Look Who's Back

| Thu Jun. 21, 2007 2:08 PM EDT

Ralph Nader is considering another run for president and if the early reviews are any indication, even the lefty blogs are against him. See Daily Kos, The Plank, AMERICAblog, and Obsidian Wings.

And you can add me to the list. Ralph, please, we've had enough.

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Police Academy 8: Iraqi Edition

| Thu Jun. 21, 2007 1:33 PM EDT

Yikes. AMERICAblog finds a startling comparison: it takes seven days of training to become a Starbucks barista. It takes just eight to become an Iraqi cop.

Well, not exactly a cop. A backup cop, part of an Anbar "provincial security force." You see, there aren't enough police academies in which to train police recruits properly, so the thousands of extra men who seek the uniform head out to dusty back lots with U.S. Marines and run obstacles courses for little over a week. When they're done, they keep the uniform and gun, do security operations occasionally, and wait until they get called for real police training.

Now this may come as a surprise, but this rigorous process isn't exactly inspiring confidence or creating a trustworthy police force. The governor of the province in which this is occurring says the police are unreliable and operate with their own agendas. Prime Minister Maliki is complaining that the Americans are artificially inflating the Iraqi police corps. Even American forces can see we're just arming random people, and possibly creating bigger problems than the ones we hope to solve.

Democrats' Plans for Universal Health Care Helps Red States Most

| Thu Jun. 21, 2007 1:15 PM EDT

Let's say a Democrat wins the 2008 election and institutes universal health care. Who benefits the most? Republicans.

That's right -- a new study shows that the red states (mostly in the South) consistently rate at the bottom of the country in terms of health care for residents. The Commonwealth Fund report ranked states according to 32 indicators of health care access, quality, outcomes, and hospital use. Consider the political leanings of the top ten and the bottom ten.

States 1-10: Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, South Dakota.

States 50-41: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, Georgia.

This shouldn't be a surprise. States led by Republicans are more likely to have laissez faire attitudes towards health care and be less sympathetic to the plights of those who cannot afford it. It doesn't help that these states are often the most hostile towards workers' rights, thus driving down wages, and often have the highest number of single mothers, due to the nation's highest rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births. Get all the details and schadenfreude at PERRspectives Blog.

Who Needs It? Only Tiny Percentage of Baghdad Embassy Employees Speak Arabic

| Thu Jun. 21, 2007 12:59 PM EDT

We blogged a while back about how the U.S. ambassador to Iraq was complaining to Condi Rice about the quality of his people in the Baghdad embassy. Too young, he said. Or too inexperienced. Or couldn't find work elsewhere.

Maybe the fact that only 10 of his foreign service folks speak Arabic fluently has something to do with his griping.

Webcasters Counting Down to Day of Silence

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 5:41 PM EDT

mojo-photo-radiosilence.jpgWith just over four weeks until online royalty rates are set to increase, internet broadcasters and the people who love them are starting to get nervous. I wrote about this back in March, and amusingly, it looks like "Save the Streams," the organization set up to help stop the rate hike, got my message about their icky name and folded themselves into a new group: SaveNetRadio. Whew! Anyway, these new rules would reportedly increase fees by up to 1200%, putting many broadcasters out of business, and on Monday, the SaveNetRadio people held a concert outside of the Capitol to raise awareness of the issue. Unfortunately, nobody had ever heard of the bands who performed: Yugo, Nadir, and, um, The Mother Jones Band. Talk about royalties -- shouldn't we get a dollar every time they sell a T-shirt? The new rules are set to go into effect July 15th, and actually sound pretty unfair, the most troubling aspect being that the same rates are applied to both commercial and public broadcasters. And thus, next Tuesday, June 26th, a coalition of webcasters are participating in a "Day of Silence" to protest the new rules, and yes, that means no KCRW for 24 hours, unless you actually live within range of its 39 (or so) actual FM transmitters! Gulp!

Mike Bloomberg -- Can an Invisible Man be President?

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 2:42 PM EDT

With New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg announcing he's dropping his GOP affiliation in favor of independent status, people across the web are speculating about his presidential ambitions.

