"They still haven't caught the guy that killed JFK. I'll get killed for saying this,
but I'm pretty sure those guys are still in power, in some form. The entire
government of the United States was co-opted..."
-- Bruce Willis, talking to Vanity Fair Link Michelle Obama appears to have become an effective campaigner pretty quickly. American health care pisses me off Here are two tidbits about American healthcare that have nothing in common except that they piss me off. First, from Ezra Klein:

One aspect of the uninsured crisis that often gets referenced, but rarely receives much focus, is the difference between what the insured and the uninsured pay for the same treatments....A new study found that the uninsured paid, on average, 2.5 times what the insured pay, and three times what Medicare pays. So a procedure that hospitals charge Medicare $100 for would cost the uninsured $307.

It's bad enough being refused insurance because you have a preexisting condition. But it's outrageous that our healthcare system then turns around and flagrantly gouges the very people it refused to insure in the first place. Not to mention the ones who can't afford insurance and therefore are the least able to afford being gouged. It's shameful.

And then there's this from Shannon Brownlee's review in our current issue of How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman:

On average, a doctor interrupts a patient who is describing her symptoms within about twelve seconds.

This is like that proverbial picture that's worth a thousand words. I won't bore you with a rant about it today, but the constellation of issues that revolves around this one sentence probably represents the single thing that most annoys me about doctors and medicine on a purely personal, day-to-day basis. How about you?

Military health care pisses me off, too Six months: Length of backlog veterans face when filing disability claims with the Veterans Affairs Department — “about six times longer than is typical in the private sector.” VA records show that “pending disability claims with the VA take an average of 177 days to process,” but “for some, the wait time is almost a year.”

OK, now I'm blind with rage “The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990,” according to the group Save the Children, which “placed the country last in its child survival rankings. One in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching their fifth birthday in 2005.”

What the people are saying Some really, really interesting new poll numbers on the Dems and Iraq are just out from CNN.

"Iraq is worse than Vietnam in so many ways.
We knew what we were getting into in Vietnam.
We didn't in Iraq."
-- Andrew Krepinevich Jr. Vietnam scholar, Link

Don’t ask, don’t tell, then re-enlist. “Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Knight says the U.S. Navy knew he was gay, discharged him after he admitted his sexuality, and then re-called him last year to serve in the Middle East.” Carpetbagger has much more HERE.

September in Iraq. Beside the famous Cole Porter song, September, it seems, is the new moment of truth for the occupation in Iraq. Question: what is it that makes September the moment of truth, other than the fact that it's about the last possible moment when a major change in policy could have a significant effect on the November 2008 election?

Corruption watch Feds' Alaskan corruption investigation bears down on Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AK) son, Alaska state senator Ben Stevens.

"I believe that Ronald Reagan can make this country what it once was,
...an arctic region, covered in ice.."
-- Steve Martin, 20 years ago

Insight from TV? On Sunday night’s episode of “The Sopranos,” Carmela Soprano is seen reading a peculiar book in bed: Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes’ “Rebel in Chief,” an admiring character study of President Bush. Asked about what lessons a mafia wife might take away from his book, Barnes replied, “there is a theory that the mafia represents a certain conservatism — unrestricted capitalism and traditionalism.” Well, there's that penchant for violence thing, too....

Repugs help Big Pharma again Senate conservatives “effectively killed a measure that would have let Americans buy prescription medicines from foreign suppliers, which sponsors said could have saved consumers billions of dollars.” A ‘poison pill’ amendment from Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) passed 49-40 in a “major victory for the pharmaceutical industry.

Neocon media Associated Press played for fools as yet another GOP hit on Nancy Pelosi goes down in flames.

Don't forget A TPM reader offers a powerful reminder from the war's home front: there is nothing romantic about death and suffering.

Obama does Detroit -- with courage and integrity Brad Plumer: "The knock against Obama is that he often shies away from confrontation, but yesterday he did waltz into a room full of Detroit businessmen and lecture them about the need for stricter fuel-economy standards. (The speech itself was pretty harsh, and he didn't exactly draw applause with lines like this: "Even as [automakers] shed thousands of jobs... over the last few years, they've continued to reward failure with lucrative bonuses for CEOs.") Good for him. The US auto companies are sort of sitting ducks for criticism at this point, but the car industry is probably the toughest one for a Democrat to take on thanks to the UAW and the general swinginess of Michigan.

The old boys love that testosterone Jon Chait takes a look at the continuing conservative love of "swagger" no matter how many inept, corrupt fools it winds up leading them to embrace.

