As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Big Media Me

Check out my comments about Hillary and the netroots, complete with a picture with my bud clammyc from Yearly Kos, at the New York Observer's blog.

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Bowen De-Certifies, Re-Certifies Voting Machines

Debra Bowen is doing what we elected her to do. After her top-to-bottom review of the voting systems in California revealed serious flaws, she acted:

In a dramatic late-night press conference, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen decertified, and then recertified with conditions, all but one voting system used in the state. Her decisions, following her unprecedented, independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all certified electronic voting systems, came just under the wire to meet state requirements for changes in voting system certification.

Bowen announced that she will be disallowing the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems made by the Diebold and Sequoia companies on Election Day, but for one DRE machine per polling place which may be used for disabled voters. The paper trails from votes cast on DREs manufactured by those two companies must be 100% manually counted after Election Day. DREs made by Hart-Intercivic are used in only one California county and will be allowed for use pending security upgrades.

The InkaVote Plus system, distributed by ES&S and used only in Los Angeles County has been decertified and not recertified for use after the company failed to submit the system source code in a timely manner to Bowen's office. LA County is larger than many states, and questions remain at this time as to what voting system they will use in the next election.

Read the whole thing. Bowen is going up against some really powerful forces and needs out support. The registrars are going to scream holy hell about this, and we'll hear that we don't have the money to up and change everything now. That dog shouldn't hunt. I think everyone in this state, or at least a vast majority, is willing to pay for the security of our democracy.

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Yearly Kos: Constructive Engagement

NOTE: This is meant to be constructive engagement and not criticism. This is also meant to provoke discussion, not to be an opportunity to say "I remember this event before it was cool"

I'm sitting here this morning at Yearly Kos, after having a number of conversations last night with various attendees. I have some thoughts about what we're seeing as a loss of the uniqueness and specialness of the event, due to a variety of factors, mainly the loss of connective tissue and the spatial vastness of the venue. My thoughts on the flip.

Not to say that last year was the perfect event, but there was a real sense that we were all sharing the same convention. The common area was such that you would have to walk over people. The small rooms enabled people to go in and out. I attended candidate hospitality events with 10 or 20 people. There was an authorial voice to the convention, from the series of Laughing Liberally stand-up hosts, to the various blog-centric panels. Things sprung up at the convention organically, like the great moment from momster writing her first ever post. We were a HUGE convention, by the way, with around 1,000 people. But it was a big convention that seemed small.

Here is why many of us believe that there is a difference this year.

• The space: it's simply too big for our needs. The worst part about it is that there are dozens of common areas. People are so spread out that you're not getting as many of the serendipitous conversations or greetings. People are running from one place to another just to get across the mountain. It's not conducive to community.

• The lack of connective tissue: There is far less of a "voice of the convention" this year. And the impact of that is that nobody is having the same convention. There was the Dean keynote, sure, but very little else that everyone could share. The Andy Stern/Harold Meyerson event was awesome, but it didn't come from a "Yearly Kos" place, it was a good labor event that just happened to be here. There wasn't that voice of the convention that came out of that.

• Too many things going on: Everybody wants to be a part of this event and that's great. But you're drinking through a firehose at this event. And again, it ensures that nobody is having the same convention, and I believe that matters. The importance of this convention is to translate the meetup and communication into offline action. If nobody's communicating in the same way or in the same spaces, I wonder if that importance is muted.

• The inevitable cliquishness: Last year, everyone was meeting one another for the first time. This year, those who know one another have found that habitat group, and the lack of community and connectivity means that you have to lash together, fragmenting the community even more.

• The de-emphasis of blogging: I'm not necessarily complaining about this, but many are saying that they're going to these panels with many very good progressive leaders and experts, but that they could find such panels at the Campaign for America's Future or other conferences, and what made YKos special last year was that it was coming from a blogging perspective. This may be a function of there being so many panels, but I haven't seen one front-pager from this site on a panel, for example. As one blogger who shall remain nameless put it: "Last year we came together to talk to each other. This year others came here to talk to us."

Now, none of this is to say I'm having a miserable time or anything. I LOVE every minute of this convention, the camaraderie, the people, the events. But I think a lot of us are feeling a little distracted and disconnected. This appears to be a consensus opinion from most people that I have talked with. Some of this is completely inevitable and understandable. But I think there are a few things that may be tweaked to improve the convention:

• The space is simply not conducive to the community you're trying to foster. Future "votes" on where to hold the convention should include the SPACE ITSELF and not just the city. I love Chicago but McCormick place isn't working.

• Just say no. Everyone wants to hold a panel and that's great. But I think there's some duplication in it, and it would be great to do less better. I think people would welcome less choices, and especially if it means that there would be more things we all do together. This also addresses the "blog-centric" thing, because putting fewer of those on would push the people who want that kind of experience together.

• An emcee. There simply needs to be a voice of the convention shepherding everyone through. I feel like I got that last year, but not this year.

I have tried to address this respectfully. And my goal is to think about how best to translate the rich and active community we have online into an offline convention format. Thanks.

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Well, That Clears That Up, Right?

So Kitty Seeyle clarified her ridiculous statement about Yearly Kos "booing Mother Teresa":

Just to address some confusion, we want to offer a belated but much-needed explanation about the booing of Mother Teresa that I should have provided earlier in the original post from the Kos conference: It was a passing reference to a light remark made by the emcee of a trivia quiz.

It was meant to be funny.

One of the quiz questions was to identify three people in the 20th Century whom Congress had named as honorary United States citizens. When the emcee, Adam C. Bonin, offered her name as one of the correct answers, there was some booing and groaning because almost no one had guessed it. Mr. Bonin laughed that this might be the only crowd to boo Mother Teresa, but he was making appropriate light of the unusual circumstance that booing was taking place in conjunction with a mention of Mother Teresa. The crowd was not dissing Mother Teresa herself.

I'm sure that will stop it from becoming part of wingnut mythology like Philadelphians throwing snowballs at Santa Claus (The guy wasn't, you know, the REAL Santa Claus, but a drunken idiot). The problem is that the remark fit this false pattern of "angry bloggers" that the traditional media pushes at every opportunity. And so the vicious and angry blogger meme, the zombie lie, carries ever onward.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Yearly Kos: Friday Sessions

The panels and discussions on this day could be spread out to an entire week. You kick yourself for missing certain things that are all happening at the same time. But here's a snapshot of what I saw today so far:

• Wes Clark was on fire in the morning keynote. He implored the President to stop hiding behind David Petraeus, screaming "This is YOUR war!" He put his emphasis on engaging our so-called "enemies" instead of isolating them, saying that the problem is the failure of leadership in the region, which leads us to spending $100 billion dollars a year in Iraq when bridges are falling down in Minneapolis.

• The panel on "Evolution & Integration In The Blogosphere" was illuminating. Instead of just being a self-regarding session about how to break out and become a big-time blogga, yo, it was a productive session about expanding reach through state and local blogging, as well as reaching out to other blogospheres (mommy bloggers, food bloggers, even gossip bloggers) that aren't necessarily political but have ideas that the progressive movement can plug into. In addition, there was good discussion on increasing access to broadband (which would open up poor and rural areas) and increasing diversity in the progressive blogosphere, as well as innovating technology.

• I saw Rick Perlstein speak on framing the debate. He essentially read a review of his that he wrote about an FDR book, which had a lot of good stuff in it, but wasn't a panel discussion so much as a book reading. Key quote: "There are more people who have bosses than who ARE bosses."

• The "Future Leaders" panel featured 7 Democratic candidates who lost by a hair in severely red areas in 2006, and who are all running again: Charlie Brown, Darcy Burner, Larry Grant, Eric Massa, Scott Kleeb, Dan Seals, and Gary Trauner. Massa in particular has been generating a lot of buzz on the convention floor, but I thought all of them were excellent. I spoke briefly with Gary Trauner (WY-AL) and was very impressed by his passion and his belief in progressive values, particularly on tax fairness.

• The lunchtime keynote was Andy Stern of the SEIU in conversation with Harold Meyerson. I've seen Stern speak a couple times before and have read his book, so much of it was familiar. But he's really a must for working people to listen to. He's whip-smart and he understands the revolutionary economic changes that have unsettled working people. Look him up, buy the book.

• The "Blogs vs. MSM" was certainly the panel of the day. Mike Allen of the Politico and Jay Carney of Time were matched up with Jill of Feministing and the great Glenn Greenwald. Allen and Carney were going out of their way to blow smoke up Greenwald's ass ("What Henry Waxman is to Congress, Glenn Greenwald is to the blogosphere"), and Greenwald would sit there stone-faced, and then launch into a relentless attack on the facts of how the traditional media conducts the discourse of the country. In other words, he ignored the niceties and focused on the facts, which is what all of the journalists being assailed by him should do as well. He mentioned that 70% of Americans in 2003 still believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11, and how recently 44% of Americans could identify John Edwards as the guy who got a $400 haircut, and the reasons involved with those perceptions. He mentioned how in 2006, after the NSA wiretapping scandal was advanced, the media would not declare that the situation was a violation of the law, but they would discuss the issue in political terms, discussing how this would be "a good issue" for Republicans. What we need are journalists who are referees, willing to confront those who they report, willing to be adversarial and skeptical. Bloggers do NOT want the media destroyed, or to become partisan. We just want them to do their job better.

