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Low Road
Maureen Dowd delivers an interesting piece on a graduation speaker who won't be speaking after all... The New York Times bemoans the House follies on defense spending... Nicholas Confessore looks at the time the Koch brothers actually ran for office... Dana Milbank thinks we need a change in leadership at the VA... but first...

Leonard Pitts peers into one of the ugliest depths of the political abyss.

Your little boy lies in a hospital bed, stricken by a mysterious, potentially fatal disease. You are frightened and in despair.

But your community rallies around you. Soon, the whole town is talking about your ordeal. Neighbors you've never spoken to send cards. Co-workers you've never socialized with send encouraging text messages.

None of it changes the objective fact of your son’s condition, doesn't kill a virus, lessen a fever or ease his pain. All it does is tell you that you and your child are being thought of, that you are not alone.

So: So is that “pathetic?”

Rush Limbaugh would say it was. The National Review would find it “simple-minded.” George F. Will would regard it as “an exercise in self-esteem.”

Or at least, that is what they have said about a roughly analogous situation.

You probably know the story. A terrorist group in Nigeria kidnaps nearly 300 school girls. The reason is found in the abhorrent ideology from which it derives its name: Boko Haram — Western Education Is Forbidden. The families of the girls turn to their government for help and it shrugs. The story is likewise ignored in America by “news” media too busy handicapping the chances of Hillary Clinton’s grandchild in the 2054 midterms to bother with anything so picayune as a mass kidnapping.

So supporters take to Twitter with a hashtag: #BringBackOurGirls. It spreads like fire. Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, Malala Yousafzai, Jesse Jackson, Amy Poehler and millions of lesser-known names all join the campaign.

...It’s hard to see how anyone — anyone — could regard that as a bad thing. But at least some political conservatives do. As noted, Limbaugh, Will and the National Review have all pronounced themselves unimpressed. Donald Trump, Ann Coulter and Fox’s Steve Doocy have also made attempts at ridicule.

There is something more than usually saddening about that.

For a long time, "they're against it just because we're for it" seemed like a bit of an overstatement. But when they're against reaching out to help kidnapped children just because liberals went there first... yeah, saddening is one term that might apply. Sick is another.

Slide past the curlicue for more punditry.

Dana Milbank is not alone in making this call.

Eric Shinseki has served his country honorably as a twice-wounded officer in Vietnam, as Army chief of staff and finally as President Obama’s secretary of veterans affairs.

But his maddeningly passive response to the scandal roiling his agency suggests that the best way Shinseki can serve now is to step aside.

Reports have documented the deaths of about 40 veterans in Phoenix who were waiting for VA appointments — the latest evidence of widespread bookkeeping tricks used at the agency to make it appear as though veterans were not waiting as long for care as they really were. The abuses have been documented over several years by whistleblowers and leaked memorandums, and confirmed by a host of government investigators.

That’s bad enough. Worse was Shinseki’s response when he finally appeared before a congressional committee Thursday to answer questions about the scandal. He refused to acknowledge any systemic problem and declined to commit to do much of anything, insisting on waiting for the results of yet another investigation.

I'm an old-school liberal. I believe that there is a definitive need for a strong government with a broad mandate for action in the lives of citizens. Providing quality healthcare to the nation's veterans is definitely part of that mandate. I'm also dead set against the "someone must pay" mentality that all too often pervades politics; the idea that because something went wrong, someone has to take the blame and pack their bags. That's often an idiotic, counterproductive response.

However, I don't think that anyone can pretend that the VA has performed with excellence, or even competence, under Shinseki, or that the general has acted to solve problems in an aggressive, timely manner. He may be the nicest guy on the planet. He may care deeply for the men who served under him. That doesn't matter. He clearly does not have the strategy or the temperament to solve the issues facing the office he now holds. That doesn't make Shinseki evil, and it doesn't make the VA a bad idea. It just means we need to get someone else in there and fix it.

The New York Times editorial board calls out those "fiscal conservatives" in the House for avoiding making cuts that really need to happen.

The Pentagon has for too long been in denial about the changes it will have to make in a world of declining resources, skyrocketing personnel costs and changing global threats. This year, however, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel presented a more realistic, though still insufficient, cost-saving budget. Yet Congress seems firmly stuck in the past, loyal to campaign donors and frightened, as always, about local political fallout from closing excess military bases, modifying military compensation, reducing troop levels and cutting nonessential or older weapons.

The first big test of the Hagel approach came last week in the House Armed Services Committee...  Mr. Hagel proposed to eliminate the fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft, retire the U-2 spy plane in favor of the remotely piloted Global Hawk and cut maintenance for an aircraft carrier that would be slated for retirement in 2016. The committee, pressed by lobbyists and members in districts where the weapons are built, voted to keep all three.

In addition, the committee approved billions of dollars in funding for the F-35 jet fighter, despite serious capability and development issues.

I know this is hard to keep straight, but funding improvements to infrastructure, like high speed rail or just fixing our $%!# bridges, is socialism. Building planes that don't work and no one wants, that's the American way.

Ross Douthat does foreign policy.

... the global stage hasn't been a second-term refuge for President Obama; it’s been an arena of setbacks, crises and defeats. His foreign policy looked modestly successful when he was running for re-election. Now it stinks of failure.

Failure is a relative term, to be sure. His predecessor’s invasion of Iraq still looms as the largest American blunder of the post-Vietnam era. None of Obama’s difficulties have rivaled that debacle. And many of the sweeping conservative critiques of his foreign policy — that Obama has weakened America’s position in the world, that he’s too chary about using military force — lack perspective on how much damage the Iraq war did to American interests, and how many current problems can be traced back to errors made in 2003.

