Ed Kilgore, Kevin Drum, and

Ed Kilgore, Kevin Drum, and Josh Marshall are reacting with the expected snarkiness to Republican Dino Rossi’s call for a re-vote in the Washington State gubernatorial race, which he lost to Democrat Christine Gregoire. Kilgore:

I recommend that Washington Democrats speedily begin referring to Governor-elect Gregoire as “Governor,” and to her vanquished opponent as Dino “Loser” Rossi. Sauce for the geese, sauce for the gander.

Drum:

That’s interesting: I don’t recall any Republicans feeling that way about Florida four years ago. Funny how that works.

Marshall:

So now Rossi has a new angle. He says Gregoire should join him in calling for a whole new election to be held. You know, to ensure the integrity of the process.

Newsflash: she ain’t interested.

I have to say that Drum’s response is the most irritating. It’s silly to think that one party acts on principles in close elections like this, and that the other is just opportunistic. Everyone just wants to win. It’s silly to think that there are other considerations. This isn’t an issue of political beliefs, or philosophy. It’s an issue of partisanship, of winning at any costs. And I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. In elections, people usually make decisions based on either 1) which candidate they agree with most or 2) which party they agree with most. So, trying to win at all costs is really just the logical continuation of holding heartfelt political beliefs. It isn’t cynical; it’s actually quite sincere. So I don’t blame Rossi. I’d be doing the same thing in that situation.

I watch a lot of

I watch a lot of TV. And I mean a lot of TV. There are about 15 shows that I watch on a semi-regular basis. But there has always been one show that meant more to me than all of the others, and that show has been Law and Order. I don’t think that I would have the same deep respect, or even the great interest in government that I currently do if it hadn’t been for that show. And as you’ve no doubt heard, Jerry Orbach, who for 12 seasons played Det. Lennie Briscoe, has died.

Lennie Briscoe was a grandfather figure. He always cracked bad jokes and puns, whatever the situation. He could be interrogating a serial killer and still get a chance to make a crack. He was never funny, at least not in a traditional way, but I couldn’t help but laugh. Part of this had to be pity. His partners and, more embarrassingly, his bosses were invariably younger than he was, he was a troubled alcoholic, and his relationships were always tortured. But he always lifted his head up and got through it. And he was always, always happy. He knew he was never going to be the best detective there was. But that didn’t matter. He was in it for the pleasure that he got from helping people. And that’s probably the noblest thing there is in this world.

I was always more interested in the prosecution aspect of the shows; I found courtroom drama much more intriguing than police work. But none of the prosecutors, not even Jack McCoy, were as well-acted, or beloved by all as Lennie. So long, Lennie. And so long, Jerry.

Southeast Asia has been struck

Southeast Asia has been struck with a terrible, terrible tragedy. Almost 10,000 people are dead in the largest earthquake in 40 years. Our hearts are with people from Indonesia, where most were killed, all the way to Somalia, where 9 lives were taken. I’ll post a link to an aid site when it becomes available.

P.S. Mercy Corps has mobilized to help. Click here to donate.

P.P.S. The toll’s now up to 44,000. Almost 15 9/11s. Please give.

P.P.P.S. 55,000 and rising. Here are some more aid links, via Dan Drezner, who has nobly come out of hibernation to assist in fundraising:

Action Against Hunger

247 West 37th Street, Suite 1201

New York, NY 10018

212-967-7800

http://www.aah-usa.org

American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th Street, 10th Floor

New York, NY 10018

800-889-7146

http://www.ajws.org

ADRA International
9-11 Fund

12501 Old Columbus Pike

Silver Spring, MD 20904

800-424-2372

http://www.adra.org

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC Crisis Fund)
1501 Cherry Street