Neocon media Mitt Romney says that in France they now have 7-year mariage contracts — and the Washington Post reports this howler without comment. But Mark Kleiman has a comment:

As embarrassed as Romney should be, the Washington Post should be more embarrassed. Doesn't saying something checkably — and hilariously — false count as gaffe? And shouldn't Romney now be asked to explain his remark? If the Post won't do it, everyone else should.

At first I was thinking about relating this to the demise of foreign bureaus among American media outlets. In the past, they could have just called their guy in Paris and fact checked this in a couple of minutes.

But then I remembered that the Post is one of the few newspapers in America that does still have a sizable stable of foreign bureaus, including one in Paris. So what's their excuse? Beats me.

We're supposed to fear these guys? Federal authorities have arrested six men who were plotting to kill American soldiers at Ft. Dix in New Jersey. From the Washington Post:

Charging document filed in federal court in Camden yesterday portray an ambitious and cold-blooded — but somewhat bungling — cadre who hoped to kill at least 100 soldiers, but also dropped training videos off at a local store to be copied, and spoke openly to a Philadelphia police sergeant about obtaining maps of Fort Dix.

....In March of 2006, an FBI informant established a relationship with one of the men believed to be in the videotape....The informants convinced members of the group that they could help them obtain automatic weapons to use in their attacks.

....Their training regimen included playing paintball, the docments say.

Let me get this striaght: these guys dropped off jihadi videos at a local store, talked to Philly cops about getting a map of Ft. Dix, were still trying to procure weapons after 17 months of planning, and practiced for the attack by playing paintball.

This reminds me of that guy who planned to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Or those dudes who wanted to destroy the Sears Tower but couldn't even afford to buy boots and rental cars, let alone explosives. Or Jose Padilla, who, it turns out, was a deluded schmoe who didn't really have serious plans to do much of anything.

Is al-Qaeda recruiting these doofuses just to lull us into a false sense of security? Or maybe they're Jon Stewart fans and want to provide him with fresh material?

We'll have to see how this one pans out. But it's worth remembering that we're coming up on the one year anniversary of the raid on the headquarters of the 'Seeds of David' terror cult in Liberty City Florida.

It's always hard for me to see how these aren't as serious as they appear. But there is a record.

The Carpetbagger Report gives a skeptic's attention to this one.

First, it’s worth noting that today’s success was due to intelligence gathering and law-enforcement efforts — the very techniques the Bush White House has consistently ridiculed as ineffective in counterterrorism. For that matter, as Steve M. noted, "[A]pparently no warrantless wiretapping led to these arrests, no torture of suspects in overseas prisons, nothing liberals have objected to in the Patriot Act. Remember that when you’re told that these arrests prove that we can’t trust liberals and Democrats."

Oil for food scandal It's almost a forgotten chapter of blog wingnuttia, that oil for food scandal which was going to take down every politician in the world that the wingnuts didn't like, or something. It was never quite clear. Anyway, maybe it'll get one after all.

Chevron, the second-largest American oil company, is preparing to acknowledge that it should have known kickbacks were being paid to Saddam Hussein on oil it bought from Iraq as part of a defunct United Nations program, according to investigators. The admission is part of a settlement being negotiated with United States prosecutors and includes fines totaling $25 million to $30 million, according to the investigators, who declined to be identified because the settlement was not yet public.... According to the Volcker report, surcharges on Iraqi oil exports were introduced in August 2000 by the Iraqi state oil company, the State Oil Marketing Organization. At the time, Condoleezza Rice, now secretary of state, was a member of Chevron’s board and led its public policy committee, which oversaw areas of potential political concerns for the company.

Ms. Rice resigned from Chevron’s board on Jan. 16, 2001, after being named national security advisor by President Bush.


There ain't no way to hide ... Eric Alterman writes: I hope it's no secret to anyone that I published a book in 2004 called When Presidents Lie. The thesis of my argument was that while deception often appears politically attractive to chief executives in the short term, it is just about always a mistake because reality cannot be lied away. Instead of dealing with the problems created by the reality, politicians end up dealing with the consequences of their lies and ignoring the actual problem with which they were dealing in the first place. Left ignored, this problem tends to metastasize and comes back, almost inevitably, to bite the liar in the backside.

The dynamic I describe is on display, I think, in this story, in which we learn:

Recently unclassified documents suggest that senior officers viewed the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha in late 2005 as a potential public relations problem that could fuel insurgent propaganda against the American military, leading investigators to question whether the officers' immediate response had been intentionally misleading.