My issue was one of resources. The media is being forced to do more with less, and because they are general assignment reporters and generally not experts on subjects, they cover for this by opening up that well-worn rolodex. And by and large, that rolodex reflects a range of opinion from The New Republic to Free Republic. They laud the blogosphere for its expertise (expertise that Jay Carney said he "didn't know" about), but never use that expertise in their articles, preferring to have bloggers gnash their teeth on the sidelines. Why aren't the bloggers part of the expert rolodex if they are so good on particular issues.

I do give Allen and Carney credit for coming into the lion's den, but Greenwald definitely got the better of them. The guy's a master.

• I saw my friends hekebolos and thereisnospoon in discussion with George Lakoff about the "Overton Window," the idea of setting up fully progressive positions to move the debate to the left. Lakoff began by dismissing the entire idea, which made for a really interesting discussion. Personally, I think the best way to think about these ideas is to not think about them at all. I think Democrats worry too much about HOW they should act instead of just acting. It's the Hamlet complex.

• Right now I'm in an Israel/Palestine and Middle East policy discussion featuring Juan Cole of Informed Comment and a writer for Bill Maher. "Intellectual mountaintop air so high I had to keep swallowing to keep my ears popping," to quote one of my favorite writers, Peter DeVries.

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Di-Fi... Sigh.

This is really irksome, especially because we're in the majority now and there's no need to confirm these right-wing reactionary activist judges.

Feinstein just voted to confirm a judge who thinks children should be removed from gay parents. And she wonders why so many Democrats hate her.

Republican supporters of Leslie Southwick had a huge victory today when a moderate Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California broke with her party to vote for the Mississippi judge’s nomination to the federal bench.

Feinstein had been heavily lobbied by the nominee and Mississippi Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, both Republicans, as well as the White House.

My relationship with Di-Fi waxes and wanes. Her leadership on the US Attorney scandal and closure of Guantanamo was admirable. And then she goes and pulls something like this. Leslie Southwick has no business being a federal judge. There's no argument for her to be one. Yet this move burnishes moderate credentials and creates a chit that Di-Fi can call in later.

Not happy right now...

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No Nukes

Say wha-

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew another distinction between herself and Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Osama bin Laden or other terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

OK, I didn't love Obama's original "we should strike at Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan without telling them" comment, but clearly our policy there now is failing miserably, so I think a debate can be had on the topic. But nukes? Are you out of your mind?

Nuclear weapons on a Muslim country at this point in time would make us an even bigger target than we are right now. There seems to be this "I'm more batshit insane than you" game going on currently among the Democratic front-runners.

Maybe that's why I'm not sold on the Democratic front-runners.

(To be clear, I think Obama has been making a reasoned argument when it comes to foreign policy. Clinton appears to be appealing to Republicans.)

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Yearly Kos: Random Thoughts

Sorry I was unable to post for a good portion of yesterday; just too busy running around. Here's a bit of disconnected meanderings about what went on.

• The New York Times did get right that people were upset about Hillary Clinton not appearing at the "breakout session" after the Presidential forum tomorrow, leaving things to her surrogate Ann Lewis. It kind of dissipated a lot of the goodwill she gained by defending the convention on O'Reilly. UPDATE: Apparently it was more about a scheduling conflict, which I surmised, but the optics are not good for her.

• Apparently Chris Dodd LEAPED by her on that score by hammering Billo on the show the other night, but I haven't yet seen it. Media Matters is giving out a sticker here that says "Annoy Bill O'Reilly."

• After the Mike Stark/Lane Hudson/S.R. Sidarth early session, I attended the Living Liberally Caucus. It was pretty cool to hear about all the great events springing out of the Drinking Liberally franchise.

• Last year was all about looking perpetually down at people's badges to see what their screen names were. This year is about remembering the faces from last year. Which I'm doing with moderate success.

• In the afternoon, I caught a little of the local blogging and marketing session with Blue Mass Group and Squarestate, before the state and local blogging roundtable that Kid Oakland put together. Very productive, it's great to see what the various state blogs are doing, and to have them see what we're doing at Calitics.

• The California caucus was a rousing success. We had about 100 people there, and I got to co-moderate the session. The good news: I earned myself one a'them fancy nameplates. The bad news: they spelled my name wrong. The agony and the esctasy. We had 4 Congressional candidates at the caucus; Charlie Brown, Russ Warner, Steve Young and Ron Shepston. All of them made short speeches and really got the crowd going. It was great to get the netroots activists in California together and hopefully get the names and the faces together, and to stress the importance of returning to California and focusing on the state political scene.

• Howard Dean and Dick Durbin (via satellite; he couldn't get out of Washington) gave speeches at the welcoming event. And Dean was fired up. It was a speech that was more like a blog post, citing statistics and polls to make the point that Democrats must continue to reach young people, our greatest opportunity to win. The Laughing Liberally peeps were funny as well.

• The Pub Quiz is sure to be an annual tradition. Calitics fielded a team called "Home of the Original Dirty Fucking Hippies." We were in the lead after two rounds and then crashed and burned in Round 3. Overall we finished fourth. The winning team received fleece jackets from the DCCC. The punch line? They were made in China.

• I seem to have left my iPod on the plane, so no Random Ten today. Waaahhh. Will be calling the airline post-haste.

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Best Traditional Media Article On Yearly Kos I've Ever Read

Good work by Jose Antonio Vargas, understanding the impact of the convention and the makeup of the netroots. Key graf:

There is no one leader, the name of the convention notwithstanding, and it's a disparate, unorganized community that's almost impossible to categorize. While the leading bloggers are in their 20s and 30s, the rank-and-file are older, in their 40s and 50s. The common assumption is that the Net roots is monolithic and full of ideologues. It is neither. It is made up of people who are mostly interested in getting Democrats elected -- and making sure Democrats stay in power.


This is about a progressive movement, not any one blog or one leader (in fact, next year, this won't be called Yearly Kos, I learned - learned! - from the article). It's about a committed group of tens of thousands of individuals coming together to do the hard work of taking back their government.

UPDATE: If you want to see a piece of shit article about the convention, check this from Katherine Seeyle. She actually gets right a small note about the convention, then commits journalistic malpractice:

The (Presidential) candidates are coming to speak on stage to the roughly 1,500 people here and then take questions in individual break-out sessions, which will have room for about 200 people each.

Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards are among those coming. And, it seemed, they were all participating in the break-out sessions.

While they are all still coming for the main show, it turns out that Senator Clinton is not attending the break-out session. Her campaign says it told the Kos organizers a week ago that she would not be attending the individual session, but the organizers did not announce it until tonight, at the opening dinner. The announcement drew big boos from the audience.

That's all true. Then...

But hey, this is a tough crowd. Later in the evening, they booed Mother Theresa.

Hey fool, that was during a PUB QUIZ, and people were yelling because they got the question wrong. Thanks for the absolute slander. I'm sure to see it become wingnut mythology within minutes today, something we'll hear for the next 20 years. All because you don't understand a thing.

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Just Say No To More Wiretapping Until the White House Comes Clean

I can't really imagine what the Democrats are thinking by working with the President on expanding FISA. Especially when the Bush Administration wants Abu Frickin' Gonzales to monitor the wiretapping?!!!

One obstacle to a deal this week is a disagreement between Democrats and the White House over how to audit the wiretapping of the foreign-to-foreign calls going through switches in the United States.

The Democrats have proposed that the eavesdropping be reviewed by the secret FISA court to make sure that it has not ensnared any Americans.

The administration has proposed that the attorney general perform the review.

The law sounds OK as far as it goes, but it's lunacy to entrust this Administration with even a smidgen more power. Not until they stop obstructing and explain what the "broader" program of wiretapping truly is. I think there's good reason to believe that Abu G is still lying about this, and therefore laws regarding it shouldn't be passed until that is cleared.

Host Wolf Blitzer asked Specter how he would respond to an unsatisfactory letter from Gonzales. “If you’re not satisfied with that letter, I assume your conclusion will be like other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he did lie,” said Blitzer.

“Well, if he doesn’t have a plausible explanation then he hasn’t leveled with the Committee, that’s right,” responded Specter.

Abu G shouldn't be within 100 feet of sweeping new executive powers. Congress should keep on the restraining order.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007


Good God dammit. I knew this would be the result of that awful O'Hanlon/Pollack op-ed:

Just about every Republican in the Iraq debate on the House floor today has cited and read from the O'Hanlon/Pollack op-ed to argue that we are making significant progress in iraq. Many Republicans have called them "left-wing scholars", as in "even lefties O'Hanlon and Pollack say we are winning."

Just sayin'......that is the political effect of that op-ed......which makes it even more infuriating given that both O'Hanlon and Pollack have walked it back since it was published.

