Posts by: "Bill Steigerwald"

Everyone but Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol is now claiming they never thought going to war in Iraq was such a good idea.

Most of them are full of it, of course.  War fever, as usual, swept up almost everybody back in the spring of 2003.

But not me and not the paper I worked for, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Unfortunately, not enough power people in the Bush Administration were reading the enlightened, prescient and principled op-ed pages of the Trib in 2003.

They were too busy studying where to drop their smart bombs. Not to mention  promising 1,000 years of peace and democracy in the Middle East if we invaded Iraq, took out Bad Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction and began teaching the Iraqi tribes how to act Swiss.

We at the Trib, including the publisher Richard Scaife, knew better. We, like Pat Buchanan and a lot of other smart non-interventionist Cassandras who understood the traditional limitations of invading other lands, knew the decision to go to war in Iraq was the stupidest American international move since Vietnam.

A lot of people in DC not named Bush and Cheney have a lot of blood on their hands. They’ll all go free. What’s 5k dead Americans and $1 trillion down the drain?

Iraq was a bipartisan blunder — a predictable tragedy (and an epic war crime)  that many predicted.

How to punish the guilty?

My idea would be that every political dickhead in Washington who had anything to do with promoting or voting for the Iraq war should do the right thing — go to the Capitol steps and  publicly apologize  to the families of the dead and wounded Americans, ask forgiveness from the whole country and quit whatever job they have.

Soon they’ll be holding a war tribunal to round up all the hawks who thought Iraq was such a great idea. They won’t come looking for me. I was against the war 1000 percent.

For the record, this is drawn from just one of the dozen or so columns I wrote pointing out how foolish, immoral and futile the war in Iraq was. It’s from July 0f 2003, when we were still celebrating our great victory and still looking for Saddam and his invisible weapons of mass destruction.

Stuck in Iraq’s mess

Having second thoughts about the war yet?

….

Sure, it’s early yet. Baghdad wasn’t built in a day. Neither was a democracy. But cities and free societies are notoriously hard to build from the top down by the most enlightened of conquering armies, especially when the natives don’t buy into the master plan.

Unfortunately, the price of occupying Iraq will only get higher. A few years from now, sooner if there’s regime change in Washington, we’ll find an excuse to leave or hand Iraq over to the United Nations. Meanwhile, why is anyone surprised things aren’t going well?

Long before the smart-bombing started, the most principled anti-war critics — left, right and libertarian — warned over and over that the hardest part of going to war would be the occupation afterwards.

Everyone knew our preemptive intervention in Iraq was inevitable a year before H-Hour. The Bush administration only did what governments of every ilk and every political party do after they decide to go war — use exaggerations, scare tactics and fibs to make their moral/political case to the people.

No biggie. That’s how governments operate. What was most annoying about our inevitable march to war was that so many conservatives in Congress and the media were so gung-ho about it. They saw war with Iraq not as folly but as a really neat way to transplant democracy, free markets and the rule of law into a strategically vital region that needed all three.

STUPID, RISKY

Many of these conservative war hawks believe devoutly in limited government, or pretend to, and they understand why government programs at home rarely work the way they are intended. When they see Washington declare war on poverty or set out to nationalize health care, they denounce it for what it is – social engineering by Big Dumb Government.

Yet what is mounting a massive expeditionary force and setting out to remake a Muslim penal colony in the image of Switzerland? It’s social engineering of the most ambitious and insane kind.

Trying to graft Western ideas and values onto a culture halfway around the world – by military force – is so stupid, so risky, so costly, so fraught with unknowns, so likely to fail, only a government would try it.

If a Democrat administration had dreamed up such a boondoggle, conservatives would have fought it tirelessly, not cheered it on. Maybe conservatives lost their selective distrust of big government because Iraq was invaded in the name of national security. Maybe it had to do with simple party partisanship or the delusory side-effects of war-making and patriotism.

Whatever it was that made a federal government takeover of Iraq look like such a swell idea to conservatives a year ago, it doesn’t look so smart now. We’re stuck with a big mess. And it’s not un-American to start saying “We told you so.”