Col. R. Gary Sokoloski, a lawyer who was chief of staff to Maj. General Richard A. Huck, the division commander, approved a news release about the killings that investigators interviewing him in March 2006 suggested was "intentionally inaccurate" because it stated, contrary to the facts at hand, that the civilians had been killed by an insurgent's bomb.

According to a transcript of the interview, Colonel Sokoloski told the investigators, "We knew the, you know, the strategic implications of being permanently present in Haditha and how badly the insurgents wanted us out of there."

But Colonel Sokoloski told them he believed that the news release was accurate as written. "At the time," he said, "given the information that was available to me and the objective to get that out for the press" before insurgents put out their own information, "that is what we went with."

So you see. The truth was considered too damaging at the time to be released, and so a lie was constructed. But the truth was known to the people in the area and created the exact problem that could have been predicted. Add to that the additional problems that were created by the lies.

And by the way, no one should be shocked by these massacres in times of war. Everyone who voted for and supported the war was voting for and supporting massacres. They are inevitable in war, particularly in guerrilla wars. Some wars are worth it. But I would submit that this war, entirely predictably, was not.

Thoughts on Gonzo Since Alberto Gonzales is now among the political undead -- not alive, but unvanquishable in his own liminal existence -- I guess it can't be called a death of a thousand cuts. But there's still something almost lyrical in the campaign of leaks congressional investigators are putting in his path.

As you know, Gonzales is returning to Capitol Hill on Thursday to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Time now reports that Kyle Sampson told congressional investigators "three times in as many minutes that Gonzales was angry with McNulty because he had exposed the White House's involvement in the firings had put it's role "in the public sphere," as Sampson phrased it, according to Congressional sources familiar with the interview."

The earlier story was the Gonzales was upset with McNulty's testimony because he'd conceded that there was no reason for Bud Cummins' removal other than the desire to replace him with someone else.

I'm very curious to see how this goes on Thursday (and of course we'll be bringing you wall to wall coverage). The real work of investigations usually takes place in private staff interviews. The public ones, especially the televised ones, get too wound up in theatrics and drawn out verbiage. Not enough pointed question and follow-up.

But Alberto Gonzales has been caught in so many lies at this point -- lies from his own mouth and others on his behalf from staffers -- that I'm not sure how he'd get out of the hearing room in one piece if the members of the committee really went for a pointed examination.

Brave, brave Sir Reagan

Ten Republican presidential candidates wanting to succeed President Bush embraced a more popular president, conservative icon Ronald Reagan, at every turn in their first debate of the 2008 race.

-- AP

When it came to defeating the Soviets, Ronald Reagan made it simple: "We win, they lose." Now more than ever, the defeatists in Congress must hear that same message. America will never surrender.

-- WeWinTheyLose.com

I realize that the right is now in the middle of another bout of Reagan hagiography; he is, after all, the patron saint of all modern conservatism, a man who ballooned federal spending, created crushing deficits, and ended his term in the scandal of Iran-Contra, but had great hair and knew how to stand on his mark. He was the defining example of stern-sounding but goofily muddling father figure in the finest conservative mold, a man who with a cadre of speechwriters finely perfected the art of whittling the coarser stuff of conservatism into something that looked and sounded, you know, not entirely evil, and a man who, above all, would go where he was told, read what he was given, with panache, hand out platitudes like saltwater taffy, and then retreat back into the White House so that the hardcore conservatives in his administration could proceed with reforming the American government into corporate welfare state that looked nothing like that of his teary-eyed, well-vocalized speeches.

So believe me, I get why they like him. Reagan was made for the era: in the time of hair rock, when talent was completely and utterly indistinguishable from fashion, Ronald Reagan was the hair president. His coif was one of destiny: his hair glistened in ways that his soul never quite could. He was a handsome actor of middling quality at a time in American life when being a handsome actor of middling quality was the very best thing you could possibly be, in any profession, in any situation, in any corner of the national zeitgeist. And excesses of both rock and presidency were evolutions from what previously were dark days indeed -- while the fashions and rock of the eighties rapidly were evolving into clothes and hair so expansive that they required elaborate scaffolding, steelwork and cocaine to support them, the seventies had previously been so monstrous that the fashion-humiliated country was not only prepared but vaguely grateful for the gratuitously shallow (but nevertheless high-drama) change.

Ditto on the presidency, in which after two fairly lackluster transitional presidents Reagan and Reagan's glistening coif took over the conservative mantle from the disgraced, now-let-us-never-speak-of-him-again Nixon. Reagan succeeded in bringing the hard-right conservatives back into power, allowing them freer rein than Nixon himself ever did, and Reagan even managed to eclipse Nixon in the very, very important conservative presidential duty of doing something completely frigging illegal, extraconstitutional, and blasphemous against the very concept of America, giving seed to a new crop of conservative felons and near-felons to be worshiped as martyrs by the far right.