Philadelphia, PA

215-241-7000

http://www.afsc.org

Catholic Relief Services
PO Box 17090

Baltimore, MD 21203-7090

800-736-3467

http://www.catholicrelief.org

Direct Relief International
27 South La Patera Lane

Santa Barbara, CA 93117

805-964-4767

http://www.directrelief.org

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres

PO Box 2247

New York, NY 10116-2247

888-392-0392

http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org

International Medical Corps
1919 Santa Monica Boulevard Suite 300

Santa Monica CA 90404

800-481-4462

http://www.imcworldwide.org

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
PO Box 372

CH-1211 Geneva 19

Switzerland

41-22-730-4222

http://www.ifrc.org/

International Orthodox Christian Charities
Middle East Crisis Response

PO Box 630225

Baltimore, MD 21263-0225

877-803-4622

http://www.iocc.org

Lutheran World Relief
PO Box 17061

Baltimore MD 21298-9832

800-597-5972

http://www.lwr.org

MAP International
2200 Glynco Parkway

PO Box 215000

Brunswick, GA 3121-5000

800-225-8550

http://www.map.org

Mercy Corps
PO Box 2669

Portland, OR 97208

800-852-2100

http://www.mercycorps.org

Northwest Medical Teams
PO Box 10

Portland, OR 97207-0010

503-624-1000

http://www.nwmedicalteams.org

Operation USA
8320 Melrose Avenue, Ste. 200

Los Angles, CA 90069

800-678-7255

http://www.opusa.org

Relief International
11965 Venice Blvd. #405

Los Angeles, CA 90066

800-572-3332

http://www.ri.org

Save the Children

Asia Earthquake/Tidal Wave Relief Fund

54 Wilton Road

Westport, CT 06880

800-728-3843

www.savethechildren.org

US Fund for UNICEF

333 East 38th Street

New York, NY 10016

800-FOR-KIDS

http://www.unicefusa.org

World Concern
19303 Fremont Ave. N

Seattle, WA 98133

800-755-5022

http://www.worldconcern.org

World Relief
7 E. Baltimore St.

Baltimore, MD 21202

443-451-1900

http://www.wr.org

World Vision
PO Box 70288

Tacoma, Washington 98481-0288

888-56-CHILD

http://www.worldvision.org

Back from Christmas Break. Kevin

Back from Christmas Break. Kevin Drum continues to ask the tough questions:

Question #1: Who wrote this op-ed about how healthcare costs are low for some people but high for others?

For instance, elderly people who use a Medicare discount card and have to pay $1,299 annually for a drug that the Department of Veterans Affairs purchases for $322, according to a comparison by Families USA. Or middle-class families that lose health insurance and have to pay $29,500 for an overnight hospital stay, when Medicaid would have paid only $6,000, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It just doesn’t make any sense. And, not surprisingly, the companies with the biggest profits — those in the drug industry — have been fighting hardest to maintain the status quo.

….A 2001 study by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that drug companies’ favorite customers paid just a little over half the retail price. This leaves the 67 million Americans without insurance to pay cash, with no rebates, at double the prices paid by the most-favored customers.

Answer: Peter Rost, vice president of marketing at Pfizer.

Question #2: How much longer do you think Peter Rost will remain a vice president of marketing at Pfizer?

Question #3: Is Peter Rost still a vice president of marketing at Pfizer? As appalling as this looks, I still think that the costs of adopting single-payer health insurance don’t justify the benefits. According to Just Health Care, a pro-single-payer group that’s been created by the U.S. Labor Party (and, yes, there is a U.S. Labor Party), creating universal health insurance would cost $1.213 trillion dollars a year. They propose paying for this by taxing stock and bond transactions (down goes the Dow) and creating a 5.5% employer payroll tax (away go our jobs). Not exactly attractive options. And this is the most popular way to do it; it essentially adopted by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D-OH], the pro-single-payer Presidential candidate this year; in fact, his plan drops the stock and bond tax, and bumps up the payroll tax to 7.7%, which could arguably do more damage. But the taxes aren’t the only damaging part about it. Just Health Care estimates that 1.25 million workers would lose their jobs because of the decimation of the health care industry. All in all, I think that the tremendous job losses, and the possible damage to the stock market, that this would ensue are not worth it.

Wow. I had sensed a

Wow. I had sensed a liberal slide in the writing of Kevin Drum, what with his crusade against Social Security privatization, but this is just extreme:

…50,000 troops in Iraq for 10-15 years? With losses of 1,000 soldiers a year because that’s not enough boots on the ground to do the job? This is the calculus that persuades me we need to figure out a way to pull out of Iraq — although I agree with conservatives that doing so would do considerable damage to U.S. prestige.

Even war enthusiasts ought to agree that you either fight a war to win or you don’t fight at all, and the Bush administration has made it clear they’re not willing to take the political risk needed to increase troop strength enough to put down the insurgency and stabilize Iraq, a step that everyone agrees is a precondition for democracy. Don Rumsfeld won’t do it because he wants to prove he was right all along about using a small, light force, and George Bush won’t do it because George Bush never changes his mind — ever.

“Staying the course” is the worst possible strategy we can follow in Iraq. We either need to commit enough troops to get the job done or we need to pull out. Since the Bush administration isn’t willing to do the former, the only option left is the latter. We should no longer be asking American soldiers to pay the price for Don Rumsfeld’s vanity and George Bush’s stubbornness.