Iraq is returning to the hellhole of civilization it’s been for three thousand years.Iraq_Dec05_Elect

Anyone who says he’s shocked at what’s about to happen there is a fool or a liar.

Smart people knew this would happen, just as smart people knew that the assholes in Washington who took us to Iraq in 2003 were making a huge mistake.

It was the same mistake the Brits made in the early 1920s when for geopolitical purposes they invented Iraq by combining three provinces of the Ottoman Empire into one dumb country where each third hated the other two thirds and they all wanted to kill each other for stupid religious reasons — just like Europe’s religious nuts did in the 1500s.

Sadly, Iraq is just America’s latest travesty of interventionism.

We wasted $1.7 trillion on trying to turn it and its moronic tribes into another Switzerland.

We lost 5,000 Americans and killed X-tens of thousands of innocent Middle Easterners.

We’ll be paying for our wounded and maimed soldiers for another 70 years.

The major-party assholes who run Washington will point to each other and say it was Bush’s fault for taking us there and Obama’s fault for pulling us out too soon.

But Iraq — like all our misguided foreign misadventures starting with World War I — was brought to us by Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, who’ve never read a history book and can’t understand that dropping bombs on foreigners and taking over their countries with tanks, soldiers and dreamy democratic ideals never works as planned.

Back in 2005 smart guys like Ivan Eland and Peter Galbraith, and even dumb guys like Joe Biden, were trying to convince the powers  in DC that the only long-term solution to the mess we had gotten ourselves into was to partition Iraq into three autonomous parts.

There would be one part for the Kurds to screw up, one for the Sunnis to screw up, and one for the Shiites to screw up.

They’d have to figure out the problem of sharing the oil revenue, which would have taken a few wars and a hundred years. But decentralizing an artificially created and wobbly Humpty Dumpty state would have been better than trying to keep it together by American force.

No one listened to Eland, Galbraith and Biden, of course. Now Iraq is being partitioned by an army of Muslim extremists in pickup trucks who already are imposing sharia law.

But in case you want to know what Eland and Galbraith thought, and what I thought about their idea, below is what I wrote about the idea to partition Iraq back in 2006, when it was probably already too late to fix the country we invaded and broke.

Here’s an op-ed column I wrote about the partition idea based on my conversation with Peter Galbraith, the Kurd expert, son of John Kenneth and former ambassador to Croatia:

Time to partition Iraq

Turn the channel. Except for the final score, the war in Iraq is over.

We played hard and did many good things. But we had a lousy game plan and really bad coaches. We lost.

After three years, the grand illusions the Bush administration foolishly took us to war for — to free Iraq, to defeat the terrorists in their own backyard, to seed democracy in the Middle East, whatever — are less attainable than ever.

The bloody sectarian and ethnic violence of the last few weeks may or may not signal the start of the oft-predicted civil war between the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites. But some experts say the violent unraveling of Iraq — plus the inability or unwillingness of its new leaders to create a working central government — are signs that the nation of Iraq is breaking apart.

That’s the last thing the Bush administration wants. It’s still stubbornly wedded to its original, unrealistic idea of re-creating a strong national government in Baghdad that can keep the three factions happy and from cutting each others’ throats every other holy day.

But Peter Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia, and Ivan Eland, a senior fellow at the libertarian Independent Institute, have a better idea: They both think the best way to “rebuild” a better post-Saddam Iraq always was, and still is, to partition it.

Galbraith, betraying his Democrat genes, calls his plan “a managed breakup.” But he and Eland both advocate decentralizing government power in Iraq, an artificial country whose borders and Sunni-dominated power structure were created after World War I by British diplomats.

The more you know about Iraq’s history, people and geography, and the more you talk to Galbraith and Eland, the more sense partition makes.

Iraq is similar to the former Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union, which Galbraith says were both “killed by democracy.” Partitioning Iraq — i.e., allowing its major ethnic and religious groups to set up and rule their own turf — would create many messy political, economic and security problems. Who gets how much oil revenue is the big one.

The U.S.-leaning Kurds up north and the Iran-leaning Shia down south favor a breakup, Eland says. The Sunnis (Saddam’s home tribe, centered around Baghdad) are against it. But if the Sunni get a cut of the oil wealth, Eland suspects they’ll play along. Meanwhile, what all three groups fear equally, he says, is a central government with a strong military that can be seized by a future Saddam and used to oppress them.