This is made all the more infuriating by what was referred to in the above blockquote, O'Hanlon's complete disavowal of what he wrote:

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. O’Hanlon said the article was intended to point out that the security situation was currently far better than it was in 2006. What the American military cannot solve, he said, are problems caused by the inability of Iraqis to forge political solutions. “Ultimately, politics trumps all else,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “If the political stalemate goes on, even if the military progress continued, I don’t see how I could write another Op-Ed saying the same thing.”

Then why did you write this one? The entire point of the "surge" was to provide breathing space for a political reconciliation. On that score, the political situation in Iraq is worse than it's ever been. No progress has been made whatsoever. The temerity of these two, writing a sunny portrait of Iraq in a giant megaphone like the New York Times, but trying to tamp down the sunniness when challenged by the progressive blogosphere, is inexcusable. What a huge propaganda victory for the right. These two are admitting that they essentially lied in their op-ed. Somehow I don't think this will disqualify them from writing another one.

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YKos '07: 3 People Who Changed The Congress

I'm in a session with S.R. Siddarth (a.k.a. "Macaca"), Lane Hudson (who broke the Mark Foley story) and Mike Stark (provocateur, George Allen bugbear, and blogger). One moment was EXTREMELY revelatory. A traditional media guy asked a question, claiming that the Ryan Lizza article in The New Republic set the table for the George Allen incidents (the Lizza article was great, but it wasn't exactly front-page news to most Americans). The reporter then said, "Well you can't just go up to George Allen and ask him about his racist past," when that's EXACTLY what Stark did throughout the campaign. There's this risk aversion by reporters to "make" news through holding elected officials accountable, that bloggers simply don't have. Until that moment, the "Daou triangle" will never be closed. Instead, the media wants to play "he said/she said" rather than refereeing on the side of truth.

Lane Hudson also mentioned something about the NSA using National Security letters to investigate Democratic donors. I didn't know about that, but we did learn yesterday that the IRS is tracking political information.

WASHINGTON – As it hunted down tax scofflaws, the Internal Revenue Service collected information on the political party affiliations of taxpayers in 20 states.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of an appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the IRS, said the practice was an “outrageous violation of the public trust” that could undermine the agency’s credibility.

IRS officials acknowledged that party affiliation information was routinely collected by a vendor for several months. They told the vendor last month to screen the information out.

“The bottom line is that we have never used this information,” said John Lipold, an IRS spokesman. “There are strict laws in place that forbid it.”

Oh, that settles it. There are LAWS in place. We've never seen this Administration break LAWS.

Hudson's point is well-made, though. So many stories slip through the cracks unless they are pushed forward by the blogs.

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Tauscher Cleans It Up

Ellen Tauscher sent a letter to a constituent claiming that she could not work to impeach Alberto Gonzales because an Attorney General can't be impeached. That was, um, wrong. Any civil officer of the United States can be impeached, and in fact a Secretary of War was impeached in the past.

Well, Tauscher has now not only acknowledged that an Attorney General can be impeached, but she signed on to the impeachment resolution:

I apologize for inaccuracies contained in any earlier correspondence. I want to set the record straight on my actions. I am a co-sponsor of two bills to remove Gonzales from office. On May 22, I co-sponsored H. Res. 417, which declares that the House of Representatives and the American people have lost confidence in Attorney General Gonzales. It calls on the President to nominate a new candidate capable of serving as the head of the Department of Justice. Additionally, I am a co-sponsor of H. Res. 589, introduced yesterday by Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, which directs the House Judiciary Committee to initiate an impeachment investigation of the Attorney General. The resolution requests a formal investigation of the facts surrounding the Attorney General's actions in order to allow Congress to determine whether articles of impeachment are appropriate [...]

You have to appreciate someone who can admit they were wrong.

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YKos '07: Screening Series

So we just screened "Crashing The States," the netroots film that follows two bloggers through the 2006 election, touring 20 campaigns, 26 states, and over 10,000 miles. It was very well-received (though the white levels looked way hotter on the projector than on the computer). It was a bigger group watching it than I expected, too.

OK, so I'm completely out of touch with the news, but this bridge collapse in Minnesota is ominous. E. coli conservatism strikes again. 30 years of tax cuts at the expense of infrastructure and here's what you get. Here's a good rundown.

But it was all a moot exercise anyway. Literally wielding a big red VETO stamp to appease the no-tax crowd that remains hell-bent on a something-for-nothing relationship with government, Gov. Tim Pawlenty deep-sixed the bipartisan transportation bill. "How dumb can they be?" he sneered of the lawmakers who dared approve a tax hike to fix the state's roads.

"The governor hammered through a plan that doesn't pay for itself," says state Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), "and so now for the first time in the history of the state, the Department of Transportation is broke. What that means is if someone drives through a guard rail it is not going to be replaced very soon. If someone breaks an axle on a pothole, it is not going to be filled very soon.


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Is Chicago, Is Not Chicago

I'm on the North Side, headed to Yearly Kos. More in a bit...

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Working Families Need Health Care Too

I've been watching the debate in the Congress over expanding S-CHIP (the State Children's Health Insurance Program) today while waiting for my plane travel to Yearly Kos, and I'm reminded of how dishonest Republicans are on this issue. They created the block grant program to give states the ability to cover children, and now when it's become popular and successful, and state governors want to expand it more, they suddenly want to stop it. And they're using the familiar "this would let illegal immigrants get free health care" canard to try and submarine the bill (incidentally, it doesn't).

It's important to chronicle this, because it's the opening salvo in the battle to change the health care system in this country. In California we're gearing up for health care reform, and today The California Budget Project and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research released a joint report that ably shows the consequences of maintaining the broken status quo on health care as the Republicans want to do:

...many families spend a substantial amount on health care premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and could face financially devastating medical expenses if they are not adequately protected. The report, “What Does It Take for a Family to Afford to Pay for Health Care?” (available at and recommends that health care reform proposals – such as those proposed by the Governor and Democratic legislative leaders – ensure that families can realistically afford premiums and out-of-pocket costs, such as copayments and deductibles.

The report recommends that proposals fully subsidize health care coverage for those who earn up to 200 percent of the poverty line ($41,300 for a family of four) because the cost of housing, food, and other necessities leaves these families with few or no resources to contribute toward health care costs. The report also determines that families need incomes near 300 percent of the poverty line ($61,950 for a family of four) just to afford typical health care costs. Because some families face much higher out-of-pocket health care costs, the report recommends that policymakers consider providing subsidies for families with incomes higher than 300 percent of the poverty line.

This is EXACTLY what the expansion of S-CHIP would do, and yet Roadblock Republicans and the Bush Administration are concerned with defeating it solely on ideological grounds. They don't want America to see a health care system managed in a public way that works. They fear people will see the differences between a system that gives people the choice for affordable care and a private for-profit system that values limiting care above everything, and opt for the former. They don't want government to work, and they will do everything in their power to make it malfunction.

(I do take issue with the idea that "the governor's proposal," which has no cap on affordability or any floor on coverage, would necessarily help needy families.)

Here are some of the key recommendations of the report:

Limiting families’ out-of-pocket costs. Some insured families have very high health costs because they have very high copayments, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket costs. Some of these costs are predictable (for example, if a family member has a chronic illness), but some can be unexpected (for example, as the result of an accident or unexpected illness). Placing limits on out-of-pocket costs is as important as premium subsidies in ensuring affordable health care.

Taking into account expenses families face, such as housing and child care, when determining how much families can afford to pay for health care. Because families face very different costs, such as housing and child care, income alone is an imprecise measure of what families can afford to spend on health care.

An average adult with private health coverage pays almost $800 a year on premiums; a family of four spends $1,800. Poor families cannot cope, and forget about it if they actually want to USE their coverage. We know that almost half of all bankruptcies are due to health care costs.

Californians need to send a strong message to Congress and the President to wholeheartedly support the continuation of S-CHIP. And they need to send the message to our Legislature that we need real health care reform that allows working families to have the peace of mind of medical coverage while also being able to survive financially.

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Obama Makes His Move

Barack Obama gave a major speech today about terrorism, and the takeaway that most of the media is getting is that it was a tough speech which argues for the possibility of strikes inside Pakistan to take out Al Qaeda leaders whether or not the Pakistani government authorizes them, which by the way is the right thing to say. And it was a tough speech. But it was also a speech that talks about the fundamental problems with the foreign policy of the Bush years.

But then everything changed.

We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists' base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland.

Instead, we got a color-coded politics of fear. Patriotism as the possession of one political party. The diplomacy of refusing to talk to other countries. A rigid 20th century ideology that insisted that the 21st century's stateless terrorism could be defeated through the invasion and occupation of a state. A deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 [...]

The political winds were blowing in a different direction. The President was determined to go to war. There was just one obstacle: the U.S. Congress. Nine days after I spoke, that obstacle was removed. Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the President the broad and open-ended authority he uses to this day. With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war. And we went off to fight on the wrong battlefield, with no appreciation of how many enemies we would create, and no plan for how to get out.

