Bush’s election gift to the Democrats

Posted on October 27th, 2007 in Culture,Politics,War by Robert Miller

When Bush vetoed the SCHIP bill that would have added additional uninsured children (3.5 million) from poor families to the insured group, it had passed the Senate with a veto-proof vote of 67-29 and a house majority vote that was 2o votes shy of the 2/3 necessary to override Bush’s pre-announced veto. This vote was followed by Bush’s submission of the largest war budget of his administration, as he acquired the well-deserved reputation of a president that “makes war not love.” His veto has helped to establish one of the sharp dividing lines of the next election and, in the process, made many of the Republicans who will have to run and defend this outcome next year, far more vulnerable. Many Republicans wanted to see the bill pass because polls show a strong national support for the SCHIP bill (a national poll out this week showed that by a margin of 52-32 voters trust the Democrats to solve health care issues more than the Bush administration: try running on that issue). The inability of the Republicans to get much mileage from labeling the SCHIPS program as “socialized medicine,” as they did to successfully kill the single payer national health care bill during the Truman administration (with the able assistance of the AMA), indicates that successful opposition to a sensible health care plan, something the Democrats, to various degrees, have offered throughout their campaign efforts, may be difficult to advance and sustain to their political advantage. For the Republicans, it seems likely that their health care plans, all geared towards privatization policies, may not sell as well as the SCHIP program introduced during the Clinton Administration (correctly seen by Republicans as a back-door strategy to a national health care plan). Already, liberal organizations are running ads against Pro-war, anti-SCHIPS Republicans and here in Minnesota, one of my least favorite Republicans ever to come from the State of Minnesota, Michelle Bachman, got a strong campaign message about her anti-SCHIPS vote that seemed very effective. The Democrats can win this one. The public is increasingly incensed with a president who has complete lack of domestic sensitivity. Many different Democratic organizations have already implemented strong messages on this topic and for that reason, many Republicans who voted against the measure would like to see it quickly re-introduced with only slight modifications to create a veto-proof vote in the House. Will the Democrats, now seeing Bush’s gift as a longitudinal benefit, comply?

Nancy Pelosi’s communication director put it rather well by saying “Nothing clarifies the differences between the parties better than this.” Here, here. The mistake the Republicans are making, hopefully a fatal one, is that you can’t vote against a bill that has merits and broad support, without proposing an alternative that has merit. Right now that’s what the Republicans lack and only a few Republican candidates, such as Romney, have talked about health care. Everyone else seems to focus on the need to continue our dead-end war. A war with no end, a war with no future but more pain for our troops and our pocketbook. A war with no friends, a puppet government and a region that now sees us as weak and ineffective. Having just come back from Germany, talking to a large group of prestigious scientists, it seems clear that our European colleagues see America as increasingly irrelevant to their interests and do they ever enjoy the benefits of the current $ Euro exchange. When I left for Germany I paid $1.54/Euro. It makes that region a very expensive place to visit.

Juan Cole on the Iranian threat

Posted on October 26th, 2007 in Politics,War by Robert Miller

We have an administration, largely through pressure from Dick Cheney, that wants to bomb the nuclear testing facility of Iran and continues to advocate an aggressive policy against them, with a vast sea of propaganda that seems to have no limits. Although he has convinced the majority of Americans that Iran is pursuing an atomic weapons program and that Iranian soldiers are in Iraq killing Americans (despite the fact that armed Iranians have never been captured) there is no proof that either is taking place. Iran is a signatory of the nuclear test ban treaty and they have submitted to regular inspection by the United Nations as the treaty demands. So when you have doubts about the mounting stories about Iran, do not go to your government for clarity. Go instead to Juan Cole and recently, Amy Goodman has interviewed Juan on this subject, the issue of Turkey and the Kurds and a little on Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, which still has influence on the Middle East events of today.

The collapse of AIDS vaccine research?

Posted on October 26th, 2007 in General,Health by Robert Miller

In what is potentially a major blow to the development of an AIDS vaccine, a report has come out of Johannesburg South Africa raising the possibility that the new AIDS vaccine, developed by Merck and in clinical trials throughout the world, may have increased the chances of contracting AIDS rather than providing protection. The early results are not necessarily conclusive, but among those receiving the vaccine 19 contracted AIDS, while 11 contracted the disease while taking the placebo. Vaccine trials were underway (since 2004) in places throughout the world and the usual procedures of not telling those involved in the trials whether they received the vaccine or the placebo was followed. But, with this potentially devastating result, AIDS researchers must now tell each person involved in the study, which group they were in. One AIDS researcher was quoted in the article “This is my worst nightmare,” said Glenda Gray, the lead South Africa investigator for the vaccine study. “I haven’t slept for days. I have a headache. I’m ready to resign from trials for the rest of my life.”

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