A breakup of Iraq is inevitable, Galbraith and Eland both agree, so why fight it? As Galbraith says, “If we seek to maintain an unitary Iraq, we will commit ourselves to an endless occupation of the country and we’re not likely to succeed.”

Unfortunately, neither Galbraith nor Eland sees any interest for a partition inside the Bush administration. Eland thinks Washington is still pushing a unified Iraq in part because of the president’s unwillingness to give up the idea of having permanent military bases there.

What the Bush administration wants or hopes for in Iraq has been moot for a long time, however. Partition will happen eventually anyway — violently or peacefully. The best thing for us to do now to salvage our blunder in Iraq, Eland says, is help the breakup process and work for a peaceful and stable Iraq, not thwart it.

Then, Eland says, we could tell the Iraqis: “We’ve toppled Saddam. We’ve helped you mediate this settlement. We’ve provided incentives for various groups to do things. And now we’re saying goodbye.”

Here’s the interview I did with Ivan Eland of the Independent Institute.

Why not partition Iraq?

Why does Iraq — an artificial country invented by British diplomats after World War I and composed of three religious and ethnic groups that pretty much hate each other — have to have a unified national government? Why not let Iraq do what Czechoslovakia and most of the Soviet Union did in the 1990s — carefully and peacefully partition itself? Why can’t the Kurds have their own democracy, the Shiites their own religious theocracy, and the Sunnis their own strongman, if that’s what they choose?

Ivan Eland is author of “The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed” and director of the libertarian Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty. A longtime advocate of partitioning Iraq, he argues it’s the best and probably only way to avert the bloody civil war he says is just getting started. I talked to him Wednesday by phone from his offices in Washington.

Q: How do you define a partition of Iraq?

A: My observation is that Iraq is already partitioned. You have all these militias running around with guns and the U.S. hasn’t disarmed many of them because they are helping with local security. But the problem is that this thing has turned into “sectarian violence,” as the president likes to call it, or “civil war,” as other people like to call it. What they need to do is have a conclave and manage the partition of the country. Iraq is going to break up because it already is broken up, and it can either be done on a peaceful basis or one that is very nasty and violent. I think a “managed partition” is the best way.

Q: Are we talking about breaking Iraq into three parts — for Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis?

A: Not necessarily. I don’t think it’s going to be that easy. What’s going to happen is that they are probably going to have a bloody civil war. It’ll be wherever the armies are. If one beats up on the other one, then the boundaries will be changed. When you have a war, it’s hard to determine what will happen. A peaceful partition would probably be three or more parts.

Q: Can this partition be imposed on Iraq by the United States?

A: No, I don’t think so. You have to let them sort it out. They should have done this before. It may be too late now, but it’s still the best hope for the place. The Kurds and the Shia don’t really want to be a part of Iraq. When you have 80 percent of the population that doesn’t want to be in the country, that’s a problem. The Sunnis are the only ones who don’t want to break up the country. The main reason is that they think they will be a rump state with no oil. If the Shia and the Kurds give the Sunnis some oil, they will be willing to go their own way, too.

Q: What’s the principle behind the partition — decentralizing power and local autonomy?

A: Yes. Decentralization. The main fear of each group, the reason the Kurds and Shia want their autonomy and the reason the Sunni are fighting an insurgency, is that each group fears that the central government will be used to oppress the other group. So they either want control of the central government, or if they can’t get that, they want to be removed from it.

Q: What are the upsides of a partition for the U.S.?

A: If every group were confined to its local areas and they all knew what the boundaries were, and they would police people of their own ethnic or religious group, then it might reduce the chances of civil war. And of course then the al-Qaida terrorists would be the outcasts. If they were still bombing, even in the Sunni areas, the Sunni militias would turn against them because they are outsiders. I think you could actually reduce Iraq as a haven for al-Qaida, as well, because the security would be increased. This also provides the Bush administration with a way of saying, “Well, we toppled Saddam Hussein and we gave the Iraqis the best change for peace and prosperity.” If there is peace in Iraq, people aren’t going to care if there’s one Iraq or three or four Iraqs.

