in the current kerfluffle?

That's right: George W. Bush.

At the same time, U.S. officials said that they believed they had an understanding with Russia that any response to Georgian military action would be limited to South Ossetia.

"We knew they were going to go crack heads. We told them again and again not to do this," the State Department official said. "We thought we had an understanding with the Russians that any response would be South Ossetia-focused. Clearly it's not."

Remember all the shit Carter got for his "Brezhnev lied to me" remark, when Russia invaded Afghanistan? This is Bush's "Putin lied to me" moment.

And, even more icing on the cake: Bush promised humanitarian aid he couldn't deliver.

WASHINGTON — President Bush Wednesday promised that U.S. naval forces would deliver humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia before his administration had received approval from Turkey, which controls naval access to the Black Sea, or the Pentagon had planned a seaborne operation, U.S. officials said Thursday.

As of late Thursday, Ankara, a NATO ally, hadn't cleared any U.S. naval vessels to steam to Georgia through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, the narrow straits that connect the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, the officials said. Under the 1936 Montreaux Convention, countries must notify Turkey before sending warships through the straits.

Pentagon officials told McClatchy that they were increasingly dubious that any U.S. Navy vessels would join the aid operation, in large part because the U.S.-based hospital ships likely to go, the USNS Comfort and the USNS Mercy, would take weeks to arrive.

"The president was writing checks to the Georgians without knowing what he had in the bank," said a senior administration official.

There comes a point at which you'd think even Bush's most diehard supporters have to admit he's a total fuckup. They won't, of course, but when you hit 'em with a bunch of stuff like this, all they can do is slink away or change the subject. How 'bout them Cubbies?

P.S. Here's the link to the main McClatchy news page. I recommend checking it at least once a day. They catch some good stories that the WaPo and the NY Times miss.

Michael Dobbs on Georgia

Dobbs and Huple? Huple and Dobbs? Who were they? What preposterous madness to float in thin air two miles high on an inch or two of metal, sustained from death by the meager skill and intelligence of two vapid strangers, a beardless kid named Huple and a nervous nut like Dobbs...

Lord knows, I've slammed the WaPo's Michael Dobbs in the past (not here - this blog's too young), but Josh Marshall's right: he's got an absolutely must-read piece in tomorrow's Outlook section about the Georgia conflict. Some excerpts:

Unlike most of the armchair generals now posing as experts on the Caucasus, I have actually visited Tskhinvali, a sleepy provincial town in the shadow of the mountains that rise along Russia's southern border. I was there in March 1991, shortly after the city was occupied by Georgian militia units loyal to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first freely elected leader of Georgia in seven decades. One of Gamsakhurdia's first acts as Georgian president was to cancel the political autonomy that the Stalinist constitution had granted the republic's 90,000-strong Ossetian minority.

After negotiating safe passage with Soviet interior ministry troops who had stationed themselves between the Georgians and the Ossetians, I discovered that the town had been ransacked by Gamsakhurdia's militia. The Georgians had trashed the Ossetian national theater, decapitated the statue of an Ossetian poet and pulled down monuments to Ossetians who had fought with Soviet troops in World War II. The Ossetians were responding in kind, firing on Georgian villages and forcing Georgian residents of Tskhinvali to flee their homes.

It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence. "We are much more worried by Georgian imperialism than Russian imperialism," an Ossetian leader, Gerasim Khugaev, told me. "It is closer to us, and we feel its pressure all the time."

Saakashvili's image in the West, and particularly in the United States, is that of the great "democrat," the leader of the "Rose Revolution" who spearheaded a popular uprising against former American favorite Eduard Shevardnadze in November 2003. It is true that he has won two reasonably free elections, but he has also displayed some autocratic tendencies; he sent riot police to crush an opposition protest in Tbilisi last November and shuttered an opposition television station.

While the United States views Saakashvili as a pro-Western modernizer, a large part of his political appeal in Georgia has stemmed from his promise to re-unify Georgia by bringing the secessionist provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia under central control. He has presented himself as the successor to the medieval Georgian king, David the Builder, and promised that the country will regain its lost territories by the time he leaves office, by one means or another.
Putin and Medvedev have defended their incursion into Georgia as motivated by a desire to stop the "genocide" of Ossetians by Georgians. It is difficult to take their moral outrage very seriously. There is a striking contrast between Russian support for the right of Ossetian self-determination in Georgia and the brutal suppression of Chechens who were trying to exercise that very same right within the boundaries of Russia.

Playing one ethnic group off against another in the Caucasus has been standard Russian policy ever since czarist times. It is the ideal wedge issue for the Kremlin, particularly in the case of a state such as Georgia, which is made up of several different nationalities. It would be virtually impossible for South Ossetia to survive as an autonomous entity without Russian support. Putin's government has issued passports to Ossetians and secured the appointment of Russians to key positions in Tskhinvali.