Okay, Douthat is being semi-reasonable here. Let's just skip down to where it's a secular humanist plot against Catholic schools...Skipping... Skipping... weak punch at Jimmy Carter... skipping... lots of treatment of foreign policy like it's a soccer match ... skipping... skipping.  Nope. Sorry. Douthat had no point at all.  Read the first sentence, and you've read the whole thing.

Maureen Dowd is sorry that Condi Rice backed out of giving a graduation address.

After all, there was always a chance, a small one, admittedly, but a chance, that Condi Rice would have looked into her soul and told the story of what happens when you succumb to the temptation to sell it.

And that, dear graduates, family and friends, faculty and honored guests, would have been the most amazing and instructive commencement speech of all time.

Rice always seemed to me a particularly sad part of the tragedies of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lovely linchpin of the moral corrosion of W.’s presidency.

“What a falling off was there,” as the ghost of Hamlet’s father said of his compromised queen.

Condi had all the qualities required to dazzle. Smart, attractive, hard-working, personable, chic. She grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1960s, when segregationists bombed so much that the city became known as “Bombingham.”

Yet she sailed to success at a young age. She could stand toe-to-heel on substance with world leaders. She could speak Russian competently and talk sports expertly and play the piano and ice skate beautifully. She could authoritatively survey the troops in Wiesbaden in black leather knee-high stiletto boots and fashionably dominate a Washington banquet in a long, scarlet Oscar de la Renta gown.

Women everywhere, including my mom, were blown away by her, believing that she could be the first woman and the first black person to be president.

So how could someone named by her mother after the Italian musical notation con dolcezza, meaning “with sweetness,” end up having such a sour effect on American history? Rice was a star, but unfortunately, she cast herself in yet another production of “Faust” on the Potomac, uttering one of the most over-the-top lines of war spin ever: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

She excelled at failing better. As national security adviser for W., she ignored the intelligence report warning that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike inside the U.S. And she only learned about Hamas’s shocking win in the Palestinian elections in 2006 when she was on her elliptical trainer watching the TV news crawl. After verifying it with State, she returned to exercising.

Reading back through Condi's life does read something like a Shakespearean tragedy of wasted talent. Only with fewer sword fights. Kind of like Hamlet if the Dane had said "Too bad about pop, but my best political movie is working for my uncle."

And Maureen, it's good to see you putting thought and effort into a column rather than channeling Cady Heron and blathering about "Barry." Please do it often.

Frank Bruni on the state of higher education.

The word “crisis” pops up frequently in “Ivory Tower,” a compelling new documentary about the state of higher education in America.

It pops up in regard to the mountains of student debt. It pops up in regard to the steep drop in government funding for public universities, which have been forced to charge higher and higher tuition in response. That price increase is also a “crisis” in the estimation of one of many alarmed educators and experts on camera.

And “crisis” isn’t even their direst appellation. Andrew Delbanco, a Columbia University professor of American studies who functions as the movie’s conscience, notes an “apocalyptic dimension” to today’s discussion of college’s failings. The movie is set on verdant campuses. It’s rife with lecterns, books and graduation gowns. And yet it’s a kind of horror story.

... as I watched it, one theme in particular kept capturing my attention. One set of questions kept coming to mind. How does our current system of higher education square with our concerns about social mobility?

Spoiler alert: it doesn't.

Kathleen Parker looks at Gender War 2016.

With the New York Times’ sudden dismissal of Executive Editor Jill Abramson and Karl Rove’s suggestion that Hillary Clinton might have brain damage, the curtain opened on a new theater in an old war.

The targeting of these two powerful, accomplished women, albeit under different circumstances, may prove more predictive of the presidential election (assuming Clinton runs) than any other single factor. This is because women, who vote in greater numbers than men, have been reminded of how their sex is treated in a world that still favors men.

This is rare currency for me. I wrote a book called “Save the Males,” after all.

In other words, Rove's assholery was so obvious, that it even ticked off an apologist like Parker. Maybe Hillary should run Rove's remarks in her campaign commercials. I suspect he's already given her a bump -- not that she needed it.

The New York Times writes up a second one this week to look at kids and tobacco, but maybe not like you think.

A new report from Human Rights Watch paints a grim picture of child labor in the United States, something that most Americans probably believe was banned years ago. Children as young as 7 are working on tobacco farms in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and many are said to suffer from the symptoms of acute nicotine poisoning.

...There is little doubt that the work is backbreaking and dangerous. Some of the children interviewed by Human Rights Watch say they often vomit, lose their appetites, have nausea and suffer from headaches — symptoms associated with nicotine poisoning. The children absorb nicotine through their skin when they handle tobacco leaves in the process of cutting, weeding and harvesting plants. One 13-year-old in North Carolina, Elena G., told Human Rights Watch: “I felt like I was going to faint. I would stop and just hold myself up with the tobacco plant.”

Several times when I was a teenager in Kentucky, I worked during the summer in tobacco fields, cutting and bringing tobacco to the barns where it was cured. I can't say for sure if I was soaked in nicotine, but I can say that I was definitely soaked in sweat. Tobacco fields always seemed to be 10 degrees hotter and 100% more humid that everything around them.

David Ludwig and Mark Friedman look at why we're always hungry, and nearly always fat.

For most of the last century, our understanding of the cause of obesity has been based on immutable physical law. Specifically, it’s the first law of thermodynamics, which dictates that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. When it comes to body weight, this means that calorie intake minus calorie expenditure equals calories stored. Surrounded by tempting foods, we overeat, consuming more calories than we can burn off, and the excess is deposited as fat. The simple solution is to exert willpower and eat less.