I'm not buying in. Even though Bloomberg's constituents think he would make a better president than his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, and even though Mayor Mike has billions of his own cash to spend on an independent run, and even though the mainstream media falls in love with independents, and even though we've done a bit of speculating ourselves -- I can't shake the sense that Bloomberg, as a savvy businessman and manipulator of public attention, simply sees an opportunity to keep his name in the spotlight as term limits boot him out of office and is taking advantage. Maybe to further his business interests, maybe to secure the ambassadorship to France, maybe so he can be President Somebody's VP -- who knows? But not to run for president.

Bloomberg cannot possibly be so egomaniacal as to overlook the (incredibly salient) fact that the excited folks at New York- and DC-based news outlets have indeed overlooked -- outside of New York and elite media and government circles, no one really knows who Mike Bloomberg is. This is anecdotally true, no doubt, but confirmed by the only poll that appears to have tested the subject -- according to Forbes, only 23 percent of those interviewed are able to recognize Mike Bloomberg. That's compared to 70 percent or higher for some of the presidential frontrunners. Yes, Bloomberg's been astonishingly effective. Yes, he's made progress on issues the federal government won't take up. Yes, he's avoided partisan wrangling and done so to his constituents' advantage. But the vast majority of the country doesn't know who he is. Aren't we all getting a little carried away?

Late Update: Hmm. This Pew poll directly contradicts the Forbes poll. Maybe I'm way off base here...

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They Made it in New York, But Not at Home

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 2:24 PM EDT

Wilton, Connecticut School Superintendent Gary Richards had this to say about the play, Voices in Conflict, that Wilton High School Students wrote and planned to perform at the school: "The student performers directly acting the part of the soldiers...turns powerful material into a dramatic format that borders on being sensational and inappropriate. We would like to work with the students to complete a script that fully addresses our concerns."

The students responded to Richards immediately by incorporating his statement into the play. Then their principal banned Voices in Conflict, so two weeks ago, the high school company performed the play off-Broadway. Voices in Conflict incorporates testimonials from soldiers, including letters, blogs, and taped interviews. It also uses Yvonne Latty's book, In Conflict, as a source for material.

Wilton principal Timothy H. Canty said he was concerned that the play might be hurtful toward families who had lost loved ones in the war or who had loved ones serving in the war. "It would be easy to look at this case on first glance and decide this is a question of censorship or academic freedom. In some minds, I can see how they would react this way. But quite frankly, it's a false argument."

Students tell a different story. They say that Canty told them that only someone who had served in the war could understand the experience, and that one student had complained about the play.

If Wilton High School sounds familiar, it should. That is the school that gained publicity for calling Gay-Straight Alliance posters a safety hazard, and for telling students not to wear bandanas because they were associated with gangs.

The Right Has its Own Marion Barry

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 1:27 PM EDT

The state treasurer of South Carolina and the state chair for Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign, obviously a Republican, was indicted Tuesday for allegedly being a coke dealer.

That is all. Just thought you should know.

New White House Report Pokes Anti-Immigration Foes with Sharp Stick

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 12:40 PM EDT

The White House has released a report by the president's Council of Economic Advisers that concludes, "Immigration has a positive effect on the American economy as a whole and on the income of native-born American workers."

People on our side of the debate appreciate the White House's efforts, but the report is unlikely to convince these folks. In fact, it'll probably make them more angry.

Bush Administration Under Investigation for Signing Statement Abuses

| Wed Jun. 20, 2007 12:21 PM EDT

Two days ago, we wrote about a GAO report on presidential signing statements. While signing statements can be used legitimately to indicate how the executive branch interprets a law passed by Congress, the Bush Administration has used them to basically nullify laws without having to go through the embarrassment of vetoing them. Moreover, this president has used signing statements in unprecedented numbers. (For a couple examples of laws that were distorted or completely ignored because of this problem, see this article from our March/April 2007 issue.)

Democrats in Congress caught wind of the GAO report -- which is no shock because two Democrats in Congress commissioned it -- and will investigate. No law has been broken, just the spirit of the law violated, so it's unlikely that Congress's inquiry will lead to anything more than a reprimand. But add this to the list of very needed investigations that began only after the GOP lost control of both houses.