Q: Would we, the United States, play a role in the partition?

A: I think we can mediate it, but I think it must be done fairly quickly. We see these negotiations dragging on now because nobody has an incentive. Negotiations can happen real fast if there’s an urgent need. If the U.S. declares it’s going to pull out, I think you will see the Kurds and the Shia become very receptive to negotiating a settlement.

Q: Is there any interest in the Bush administration for a partition?

A: I don’t know. I think they would do this only as a desperation move. The problem is, if they wait too long, even a partition isn’t going to work because the civil war is already started. Unless they stop it, it’s going to get worse.

Q: Why is the Bush administration wedded to re-creating a strong central government?

A: The president is still holding on to the idea that we’re still going to have military bases there. They want them on the Gulf, but the Shia areas are not going to allow that, and they’re the ones closest to the Gulf, and that’s where the significant amounts of oil are. I think that’s one reason the administration is still clinging to the idea of a unified Iraq. The other is just probably bureaucratic inertia.

Q: What’s Iraq going to look like in 2008? President Bush said our troops will still be there.

A: I liken it to the pilot with two engines on fire who does not look for an alternate landing strip but tries to continue on his course to his original destination. He’s probably going to crash and burn, and I think that’s what’s going to happen in Iraq. I don’t think we’re going to make it for another three years there. I think there’s going to be a civil war in Iraq if the president doesn’t change course. The public won’t stand for U.S. forces being caught in a civil war. If all hell breaks loose in Iraq, those forces will be coming home much, much sooner — to the electoral peril of Republicans. I don’t think they have another three years to wait.

The Veterans Health Administration — the U.S. Post Office of American health care — has always been awful.

I remember 30 or maybe 40 years ago, when it was just the VA and not the VHA,  hearing vets and others complain about the lousy care, the crummy hospitals, the third-rate doctors.

No surprise. It was and is a government bureaucracy and it acts that way — stupid, slow, inefficient, politicized.  Like army bases and defense contractors, a VA hospital is what every congressperson of both parties always wanted in his/her district.

Now, as the horror stories march forth and the whistles begin to blow louder, we are getting a truer glimpse of the reality of the VA.

Where were the media until yesterday? Where was 60 Minutes and the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal and CNN? Did they ever think of looking deeply and critically into the VA?

The stupid warhawk Republicans, with their insane love of the military and fear of offending it, should have been all over this subject. They should have been calling for the privatization of the VA decades ago — Oh wait.

Mitt Romney made a halfhearted peep two years ago, saying it should be partly privatized. Mitt was partly right, but the great Paul Krugman, who can’t remember the few things he wrote 20 years ago that were right anymore than he can remember the scores of stupid things he says now that he’s the Times op-ed page’s house weasel, was completely wrong.

This is what the Noble-winning, formerly honest economist said this about the VHA and Romney’s half-smart idea:

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.

And yes, this is “socialized medicine” — although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.

 

US_soldiers_returning_to_America_after_WWIThe Veterans Health Administration — the U.S. Post Office of American health care — has always been awful.

I remember 30 or maybe 40 years ago, when it was just the VA and not the VHA,  hearing vets and others complain about the lousy care, the crummy hospitals, the third-rate doctors.

No surprise. It was and is a government bureaucracy and it acts that way — stupid, slow, inefficient, politicized.  Like army bases and defense contractors, a VA hospital is what every congressperson of both parties always wanted in his/her district.

Now, as the horror stories march forth and the whistles begin to blow louder, we are getting a truer glimpse of the reality of the VA.

Where were the media until yesterday? Where was 60 Minutes and The New York  Times and The Wall Street Journal and CNN? Did they ever think of looking deeply and critically into the VA?

The stupid warhawk Republicans, with their insane love of the military and fear of offending it, should have been all over this subject. They should have been calling for the privatization of the VA decades ago — Oh wait.

Mitt Romney made a halfhearted peep two years ago, saying it should be partly privatized. Mitt was partly right, but the great Paul Krugman, who can’t remember the few things he wrote 20 years ago that were right any more than he can remember the scores of stupid things he says now that he’s the Times op-ed page’s house weasel, was completely wrong.

