Filtered news 7/12

Cabin Boy. Henry David Thoreau was born 190 years ago today. He told the world to "Simplify! Simplify!" Clearly a Mac user.

Vile moron of the day: , with an assist from . (See the original column .) Thomas' political point is stupid enough. Democrats are in a double-bind with conservative wankers like him: if they keep their faith to themselves, they're called immoral atheists. If they talk about it, they're labeled disingenuous liars, and the quality of their faith is called into question. But the biblical and theological underpinnings of Thomas' critique would get him laughed out of any seminary not run out of a trailer behind a fried-chicken shack. His arguments boil down to three main points:

  1. There is no such thing as a social gospel, therefore Hillary is a phony.
  1. Hillary Clinton doesn't claim to know the mind of God. Therefore, Hillary is a phony.
  1. Hillary Clinton doesn't claim to know whether or not belief in Jesus is the only possible path to salvation. Therefore, Hillary is a phony.

This is, simply put, utter horsesh*t.

Bush insanity watch Fred Kaplan takes a at President Bush's ridiculous Iraq 'progress' report. : "This progress report is like the guy who’s falling from a 100-story building and says half-way down that ‘everything’s fine.’" And he'll do Iran, too, if he wants to: As the president told us again today, he'll veto any bill that will tie his hands on doing whatever he wants in Iraq. We know that. But not many people seemed to notice that he also told Congress he'd veto any measure that would limit his ability to .

It makes me feel so.... dirty White House review of White House Iraq policy deems ; White House decides, based on the report, to continue with its same policy. There's something, I dunno, degrading about this exercise. Bush is the Bush. The Republicans plus Joe Lieberman constitute a majority of the Senate. As few as 34 Senators can uphold Bush's vetos. Bush has no practical need to do anything other than keep playing the role of petulant boy-king. Why the pretense? I have in my inbox a ""Benchmark Report Fact Check" email that is, of course, devastating. H.

Sore losers. In retribution for losing a Maine House seat to a Democrat in a special election, that state's most prominent hate group, the Christian Civic League, has "outed" the Kennebec County Democratic chair as---GASP!---a . These polyester-clad nitwits, who are proud members of the "Harry Potter is Satan" crowd, went so far as to snoop around Rita Moran's property and of objects in her backyard in the dead of night. How rude. They didn’t even have the courtesy to mow the grass. Y'know, none of this religious friction would happen if you people just followed the Pope's orders and . (You do know you get a free pair of red slippers just for joining, right? They's wicked comfy...)

Really stupid Repug Sandy Rios attacks the San Diego Padres for having a giveaway night for kids the same night as a gay pride event hosted by the club. She made reference to what "they" would be doing at the halftime show. Of course, it would help is she knew baseball doesn't have halftimes.

Waiting for the truth about waiting Business Week finally runs an article stating the obvious: for all the conservative shrieking about wait times for medical care in countries with universal healthcare systems,

If you find a suspicious-looking mole and want to see a dermatologist, you can expect an average wait of 38 days in the U.S....Got a knee injury?....Nationwide, the average is 17 days. "Waiting is definitely a problem in the U.S., especially for basic care," says Karen Davis, president of the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund, which studies health-care policy.

All this time spent "queuing," as other nations call it, stems from too much demand and too little supply. Only one-third of U.S. doctors are general practitioners, compared with half in most European countries. On top of that, only 40% of U.S. doctors have arrangements for after-hours care, vs. 75% in the rest of the industrialized world. Consequently, some 26% of U.S. adults in one survey went to an emergency room in the past two years because they couldn't get in to see their regular doctor, a significantly higher rate than in other countries.

There is no systemized collection of data on wait times in the U.S. That makes it difficult to draw comparisons with countries that have national health systems, where wait times are not only tracked but made public. However, a 2005 survey by the Commonwealth Fund of sick adults in six nations found that only 47% of U.S. patients could get a same- or next-day appointment for a medical problem, worse than every other country except Canada.

Anyone who's ever dealt with the healthcare system in the United States — and that's almost all of us — knows perfectly well that we often have long waits to make appointments. As in other countries, emergency care is generally pretty quick, but nonemergency care is queued up based on the seriousness of the problem and the availability of doctors. Our wait times are generally pretty good in the specific category of nonemergency surgeries like hip replacements (though the numbers are inflated because we don't count the people who can't get nonemergency surgery at all because they're uninsured), but this is hardly surprising since we also spend twice as much money per patient as anybody else. Combine our spending levels with a more rational universal system and we could do even better.

Let's Impeach the president for Lying Either way.

Gross idolatry "When you stand up and are arrested, and the Hindu is allowed to go free, this country has gone upside-down." That's what Rev. Flip Benham, the guy behind today's incident in the senate, told TPM's Eric Kleefeld when he interviewed him this afternoon. See the here. Having a Hindu chaplain give a routine invocation in the United States Senate turns out to be one of the more traumatic things that's happened to American fundamentalists of late. From the perennially outraged and aggressively creepy American Family Association, via John at :

"In Hindu, you have not one God, but many, many, many, many, many gods," [David Barton] explains. "And certainly that was never in the minds of those who did the Constitution, did the Declaration [of Independence] when they talked about Creator -- that's not one that fits here because we don't know which creator we're talking about within the Hindu religion."