Nixon provided the movement with G. Gordon Liddy; Reagan gave us Oliver North. You can find them both, along with others, on Fox News and other conservative outlets to this day, neatly packaged reformed crooks, which in conservatism passes for nobility. And Reagan himself, of course, maintained plausible deniability, which from the multiple Bush eras we have now learned is the entire difference between conservative presidential hero and conservative presidential chump.

Action alert According to Matt Stoller, there's a possibility that the Armed Services Committee will include a restoration of habeas corpus into the Defense Department authorization bill in the committee mark up of it, which is happening tomorrow and Thursday. Congressional Democrats now have the opportunity to undo the most egregious damage they've done to the Constitution with the Military Commissions Act. While the ACLU and other organizations are working to have the entire Act repealed, at the very least restoring habeas is a critical start. Here's what Matt found out about the prospects for the including the provision in the mark up process:

Apparently Chairman Skelton has the votes but there are concerns about whether to have this fight now.

Now's the time to let them know that this is something that we elected them to get done. There's a bit of fear that this vote could put freshmen members at risk, though I don't really know why as the data on this isn't compelling and the attack ads just didn't work in 2006.

The most important members to contact are Ike Skelton, antiwar freshmen, and members of the Armed Services Committee.

The Center for Constitutional Rights developed this set of talking points on habeas corpus to use when contacting your representatives.

  1. Habeas corpus is a core principle of the Western legal system. Since 1215, habeas corpus has been a major mechanism in ensuring that executive power, whether exercised by a king or a president, is checked.
  1. Our nation’s founders deemed the right of habeas corpus so important that they enshrined it into the Constitution.
  1. Habeas corpus can be suspended by Congress only in times of rebellion or invasion, and neither is currently taking place.
  1. Habeas corpus is a core democratic principle. If we are to continue to think of the United States as a free and democratic country, it is very important that we hold on to our Constitutional principles.
  1. The Bush administration's "alternative procedure" – the Combatant Status Review Tribunal – is no substitute for habeas corpus. In the unfair and deeply flawed CSRT process, coerced evidence and secret evidence are allowed, and detainees cannot have an attorney represent them.
  1. The detainees, many of whom are guilty of only being in the wrong place at the wrong time, have lost years of their lives due to the actions of the Bush administration. They must be given the right to challenge their detention so that these wrongs can begin to be righted.
  1. People and countries around the world view the United States as lawless. We can begin to change that by restoring the right of habeas corpus to the almost 400 detainees at Guantánamo

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (202) 225-4965
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, (202) 225-4131

Armed Services Committee Democrats

Ike Skelton, Missouri, Chairman, 202-225-2876
John Spratt, South Carolina, 202-225-5501
Solomon P. Ortiz, Texas, (202) 225-7742
Gene Taylor, Mississippi, 202 225-5772
Neil Abercrombie, Hawaii, (202) 225-2726
Marty Meehan, Massachusetts, (202) 225-3411
Silvestre Reyes, Texas, (202) 225-4831
Vic Snyder, Arkansas, 202-225-2506
Adam Smith, Washington, (202) 225-8901
Loretta Sanchez, California, 202-225-5859
Mike McIntyre, North Carolina, (202) 225-2731
Ellen O. Tauscher, California, (202) 225-1880
Robert A. Brady, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4731
Robert Andrews, New Jersey, 202-225-6501
Susan A. Davis, California, (202) 225-2040
Rick Larsen, Washington, (202) 225-2605
Jim Cooper, Tennessee, 202-225-4311
Jim Marshall, Georgia, 202-225-4311
Madeleine Z. Bordallo, Guam, (202) 225-1188
Mark Udall, Colorado, (202) 225-2161
Dan Boren, Oklahoma, (202) 225-2701
Brad Ellsworth, Indiana, (202) 225-4636
Nancy Boyda, Kansas, (202) 225-6601
Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-4276
Hank Johnson, Georgia, (202) 225-1605
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire,(202) 225-5456
Joe Courtney, Connecticut, (202) 225-2076
David Loebsack, Iowa, 202.225.6576
Kirsten Gillibrand, New York, (202) 225-5614
Joe Sestak, Pennsylvania, (202) 225-2011
Gabrielle Giffords, Arizona, (202) 225-2542
Elijah Cummings, Maryland, (202) 225-4741
Kendrick Meek, Florida, 202-225-4506
Kathy Castor, Florida, (202)225-3376

Submitted by RKing on