This is smart, because it puts the critique against invading Iraq in the larger context of the overall struggle against Islamic radicalism. It comes close to John Edwards' critique of the "war on terror" as a "bumper sticker" without using those explicit terms. It casts a new response to 9/11 as one concerned with fundamental human rights and moral authority for America as much as military action, a classic balance of hard and soft power. It also critiques our continued stay in Iraq as a continued distraction in the overall terror war, vowing to redeploy while being honest about his belief in residual forces there to fight Al Qaeda (I tend to disagree with that portion). Here's essentially the precis of the policy changes:

It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

It should come as no surprise that this hews closely to Samantha Power's excellent New York Times op-ed, where she avers that "the war-on-terror frame has obscured more than it has clarified." Power is a foreign policy advisor to Obama's campaign, and that fact alone causes me to give him a long look.

Really, this speech is an example of Obama's continued push to press the advantage from his dust-up with Hillary Clinton over proper diplomacy and negotiation. By the way the YouTube questioner who asked about diplomacy has come out as agreeing with Obama's answer, which offered a break from the failed Washington consensus of the past that says you must punish your enemies by not talking to them and being bold and tough enough to negotiate. It's telling that most of the Republican candidates have come out on the question against Obama. Obama has gotten the better of that question by wrapping it in a larger critique of the cautious, nervous Democratic leadership that refuses to be ruled by anything but fear.

One difference between Obama and Clinton does not seem to me to have been stressed enough. They are of different Democratic generations. Clinton is from the traumatized generation; Obama isn't. Clinton has internalized to her bones the 1990s sense that conservatism is ascendant, that what she really believes is unpopular, that the Republicans have structural, latent power of having a majority of Americans on their side. Hence the fact that she reeks of fear, of calculation, of focus groups, of triangulation. She might once have had ideals keenly felt; she might once have actually relished fighting for them and arguing in thier defense. But she has not been like that for a very long time. She has political post-traumatic stress disorder. She saw her view of feminism gutted in the 1992 campaign; she saw her healthcare plan destroyed by what she saw as a VRWC; she remains among the most risk-averse of Democrats on foreign policy and in the culture wars [...]

Obama is different. He wasn't mugged by the 1980s and 1990s as Clinton was. He doesn't carry within him the liberal self-hatred and self-doubt that Clinton does. The traumatized Democrats fear the majority of Americans are bigoted, know-nothing, racist rubes from whom they need to conceal their true feelings and views. The non-traumatized Democrats are able to say what they think, make their case to potential supporters and act, well, like Republicans acted in the 1980s and 1990s. The choice between Clinton and Obama is the choice between a defensive crouch and a confident engagement. It is the choice between someone who lost their beliefs in a welter of fear; and someone who has faith that his worldview can persuade a majority.

The progressive blogosphere arose out of disgust with that political post-traumatic stress disorder. We refuse to keep in that defensive crouch. And if Obama continues to move in this direction, acting bold and confident, he will receive a great deal of support. It doesn't mean he will win; in fact, his drift toward Edwards' point of view may end up knocking both of them out. But it's clear that there's a legitimate choice to be made between the Clinton-era worldview of the past and the Obama-era worldview of the future.

UPDATE: Obama's speech today is right in line with the civil rights pledge that a coalition including Human Rights Watch is urging Presidential candidates to sign. It's a hopeful vision.

We are in the early stages of a long struggle. Yet since 9/11, we've heard a lot about what America can't do or shouldn't do or won't even try. We can't vote against a misguided war in Iraq because that would make us look weak, or talk to other countries because that would be a reward. We can't reach out to the hundreds of millions of Muslims who reject terror because we worry they hate us. We can't protect the homeland because there are too many targets, or secure our people while staying true to our values. We can't get past the America of Red and Blue, the politics of who's up and who's down.

That is not the America that I know.

The America I know is the last, best hope for that child looking up at a helicopter. It's the country that put a man on the moon; that defeated fascism and helped rebuild Europe. It's a country whose strength abroad is measured not just by armies, but rather by the power of our ideals, and by our purpose to forge an ever more perfect union at home.

That's the America I know. We just have to act like it again to write that next chapter in the American story.

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Why Yearly Kos Is Being Attacked

In case you want to understand why Bill O'Reilly is freaking out about Yearly Kos, and why he's leading the charge by the conservative noise machine to discredit the progressive movement, I think you have to read this story.

A July 23 Daily Kos diary by "nyceve" noted that three medical correspondents -- Robert Bazell and Nancy Snyderman of NBC News and Susan Dentzer of PBS' NewsHour -- "all participate on the AHIP [America's Health Insurance Plans] Speakers Network." AHIP describes itself as "the voice of America's health insurers" and "the national association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans." Its board of directors consists mainly of insurance-company executives. A July 25 Roll Call article (subscription required) described AHIP as "the lobbying group for the health insurance industry." The Daily Kos diary also noted that none of the bios for the three journalists on the websites of NBC or PBS disclosed the journalists' roles with the AHIP Speakers Network. Each of the reporters was, indeed, listed on AHIP's website as part of its speakers network, but all three names have since been removed from the list.

The diary highlighting Bazell's and Snyderman's ties to AHIP was posted on Daily Kos less than a week after Media Matters for America noted that their colleague Jim Miklaszewski, NBC chief Pentagon correspondent, reportedly took $30,000 from the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce to address its Business EXPO 2007. During his talk, Miklaszewski reportedly attacked Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, calling him a "loser."

So a diary on a website broke the news that major media reporters were literally working for a health insurance industry lobbying group, and after the revelation, they were all scrubbed from the website.

This is the real reason why progressive bloggers are being targeted. Because they represent a threat. A very real threat to upset the conservative corporate media consensus and move the country in the direction it wants to go. The media is a stakeholder in that status quo, and so they must turn out their attack dogs. Very little of this may be conscious; but the overall thrust is unquestionable.

I am proud to stand with my progressive colleagues and friends and announce that we will not be cowed into submission, that this is a new world and we will be heard. And now I'm about to jump onto a plane, so let that be that.

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Hope In Darfur

This is indeed good news, and it was orchestrated by the UK, not the US. This is kind of what I was talking about when I discussed Gordon Brown's visit the other day. He appears to be skilled at getting others to agree with him and also think it was their idea all along:

Gordon Brown scored a dramatic first foreign policy victory last night when the UN security council voted to deploy a 26,000-strong international force to Darfur, with a mandate to stop the massacres of civilians which have driven 2 million people from their homes.

Mr Brown has made Darfur a foreign policy priority, and the UN resolution was an initiative he promoted 10 days earlier with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, aiming to end a year of international drift on the issue. This week he secured George Bush's support for the draft.

The vote was passed unanimously after China, the Sudanese government's main defender at the UN, dropped its objections. British officials said that China's oil interests in Sudan were eventually outweighed by anxiety about a possible international human rights backlash over Darfur aimed at next year's Olympic Games in Beijing.

It looks like Sudan will support the force as well. I'm liking Gordon Brown so far. It's also important for the credibility of the UN to achieve some global consensus on the side of human rights. Though there is reason for reservation:

Human rights activists welcomed last night's vote, but warned that a lot more political will would be needed to ensure the security council decision was implemented in the face of potential obstructionist tactics by Khartoum, which had referred to similar versions of the resolution as "ugly" and "awful".

The resolution had been stripped of any threat of sanctions against the Sudanese government if it blocked the force's deployment, though Mr Brown said his government would "redouble" efforts to impose an embargo if that happened.

"It is not time ... to pop open the champagne bottles. The true test of this measure is not what happens today in New York, but what happens over the coming weeks in Darfur," Allyn Brooks-LaSure of the Save Darfur Coalition said last night.

Incidentally, the breakthrough in Darfur may be coming about due to a giant underground lke recently discovered there. If the resource wars can end there, suddenly there would be less of a need to drive people off their land. It's amazing how much the environment can be linked to gloal security.

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Best Lede Evah

Ya gotta love this.

The Interior Department's inspector general found no political interference by Vice President Cheney on a key environmental policy in part because investigators were not looking for it, an Interior official told lawmakers yesterday.

We found NOTHING where we weren't looking!

(By the way, this is about the Klamath River fishkill in 2002, which the Washington Post's Fourthbranch series revealed WAS politically manipulated by the Vice President. But the IG of Interior wasn't looking for it, so everything's cool.)

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The Tillman Hearing

I don't have C-SPAN 3, so I am unable to watch the Rumsfeld/Myers/Abizaid hearing on Pat Tillman's death. The Gavel has an early writeup:

Chairman Waxman: “Much of our focus will be on a ‘Personal For’ message, also known as a ‘P4,’ that Major General Stanley McChrystal sent on April 29, 2004. This P4 alerted his superiors that despite press reports that Corporal Tillman died fighting the enemy, it was ‘highly possible that Corporal Tillman was killed by friendly fire.’ Three officers received this P4 report: Lt. General Kensinger, General Abizaid, and General Brown… The Committee did issue a subpoena to General Kensinger earlier this week, but U.S. Marshals have been unable to locate or serve him.”

What now? A General, the same guy who was officially censured for his role in covering up the facts of Tillman's death, the guy the Army is trying to make the scapegoat, CANNOT BE FOUND? Bizarre. I expect a subpoena to be served.

Meanwhile, Rummy didn't recall.

Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld defended himself and took no personal responsibility Wednesday for the military's bungled response to Army Ranger Pat Tillman's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan.

Rumsfeld, in his first public appearance on Capitol Hill since President Bush replaced him with Robert Gates late last year, reiterated previous testimony to investigators that he didn't have early knowledge that Tillman was cut down by fellow Rangers, not by enemy militia, as was initially claimed.

He told a House committee hearing that he'd always impressed upon Pentagon underlings the importance of telling the truth.

''Early in my tenure as secretary of defense, I wrote a memo for the men and women of the Department of Defense,'' Rumsfeld told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. ''You will note that principle number one -- the very first -- was: 'Do nothing that could raise questions about the credibility of DOD.' ''

Rumsfeld gave the committee a copy of that memo.

The memo apparently told officers "to tell the truth or give the appearance of telling the truth". Because that's what it's all about. Appearances. By the way, I'm supposed to believe that because a MEMO was sent, everything was OK?

This is a textbook example of the military's tendency to secrecy and propaganda during wartime. Message control is favored well above the truth. And so the integrity of the government is called into question. And Rummy's appearance is doing nothing to improve that image.

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I Get The Distinct Sense That Iraq Is Falling Apart

After two bombing attacks killed 67 people in Baghdad, the Sunni Arab bloc quit the government that isn't meeting this August anyway.

The truth is starting to seep out from the highest levels of the US government, with officials admitting that Sunni militants are the major problem in the country moving forward, not Al Qaeda, and the nominee to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs admitting a little truth himself:

Mullen told lawmakers the military is spread thin by the war and testified that the security situation in Iraq "is better, not great, but better" since Bush ordered additional troops deployed last winter.

Still, he said, "there does not appear to be much political progress" in Iraq toward resolving long-standing issues that might ease sectarian conflict.

Meanwhile the White House hasn't budgeted the war beyond September 30, they say because "it did not know how long the increase in forces was going to endure." However, this is really an attempt to keep it off the budget so that there will be no adverse impact. Indeed the surge may cost up to $40 billion dollars over the next two years (that's above and beyond the normal Iraq costs).

It's OK though, because Very Serious Democrats like Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack told me everything was totally awsom over there.

UPDATE: There's this bleating from the right that July was the "lowest casualty month" for US forces in a while. Year-over-year there's never been a deadlier July. July is ridiculously hot, which makes it, um, less likely for suicide attacks and what-not (at least it has in the past). Attacks have ALWAYS gone down in this month of the war. So enough.

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Meddling Justice Department

The more information that comes out about the Purdue Frederick case, the angrier I get. I think I've mentioned that I have a cousin who spent years addicted to OxyContin. Executives at the drugmaker knew their substance was addictive and kept on selling the drugs. The prosecution in the trial didn't even argue this, and the result was a fine that will be largely paid out of the company's vast sum of profits off of the ruination of people's lives.

Now we learn that the US Attorney for Roanoke, where the Purdue Frederick case was filed, was told to slow down on the prosecution:

The night before the government secured a guilty plea from the manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, a senior Justice Department official called the U.S. attorney handling the case and, at the behest of an executive for the drugmaker, urged him to slow down, the prosecutor told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.

Brownlee wasn't fired. But this is a textbook example of politicization into cases of justice. And as I said, the prosecution, even in the view of the judge, blew the case.

In announcing the unorthodox sentence, Judge James P. Jones of United States District Court indicated that he was troubled by his inability to send the executives to prison. But he noted that federal prosecutors had not produced evidence as part of recent plea deals to show that the officials were aware of wrongdoing at the drug’s maker, Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Conn.

So the Elston call may have actually worked. Meanwhile, here's the Justice Department's alibi.

Justice Department officials said it was not unusual for senior members to weigh in on major criminal cases, and a spokesman, Dean Boyd, said the department "encourages healthy internal debate and discussion on complex cases like this one."

Well, perhaps it SHOULD be unusual. Especially when you have a Justice Department as political as this one.

Others said Elston's timing and message were atypical. "Normally, there's a lot of deference given to U.S. attorneys in matters of timing," said Michael R. Bromwich, a former Justice Department inspector general. "The kind of micromanagement that this suggests could easily have a chilling effect in some circumstances."

Turns out that Paul McNulty was talking to the defense attorney in the case and relaying information through DoJ to the US Attorney Brownlee. That appears completely untoward, as if the DoJ is taking sides with the defense in a criminal case.

Wonder what Alberto Gonzales knew about this? Oh, wait, he doesn't know anything.

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The Rest of the Week In Review

Since I'm on the road to Yearly Kos today, I thought I'd clean out my attic.

• I missed that mild-mannered New England Republican Chris Shays pulled a Cynthia McKinney and screamed at a Capitol police officer. Shockingly, this didn't get the same coverage as that CRAAAAAAAZZY black woman.

• If you're late to the US Attorney scandal, the House Judiciary Committee report on the Miers and Bolten contempt charges does a good job of laying out the case, delineating all the wrongdoing and explaining the need for the White House to provide documentation and testimony to get to the bottom of the investigation.

• If you haven't seen it, Max Blumenthal put together another great video about the "Christians United for Israel" meeting. They're a group who believes the Rapture is coming soon and that Israel must be in control of the Holy Land when that happens. Of course Joe Lieberman was there.

• The New York Times writes about the phenomenon of moving prisoners out of state, shuffling them around like pieces of furniture instead of human beings who deserve basic dignity, in order to alleviate crowding. The danger of this is that most of the new sites for these prisoners are corporate-run, prison-industrial complex sites. Private prisons are less accountable to the states in which they reside, and are solely concerned with the profit motive rather than rehabilitation, treatment and returning prisoners to civil society after they have served their time.

• Michael Bloomberg is doing a national ad buy on Google Ads when you type in the word "climate change"? And he's buying up any website with a combination of the words Mike, Bloomberg, and 2008 in it? And he still wants us to believe he's not running?

• Hamas is learning American-style democracy: they kicked off a marketing campaign to portray themselves as "safe, clean and green." And they're taking journalists on special tours to see the new "Gaza Riviera."

• The only documents allowed to come out of the executive branch are political documents.

A draft outline of a surgeon general's report on global health overseen by a Bush administration political appointee in 2005 extolled the administration's efforts to improve health care in Iraq and Afghanistan and promoted an initiative to detect terrorism-related health threats on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The outline prepared under the direction of William R. Steiger, head of the Office of Global Health Affairs, differed substantially from a draft compiled by then-Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, who has said he refused to incorporate Steiger's ideas for fear of turning a scientific document into a political one.

• The Speaker of the Oregon House, Jeff Merkley, will file to run for the US Senate against "moderate" Republican Gordon Smith. We've been looking for a good candidate in Oregon. This makes this a top-tier race in my opinion.

• While John Edwards offers a transformation of the tax code to reward fairness, Chuck Schumer shows how hard it will be to implement such changes by opposing the changing of income made by hedge fund managers from investment income to earned income. There are so many competing interests and constituencies made rich by tweaks in the tax code, that Democrats will talk about tax fairness but suddenly become very protective of THEIR tax breaks.

• Finally, there are apparently 237 reasons to have sex. Funny, I thought there was 1: because people like to have sex.



Election Reform Speed Bump In California

Yes, this is kind of scary. Apparently a Republican front group is trying to put an initiative on the ballot making California apportion its electoral votes through proportional representation, with each of its 53 Congressional districts up for grabs. This would be like giving the equivalent of the state of Ohio or Pennsylvania to the Republicans. The vote would likely go on the June 2008 ballot, where no Presidential or statewide candidate will be running. The electoral college needs to be tossed out, but as I said when talking about the North Carolina proportional representation plan, it shouldn't be piecemeal. Surprisingly, the NC bill was pulled from the floor of their Legislature because the DNC didn't want the California GOP to have an opening. That's a really stupid reason to pull the bill, because it's not like the GOP lawyers pushing this referendum in CA are going to look and that and say "Oh, OK, North Carolina backed down, we can stop our plans now."

Ultimately, I think the referendum will fail, despite the sleepy June ballot, because Democratic groups will use their institutional muscle to stop it. And the Democratic nominee will work hard to motivate his or her base as well. And everyone who resists the National Popular Vote plan must answer why enabling states to enact their own various pieces of legislation, rather than an interstate compact that doesn't take effect until it's meaningful, would somehow be an improvement.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Mr. Rumsfeld Goes To Washington

After originally saying he would not testify to the House Oversight Government Reform Committee in the Pat Tillman case, Donald Rumsfeld had a change of heart. This should be a REALLY interesting morning.

In a late breaking development, Secretary Rumsfeld will appear before the Oversight Committee tomorrow, Wednesday, August 1, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.

The Committee is holding a hearing entitled "The Tillman Fratricide: What the Leadership of the Defense Department Knew." The hearing will examine what senior Defense Department officials knew about U.S. Army Corporal Patrick Tillman's death by fratricide.