The problem is that this advice doesn’t work, at least not for most people over the long term. In other words, your New Year’s resolution to lose weight probably won’t last through the spring, let alone affect how you look in a swimsuit in July. More of us than ever are obese, despite an incessant focus on calorie balance by the government, nutrition organizations and the food industry.

But what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?

The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.

That is one ugly feedback loop.
We discuss this hypothesis in an article just published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association. According to this alternative view, factors in the environment have triggered fat cells in our bodies to take in and store excessive amounts of glucose and other calorie-rich compounds. Since fewer calories are available to fuel metabolism, the brain tells the body to increase calorie intake (we feel hungry) and save energy (our metabolism slows down). Eating more solves this problem temporarily but also accelerates weight gain. Cutting calories reverses the weight gain for a short while, making us think we have control over our body weight, but predictably increases hunger and slows metabolism even more.
Nicholas Confessore on the surprising political history of the Koch brothers.
He backed the full legalization of abortion and the repeal of laws that criminalized drug use, prostitution and homosexuality. He attacked campaign donation limits and assailed the Republican star Ronald Reagan as a hypocrite who represented “no change whatsoever from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats.”

It was 1980, and the candidate was David H. Koch, a 40-year-old bachelor living in a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City. Mr. Koch, the vice-presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and his older brother Charles, one of the party’s leading funders, were mounting a long-shot assault on the fracturing American political establishment.

The Kochs had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the burgeoning libertarian movement. In the waning days of the 1970s, in the wake of Watergate, Vietnam and a counterculture challenging traditional social mores, they set out to test just how many Americans would embrace what was then a radical brand of politics.

It was the first and only bid for high office by a Koch family member. But much of what occurred in that quixotic campaign shaped what the Kochs have become today — a formidable political and ideological force determined to remake American politics, driven by opposition to government power and hostility to restrictions on money in campaigns.

It may be tempting to go after the Koch for some of their positions, but really, do all the Republicans embracing the Kochs today know that he said the gipper and Jimmy Carter were interchangeable?

John Timmer on using one old killer to take out another.

This week, clinical researchers at the Mayo Clinic announced some promising early results from a clinical trial that turned a killer into a therapy: their work harnessed a modified measles virus to attack a specific type of cancer. A larger clinical trial is still ongoing, but the people running this trial decided to describe two of the patients who received the virus, one of whom ended up in remission.

It's important to note that a short-term remission in one of the two patients who are described here doesn't come anywhere close to being a general cure for this type of cancer. Equally important is the fact that attempts to turn viruses into cancer killers go back decades, and a lot of the early trials also looked very promising. But to date, none of the viruses have been turned into treatments.

...This idea has been tried a number of times over the past few decades, with many of the viruses causing some significant damage to tumors in preliminary clinical trials. Many further trials are ongoing but, so far at least, none of these viruses have cleared the necessary clinical trials and received FDA approval.

Be we can still be hopeful.
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Comment Preferences

  •  strong/edition, thx! (41+ / 0-)

    decent wages don't eliminate jobs. Republicans eliminate jobs; and workers, and prospects, and then excuse it all and call for more austerity. there is no end to their ignorant, arrogant avarice. only political dinosaurs support their treachery.

    by renzo capetti on Sun May 18, 2014 at 04:15:11 AM PDT

  •  Apparently it's no longer an easy life for (44+ / 0-)

    conservatives online.  In the Twitterverse American Springers, Ann Coulter, and Karl Rove are being mocked, with great wit.  Poor John Cornyn can't get any respect on Facebook, Hillary's scary glasses are getting a hilarious run, and the best of Ann Coulter postings show up every other post.  

    I really hope the Republicans keep up the good work.  They're helping Wendy Davis in Texas!  Conservative sexism just might change outcomes in a lot of elections.  Even my conservative friends are agitated!

    I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

    by I love OCD on Sun May 18, 2014 at 04:23:29 AM PDT

  •  Thanks (7+ / 0-)

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Sun May 18, 2014 at 04:25:12 AM PDT

  •  Maureen Dowd does enjoy eviscerating (17+ / 0-)

    those higher and mightier than herself, but it seems to me that she gets a decidedly cruel sadistic pleasure from the women she fillets.  

    I have no more love for Condi Rice than I do for Monica Lewinsky, but I can certainly muster some sympathy for them having been one of the severed heads on a pole outside Dowd's cubicle.

    As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. John F. Kennedy

    by JaxDem on Sun May 18, 2014 at 04:30:46 AM PDT

  •  And of course, the social activism worked (8+ / 0-)

    to engage international support to help find these girls.

    That doesn't seem like a positive result?  But perhaps the right's disdain for the media reflects not only their discomfort with changing times but how they are perceived or actually ignored by younger generations.

    I hope for their safe return/sh

    •  let us see the results of this international (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JJ In Illinois, Aunt Pat, exlrrp

      support.  The Nigerian government of Goodluck Jonathon is not a bunch of sweethearts and if we end up propping up yet another corrupt government, then the intervention will have negative consequences stretching out for decades.

      Hopefully, we will get in and get out and not get involved with some type of gradual escalation but I have my doubts.

      •  I can see your concern...but this is not Iraq (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vcmvo2, Yonit

        against which I marched before it started.  There is a real incident here and a genuine humanitarian issue.

        I would much, much rather we try to rescue these girls than stand by idly.  And of course, we are not the only ones involved...the Chinese, the French and other African nations are joining together.  