This is what the Noble-winning, formerly honest economist said about the VHA and Romney’s half-smart idea:

What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the V.H.A. is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform.

Many people still have an image of veterans’ health care based on the terrible state of the system two decades ago. Under the Clinton administration, however, the V.H.A. was overhauled, and achieved a remarkable combination of rising quality and successful cost control. Multiple surveys have found the V.H.A. providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers. Furthermore, the V.H.A. has led the way in cost-saving innovation, especially the use of electronic medical records.

What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers, many of whose customers move on after a few years.

And yes, this is “socialized medicine” — although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.

ob2James Kunstler is a brick-throwing leftie, but he’s had it with Barack Obama, the dissappointer in chief:

“Barack Obama, who I voted for twice, is on his way to becoming the worst US president in my lifetime, at least — and maybe in the whole cavalcade going back to the very start of the republic. I don’t want to get too sidetracked in this brief blog space today, but isn’t it stupendously asinine that Mr. Obama’s Justice Department and his SEC appointees only just last week became interested in the pervasive swindle of high frequency trading on Wall Street after author Michael Lewis went on 60 Minutes. Like, they hadn’t heard about this years-long orgy of front-running until now? Strange to relate, I actually might feel more comfortable if Vladimir Putin was massing troops on the Mexican side of the US border to keep Americans safe from our own bungling and destructive government.”

Thirty years ago Ronald Reagan disappointed me because he gave speeches like a libertarian but governed like a practical politician and didn’t do much of anything to reduce the size and scope of the federales, no matter what his followers say today.

Obama must be a huge disappointment to progressives and true believers like Kunstler (not the moronic masses who blindly voted).

After almost six years Obama has shown he was nothing but an attractive Chicago-style pol with the right skin color who could write nice speeches and read a TelePrompter real good.

Instead of bringing a socialist paradise to America, which is what his followers and haters both thought he would do, he’s just screwing up healthcare stuff and still doing evil military and financial stuff that any Republican could do.

Maybe it’ll be Obama who brings us the WWIII everyone thought RR was going to bring us by doing something stupid in Ukraine (this time, unlike Syria, he won’t have Putin around to save his intervening ass).

He’s proved, for those who are paying attention, that there is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats who go to Washington.  Both parties suck for the same reason — they’re in it to get more power over us, not for freeing us up and leaving us alone.

To boot, and for the benefit of all, and I hope but I’m not counting on it, Obama’s made it impossible for any openly Big Government guy to get elected again.

He did the whole country and future generations a favor by botching health care because now no politician like Hillary who wants to be prez will ever dare to approach the subject of national single-payer healthcare. Half-assed federal healthcare, as we see, is awful enough.

Obama, bless him, has betrayed the “promise” of national healthcare and given it the third rail it didn’t have before.

Elizabeth-KolbertElizabeth’s Kolbert’s latest epistle in the April 14 New Yorker is a textbook example of climate change BS posing as journalism.

Her sermon won’t influence anyone, because the only people who will actually read it have already been converted to the AGW faith.

The scary thing is, the typical New Yorker reader — not to mention most journalists — won’t see a thing wrong with Kolbert’s warning that we all have to act fast because the “looming crisis that is global warming”  is no longer looming but is already here.

Kolbert, in case you haven’t heard, is the official High Priest of Climatology at The New Yorker.

Her latest “Talk of the Town”  item, “Rough Forecasts,” is essentially another of her riffs on behalf of maintaining tax subsidies for renewable energy, ending current fossil fuel subsidies, taxing carbon, toughening up building codes, praying for the recovery of coral reefs and heeding the latest divine revelations, recommendations and warnings of the IPCC.

Kolbert recites the usual silly truths about AGW  that New Yorker editors and readers swallow as a matter of faith — because of humans and their fetish for fossil fuels the reefs are dying, the Arctic ice is disappearing, famines and droughts are coming and Gaia has already gone into her death spiral.

She also points out, with displeasure, that the U.S. government underwrites the use of fossil fuels to the tune of $4 billion a year.

As a libertarian, I’m against all kinds of corporate welfare. I agree with Kolbert that the fossil fuel subsidies should be repealed — along with all those renewable energy subsidies.