The following witnesses will testify:

The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Former Secretary of Defense

Gen. Richard B. Myers (Retired)
Former Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Gen. John P. Abizaid (Retired)
Former Commander, U.S. Central Command

Gen. Bryan Douglas Brown (Retired)
Former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command

Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger, Jr. (Retired)*
(supboena issued/not confirmed)
Former Commander, U.S. Army Special Operations Command

I may experiment with liveblogging this one. Sure, Rummy will just go off on known knowns and unknown unknowns and "I don't recalls," but there's a lot of information he'll have to deny, and Henry Waxman is cagey as hell. He made mincemeat of Paul Bremer and I would expect nothing less here.

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Giuliani: Clueless on Health Care

A lot of people are talking about this extremely unflattering profile of Judy Giuliani, so I'll leave it to them. I will simply mention that her husband commented on the article while at an event touting his great healthcare plan, wherein he reveals that he doesn't know a thing about healthcare.

Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday offered a consumer-oriented solution to the nation's health care woes that relies on giving individuals tax credits to purchase private insurance.

Critical to Giuliani's plan is a $15,000 tax deduction for families to buy private health insurance, instead of getting insurance through employers. Any leftover funds could be rolled over year-to-year for medical expenses.

Campaigning in this first primary state, Giuliani said his goal is to give individuals more control over their health care. The former New York mayor said as more people buy plans, insurers will drop their prices, making insurance affordable to those who lack it now.

So the plan is:
Individuals without any collective leverage buy health insurance.
Health costs lower!!!

There's no mandate here, people are still only encouraged to purchase insurance. And people who can't afford to buy insurance don't MAKE $15,000 in income that would be taxed. In other words, this gives the uninsured approximately $0 to help them buy health insurance. It's the principle of "You're On Your Own."

''Government cannot take care of you. You've got to take care of yourself,'' he said. ''As more of us do that, the cheaper it will become and the higher in quality it becomes.''

There's absolutely no mechanism to make health care cheaper. If more people had health insurance, maybe the risk pool is widened, but there's nothing there to get more people health insurance. And if you're wondering how Giuliani will pay for this, which will cost the federal government bundles of money while not improving health care at all...

Giuliani offered the broad outline of his plan but his campaign did not provide many specifics. Asked how much his plan would cost and how many of the people without insurance it would help, Giuliani said he won't have those answers for two or three months.

He also acknowledged that it could take years for insurers to drop their prices and make insurance affordable to those who don't have it.


This is the type of conservative "ideas" that aren't really ideas at all to do anything but drain the federal treasury and ensure the status quo by blocking progress entirely.

[W]hy should Mr. Bush fear that insuring uninsured children would lead to a further “federalization” of health care, even though nothing like that is actually in either the Senate plan or the House plan? It’s not because he thinks the plans wouldn’t work. It’s because he’s afraid that they would. That is, he fears that voters, having seen how the government can help children, would ask why it can’t do the same for adults.

And there you have the core of Mr. Bush’s philosophy. He wants the public to believe that government is always the problem, never the solution. But it’s hard to convince people that government is always bad when they see it doing good things. So his philosophy says that the government must be prevented from solving problems, even if it can. In fact, the more good a proposed government program would do, the more fiercely it must be opposed.

So Rudy Giuliani and his conservative buddies can demonize successful approaches to cover all of our citizens as "socialized medicine" so that nobody notices how successful they really are. There's no indication that there's any desire by Giuliani to genuinely heal people, just a means to get people off his back.

Your modern conservative movement. Protecting the past, afraid of the future, ignorant of the concerns of actual citizens.

UPDATE: Good point by Aravosis. The President, Vice President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court all were in the hospital for medical procedures this week and didn't have to bat an eyelash: the government pays for their health care. Biut they'd rather not bestow such peace of mind on ordinary folks because they're so... ordinary.

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Australia: First In A-holes

Here's a fun story: the Australian government arrested a man of Indian descent in association with the foiled suicide bomber plot in the United Kingdom. They held him for three weeks on anti-terror charges, and were then forced to release him for lack of evidence. And they will not be apologizing to the man.

Australia will not be apologising to Dr. Haneef," (Prime Minister John Howard) told reporters.

"Dr. Haneef was not victimised and Australia's international reputation has not been harmed by this 'mis-start' to its new anti-terrorism laws."

Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, who has drawn fierce criticism for withdrawing Haneef's working visa just hours after he was granted bail on the terror charge, also said he would not be apologising to the doctor.

"There's nothing to apologise about because in my discretion, looking at the evidence that the Australian Federal Police provided to me, he failed the character grounds," he told reporters in Hobart.

Belligerent, incompetent, arrogant, stubborn, subtly racist. What an ally in the war on terror!

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More Congressional Progress

The House passed bills supporting divestiture of the governments of Iran and Sudan, which is a unique way of using dollar diplomacy to pressure these regimes to stop their support of actions like genocide (in the case of Sudan) or support for terrorism (Iran).

The House also passed The Fair Pay Act to end wage discrimination in the workplace. This is in reference to a Supreme Court decision whereby a pay discrimination case had to be filed within 180 days to be actionable. This bill would reverse that. But it's likely to be vetoed.

Also the Democrats passed ethics reform legislation through the House despite GOP obstructionism. They refused a conference and so the Democratic leadership simply reconciled the bill on their own and stopped the amendment process. GOP whiners could have allowed a conference if they wanted a place at the table.

This has been a good few months for the Democratic Congress. Whether or not the public will recognize this remains to be seen.

UPDATE: Yes, it is kind of hilarious that Ted Stevens, the guy who had his house raided by the FBI and the IRS yesterday, might block passage of the LOBBYING REFORM bill. It sure makes sense, though. Why would he want lobbying reform?

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Fourthbranch: "I Don't Recall"

This is very interesting. Cheney has no problem lying on the teevee about anything. He's the guy who claimed on CNBC that he never said it was "pretty well confirmed" that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi agent in Prague before 9/11, when he said exactly that on Meet the Press.

So when he goes on Larry King and refuses to answer whether or not he sent Abu Gonzales and Andy Card to John Ashcroft's hospital bed to extract a sign-off on the warrantless wiretapping program from him while he was under sedation. Cheney said "I have no recollection of that."

Yesterday, a NYT editorial said this outright:

Unwilling to accept [DOJ's refusal to reauthorize the program], Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.

So there seems to be some information here that's public knowledge among the journalist class, but not the public.

It also appears that Arlen Specter received the letter he wanted. CNN is reporting a letter that NSA head Michael McConnell sent to Specter defending Abu G's contention that he didn't perjure himself when saying that there was no disagreement within the Justice Department on the program. The key judgments:

A number of these intelligence activities were authorized in one order;
One particular aspect of these activities and nothing more was acknowledged;
This is the only aspect that can be discussed publicly.

In other words, shut up. Is this the first time the White House has acknowledged that there are secret, ONGOING eavesdropping and intelligence programs that Americans don't know about? And they're also claiming that it was approved by the Congress. Could that mean Jane Harman, as emptywheel speculated?

Gonzales is making a technical argument and the White House is backing him up. Meanwhile, Fourthbranch is shutting his yap. There's a lot going on here and it's very fluid.

UPDATE: The House Judiciary Committee does the right thing, demands details of these separate, unacknowledged programs, as it is the right of the Congress to know (particularly the Intelligence Committee, designed to give oversight to intelligence activities of this government).

UPDATE II: Wow. Data-mining that may be included in this "unacknowledged intelligence activity" was specifically defunded by the Congress:

Sec. 8131.


(b) None of the funds provided for Processing, analysis, and collaboration tools for counterterrorism foreign intelligence shall be available for deployment or implementation except for:

(1) lawful military operations of the United States conducted outside the United States; or

(2) lawful foreign intelligence activities conducted wholly overseas, or wholly against non-United States citizens.

'Course, the President wrote a signing statement essentially nullifying this law, which is an appropriation, so it's completely illegal for them to do so (no different than Iran-Contra). Here's emptywheel:

Since that time, of course, we’ve learned that the Bush Administration has been using data-mining. It has been using data-mining to analyze data collected in the United States to identify targets for wiretaps, one party to which could be in the United States. And in fact, NSA didn’t have the technical ability to ensure that it wasn’t tapping communications between two targets, both of whom were in the United States. The Bush Administration was violating the clear intent of the law passed in 2003 to forbid data-mining in the United States.

When Bush confirmed the domestic wiretap program, he described it in terms that would mostly kind of comply with Congress’ intent when it explicitly forbade such activities. But he never denied that the activities associated with the program prior to March 2004 clearly violated Congress’ intent when it passed the Appropriations Act in 2003.

The Congress needs to keep pushing. What we don't know is going to be shocking.

UPDATE III: I should have mentioned that Fourthbranch still thinks he's a fourth branch, calling the office "unique" in an interview with CBS News. Which begs the question, why is this guy giving so many interviews all of a sudden? Is he trying to whip up support for Stephen Hayes' book on him? Is this his 2008 campaign rollout? Wait, I just threw up a little in my mouth...