        I hope that we can avoid an escalation as well and I wish for their safe return.  

        sh

        •  I am old enough to remember VN and even still (0+ / 0-)

          have my draft card somewhere.  It seems we got pulled in there in the 1950's with Ike and then JFK and LBJ as each one tried to keep promises to De Gaulle to keep the VN government in power (we even assassinated Diem in an attempt to retain control)  The problem was it was a minority Catholic government (from memory) that was heavily "gallicinized" ruling a country that did not care to be governed by them.  (not to mention the arbitrary division of the country after WWII)
          It is much too complex for a simple comment but I trust you see my concern that this event becomes a "Gulf of Tonkin" type of event.  Here is a bit I came on this morning:
          http://www.vietvet.org/...

          I am not advocating do nothing; I am advocating withdrawing our troops.........every one of them........once the mission is accomplished and we don't stay on as advisers or trainers, as we have in other African countries.  We are already "on the ground" in almost half a dozen different countries fighting Muslim insurgents.  I just hesitate to add Boka Haram to the list as a long term project

          •  actually (0+ / 0-)

            De Gaulle repeatedly told JFK and LBJ to get the hell out of Vietnam and not look back. Remember, De Gaulle was out of power and in "retirement" in 1954 when the French tried to suck us into saving them at Dien Bien Phu. Once De Gaulle came back into power in 1958, he negotiated a withdrawal from Algeria and focused on modernizing France, which enraged the right wing of French politics and nearly led to civil war. He certainly had no interest whatsoever in Indochina. I doubt anybody in French politics cared about what happened in Vietnam once they were kicked out. But, unfortunately, John Foster Dulles, Big Oil, the CIA and the Military Brass cared way too much.

            •  that is correct; you will remember the bug out (0+ / 0-)

              from Algeria almost caused a RW coup.  He was able to CYA with his RW critics by promising them the US would take up the slack in protecting French interests in their former colonies

        •  Not every problem in the world (0+ / 0-)

          is America's problem.  We don't need American soldiers killing Africans, even Bad Africans.  Just resist the temptation.

  •  On Ayaan Hirsi Ali (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Aunt Pat, waterstreet2013

    On of the statements that Ayaan Hirai Ali has made that I have seen next to nothing in the American Press was made in a speech when she got the Axel Springer Honorary Prize in Berlin in 2012.

    In her acceptance speech, which was delivered in English, she attacked the "advocates of silence" who censor the truth about Islam and the Muslim extremists who are destroying Europe:
    The advocates of silence warn us that publishing these facts or debating them in the media and in parliament will transform the existing resentment towards Muslims into violent behavior. Censorship and silence, we are told, are the best preventive remedies against hatred and violence.

    I believe that the advocates of silence are wrong, profoundly and dangerously wrong.

    And, then she noted:
    Fourthly and finally, that one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.
    We should feel sorry for someone who excuses a person who killed 77 people because he could not express his anti-Islamic views in any other way!

    (Do I need to mention how gleeful the Right was when Ward Churchill lost his job?)

    [Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security] do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

    by MoDem on Sun May 18, 2014 at 04:48:38 AM PDT

    •  Thing is, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's quote from Breivik (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GreatLakeSailor, tardis10

      and his 1500-page manifesto is a solid application of the tools of Inductive Logic. Her thinking also reflects a standard procedure of police investigation techniques.

      Anders Breivik was all but unknown to police when he carried out the two attacks. This would not have been the situation in 2011 if Breivik had been allowed to vent publicly in some open manner.

      Police might very well have been able to attract Breivik to a "honey pot" with extreme anti-Muslim opinions as bait. Supply weapons and bomb materials, then arrest and incarcerate. This approach has been used successfully all over the world. Silence indeed hides the Breiviks of the world.

      The criticisms of Islam that Ayaan Hirsi Ali presents are nothing like what Breivik believes. We're talking apples and hand grenades. Also, Breivik's mind is dominated by paranoia. He is not a schizophrenic, not legally insane, but he presents as a thoroughly disordered paranoid.

      Here is the start of the Axel Springer speech:

      Thank you so much for this great honor. The late Axel Springer, founder of a major publishing house, had four guiding principles, which [were] later extended to five after the terrorist attacks of September 2001. I want to begin by reminding you of them.
      1. Unconditional commitment to German reunification, which he changed to European Union after 1989;
      2. Reconciliation of the Jews and the Germans and support for the state of Israel;
      3. Rejection of any kind of political totalitarianism;
      4. Defense of the free social market;
      5. Support of the transatlantic alliance and solidarity with the USA on the basis of shared values of freedom.
      It is about the third and the fifth of these principles that I wish to speak to you tonight. In particular, I want to talk about the freedom of speech – and the loss of freedom that comes with that silence. [...]

      “People ask me if I have some kind of death wish, to keep saying the things I do. The answer is no, I would like to keep living. However, some things must be said and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.” I wrote those words in 2005. I was alluding to the plight of Muslim women who live in Europe, whose suffering inspired me to make the film Submission with Theo van Gogh. He was shot and stabbed to death by a radical Muslim. ....

      Submission is hardly the stuff of Breivik. The word "submission" is what Islam means in Arabic. In the film it is not always a pretty thing. Not compatible with European law and social practice.

      Submission at Youtube link

      Theo van Gogh was killed for this film. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is under threat from the same people.

      "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

      by waterstreet2013 on Sun May 18, 2014 at 07:23:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I know this has been diaried before (19+ / 0-)

    and I apologize because I can't remember who wrote it, but...

    wouldn't it make more sense to allow veterans to go to any hospital with their ID cards and get the treatment they need.  Especially since hospitals are reporting a decline in ER visits due to the ACA.