It seems to me that the potential for disaster following an American withdrawal is far greater than the potential for a long, bloody occupation. This isn’t Vietnam. If we pull out, there isn’t any government that is ready to step in and stabilize the situation. If we withdraw, there will be a civil war. That isn’t a hypothetical. It is very possible that Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and even Syria could be pulled into the conflict, creating the most far-reaching conflict since World War II. Heck, it could even descend into World War III, if a great power intervenes. Now, is an occupation going to be any better? Yes. Of course it is. There is no doubt in my mind. Just see this Andrew Sullivan piece from early December. Things are looking a lot better than they did a few months ago:

Take the little-heralded breakthrough the week before Thanksgiving, when Iraq’s major Western creditors agreed to forgive 80 percent of Iraq’s debt. Yes, that includes those prickly states in “Old Europe,” like France and Germany. Imagine if a president-elect Kerry had announced such a breakthrough. It would have made headlines across the globe. But Bush consigliere James Baker pulled it off–and who wants to celebrate him?

And there was an even less-noticed development this past month: the relative silence across Iraq after the devastating coalition assault on Falluja. The military campaign led to the deaths of thousands, including civilians caught in the crossfire, and left much of the city in rubble. It included the awful imagery of a scared U.S. Marine blowing a wounded Iraqi’s head off, a scene replayed endlessly on Arab television. Did the rest of Iraq rise up in protest, as happened in the spring during a similar aborted attack on Falluja? Not even close. The Kurds and the Shia understand that their interest today lies in a successful election. They’re not unhappy to see Sunni and Baathist rebels get pummeled by American arms. In that, you see the beginning of the new Iraqi reality: a place where 80 percent of the country wants the democratic transition to succeed.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t support invading Iraq. It was a stupid decision with absolutely no merit whatsoever. But so is leaving now. The choice is civil war or democracy. I’ll take democracy, thank you.

Reihan Salam has a good,

Reihan Salam has a good, philosophical post about the decline of true conservatism. I happen to disagree with him about Social Security being antithetical to the “ideology of self-reliance”, his definition of conservatism; after all, even the most motivated, self-reliant worker, if born into poverty, will not earn enough money for retirement. However, he links to an interesting article by Philip Longman of the New America Foundation, which describes an exciting possibility for Social Security:

The idea starts with the creation of Early Retirement Accounts. Individuals could put one-sixth of the money they and their employers currently pay to Social Security into 401(k)-like accounts, which they could use to finance retirement beginning at age 62. How would Social Security make up for the loss of revenue? Monthly Social Security benefits would remain what they are today, but the age at which future retirees qualified for them would be delayed. Today you can qualify for early, reduced benefits at age 62; that age would gradually increase to 68. The retirement age for full benefits would be pushed back from 65 to 72. Preliminary analysis by the SSA indicates that the rollback in retirement ages would not only save enough money to fund the Early Retirement Accounts, but also return the system to solvency.

Increasing retirement ages by six or seven years isn’t a particularly attractive option. But universal 401(k)s are. I, for one, would be more than willing to sacrifice a few years of Social Security benefits so that the working poor, and the middle class, for that matter, can build up a pension that a person can actually live on. Also, Longman suggests that the increased retirement ages wouldn’t be that big of a problem:

Research shows that people with 401(k)s tend to delay retirement. Why? Because the money’s theirs. If they don’t spend it, they can live higher on the hog later. Also, under this plan, people who continue to work until age 65 wouldn’t be sacrificing Social Security benefits as they often do today; instead they would be building up credits for bigger benefits in the future.

Even though I don’t think that Social Security is in a crisis, as Longman seems to, this still seems attractive. Also, it averts the folly of privatization as shown by Michael Kinsley. Kinsley defines “working” as a plan increasing benefits for retirees. This will do this for every single person. It is impossible for it not to. This definitely warrants discussion by the blogosphere, and by policymakers.

The Bush administration is revving

The Bush administration is revving up to destroy Social Security with a policy that is doomed to fail, Iraq is falling apart as we speak, and what is the blogosphere talking about? Why, making higher education free, of course! Matt Yglesias chimes in his support, as Ross Douthat, guest-blogging for Andy Sullivan, asks whether most people would a) want to go to college or b) benefit from it. Kevin Drum even manages to throw NCAA sports into the mix. Everyone seems to be ignoring the biggest problem with this: the cost. This would undoubtedly cost trillions, if not tens of trillions, of dollars a year. And, assuming that the Democratic party isn’t willing to rack up trillion-dollar deficits, this warrants gigantic tax increases; we could be talking about a 60, or even 70% top bracket. This is where Europe is now, and look what they’ve gotten for it: high unemployment, and comparatively weak economies, next to Japan and the United States. If we want to damage our economy and cost our nation jobs, then we should go for it; after all, everyone would be getting a college education. However, I’m not certain that the benefits of this outweigh the costs.