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From the Edit Bay: Making Crashing The States

I'm looking forward to seeing everybody at the Yearly Kos Convention this week, where I'll be spewing my own special brand of hate pretty much continuously to anyone and everyone who approaches me (It may cause you to experience blanching, the dropping of teacups and fainting; consult your doctor). I'm actually co-moderating the California/Hawaii regional caucus on Thursday at 3:30, so all members of the Golden State should be sure to come by (we'll have at least 3 Congressional candidates speaking at the caucus). And I hope to reaffirm old friendships, make new ones, and find random comments buried in the archives of the site and hold them up as emblematic of the Angry Left.

But I wanted to talk about what I've been spending the last week doing, lending my particular abilities to a project you may know about called Crashing The States, a film chronicling the 26-state journey last election season by two members of our community, hekebolos and Reality Bites Back, to visit all of the Netroots Endorsed campaigns and learn the story of the progressive blogosphere along the way. This was an interesting film to edit, so I wanted to take a minute to explain the process.

I've been editing film and television for over a decade (or at least pretending to while I blog), and I looked forward to working on Crashing The States when I was approached to help last year. Fortunately, a hiatus in my current job allowed me for some time over the past two weeks (or unfortunately, depending on your interest in my maintaining my back account).

The key to a project like this is organization. Over 300 hours of footage was shot in dozens of different locations. Determining a coherent narrative when offered this many possibilities is like drinking through a fire hose. The good news is that Gary (Reality Bites Back) did a great job scrutinizing and organizing the footage. Unfortunately, that process simply takes so many man-hours that there was no way we would be able to complete the finished film in time for the convention, which I believe was the initial goal. So we ended up deciding on a 23-minute "mini-version" for Yearly Kos.

When I was brought in on the project a couple weeks ago, Gary had a 30-minute "stringout" of some of the top moments of the trip. I could immedately see that there was a great film hidden within the footage. The challenge would be to find it, and more importantly to set it in the proper context. We were dealing with a few issues. The first was how to juggle the multiple stories. There's an "A" story of the journey by Gary and Dante (hekebolos) itself. You want to offer some of their personalities and give the feeling of forward movement to give a through-line to the film. Then of course we have the story of the different candidates they encountered along the way. They visited over 30 of them, but for the purposes of this mini-film, we focused on people like Jim Webb, Jon Tester, Ned Lamont, Darcy Burner, Brian Keeler, and a couple more. And then you have a third story you have to weave into the film, the story of the netroots, as told by its leading lights, like Markos, Jerome Armstrong, Chris Bowers, Jane Hamsher, etc.

How do you deal with this?

Well, the important thing is to not lose sight of the goal. The "A" story must remain paramount, and you have to find those areas of linkage to weave in the other parts. This is easier in a 90-minute film when you have enough time to address everything. In a 23-minute film we can only give you a taste of that, but I think we did a decent enough job.

The other challenge you have is not to predetermine your audience and make sure that the film is sufficiently broad enough for everyone to understand it. We will be screening it for a very discerning audience at Yearly Kos, people who know about and participate in the blogosphere, and who remember well the battles of 2006. Nevertheless, you must put the film together imagining that the viewer may not have any understanding of the netroots at all. That's why I thought it was good to setup the stakes in 2006, as well as the history of the blogosphere, right off the top. Once the backstory was settled, then we could move into the journey that is essentially our "A" story. Again, this would be easier if the film were much longer and you would have more time to spread everything out. You may want to begin the journey and then fill in the gaps. But for our purposes, we wanted to inform the audience without talking down to them, and this structure seemed to be the best way to go.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how the film came out. The scenery and cinematography is spectacular, and the excitement you see on the ground in these races is palpable. In addition, the access that Gary and Dante managed to get is very impressive. I was glad to have the time to be a part of it.

But this is the beginning and not the end. This 23-minute version is designed to give people a taste of things to come. My hope is that the production can get the necessary funding needed to... well, to hire me, and a composer, and all of the other expenditures needed to complete the film. As a freelance employee, if I'm not working I'm not being paid. This isn't belly-aching, I'm happy to donate my time to something worthwhile, but this is a story that deserves to be told, and it shouldn't be done on nights and weekends, but the right way, with the attention to detail commensurate with the quality of the effort. If you like what you see at the preview screening, I would hope that you would be able to donate to the cause and help fund the first independent documentary film that has arisen purely from the netroots. I think this film can be a document of our movement, and a historical snapshot of the great victory in 2006.

I'm looking forward to having you all see it.

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"Do you understand English?"

Ted Stevens got pretty testy with Dana Bash on CNN. She played an audio tape where he refused to answer anything about the raid of his house, and when questioned further, he snapped: "Do you understand English?"

It occurs to me that this is the first time I've seen CNN take an interest in this issue at all, even though it's been brewing for quite some time.

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Jesus, How Small A Town Is Washington?

In this Think Progress post about war supporters' Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack's pro-war op-ed on Iraq and the blogosphere's reaction to it, Amanda revealed that O'Hanlon is the brother-in-law of Politico editor-in-chief John Harris. Yesterday Matt Yglesias mentioned that O'Hanlon and David Petraeus are college buddies.

Is EVERYONE in the DC commentariat somehow related or connected at the hip? It would certainly explain a lot.

Jack Murtha ripped the op-ed this morning, by the way. I guess he doesn't have relatives in DC.

UPDATE: Unbelievable. O'Hanlon doesn't mind lying on the op-ed pages of the New York Times, but when he is testifying under oath, he changes his tune.

Totally backed down. Said the progress has only been against aqi, that sectarian violence and the civil war is as bad as ever, and that the current strategy will probably fail. He thinks we should partition the country. Why the turnabout from the optimistic op-ed? He didn't say.

The turnabout is because, unlike the Bush Administration, he cares about perjury. Not about the country, because he'll say things like "best war ever" in elite media appearances to deceive people.

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My Week-Late Review of No End In Sight

I saw Charles Ferguson's new documentary last Tuesday, and the reports I've seen throughout the blogosphere, wondering about whether the film would be a 90-minute defense of the "incompetence dodge," are in my view accurate. Yes, the film is an impressive chronicle of the thuddingly stupid mistakes made by the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Administration after the invastion. And those mistakes did occur and should be rightly lambasted. But they were prefigured by the "original sin" mistake of going into Iraq in the first place, which many knew would upset the delicate balance on which that country teeters, which many knew would take us away from the primary mission in Afghanistan (where the Taliban is resurgent) and the overall war against Islamic radicalism (where Al Qaeda has a new safe haven - in Pakistan).

After the screening the director (a poli sci professor - this is his first film) spoke on a panel. I left early, but the report I got was that the director (and some other RAND Corp. flack on the panel named Gregory Treverton) essentially averred that the war was an OK idea but it was just incompetently managed. The crowd went BALLISTIC, apparently, which is to be expected for Westside LA.

There have been studies of the batshit insane circumstances in Iraq, like Imperial Life in the Emerald City, that don't come off this way. But No End In Sight most certainly does, because the voice of the film is on the side of the brave people, Administration appointees all, who tried to "fix" Iraq, not anyone who actually didn't think it was a good idea to begin with. I appreciated the film for laying out the history in a linear fashion, but I fear it will be expropriated by those who take the lesson of "for the next unnecessary pre-emptive war, we'd better pack a lunch!"

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The Bermuda Triangle

It's nice that the California Democratic Party is targeting three members of the Southern California "Culture of Corruption" caucus (Gary Miller, Jerry Lewis, Ken Calvert) with a website. It'd be nicer if they supported the grassroots candidates that are running in those respective districts (Ron Shepston, Tim Prince, Bill Hedrick). After all, THEY'RE the ones who need name ID and recognition, not the Republicans.

I'm not sure what the CDP is after here. They've got just a few seats to go to grab 2/3 support in the state legislature, yet perusing through their site you see almost no mention of that. When you hear Art Torres speak, he never really talks about State Assembly or State Senate seats, only the Congress. Why does our state party see its role as solely to support federal or statewide candidates? One would think that party building would start locally. Building the Democratic bench in the state legislature would bubble up to the Congressional seats, too, yet the CDP seems determined to go the other way around.

I'm not totally criticizing it, I just wonder why this party has a different way of looking at its role than, say, New Hampshire or North Carolina does.

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More And Better Democrats

Joe Trippi came out and endorsed Jay Buckey yesterday for the US Senate in New Hampshire. We all know that the Republican brand is trashed and that 2008 offers a unique opportunity to get elected not just Democrats, but progressive Democrats who aren't wedded to the power structure in Washington. I like anyone's website that has a solar panel on the masthead, and Buckey seems like an intelligent problem-solver who has some good ideas, especially when it comes to technology and energy.

Democrats are not ever going to have the message discipline of the Republicans, nor should we strive for it. A big tent airs their differences in public, and then after the primary process comes together, while still holding the elected officials accountable. Jeanne Shaheen is the prohibitive favorite in New Hampshire (though not yet a candidate, she polls 28 points ahead of incumbent John Sununu), but she supported the war and the Bush tax cuts in 2002. Now, 2002 is a world away from 2008, but it shouldn't be enough just to elect a Democrat. Values and policies should come into play. Otherwise, this moment will have passed with a bunch of Democrats in office who are cautious, nervous, and end up reverting back to the mushy middle. I agree with Chris Bowers that it's hard to know what you're getting into:

One problem progressive, grassroots activists face is that we simply do not always know how the people we help elect will act once in office. In fact, there might not be a way to know that for certain. Campaign rhetoric is often intentionally vague, and policy positions laid out on candidate websites are virtually never exactly like laws that end up being enacted once people are in office. The truth is that it is easy to see what you want in a candidate, and that candidates have a vested interest in trying to look appealing to a wide range of activists and voters with whom they may have actual disagreements. This makes it very easy to think you are, to use unfortunately economic language for a moment, "purchasing" something very different than you actually are with your precious activist time and money. And that goes for a lot of candidates beyond Clinton or McNerney. It often feels difficult to know what you are going to get from anyone you help elect to Congress.

