Monday, September 14, 2009

DFHs Speak

digby: Thank You For Your Service
From Scott Horton :
Former Marine Corps Commandant Charles Krulak and former CENTCOM Commander-in-Chief Joseph Hoar have a word for former Vice President Dick Cheney and his advocacy of torture. It’s “irresponsible.” Here’s what they have to say in a joint op-ed published today in the Miami Herald:

[W]e never imagined that we would feel duty-bound to publicly denounce a vice president of the United States, a man who has served our country for many years. In light of the irresponsible statements recently made by former Vice President Dick Cheney, however, we feel we must repudiate his dangerous ideas — and his scare tactics. . .

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Cheney applauded the “enhanced interrogation techniques”–what we used to call “war crimes” because they violated the Geneva Conventions, which the United States instigated and has followed for 60 years. Cheney insisted the abusive techniques were “absolutely essential in saving thousands of American lives and preventing further attacks against the United States.” He claimed they were “directly responsible for the fact that for eight years, we had no further mass casualty attacks against the United States. It was good policy . . . It worked very, very well.”

Repeating these assertions doesn’t make them true. We now see that the best intelligence, which led to the capture of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was produced by professional interrogations using noncoercive techniques. When the abuse began, prisoners told interrogators whatever they thought would make it stop. Torture is as likely to produce lies as the truth. And it did. . .

The Bush Administration had already degraded the rules of war by authorizing techniques that violated the Geneva Conventions and shocked the conscience of the world. Now Cheney has publicly condoned the abuse that went beyond even those weakened standards, leading us down a slippery slope of lawlessness. Rules about the humane treatment of prisoners exist precisely to deter those in the field from taking matters into their own hands. They protect our nation’s honor.

Love it or leave it hippies.
DougJ: Kook leader

This is a few days old, but it’s well-worth reading if you haven’t seen it yet: Andy Worthington’s blunt and wide-ranging interview with Larry Wilkerson (Colin Powell’s former chief-of-staff). Some highlights of what Wilkerson said.

I wouldn’t have said that a couple of years ago, but now I’ve come to the conclusion that the man (Cheney) truly is — whether he was that way when I knew him before, when he was Secretary of Defense, I don’t know, that’s not at issue with me any more — the man now is just crazy.


It’s our media. Our media loves to keep it going. They love to throw him (Cheney) out there and, you know, stoke the fires. I asked a couple of people fairly high up in our media world, “Why in the world do you continue to give him and Limbaugh an audience? Why? Why do you even put them on the same plane as the president of the United States? Why do you have these dueling speeches? You guys made them dueling speeches, not the two principals.” Well, you know, they’re running out of business. People are canceling their newspaper subscriptions every day. They want news.


Well, to keep it brief, I think the problem is that this is a national security issue, and there are so many more challenging issues — as one official put it to me the other day — on which the President has already shown some ankle, whether it’s about talking to Iran or whether it’s his rather pronounced silence vis-à-vis North Korea, or whether it’s something as minuscule as lifting some travel restrictions on Cuban Americans for Cuba. They don’t believe they can show another square centimeter of ankle on national security, because the Republicans will eat their lunch, and every time I’m told this I die laughing. I say, your guys are captured by the Sith Lord, Dick Cheney, you’re captured by Rush Limbaugh, whose real radio audience is about 2.2 million, and whose employer, Clear Channel, lost $3.7 billion in the second quarter of this year. I said, when are you gonna wake up? These are kooks. And Cheney is the kook leader. But [Nancy] Pelosi and [Harry] Reid are such feckless leaders they haven’t got any spine. We have no leadership in the legislative branch on either side of the aisle.

I really recommend the whole thing. Hardly anyone is willing to put it as bluntly as Wilkerson does.

ROGER COHEN (NYT): Get Real on Health Care

NEW YORK — Some of my summer in France was spent listening to indignant outbursts about U.S. health care reform. The tone: “You must be kidding! What’s there to debate if 46.3 million Americans have no health insurance?”

I think the French are right. I don’t think there’s much to debate when France spends 11 percent of its gross domestic product on health care and insures everyone and the United States spends 16.5 percent of G.D.P. and leaves 20 percent of adults under 65 uninsured. The numbers don’t lie: The U.S. system is wasteful and unjust.

It’s not just the numbers. It’s the intangibles. Two of my children were born in Paris — a breeze. One of them got very sick on arrival in the United States — and my wife fainted in a doctor’s office from the anxiety of finding the appropriate care (when we did, at the eleventh hour, it was excellent). The American health system is an insidious stress-multiplier whose hassles, big and small, permeate already harried lives.

So I’m convinced there’s no real argument. As President Obama put it last week, “We spend one and half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t healthier for it.” Why would the United States cling to the dubious distinction of being the only wealthy nation that does not afford basic health insurance to all?

The answer can be found only in myths and misleading stereotypes, so let’s try to dispel a few in the interest of having a more fruitful discussion.

I’ve said I think the French are right. But the French are also wrong. To cement a land-of-capitalist-cruelty American stereotype, they tend to believe no elements of the European welfare state exist in the United States.

Most would be shocked to hear about American social security, let alone Medicare and Medicaid, the government-run health care systems for the elderly and the poor that together form one of the largest publicly financed health systems in the world.

