As the House is wrapping up 3 days of debate on a non-binding resolution opposing the President's decision to send roughly 20,000 more US troops to Baghdad, I wanted to share with you three of the most absurd moments of the debate.
First, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) takes a machete to logic and argues that a vote to rebuke the President is actually a vote for the stay the course in Iraq. I wish this was tongue-in-cheek, but I'm not sure the earnest, Rand Corporation-quoting, "Democrat Party"-referencing, gentleman from Sea island, Georgia is capable of it.
Next, we have Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) of anti-Muslim discrimination fame. Here's Virgil explaining how voting for the resolution would condemn us to live in a country where our money reads "In Mohammed We Trust," and "the green crescent flag of Islam flies over the Capitol and the White House." Virgil Goode has no idea the 19th century is over, really.
A couple articles in the New York Times in the last couple days show how the world of advertising applied to motion media or video is morphing. Today a story talks about the “surprising” fact that a decent proportion of people with Digital Video Recorders like Tivo do not skip ads. They make a big point about a recent Nielsen Company report that shows that 42 percent of those who watch their programs at a time-shifted time, do, in fact, watch the commercials. The general assumption is that the percentage of those who watch ads is much lower, like very few. However, as Simon points out elsewhere on this blog, that number is more a creature of the transition to new habits. For 40 years people watched TV with ads and those habits will not change overnight. But change they will as the new options become easier and more ingrained in new habits.
The second story is about some of the new ways that video on the web is being supported by advertising. The piece does an overview of the various ways, and specific companies, that are spreading the wealth of advertising revenues to bottom-up content creators. Right now all the attention goes to YouTube videos, but in that system the creators get nothing except fame. A competing company called Revver, actually attaches the ads to viral video, and give the creators of the content as cut of the revenue that is generated.
Anyhow, taking these two stories together, you see two trends coming together. The demise (albeit slower than expected transitional demise) of the old system of 30-second ads on traditional TV. And the rise of new forms of ads attached to video on the web. At some point in the next five years, a new system of advertising attached to video content will emerge, and more clarity will come.
Our good friend Tom Schaller has a new weekly column with Baltimore Sun. This first one is a good one:
America's view of Republicans crumbles in Iraq
Thomas F. Schaller
February 14, 2007
According to the latest Gallup survey, Republican self-identification has declined nationally and in almost every American state. Why? The short answer is that President Bush's war of choice in Iraq has destroyed the partisan brand Republicans spent the past four decades building.
That brand was based upon four pillars: that Republicans are more trustworthy on defense and military issues; that they know when and where markets can replace or improve government; that they are more competent administrators of those functions government can't privatize; and, finally, that their public philosophy is imbued with moral authority. The war demolished all four claims.
In uniform or out, Americans think Iraq is a disaster, oppose escalation and blame Mr. Bush and his party for the mess in Mesopotamia. Heading into the 2006 mid-terms, polls showed Republicans trailing Democrats as the party most trusted to handle Iraq and terrorism. Nationally, Mr. Bush's war approval ratings hover around 30 percent.
Military members are skeptical, too. A Military Times poll released in December revealed that only 35 percent of military members approved of the president's handling of the war - despite the fact that 46 percent of them are self-identified Republicans (down from 60 percent in previous Military Times polls) while just 16 percent are Democrats. According to a recent Zogby survey of troops serving in Iraq, 72 percent want American forces home within a year.
Congressional hearings last week on war contracting dispel the second claim. Billions of dollars appropriated for Iraq cannot be accounted for, and contracts have been doled out with limited oversight and little regard for competitiveness.
Robert Greenwald's powerful documentary Iraq for Sale exposes many of the absurdities. You wouldn't sign a three-year, $250,000 lease for a vehicle you could buy outright for $50,000, but our government does. The "cost-plus" procurement protocol pays contractors a fixed percentage on top of whatever they spend, encouraging them to spend as much and as inefficiently as possible. So rather than vehicles with minor mechanical damage being repaired, many are junked in favor of expensive replacements.