But that $4 billion number is either wrong or insignificant. Kolbert’s soul mates at PriceofOil.org put the subsidy number between $14 to $52 billion per year, depending on how it’s figured.

What Ms. Kolbert is referring to, I think, are the $4 billion in fossil fuel subsidies President Obama has proposed cutting from his budget every year he’s been in office  but has never done.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter. A lousy $4 billion is chump change in a trillion-dollar U.S. energy sector where hundreds of big and small public and private companies no one has ever heard of pulled in at least $271 billion in profits in 2012.

For a science wiz who yearns to be officially crowned the Rachel Carson of climate change, Kolbert has a history of trouble with hard numbers, big and small.

In 2005 I caught her and her fact-checkers telling her gullible New Yorker readers than one of Greenland’s mightiest glaciers was moving at several miles per hour, not several miles per year.

Her glacial speed trap, as I happily pointed out in a column, was off by a factor of 8,760.  The magazine was forced into running a rare correction confessing its error (arguably my greatest feat in 35 years of newspaper journalism).

Kolbert also goofed up some numbers in 2007 in her profile of Amory Lovins, the famous environmental genius and “natural capitalist” who, unlike Kolbert, prefers practical, pragmatic, market-driven solutions to energy conservation instead of government micro-fiat.

Here’s what I wrote in my Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column:

“After confusingly toting up how many hundreds of billions Americans spend on gas, oil and energy each year, she concluded that ‘In 2007, total energy expenditures in the U.S. will come to more than a quadrillion dollars, or roughly a tenth of the country’s gross domestic product.’

“Quadrillion — Kolbert actually meant ‘a trillion dollars.’ And the annual U.S. GDP is about $13 trillion, not $10 quadrillion, as she implied. This time Kolbert was wrong by only a factor of 1,000.”

Kolbert’s chronic numbers problem isn’t the point. It’s not even really her fault. Copy editors are supposed to save her by catching such embarrassments as speeding ice sheets before they appear in print.

You can’t really blame Kolbert for her apocalyptic climatology or her god-awful politics, both of which make her New Yorker-safe. She is what she is — an G-W alarmist Bible thumper on a mission to save the world.

The people who deserve the blame for Kolbert are the people who run The New Yorker. They’re the ones who feature her relentless proselytizing and moralizing and pass it off as the thoughts of a reasonable journalist.

My pal Michael Challik, the great veteran “shooter” at KDKA TV and a born Dutchman, did me a great favor the other day by translating part of a video interview with Steinbeck-chaser Geert Mak.

Mak, a famous and renowned Dutch journalist/historian/author,  also retraced Steinbeck’s “Charley” route in the fall of 2010 and wrote a big fat, footnoted book that became a best-seller in Holland. Mak’s book, “Travels Without John in Search of America,” is being translated into English. Mak kindly mentions me about a dozen times, favorably.

Unfortunately, the book, like the video interview, is in Dutch.

Here’s a link to the video — Geert Mak talks about the journalism & politics of “Bill Steigerwald.”

And here’s the translation of the 5-minute video, courtesy of the kind Michael Challik:

 Geert Mak is lying awake thinking of the competition.

You think you have designed a great plan, but one afternoon in a little town, Lancaster, we were looking for a place John Steinbeck had stayed.  The night, a motel, pouring down rain, got out at a gas station, asked where is the motel from the 1960’s.  I can still see him, a hat on turned backwards, “Oh Steinbeck! Right?”

(The service station attendant continues.) “Yesterday, there was also somebody here.” So you think you’re the only one.  Real quickly Googled, wondering who that could be, and got the answer in about three minutes.  Bill Steigerwald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, retired journalist.  Did exactly the same, except took off half-an-hour sooner.  We left at at 8:30…he left at 8, so we just missed him on the ferry to the mainland.

Bill wrote in his blog on the ferry at 8:45 where he met a third journalist, a guy called  John Woesdijk (sp?), who was walking the route with a dog for a dog magazine.  Later we found out that there was a fourth.  She was with the Washington Post with her Mum.  The last two I didn’t hear anything from again.  All four wanted to follow Steinbeck’s route, but Bill S., I must be honest, tried to follow Steinbeck’s whole route.  I must say I couldn’t agree with his political views, to say the least, but he did describe the route very precisely, like where Steinbeck bought his gun, with all kinds of movies, including if you would like to follow the route through his eyes.  I really recommend his website.