    A few weeks ago, friends and I had a discussion about this, and although a little morbid, what one friend said is so true.

    "Everyone likes to report about the relative low numbers of deaths in both decades long wars, but nobody wants to mention the unbelievable high number of wounded that came home from these wars."

    "It is modern medicine that kept these brave men and women alive.  To deny them access to that same medicine is cruel."

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sun May 18, 2014 at 04:52:26 AM PDT

    •  Amen (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, exlrrp, starduster

      The VA hospital system is the perfect example of what government does poorly.

      Give our vets a card that is a Medicare on steroids type of plan.  The government should pay all the supplementals making sure the drug coverage is at least as equal to the generous coverage our vets get through the VA.

      Our vets deserve to go to the best hospitals in the country where ever they live and whenever they need to.  Period.

      We could save billions propping up a broken system that seems more intent on maintaining a bureaucracy than helping vets.

      And to the diarist:  

      I'm also dead set against the "someone must pay" mentality that all too often pervades politics; the idea that because something went wrong, someone has to take the blame and pack their bags. That's often an idiotic, counterproductive response.
      What utter bullshit.  People in management positions who knowingly cooked the books causing people to die, should be fired.. quickly.. without any benefits.

      And the firings should go as high up the ladder as they need to.  Anyone who knowingly contributed to this scheme, even by inaction, should be fired.

      •  Yes, lets see some accountability (3+ / 0-)

        One of the most frustrating things is people who do the biggest fuckups stay right where they are.
        And just saying "I take responsibility for that." isn't enough

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Sun May 18, 2014 at 06:17:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My brother in law (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tommye, tardis10, JJ In Illinois

        Is a Vietnam combat vet and he swears by the care he receives at his local VA in Florida.

        I know this is just anecdotal,  but perhaps we should be at least careful about condemning the whole care delivery system because of the actions by a few corrupt administrators.

        I work for a major healthcare system that is affiliated with our local VA.  That  VA hospital is well regarded too. Lots of good talented healthcare pros at the VA.

    •  Agree, with qualifications. Carve out the fairly (7+ / 0-)

      unique military and combat related services of the VA and let the more general health services go to the regular medical system. There is no reason a veteran being treated for diabetes or ordinary heart condition should be restricted by means to VA treatment, often not as conveniently located and subject to all the ills of the VA system.

      There is a reason for a veteran with physical or mental injuries rarely seen outside military operations to have specialized centers effectively focused on those issues. There may be reason to consider some sort of combining of the military hospital system and the VA system for these specialized areas.

      Wonder how many people in the general public actually understand the separation of those two in the first place. You see those stories about the wounded getting treatment at now closed Walter Reed or Bethesda and I find many are surprised that once that individual is out of service the specialized treatment shifts to a completely separate system, VA. For too long that transition itself has been a mess. One of the things Shinseki promised to address, though he had no authority in the military system, was to make crossing that bridge less of a combat crossing under fire. Hell, even the medical records had trouble crossing that chasm between DoD and VA! Systems that didn't "talk" and other blatant indications of parochial and rice bowl views within organizations blocking effective service to the individual making the transition from "wounded warrior" to "veteran"!

      The only foes that threaten America are the enemies at home, and those are ignorance, superstition, and incompetence. [Elbert Hubbard]

      by pelagicray on Sun May 18, 2014 at 06:00:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In emergencies, vets can use ERs. (0+ / 0-)

      This is standard VA practice.

      "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

      by waterstreet2013 on Sun May 18, 2014 at 07:26:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The dowdy Mo may have job insecurity. (6+ / 0-)

    That would explain why she wrote a real article for a change. Wasn't she best friends with the dearly departed editor?

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sun May 18, 2014 at 04:56:27 AM PDT

  •  I must confess, I've been especially baffled... (24+ / 0-)

    ...by the right-wingers' having gone out of their way to mock and belittle the response to the Nigerian girls' mass kidnapping.  Not that I'm not disgusted and repulsed by most things they say and do.  But as one progressive who actually tries to comprehend the right-wing mindset (scary territory I know), this one has got me downright puzzled and confused - along with the usual outrage and contempt.

    Yes, I get that Rethugs are all about the law of the jungle, the social Darwinism, the zero-sum game.  They're always telling us to "just get used to it, 'cause that's the real world", etc. etc.   But the supposition was always that such cynicism was in some way grudging, possibly borne of a former idealism that had somehow gotten crushed - until now.

    Now it seems that the Right is making a very special attempt to reject any sense of actual humanity, by denying themselves the opportunity to feel any sense of compassion for the sufferings of others - even from the standpoint of simple human empathy - just because it "fails" to reach their arbitrary standard of practicality and hard-nosed "realism".

    Even if the West were in no position to pragmatically remedy this situation at all, how is it that feeling - and expressing - a certain degree of compassion for the victims is in any way inconsistent?  They would probably claim that they're the only ones being truly rational about this situation, by not allowing their "feelings" to dictate their response.  I would say that theirs is the most irrational of positions - because it implies that compassion without action is folly worthy of ridicule, and because it suggests the presence of a natural dichotomy for which they've presented no evidence, and made no compelling case.

    Sure, I'm fed up with them - as usual.  This time, however, I don't even have a clue about where they're coming from.

    Does that make sense?

    All that is necessary for the triumph of the Right is that progressives do nothing.

    by Mystic Michael on Sun May 18, 2014 at 05:13:17 AM PDT

  •  Those of us (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    waterstreet2013, vcmvo2, Tommye, Shawn87

    who actually paid attention to Shinseki's work at the VA before he came under attack are aware of just how wrong both you and Milbank are.

    Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by NLinStPaul on Sun May 18, 2014 at 05:15:57 AM PDT

    •  Why is there any backlog at all?? (5+ / 0-)

      Give the Vets Medicare with a really good paid-for supplemental plan and let them go anywhere in the US for treatment. Zero backlog.

      It amazes me that anyone in their right mind could defend a 500,000 case backlog as "progress"!

      •  VA would have upped the resources at these (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JJ In Illinois

        hospitals ASAP if the reporting systems had reflected the ongoing realities.

        There was no overall shortage of funds.

        On the scale of VA operations, that 500,000 case shortfall would have been a minor difficulty. Easily solved. Not anything that Shinseki couldn't have put in motion before lunch.

        "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

        by waterstreet2013 on Sun May 18, 2014 at 07:52:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Does "sequestration" give you a clue? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Calamity Jean

        How about "government shutdown?"

        Most VA facilities have staffing problems -- JobsUSA always has listings for nurses for VA facilities.

        The backlogs are happening because the idiots who got us into Afghanistan and Iraq didn't believe there would be casualties, so of course they didn't beef up the VA while they were running up the charge card.

        Soldiers survived injuries that in earlier wars would have killed them. The Bush Administration neither planned for burials nor caring for the wounded. The military was just a prop for Commander Codpiece...

    •  And those are disability case backlogs (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, Yonit

      anyway and have nothing to do with the treatment scandal currently rocking the VA.

  •  Modern Conservatives = Sadists (18+ / 0-)

    That's the only explanation I have for their mentality. They seem to enjoy finding people who are at their low point in life and then kick them to drive home the point that they are nothing.

    And as the song and dance begins, the children play at home with needles, needles and pins.

    by The Lone Apple on Sun May 18, 2014 at 05:20:00 AM PDT

  •  Maybe Rice suffers from "all about me" syndrome? (7+ / 0-)

    Her great successes seem to have been those that display personal brilliance or skill--skating, academics, public speaking, performing on the piano (and, according to Mo, dressing).

    When it came to judgment and diligence on behalf of the rest of us--not so good.

    I always wondered how she could miss or ignore the "Bin Laden determined to strike" message.

    But the anecdote about her reading about the Hamas election at the gym--that clarified things for me: a woman who, if she gave it any thought at all, calculated that "I'll deal with that later. If I jump off the trainer every time something happens at work, I'll start showing the strain."

    •  I don't remember who was questioning Rice (5+ / 0-)

      because I wasn't following politics then.  But my extreme dislike of her came about then.

      She kept rudely interrupting the questioner, as though how dare he ask her any questions about WMDs and the cooked up intelligence.  

      In that regard she was similar to Bush and Cheney (in never admitting any mistakes and attacking anyone who dared to question them).

      The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace – Mahatma Gandhi

      by Texnance on Sun May 18, 2014 at 08:07:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Big food companies need to increase revenue. (6+ / 0-)

    That's their responsibility to share-holders.

    The population--the food-companies' market--will never increase at a rate that will satisfy demands to increase share value & revenue. The only way to continue increasing revenue is to sell more product to the population that isn't growing fast, IOW more product per person.

    So the problem becomes: how do they get people to consume more product? One way is to decrease the nutritional value of the product itself so a consumer requires a HIGHER VOLUME OF PRODUCT to simply survive.

    Using cheaper ingredients, increasing shelf-life to minimize product waste, etc also go a long way to reduce nutritional value while maintaining caloric level. As long as people continue to think of food as something that comes in packets from the factory, the obesity crisis will continue.

  •  For a long time, "they're against it just because (13+ / 0-)

    we're for it" seemed like a bit of an overstatement. But when they're against reaching out to help kidnapped children just because liberals went there first... yeah, saddening is one term that might apply. Sick is another. "

    I knew it early in this administration when Michele Obama started her voluntary initiatives regarding diet and exercise for children.  

    How could anyone be against helping parents help their kids and the kids help themselves become healthier through private voluntary programs and by the First Lady leading by example, I wondered  Well, a lot of right-wingers could  They acted as though this was a 1984-esque power grab to control everything our children ate down to the last molecule and forcing them on Bataan-death marches.  It was unbelievable.  I knew then whatever the POTUS or FLOTUS did would be pilloried.  It was obvious why.

  •  college (16+ / 0-)

    My daughter started Duke 10 years ago--great reputation--great education--great campus.  I'm a retired NYC teacher--Brooklyn College grad--and I was very impressed.  After a couple of months, I asked her how many fellow students took piano lessons?  90% was her answer.  What about the other 10%--another instrument was the reply.  Lessons cost money, what about the poorer students?  No, there were no poor kids--the affirmative action looking kids (of color) all had extremely hard working families--many in the military--who "pampered" their kids.
    My point is that colleges take the cream--most often from super concerned, super sacrificing parents--and make creme de la creme.  Tops in, tops out.  I guess this is the way it has to be--but, as a Title 1 teacher, I learned early on--many gems get under served.
    My first year teaching, I had this third grade girl who excelled in math.  She totally understood all concepts, knew all number facts, knew how to manipulate those numbers--love those numbers.  On open school night, I sang her praises to her mom, and told her I was certain she'd go to college and be a star.  Mom looked at me and said, don't you put crazy ideas into my daughter's head--when she's 16, she's gonna quit school and get a job to help support the family.
    Wow, this happened almost 50 years ago, but is still fresh in my mind.  Sabrina was her child--not mine.  What I thought was the right thing was not gonna happen.  I still know I was right--society has to make moms, like this one, see the light.  If not, no sweet piano music for the country to enjoy.  And that's why the only way to improve education is to eliminate poverty and pessimism (often the child of bigotry).