Meanwhile, the same troops Mr. Bush brags he will do "whatever it takes" to support often wait in two-hour chow lines, or shower in bacteria-contaminated water. "The hearings and the introduction of legislation, while long overdue, will begin to have an immediate effect on those who have been ruthless and relentless in their profiteering," Mr. Greenwald says hopefully.
As for the third pillar - superior management skills - there's insufficient space on this page to revisit the myriad blunders made by America's civilian leaders.
Little foresight was given to post-invasion scenarios. Disbanding the Iraqi army was an early, colossal mistake. We had too few troops there, as L. Paul Bremer III, former civilian administrator of Iraq, later admitted. And the torture policies on view at Abu Ghraib gave terrorists a fantastic recruiting tool.
Notice, too, how management "success" has been steadily defined downward: from disarming an unarmed Saddam Hussein, to bringing liberation and democratization, to establishing basic security, to avoiding a domestic civil war, to "holding and clearing" Baghdad, to the current goal of preventing a regional conflagration that wouldn't be imminent had we not gone to Iraq in the first place. Talk about the soft bigotry of low - and lowering - expectations.
Finally, there is the war's morality. In what moral system is it justified to wage a war without paying for it? Mr. Bush tormented Sen. John Kerry in 2004 for "voting for before voting against" funding the war. But Mr. Kerry voted for a version of the $87 billion appropriation bill that also raised revenues to pay for it. Instead, we pile the war's costs atop our mountainous national debt, leaving future generations to pay for it later - plus interest.
The administration is asking for another $245 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan - an amount that, were it set aside and allowed to accrue interest, could pay the entire budget of a mid-size state like Maryland for almost a decade. This sum, too, will be added to America's giant credit card bill - an act of moral cowardice from the same White House that gives lectures about the sanctity of marriage and embryonic stem cells.
The Iraq war's human consequences abroad are far more tragic than any impact they are having on partisan politics at home. But for Republicans, the last casualty of Mr. Bush's war of choice may be the party itself.
Thomas F. Schaller is an associate professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and author of "Whistling Past Dixie." His e-mail is email@example.com. His column appears Wednesdays in The Sun.
President Bush went to AEI yesterday, ostensibly to talk about Iraq and Afghanistan. After reading his remarks though, I think the speech might have been better labeled "President Bush gives AEI enough quotes for a year's worth of fund raising pitches." Make no mistake, that's one thing conservatives are very good at: deploying their stars for institution building purposes.
Read the quote below:
I appreciate the chance to come and share some thoughts with the men and women of AEI. I admire AEI a lot--I'm sure you know that. After all, I have been consistently borrowing some of your best people. More than 20 AEI scholars have worked in my administration. A few have returned to the fold--you'll have to wait two more years to get another one to return to the fold. Dick Cheney is occupied. He sends his best.
I appreciate what the AEI stands for. This Institute has been a tireless voice for the principles of individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, and a strong national defense...
I appreciate the board of directors of the AEI for giving me this forum. Thanks for trying to stay on the leading edge of thought, as well. It's really important that ideas be conceived, circulated and embraced. I want to thank members of the Congress who have joined us today--there they are. Good, yes. All friends--Pete King from New York, Trent Franks from Arizona, Mario Diaz-Balart from Florida, and fellow Texan Mike McCaul. Thanks for coming. Appreciate you being here. I thank the members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us; proud you're here. Thanks for taking time out of a busy schedule to come and hear this address. I appreciate members of the United States Armed Forces who have joined us. I thank the dignitaries and friends of the AEI and members of my administration who have joined. Don't linger. Get back to work, but thank you for being here. I fully expect you to stay awake for the entire address.
As scholars and thinkers, you are contributing to a nationwide debate about the direction of the war on terror.
So what has AEI been doing lately to earn such warm praise from the President? Well, there is the recent attempt to use Exxon Mobil's money to buy academic papers discrediting global warming. From the Guardian:
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.
Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded think tank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasize the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
And the Washington Post reported on the skepticism within the scientific community, even among scientists who have departed from the consensus on global warming:
AEI visiting scholar Kenneth Green -- one of two researchers who has sought to commission the critiques -- said in an interview that his group is examining the policy debate on global warming, not the science...
