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Catfish and Cod
Monday, September 01, 2003
Oliver Willis reality check.
(Link path: Like Kryptonite to Stupid)

Hey, Willis. I like your positions, and your man Dean, but if you're going to articulate policy ideas, can you at least make them coherent?

Occupying Iraq
...Solution: Prove to Iraq that we are in for the long haul and in their best interests by encouraging the Iraqis to plot their own path, not just the politically expedient one of installing Chalabi and his ilk.

Despite what you and Josh Marshall think (keep scrolling), I'm not sure installing Chalabi is politically possible after installing a Governing Council and a Cabinet that makes Chalabi just one party among many. If Chalabi was put in as pseudo-dictator, there'd be a bloodbath.

Go to the United Nations and get the rest of the world to be a part of the occupation and rebuilding effort,

They are part of the rebuilding effort now. I support the current efforts to get a UN mandate for the occupation, if it's sincere (you can never tell with this Administration). But I don't support handing control of anything to the UN -- their record on such in Bosnia is abomniable.

...don't allow the desire to give contracts to Halliburton and Co. become the reason for more US casualties.

I agree, but if we hand things over to the UN, then European companies (particularly French, German, and Russian ones) will get those contracts otherwise. The real answer is to hand the contracts to Iraqis.

Create a roadmap with timelines and goals for the occupation and its eventual end.

In other words, write our enemies a ticket for charging us with negligence when things inevitably don't go as planned. I've had quite enough of that in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, thank you very much.

Instruct our soldiers to become less heavy-handed with the men and women of Iraq, a multinational force and more troops will go thousands of miles towards improving the atmosphere.

I'm not sure of that, because no one else tries so hard to interface with locals (civil affairs and so forth) as we do. But it's sure worth a try. As to being heavy-handed, the best thing to do is to get the Iraqis to help out with security. If the troops perceive the Iraqis as helping the Americans, rather than silent potential terrorists, then the troops will relax and stop being heavy-handed. Telling them to play nice while they fell that their lives are in danger will only upset them and convince them that you don't know what you're talking about.

On the other hand, people who steal Johnny Walker's should be court-martialed publicly.

Problem: Neglect of Afghanistan is allowing tribalism to resurface, our coziness with the Pakistanis may be allowing Bin Laden to hide.
Solution: Increase funding to Afghanistan,

Agreed, but last I heard, that's in the works already. Not least because Democrats caught the Administration neglecting Afghanistan last time.

push a harder line with Pakistan's leadership that will give us the authority to hunt down Bin Laden and Al Qaeda

Great idea, but how? And if bin Laden is where I think he is, the Pakistani government gave up trying to enforce any sort of rule of law there long ago.

North Korea
Problem: The rhetoric towards North Korea is aggravating an already unstable nuclear entity.
Solution: Address the Korean problem directly.

This was a valid argument until last week's six-nation talks. I'm not sure the Administration can still be charged with ignoring the problem.

Don't make it appear that we can be held hostage by nuclear threats, but appreciate the seriousness of what North Korea could do.

That's meaningless. If you mean "negotiate directly", say so. If you mean "be clear about consequences", say so. What you just said could be taken either way.

Problem: Tax cuts overly targeted towards the rich do not sufficiently encourage investment in the economy while also weakening the social safety net of Medicare and Social Security

But you'll never get the Administration to admit that.

Solution: End the tax cuts for the top earners, the Ken Lay contingent, and instead give tax relief to groups that need it in the lower income brackets whose spending will stimulate the economy.

No -- give tax relief to the middle class first. They'll reward you with increased investment and spending both. Tax relief to the poor results in one spending burst and nothing else. I speak from experience.

There's also the matter of those deficits that portend disaster for future generations

Yes, there is that matter. What do you intend to do about it?

and the expressed desire of influential right-wingers to destroy social security, medicare, and other important social programs

Social Security is going to be destroyed by demographics; there's nothing to be done to save it. What we need is a good Democratic alternative, something that sounds even better. As to Medicare, it must be reformed. I don't know how to do it, though.

Civil Liberties
Problem: The PATRIOT Act shreds constitutional rights we hold dear, the attorney general is more interested in prosecuting marijuana users and pornographers than real live terrorists.
Solution: Appoint an Attorney General who will fight crime, not embrace a religious crusade. Rescind the PATRIOT Act.

Yes. No matter what else, Ashcroft must be evicted.

Corporate Crime
Problem: We haven't prosecuted the people on the top of the Enron debacle.

I understand that it takes several years to prepare the lawsuits in cases like this, precisely because the Enron boys spent millions and years making the paperwork obtuse. It's not anyone's fault. And before you consider these right-wing excuses, let me say that I got this information off a public radio station right here in Massachusetts.

The accounting regulations proposed are soft. Environmental regulation has been reduced to ridiculous self-policing. Enormous loopholes in our tax code still exist for corporations to bilk the government out of billions. Utilities whose services are essential to daily life are allowed to manipulate and "game" the system without consequence.

Solution: Do the exact opposite of all those things. Show Americans that business can be socially responsible while also being profitable.

What exactly does "the exact opposite" consist of? And while loopholes stink, please show me a loophole-free tax code. I'm not aware of any examples.

Problem: We can't look out for number one when we're bullying everyone else.
Solution: Promote the American ideals by living them. Show the rest of the world that along with economic success can also come social equality and progress. Stand up for true American values, not imperialistic whims and childish temper tantrums.

And that's the best example I've seen of saying great-sounding platitudes while advocating zero actual policy. Words are cheap, Willis. What's your position?