Americans obsess less about France than vice-versa but when they do they tend to suffer from equally delusional ideas. The French — like many Europeans — loom as a feckless multitude coddled by a nanny state that’s so big it must be socialist.

In fact, ever since President Mitterrand tried broad nationalizations in the early 1980s with catastrophic results, France, like most of Europe, has been on a steady march toward freer markets, trade and competition. In its way, it has been Americanizing.

The French health system uses a mixture of public and private funding, guaranteeing basic coverage through national insurance funds to which employees and employers make contributions. Most French people supplement these benefits by buying private insurance. The distinctions from the single-payer British system are significant, the results better.

So beyond all the hectoring, the main French-American difference on health care is not ideological but a question of efficiency. Both countries use a mixture of public and private. France is at a very far remove from “socialism.” The United States has already “socialized” a significant portion of its medicine. (Nothing illustrates right-wing ideological madness in the United States better than calls from some to “keep the government out of my Medicare!”)

The real difference is that the French state mandates health coverage for everyone, picks up the tab where necessary (as for the unemployed), holds down costs through a national fee system, and uses mainly nonprofit mutual insurers even for supplemental private coverage. The profit motive is outweighed by the principle of universal health care, with a corresponding effect on doctors’ salaries.

These are real distinctions. But the “socialism sucks” Republican broadside on Obama’s reform plans — with its overtone that the “cosmopolitan” president wants to “Europeanize” American medicine — is nonsense. It’s nonsense because the free market is vigorous in France (and Europe), because there are all sorts of European approaches to health (within the compulsory coverage), and because the United States has already “socialized” aplenty without turning its capitalism pink.

As Peter Baldwin makes clear in an interesting new book called “The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe are alike,” U.S.-European contrasts can often be more about playing politics by comforting old myths — individualist at the new frontier versus collectivist at the beach — than facts.

Still some facts of the trans-Atlantic health care contrast are disturbing and justify the incredulity of my French friends, none more so than the furor over President Obama’s support for a government insurance option (like Medicare) that would, among other things, keep private insurers honest. Its Republican critics have portrayed this idea as so dangerous it represents a fight for freedom over tyranny.

So Obama has retreated a little and portrayed this option as a “only a means to an end” that could be discarded. He should not retreat. The public option best enshrines the principle of the state’s commitment to insuring everyone.

It’s therefore essential. Without it, we’ll get tinkering at best. The commitment to that health-as-right principle is what distinguishes France from the United States far more than all the socialist-capitalist claptrap.
Fallows: Our second president on "God Bless America"
As noted here more than a few times (eg this), U.S. presidents before Ronald Reagan did not end their major addresses with "God Bless America!" to indicate "The speech is now over, and I'm not going to bother thinking of a real concluding sentence." Presidents from Reagan onward have used the phrase in an "Amen!" sense. The anonymous author of the Jotman blog writes in with new historico-linguistic evidence, of the biopic variety:
"In a recent post you complained -- yet again -- "about the trite hackneyedvacuousportento-pious lazy comforting and beloved three-word ending for all presidential addresses since the time of Ronald Reagan: 'God bless America!'"

"You are clearly mistaken. If I may set the record straight...

"The "God bless America" tradition did not begin with Reagan. In fact, the tradition goes all the way back to the the first reading of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia.

"The proof is on video. Watch this YouTube clip from about the 6:00 mark until 6:40 and you will see what I mean."

Then Jotman moves out of sarcastic mode:
"P.S. Of course, Americans of the founding generation weren't such ninnies. They would not have sought "comfort" in such a banality as this phrase. The inclusion of this modern abomination not only ruined the whole scene for for me, it also broke the "historical spell." I no longer believed I was watching a serious attempt to portray events as they might have actually have happened in 1776. The director lost my trust. Actually, hearing the phrase misused in a historical drama irritated me exponentially more than having to listen to any modern American politician. It's one thing when politicians help to ruin the American character of the present generation through repetition of a lousy rhetorical innovation, but it's far worse when the custodians of American culture project our flaws backward in time; when they make it appear as if the lamest, most pathetic inventions of our own times have deep historical roots.

"It's a slippery slope. At this rate, some future documentary about the Revolutionary War is bound to include a water-boarding scene. Or show Alexander Hamilton founding Homeland Security in 1790."
After the jump, a Marine combat veteran with thoughts on patriotism.

A reader in Washington state writes:

"God Bless America" et cetera, et cetera, et cetera............... I love my country. I've traveled the world over and there isn't a place I'd rather live 'warts and all'. But really isn't this phrase starting to get a little over used??? Just like the theater of bringing "Poster People" to your major speeches to pull them out as props. Can't we bury this Reagan ploy too???

"I fought as a combat Marine in Vietnam. My father and father-in-law were career and senior Army Officers. I worked as a Federal civilian employee for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for nearly 37 years. My wife and mother-in-law had equally long careers as Federal employees. We are ALL PATRIOTS. But I must say, I'm getting a little tired of "God Bless this and that". The more I hear it the more disingenuous it sounds. Perhaps it's me and at the ripe old age of 62 I've become a little jaded, but I say enough's enough - use it when it is really needed and heartfelt, NOT just as a filler."

Tell it to John Adams!

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