Read the whole thing.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fred Hiatt: Picking the Easy Target in Jerome Corsi

Fred Hiatt is almost always a day late and a dollar short, it seems. I suppose I should be relieved that he's willing to lambaste former Swiftboater Jerome Corsi for his new book, "Obama Nation," a hit job on Obama that has only occasional and coincidental resemblance to the truth; that was more than we were able to expect from the press four years ago.

The thing is, there will always be political hit-jobbers like Corsi. Sure, the MSM should knock them down if they get enough attention to warrant a response. But the real problem is the semi-credible people who are able and willing to give the Jerome Corsis of this world a platform.

The NY Times says "The book is being pushed along by...a broad marketing campaign that has already included 100 author interviews with talk radio hosts across the country, like Sean Hannity and G. Gordon Liddy, Mr. Corsi said on Tuesday." Could Hiatt have slammed Hannity (who aired Corsi three times) and the other bozos who've put Corsi on their shows, and treated him as if he were a legitimate writer and researcher?

And finally, there's Corsi's publisher, Mary Matalin, a Villager in good standing. Hiatt:
Mary Matalin, the Republican political strategist who heads Threshold Editions, the Simon & Schuster division that published "The Obama Nation," described the book to the New York Times as "a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that." That would not be our description.
Instead of the milquetoast "That would not be our description," how about, "Matalin has lost any shred of credibility she might have once had by publishing this totally unsubstantiated hit job, and maintaining in the face of all evidence that it has any resemblance to scholarship."

Yeah. That might have been a wee tad more like it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Krauthammer Gets Sensible, But Where Was He Two Weeks Ago?

Krauthammer acknowledges that the West has no military response available to Russia's invasion of Georgia, and doesn't even hint that we ought to admit Georgia into NATO, or that we should have done so before the invasion.

This is a major step into the real world, by a major neocon. Hell, when even George Freakin' Will, who's not really a neocon at heart, thinks we could have prevented this invasion through the talismanic power of NATO membership, it's a bit of a surprise to see a guy like Krauthammer acknowledge limitations.

Krauthammer suggests the following diplomatic responses:
There are a range of measures to be deployed if Russia does not live up to its cease-fire commitments:

1. Suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the NATO table. Message: Invading neighboring democracies forfeits the seat.

2. Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organization.

3. Dissolve the G-8. Putin's dictatorship long made Russia's presence in this group of industrial democracies a farce, but no one wanted to upset the bear by expelling it. No need to. The seven democracies simply withdraw. (And if Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who has been sympathetic to Putin's Georgia adventure, wants to stay, he can have an annual G-2 dinner with Putin.) Then immediately announce the reconstitution of the original G-7.

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusan and Jamaican bobsled teams.

I'm good on 2 and 4. I'm iffy on 1 and 3, because I don't think you want to isolate your enemy too much: you always want to leave room for your enemy to become, if not your friend, then at least someone who's willing to be cooperative. But if either of those institutions would involve papering over Western objections to Russia's occupation of Georgia, then sure, boot Russia out.

Krauthammer adds this:
Subduing Georgia has an additional effect. It warns Russia's former Baltic and East European satellites what happens if you get too close to the West. It is the first step to reestablishing Russian hegemony in the region.
I suggest Krauthammer look at a map. Poland and the Baltic states are unquestionably part of Europe, and very close to those states we'd defended against a prospective Warsaw Pact invasion for nearly half a century. Unless I've totally misread U.S. and NATO policy, we're ready to go to the mats to keep those countries free.

But Georgia is on the east side of the Black Sea, hundreds of miles east of the Bosporus. It may be nominally in Europe by some weird mapmaker's definition, but it's due north of Iran and Iraq. It's immediately south of Chechnya, which nobody's been claiming as part of Europe. It's in what most people would think of as central Asia.

Like it or not, we're just not as invested in keeping that part of the world free from Russian hegemony as we are about Europe proper.

But here's the thing that genuinely annoys me in Krauthammer's column:
The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant westbound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin.
There's no doubt that this is true. But it was just as true two weeks ago as it is now. And Georgia was just as vulnerable two weeks ago. Did nobody in the sprawling neocon brain trust notice this during the past several years?

I'm no foreign-policy guru. But that's their focus: it's a dangerous world, and threats need to be met with force or the credible threat of force. If it was important to keep Russia from re-establishing its hegemony over Georgia and Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan and all the other Central Asian former Soviet 'republics,' then what was their plan for doing so? Why weren't they writing columns about this last year and the year before that?

Oh, that's right: Iraq. In order to have a credible threat of force to apply in places like this, we'd have had to not been in Iraq in force. And you know how neocons love their Iraq.

But that's how the world works: you have limited resources, even if you're a superpower. And you've got to choose how you want to apply those resources. The neocons decided to go all-in in Iraq, leaving us no credible military options in reserve for anywhere else.

That was their choice. It's a bit late for them to get all concerned about this now.