QUESTION: You didn’t have any contact with him?

ANSWER: Oh yeah, later on we talked a lot about it.  I really did want to talk to him because I really did find – even though he had opinions on     Obama, etc. – he was very dedicated, and he did it by himself, and he was the only one who     was roughing it, because Steinbeck stayed in hotels mostly.  Bill really roughed it out.  I got a lot of respect for him, but I thought the only thing I can do is to use him in my book…and so it goes.

But as soon as my book was finished, I wrote him – and he had also heard of me. He heard about a book in Holland, and we talked openly and frequently, and we are planning in our lives absolutely to come together, and with a great glass of beer and talk about world problems and solve them by the end of the afternoon.

QUESTION: He is an arch-conservative, right-winger Republican?

ANSWER: No, no!  He would get real mad if you tell him that, because he really didn’t like George W. Bush.  He is a Libertarian thinker.  No, No I am a half-Socialistic, latte drinking, French loving, Volvo driving, European.

So I was really different, but Steigerwald found out that Steinbeck said things in his book that were absolutely not true, and I also discovered that too.  Because if you follow Steinbeck’s journey you find, for instance, he went fishing a whole afternoon with a companion, and talks about his marriage etc., but supposedly on the same day when you follow his iterinerary he drove 400-450 miles.  You can’t be fishing in the beginning of the afternoon – and then drive 450-miles. So you find a lot of discrepancies.

approvedThe Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a pitiful guest op-ed advertisement extolling the importance of young people signing up for ObamaCare on March 19.

Michael Maher of Dormont, PA,  a healthy young man of 27, told how he was saved from a life of certain blindness by the benefits of ObamaCare. He urged all young people like him to heed his tale and sign up for the Affordable Care Act by March 31.

The article’s provenance smells fishy (Maher should look for a career in newspaper editorial writing, if he really wrote it, or send a thank you card to the P-G editor who rewrote it for him).

The article also was cloudy on some of the facts that would have made Maher’s pitch a little less persuasive to those not working on behalf of the Obama administration.

Here’s the comment I lodged at PG online:

So let’s get this straight: A young man of 27 who’s smart enough to craft a perfectly written endorsement/testimonial for the Affordable Care Act was not smart enough to know that he should spend 70 bucks of his own money to have his own eyes checked?

He had to wait until the fabulous ACA came along and saved him from the possibility of a future of blindness? It’s great that he’s only paying 25 bucks a month for his government-subsidized health care; it’s great that his eyes were Ok.

It would have been helpful to have included the price of that “pricey” Optical Coherence Tomography/Nerve Fiber Analysis in his inspiring tale. It’s about $125. A latte a day at his coffee shop, no doubt.

I tried to find out if eye care for adults is covered by the ACA. It is for kids under 19. I’m not going to waste my time looking through the umpteen-thousand pages of the ACA to find out how or if healthy adults are covered.

But it looks like if you qualify for Medicaid, you can get someone else to pay for your eye care. Is our young man on Medicaid? I don’t know. That fact might spoil his testimonial.

What is that 111 dollar tax credit all about — who is paying Highmark for that each month? The state. The feds?

We’ve been told all the “good” things — all the benefits to the recipient — of virtually “free” or heavily subsidized health care. We’ve not heard about the costs.

Someone bears them, but it wasn’t our healthy young man with the suspiciously high op-ed writing skills.

And here’s what Mr. Maher is doing when he’s not writing phony plugs for the subsidized joys of ObamaCare — helping to sign up the Dormont folk for his man Obama’s Affordable Care Act….  

Organizing for Action

South Hills Get Out The Vote Meeting (Neighborhood Team Meeting)
Join us in Dormont as we talk about what’s going on in the campaign in the next two weeks, and how you can get involved in your neighborhood!
Time:
Host:
Michael Maher
Location:
South Hills Office (Pittsburgh, PA)
2895 West Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216