The point I want to make is that this peaks more to the difficulty of figuring out where anyone's "core" is during a campaign than of Democratic candidates flip-flopping. Maybe this is simply what McNerney was like all along, and we just didn't notice (although he did say that he was a Barbara Boxer Democrat during the campaign). Even though I am definitely disappointed, I'm still glad to have helped him, in my own small way, be elected to Congress. I am still trying to both figure out the key signs to know how someone will be "on your side" once s/he takes office and how to blog about elections from a progressive Democratic perspective, and not just a partisan Democratic perspective. I hope to improve on this front, because I believe that choosing progressive candidates in primaries is one key to electing a more progressive governing majority.

This is difficult, but when someone comes out and undermines progressive principles with their rhetoric, you know that they're not likely to do an about-face after the primary. In other words, it's easier to know who your friends AREN'T than who they are. I don't think electability comes into play in this time when Republicans are dead in the water and the progressive movement has the money, energy and ground troops any Democrat would need to help get elected. I think candidates need to be looked at on the merits, and when those like Jerry McNerney stray from those values after getting to Washington, they need to hear about it.

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Kante De Durst Not, Kante De Dur

For some reason, the death of Michelangelo Antonioni didn't make it into the celebrity death headlines yesterday, but that's probably just because, while Blow-Up is an influential mess of a film, his other efforts weren't well-known in the United States. And anyway, only one foreign director at a time can be honored here, and the Maestro died yesterday as well.

I've seen almost every one of Ingmar Bergman's films. The best offered, like the magic lantern of his youth, a vision into a different world, a dreamscape, where ideas could be more clearly nd distinctly synthesized. He was also quite funny, far more than anyone would give him credit for. Everyone remembers the chess game with Death in The Seventh Seal, but my favorite Bergman films are Persona, Scenes From A Marriage and The Virgin Spring, a disquisition on innocence and experience and the Original Sin, the Fall from Grace. The Virgin Spring is about a young woman who is raped and murdered by a gang of thugs, and her father's eye-for-an-eye reaction. After the thugs seek refuge at the father's barn, he eventually discovers the truth about them, and he becomes the very cold-blooded murderers he despises, out of revenge. The father even kills the boy that the two thugs travel with, a boy that had nothing to do with the murder. This violence springs from a family of committed believers in God, whose faith is tested through the episode. In the end, as the family seeks to bury their daughter, a "virgin spring" bubbles up from the ground, almost a sign from God that he approves of the violence, or read another way, a testament to how we deceive ourselves into believing whatever we do or think is necessary and just. The father ascribes special significance to the spring to excuse himself for his crimes.

This film came during the height of Bergman's questioning period, when he put out a series of films that touched on faith and belief. Persona comes after he had given up the question, and it's a far different achievement. The film is nearly impossible to explain, though I tried to do so for a college term paper, taking one scene and integrating it into a discussion of the full theme of the film:

His choice of shot sequence and composition in the film consistently sacrifices realism for more suggestive effects, in which the form seeks to mirror the content. Not only is this visually jarring, but it adds a great deal to the theme, particularly the intended self-reflexivity of the work. This reveals itself in several points of the film, especially in the scene where Alma (Bibi Andersson) confronts Elizabeth (Liv Ullmann) about her relationship with her son. Instead of crosscutting and showing Alma and Elizabeth's reactions concurrently during the scene, Bergman chooses to show Elizabeth throughout, then to "replay" the scene, showing Alma straight through to the conclusion. Why would Bergman slow down his film so, diluting a highly dramatic moment by doubling it?

This use of the lingering facial close-up ties directly into one of the central concerns of the narrative. The audience, given nothing else to look at but Elizabeth's face, must study it, break it down, mentally mark her expressions and details. When the scene doubles and Alma becomes the object of study, a visual connection necessarily sets up between the two. Earlier in the film, Alma says, "When I saw you (in a film), I noticed right away . . . we look alike . . . we are alike." The audience now must make the same connection Alma did earlier, and the identical sequence of shots stresses this connection. The shots close in on Alma as well, and we see the exact intent of all of her words, through expression and tone. Moving closer and closer into each character, we consequently move closer into their psychological state of being, and closer into their identities. By doubling the progression, we inextricably link the women's identities, merging them in a kind of transference. This of course comes to a head during the split-screen sequence at the end, but more about that later.

The narrative of the monologue is simple enough. Alma describes the reasons why Elizabeth had her child, and why she hates him, through to this day. At a party somebody told Elizabeth that she "lacked motherliness." So she gave in and let her husband make her pregnant. But, despite the acclamation of others, she was overwhelmed with a strong feeling of repulsion and hate for the child, even wishing him to be stillborn (she wishes herself to be dead inside). The delivery takes a long time, but the child survived, and he grew up with a deep love for his mother. But she still hated him, was repulsed by him, to the point that she could take no more. While this is an engrossing and difficult story, it is not a very long one. To capture the essentials would take under a minute. However, Bergman stretches the monologue, giving it more emphasis and making it longer to convey. He does this by (surprise) having Alma frequently reiterate her statements, "doubling" her speech. The examples of this are numerous. She says, "And you let your husband make you pregnant/ you wanted to be a mother;" "But all the time you acted/ acted the part of a happy expectant mother;" "You wished the child would be stillborn/ you wanted a dead child;" "Can't you die soon/ can't you die;" "It was a long and difficult delivery/ you suffered for several days," among other things. Using a reiteration for emphasis is a common technique in a dramatic speech such as this, but Bergman uses it to the extreme. It fits in perfectly with the doppleganger theme; the words are doubling over on themselves, just as the characters do. In addition to phrases being repeated in a similar manner, the same words keep coming up again and again. In particular, "afraid," "dead," "repulsive," "hate," "suffering," and those two old standbys, "mother" and "child," keep cropping up. The last line encapsulates this thematic, as Alma screams, "You think he's repulsive and you're afraid!" By bringing these words and phrases up continually in the speech, Bergman lets the dialogical form mirror the content as well as the film technique.

After Alma says her final line in the portion where the camera is on her, the shot merges for a moment in a brilliant use of split-screen technology. The right side Alma's face is shown, but is superimposed with Elizabeth's left side. This is shown for only a brief second. Suddenly, Alma grows afraid again. All of her control is lost, and she cries out, "No! I'm not like you, I don't feel as you do. I am Alma, I'm only here to help. I am not Elizabeth Vogler! You are Elizabeth Vogler!" After such a condemning speech, why does Alma suddenly grow so fearful? Perhaps the split-screen image plays to a self-realization in Alma that her demeanor is slowly meshing with that of Elizabeth. She realizes that her assertion of control is merely a projection of Elizabeth's personality on her, and that loss of true identity frightens her. Plus, it gives a response to the question of how Alma can know all these personal things about Elizabeth's life. That merger of shots confuses the true voice and the true speaker in the scene. Perhaps Elizabeth is saying all these things to Alma, or worse, through Alma. In essence, Alma gets frightened because she knows these statements are not in her true nature, and it suggests that she is losing that nature at the hands of Elizabeth. That is visually conveyed by the shot that literally links the two women's faces.

After Alma asserts that she is not Elizabeth Vogler, her words break down. "I'd like to have- I love- I haven't" is her only reply. In seeing her identity slipping away, her control does as well, even her control over her own words. This notion comes up again later in the film when Alma recites a chorus of disassociative, meaningless phrases. By the time Alma gets to the "I haven't, " her lips do not even move as the split-screen comes back into focus and remains there in freeze frame for a time. The image is flattened out by this freeze frame, giving a two-dimensionality to the work. It looks more like a picture, which is the image that sparks this sequence in the first place. The split-screen not only brings closure to this scene, but it further justifies the lack of cutting and the "replayed" scene technique. If the scene were done in typical Hollywood style, it would negate the brunt of this technique. The visual connection would not be as defined as before, the audience unable to study the images in as much depth as they do. The twin themes of doubling and merging, which come across so well due in large part to the technique, would be severely downplayed. The splitting of the image brings together the two women for the first time in the scene, and crosscutting would have put them together several times over before that. So, in order to get the full extent of effect out of his visual trick, Bergman had to shoot the scenes in that fashion.

Hey, I wouldn't get much use out of that paper, otherwise. It actually hold up (at least for me).

Bergman is an incredible filmmaker who returned to the same themes over and over again, studying and re-studying and coming to conclusions about the nature of man, woman, madness, faith and love. His body of work is a towering achievement, the likes of which we may never see again.

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