At least two academics -- Texas A&M University atmospheric sciences professor Gerald North and Texas A&M climate researcher Steven Schroeder -- turned down AEI's offer because they feared their work would be politicized.Schroeder, who has worked with Green in the past and has questioned some aspects of traditional climate modeling, said in an interview that he did not think AEI would have skewed his results. But he added that he worried his contribution might have been published alongside "off-the-wall ideas" questioning the existence of global warming."We worried our work could be misused even if we produced a reasonable report," Schroeder said. "While any human endeavor can be criticized, the IPCC system greatly exceeds the cooperation, openness and scientific rigorousness of the process applied to any other problem area that has significant effects on society..."
Several environmental activists and climate scientists questioned why AEI would offer a $10,000 honorarium to scientists to critique the IPCC survey. Andrew Dessler, another Texas A&M atmospheric science professor, who has worked with both Schroeder and North, said the move represents an effort by climate skeptics to create "reasonable doubt" in the minds of policymakers who are debating whether to limit greenhouse gases.
And that doesn't even touch the foreign policy debacles born and bred at AEI. Remember, neocons Richard Perle and Vice President Cheney were both at AEI prior to joining the Bush administration. More recently, AEI Scholar Frederick Kagan is the loudest cheerleader for the McCain-Bush escalation in Iraq, with his "A Plan for Success in Iraq" paper that seems to have borrowed its title from Tony Snow's daily briefing.
Though the Times plays this story as good news for advertisers, I'm not sure how good it is. Of those who watched the recorded show, only 42% watched the commercials. This means that more than 50% of people using this new technology have already grown accoustomed to skipping ads.
My family recently got our first DVR, in one of those new Comcast boxes. It had an immediate impact on the way we watch TV as a family. But those habits are evolving, and my sense is that the way we watch TV 2-3 years from now will be radically different from how we do today. The real impact of this new technology - and others - will be felt over 2-4 years, and it is way too early from advertisers to feel a sigh of relief. A 60% skip rate seems really high to me, like people are already making extraordinary changes in their relationship to this thing we call TV.
Visit our affiliate the New Politics Institute at www.newpolitics.net for more on the evolution of TV and other media and how it effects politics.
Another remarkable story, coming from the government, challenging the neocon view of the world.
Among the many telling graphs: "I am not satisfied with the readiness of our non-deployed forces," Schoomaker told the Senate Armed Services Committee, noting that the increased demands in Iraq and Afghanistan "aggravate that" and increase his concern. "We are in a dangerous period," said Schoomaker, adding that he recently met with his Chinese counterpart, who made it clear that China is scrutinizing U.S. capabilities.
We've written before about the fact that the 20,000 new troops the President is deploying to Iraq will go there without proper equipment. Now the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have written a letter to the President on the subject. The press release is below.
For Immediate Release
Date: Wednesday, February 14, 2007
CONTACT: Jim Manley / Rodell Mollineau, Reid, 202-224-2939
PELOSI AND REID DEMAND ADEQUATE ARMOR AND EQUIPMENT FOR TROOPS IN IRAQ
Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi today sent the following letter to President Bush, urging him to take the necessary steps to ensure that the tens of thousands of soldiers being sent to escalate the war in Iraq have the armor and equipment needed to perform their mission and protect their lives. Unfortunately, reports suggest that the President is once again sending troops into Iraq without adequate supplies and support. Democrats, who join the overwhelming majority of Americans in opposing the President’s escalation, believe the men and women serving bravely in Iraq should receive the equipment and support they need and deserve.
Quotes from the letter:
“As Iraqi leaders bicker, the violence in Iraq continues to inflict casualties on our troops at unacceptably high rates. Equally disturbing is the fact that thousands of the new troops you are sending to Iraq as well as those already there will apparently not have the armor and equipment they need to perform the mission and reduce the likelihood of casualties.”
“Mr. President, it is wrong to deploy troops to the Iraqi theater until they have the up-armored Humvees, equipment, lodging, training and other support required to carry out their mission. We hope you will work with us to make sure that they do. Our troops and their families deserve nothing less.”