    Actions speak louder than petitions.

    by melvynny on Sun May 18, 2014 at 05:45:53 AM PDT

  •  Maybe it's not just nicotine poisoning (7+ / 0-)

    Perhaps it's acute nicotine exposure plus all the yield-increasing "chemistry" applied to the plants.

    Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sun May 18, 2014 at 05:53:13 AM PDT

  •  Glenn Greenwald on Meet The Press today (7+ / 0-)

    should be interesting

    here is an earlier meeting which is on the web with the title

    Glenn Destroys David Gregory is the title on the web. Here is the exchange of interest

    Published on Jun 23, 2013
    Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald took Meet The Press host David Gregory head on in an interview Sunday morning, after Gregory asked if Greenwald would be criminally culpable for "aiding and abetting" NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

    "I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies," Greenwald said. "The assumptions in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea I've aided and abetted him in any way. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the e-mails and records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory you just embraced, being co-conspirator in felonies for working with sources."

    "If you want to embrace that theory," Greenwald continued, "it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information, is a criminal. It's precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. It's why the New Yorker's Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a standstill, as a result of the questions you just mentioned."

    Gregory was very unhappy at being personally implicated in Greenwald's answer. "The question of who's a journalist may be up for debate, in regards to what you're doing" Gregory said. "Anybody who's watching this understands that I was asking a question. That question has been raised by lawmakers, as well. I'm not embracing anything. But obviously I take your point."

    the link

    https://www.youtube.com/...

    •  David did NOT appear to be Asking a Question (6+ / 0-)

      In fact, I took his statements about Greenwald the same way that Greenwald took them, as a threat and accusation to the Journalist. David Gregory does not fill the bill as a journalist himself, so he has no understanding of the incredible risks it takes to be one, to report the truth no matter how painful or frightening those truths are. David Gregory's style of reporting anything to the American public is a SHAM. He is not authentic,  does not attempt to hold politicians accountable for what they claim on his show.

      You know, Meet the Press has always been an opportunity to bring absolute accountability to the Citizens, the Voters, the Workers of these United States. It's always had the view of millions who truly wanted their Congress to speak to REAL issues, Hard Policy, facts. But David and frankly everyone who handles, manages, directs Meet the Press has completely failed any semblance of journalistic integrity, from day one, when Gregory became their new golden boy. The show may as well be a comedy, scripted by fools. It is a joke.

      "We can have Democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis D. Brandeis

      by 2BOrNot2B on Sun May 18, 2014 at 06:42:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Faust? (5+ / 0-)

    I think Condi cast herself in "The Producers".

  •  Virus obesity solution (0+ / 0-)

    Perhaps a virus can be used to target fat cells.

  •  Re Ludwig and Friedman-- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare

    That is why when you're on a weight loss program you have to work to INCREASE your metabolism as you lose weight.

    How do you do that?

    Increase physical activity. Force the body to burn more calories.

    Basic science

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun May 18, 2014 at 06:38:01 AM PDT

  •  Another reason we eat and still feel hungry: (7+ / 0-)

    Big Food chemically designs their processed foods very precisely to be as addictive as possible. Even more "natural" foods are treated the same way. The right balance of salt, fat, and carbohydrates becomes as addictive as any drug.

    They are creating a nation of addicts.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun May 18, 2014 at 06:40:02 AM PDT

  •  Great commentary & great comments (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Slaw

    Good work, Mark, this is the best APR in a while.

    BTW, have you had a look a this yet?

    Ununseptium, aka, 117Uus, has finally been synthesized with 4 atoms detected.

    Now we get to update the Periodic Table.

    No one is coming to save us, the future is in our hands.

    by koNko on Sun May 18, 2014 at 07:03:41 AM PDT

  •  Gen. Shinseki (7+ / 0-)

    A little bit of my background to help understand my defense of Gen. Shinseki, I'm a social worker who was the Co-coordinator for the Franklin County (Columbus, Ohio) Veteran's Court starting the court from the ground up, and I have recently accepted a new position at the VA. I also teach a social work policy course at Ohio State where much of the discussion revolves around health care and service delivery. Currently, compared with Community Mental Health Centers, the VA has much quicker and efficient care and while politicians bemoan the fact that the VA takes two weeks to see patients here in Ohio for the same type of service wait times are 4-6 weeks for Community Health Centers. What General Shinseski has done with the culture and mission of the VA is remarkable. Partly, one of the reasons why the VA is overflowed is the obvious reasons of two very long wars but perhaps the most overlooked reason is that Gen. Shiseski has expanded the role of the VA by fighting to end Veterans homelessness (look into the HUDVASH program) and has directed the VA to re-open claims that were denied over the past 50 years, including Agent Orange claims. One personal example of this, is we had a 69 year-old homeless Vietnam vet in our court whose Agent Orange claim was denied in 1973, (he never returned to the VA) but the VA reopened his case and he received back benefits dating back to his original case. This veteran's skin was completely dis-colored from his exposure to Agent Orange and he also suffers from PTSD. In order to provide this type of service the VA has expanded but it is also still vastly underfunded and the culture of the VA in previous decades was not conducive for many veterans to seek help.  It is very sad that veterans have to wait but it also shows the bold and compassionate leadership of Gen. Shinseski has brought to the VA, but the agency needs more money to provide these services. The rate of veteran homelessness has dropped dramatically when all evidence shows it should be rising, homeless veterans are finding safe and clean housing all over the country, in Phoenix for instance the homeless veteran population is practically zero and in other larger cities like Columbus it is almost eradicated. Yes, we as a society should demand proper and quick care for our veterans but we should also be able to be intelligent enough to understand the complexities of the situation as well as to notice we should demand the same for all our citizens (which we are not getting.)

  •  Maybe, citizens of the state you grew up in (0+ / 0-)

    as in in "Several times when [you] ...as a teenager in Kentucky...," are resistant somewhat toward the poison, nicotine, because you are or were soaked in it?

    I am, of course, referring to persons-citizens who have blood running through their circulatory systems there!

  •  DoD: your F-35 comment not serious (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RepresentUsPlease

    "Planes that don't work" is not a serious comment about the F-35.  The planes do work and are head and shoulders above any that any other military - Chinese and Soviet - can field now or will be able to field in the next decade.  As with other such extraordinarily complicated "advance of the current state of the art" advances, it has kinks (software kinks still being worked) and is over budget.  Maybe not as over-budget percentage-wise as the development of healthcare.gov (couldn't resist - sorry), but over budget and behind schedule.  [An aside - I support the ACA but would have preferred single payer.]  

    Your thought (hope?) that the F-35 might be cancelled - won't happen.

    The Air Force has no alternative.  The F-18 is old technology.  Would take another 10+ years and tens of billions more R&D to field an alternative.  The 8 or so allied foreign countries that have contributed to the research and development costs of the F-35 and that have ordered versions for their militarys do not want it cancelled.  

    Neither the Congress nor any potential candidate for President 2016 of either party is proposing cancelling the F-35. I am not aware of any 2014 Senate candidate proposing to do so (at least none with a realistic chance of winning).

  •  @ Mystic Michael (8+ / 0-)

    With respect, my fellow student of the mysterious conservative psyche, you are totally overthinking this one...

    If you want to understand rightwingers' lack of compassion for the kidnapped girls, and their condescension towards anyone with compassion, then all you have to do is answer one simple question---

    ...if a group of over 200 WHITE girls got kidnapped by Islamic terrorists, THEN would rightwingers give a shit?

    Once you have answered that question, deep understanding will quickly follow...

    ...just sayin'...

    •  I'd vary that slightly. (5+ / 0-)

      What bothers the right wing is their presumption that Michelle Obama and the others are concerned over these kidnapped young women only because the girls are black.  

      In addition, although McCain and others want a military intervention to rescue these girls, if the mission failed (which it most likely would) they would do an about-face and raise a stink that we lost American lives, equipment and prestige trying to rescue a group of black girls--girls that had nothing to do with us.  (If by some chance the mission succeeded, they would ignore the success entirely, give someone else credit, or proclaim it a waste of American resources.  Can't you just them? "With all the problems in the Ukraine, Syria, etc., why does Obama only want to use our military to rescue a bunch of black girls?")

      Their hatred and unmasked racism is stinking up our country.

      "It ain't right, Atticus," said Jem. "No, son, it ain't right." --Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

      by SottoVoce on Sun May 18, 2014 at 08:01:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  RE: Maureen Dowd's column (8+ / 0-)

    Just read it (and I usually don't read her often for the exact reason you mentioned -- the "Barry" references and how she tries to be so cute).

    But I found her opinion piece on Condi very interesting and I do believe she hit the nail exactly on the head.  Condi could have taught quite a lesson if she had shown up with the kind of speech Dowd described.  

    On the other hand, given Condi's past involvement with idiots like Bush, Cheney & Rummy, I suspect that her desire to be accepted by them would outweigh her ability to admit that they were all wrong & incompetent.

    What it is, is up to us. ~ Howard Rheingold

    by madame defarge on Sun May 18, 2014 at 07:28:09 AM PDT

  •  GOPer attacks on teacher and democracy (7+ / 0-)

    are getting ever more shrill:

    -- Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver on public schools: "Government indoctrination camps."

    -- Ohio megapastor Rod Parsley on public schools: "Cesspools of godless propaganda."

    -- Radio host Alex Jones on public schools: "You're handing your kids over to a bunch of globalist scumbags."

    That's democracy they're trashing.

    "Stealing kids' lunch money makes them strong and independent." -- after Paul "False Prophet" Ryan

    by waterstreet2013 on Sun May 18, 2014 at 08:20:17 AM PDT

  •  Limbaugh says things... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    with firm calculation for their effect. And continues to play liberals in order to A) get more exposure, and B) gain greater support from ditto-heads when he bemoans being attacked and victimized by "the liberal media."

  •  Hmmm.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yonit, Shawn87
    What bothers the right wing is their presumption that Michelle Obama and the others are concerned over these kidnapped young women only because the girls are black.
    Gotta respectfully disagree there.

    Given that they place no value on Michelle Obama, nor the kidnapped girls, this is a great occasion for some fun dogwhistlin'.

    And the fact that this annoys white libs is just an added bonus.

    It'd be like me attending the local Bible-thumper church to fart as loudly as possible during their silent prayers, much to the amusement of my fellow atheists.

    Not that we would ever actually DO that, since we are too polite to deliberately break the rules of social etiquette.

    But rightwingers find it amusing to break social taboos while feigning complete innocence.

    "Who, ME? A racist? You libs and your political correctness run amok!"

  •  Good question: (0+ / 0-)
    It may be tempting to go after the Koch for some of their positions, but really, do all the Republicans embracing the Kochs today know that he said the gipper and Jimmy Carter were interchangeable?
    Here's a better one:

    When was the last time that the charge of hypocrisy or inconsistency mattered to sociopaths?

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