CONTACT: Jim Manley / Rodell Mollineau, (202) 224-2939
REID: THE SENATE WILL VOTE ON IRAQ THIS SATURDAY
Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today released the following statement, announcing that the Senate will vote this Saturday on whether to move forward to debate the President’s escalation of the war in Iraq.
“For nearly four years, the Republican-controlled Senate stood silent on the President's flawed Iraq policies and watched as the situation deteriorated into a civil war. The American people have chosen to change course. Democrats have chosen to change course. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have chosen obstruction. Almost every Republican who expressed concern about the escalation chose to block the Senate from debating the issue.
“Today, Democrats offered Republicans another chance for compromise, suggesting the Senate debate one resolution in favor of escalation and one resolution opposed to escalation. Once again, Senate Republicans refused.
“Democrats are determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve, so the Senate will have another Iraq vote this Saturday. We will move for a clear up or down vote on the House resolution which simply calls on Congress to support the troops and opposes the escalation.
“Those Republicans who have expressed their concern over the Senate’s failure to debate the war in Iraq will have another opportunity to let their actions speak louder than their words.”
Brent Wilkes has a statement out today, the day after he was indicted on 11 counts of bribery in connection with the massive GOP appropriations scandal that is coming out in dribs and drabs. Wilkes defends both his name and that of Kyle Foggo, the also indicted top aide to Bush appointed CIA Chief Porter Goss. That means no admission of guilt and no announcement about rehab. The statement does include some awkward exploitation of his family though, in an attempt to drum up sympathy.
The federal prosecutor who indicted Wilkes, Carol Lam, has been fired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. By most accounts, she was fired along with six others, so that Gonzales could appoint new prosecutors who wouldn't have to go through the normal Senate confirmation process and would therefore be completely beholden to the White House. Gonzales has the authority to do this under an obscure clause inserted into the Patriot Act at the last moment by Senator Arlen Specter. Now House Democrats are fighting back with a strongly worded letter to the Attorney General. Read it below:
The Honorable Alberto Gonzales U.S. Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Gonzales:
Last week, Congressman Emanuel sent you a letter requesting that former U.S. Attorney in San Diego Carol Lam be appointed as outside counsel to finish her work on the Duke Cunningham Case. Unfortunately, your office has not yet responded to that letter.
Two days ago, Lam's investigation continued to bear fruit as a federal grand jury charged Kyle "Dusty" Foggo and Brent Wilkes with at least 11 felony counts related to their involvement with Cunningham. As Elana Schor's article in The Hill yesterday points out, "Justice Department officials have praised the Cunningham probe as the linchpin of their growing pursuit of public corruption cases, yet prosecutor Lam is nonetheless slated to step down[Thursday] after the Bush administration cited unspecified 'performance' issues in requesting her resignation late last year. Six other U.S. attorneys, several involved in ongoing corruption investigations, were dismissed at about the same time."
As you know, of those seven fired U.S. Attorneys, Lam was not the only one investigating sitting public officials before being dismissed. For example, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona were dismissed while their offices were conducting probes concerning elected officials.
Schor's article also notes that Deputy U.S. Attorney General Paul McNulty was scheduled to brief members of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday with information on the decisions to dismiss the U.S. Attorneys. During last week's public Senate hearing, Deputy U.S. Attorney General McNulty confirmed that Bud Cummins III, the former U.S. attorney for Eastern Arkansas, was dismissed without cause to install Timothy Griffin, a former aide to White House adviser Karl Rove.
Carol Lam's indictments of Foggo and Wilkes underscore the importance of last week's request and the need for an explanation of why these diligent public servants were dismissed. It is vital that U.S. Attorneys be able to prosecute wrongdoing free from political pressure. We are pleased that the Department of Justice has also agreed to brief members of the House Judiciary Committee on the dismissals of Carol Lam and other U.S. Attorneys. We look forward to further details regarding the date for that briefing and your response regarding the request to appoint Carol Lam as an outside counsel to finish the Cunningham and related investigations.
Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters. We look forward to hearing from your office.
Rahm Emanuel Member of Congress
Howard Berman Member of Congress
John Conyers Chairman, Judiciary Committee
Linda Sánchez Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law