Hmm...

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. -- Thomas Jefferson, 1782

Dumbasses. I guess they're going to have to boycott Jefferson now.

Pay attention to this quote from George Bush,

"The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America," he said. "After all, you just go to an emergency room."

Did somebody actually write that line for him? Was it ad libbed? I mean, WTF? Does Bush really believe that emergency rooms are a great way of providing medical care for poor people?

And as long as we're on the subject, it's worth noting that emergency rooms have only been required to treat all patients regardless of ability to pay since the 1986 passage of the EMTALA Act. The Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations, unsurprisingly, did little to enforce it. Bill Clinton tried to step up enforcement in 1994, but in 2003, after Bush Jr. became president, he approved new rules that loosened EMTALA regulations. And of course Republicans routinely complain about EMTALA to this day, calling it a "hidden tax" on the insured and railing against the fact that it doesn't allow hospitals to dump illegal immigrants with heart attacks in the gutter. Long story short, the GOP is not exactly a stronghold of support for emergency room care for the poor. Bush might want to keep that in mind.

SiCKO As threatened, I saw SiCKO this afternoon. Great film. Everybody is right: it's Michael Moore's best picture yet, a genuinely moving and effective piece of policy evangelism. The Cuba stuff at the end was hardly necessary since he'd already rammed his point home by then, and the film probably would have been better without it on both artistic and political grounds. Still, top marks. Go see it. Interesting side note: I have a review of Jon Cohn's book in the Columbia Journalism Review this month (not online, sorry), and the nickel version is: great book, but too bad somebody can't give Cohn a grant to head over to Europe and report on their healthcare system the same way he's reported on ours. Moore's movie really drives this point home, because its great strength comes from comparing our healthcare system directly to European and Canadian healthcare systems, which most Americans have been scared into believing are basically third-world hellholes. Needless to say, the truth is just the opposite. It would be nice to have a book version of that story in addition to the movie/polemic version.

Politician for sale Fred Thompson explains that , but willing to take pro-choice positions in exchange for money! Raise your hand if you're impressed by the depth of his commitment to the sanctity of life.

The evil of privatization/outsourcing This literally makes me so angry that my hands are shaking as I type this. For all the rhetoric that gets spun out in the media that the anti-war movement is hurting the troops, here is very real, very tangible proof that the troops ARE being hurt. But not by those of us who want them out of harm’s way. No, they’re being hurt by those who decided to send them there. :

A study completed in late June by the Pentagon’s Inspector General concludes that the Department of Defense (DoD) has risked the lives of U.S. troops in Iraq due to malfeasance in awarding and monitoring contracts for badly-needed armored vehicles. The study, which was requested by Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York, found that since 2000 the DoD has awarded “sole-source” contracts valued at $2.2 billion to just two companies, Force Protection, Inc.(FPI) and Armor Holdings, Inc (AHI). Inspector General auditors found that the Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) made these two companies the sole providers of armored vehicles and armor kits for troops, despite knowing that other suppliers may have produced the equipment so desperately needed in Iraq substantially faster. Both manufacturers fell far behind delivery schedules, while AHI also produced inadequate and faulty equipment.

has really been at the forefront of . Please give her some props for her hard work and commitment.

Keith guts it out Keith Olbermann lets the Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, know how insecure the homeland must be if we are to rely on his “gut.” (1381) | (1595) (439) | (595) (last few seconds were clipped) "So there are your choices: bureaucratic self-protection, political manipulation of the worst kind, the dropping of opaque hints, a gaffe backfilled by an “instant report,” or the complete disintegration of our counter-terror effort. Even if there really is never another terror attempt in this country, we have already lost too much in these last six years, to now have to listen to Michael Chertoff’s gut, no matter what its motivation." John Amato: “I wrote about Chertoff’s “gut” remark the other day which resonated throughout the and said he should be . O’Reilly liked it because he’s paid to say that about “Chertgut.”….Olbermann had a few choice words of his own.” -19263" class="more-link">(Read the rest of this story…)

Too easy Jim Geraghty that Tony Snow is calling for a "surge of facts." I presume that means he'll be resigning.

New old kids on the block. After weeks of speculation that former MyDD honchos Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller had become mountain men in the Appalachian wilderness (not that there's anything wrong with that), they thankfully resurfaced with a new blog called "Open Left." I must say, I've never seen . (Ha, made ya look. We hope.)

Lying with statistics Jessica Valenti's about an HHS website that's been altered to inform readers that "Abortions can have complications. There may be emotional consequences, as well: some women say that they feel sad and some use more alcohol or drugs than before." The real genius of this bit of trickery is that it is, of course, true. Given that a reasonable large number of abortions are performed each year, it would be astounding if "some" women didn't "use more alcohol or drugs" after their abortion than before it. Conversely, I'm willing to venture that "some" women use less. You could probably make this claim to come out however you want to. "Some" women who've had abortions become thieves, "some" get run over by buses, etc.

Scream at the spineless Democrat : "The White House scored a win Thursday on Capitol Hill after a moderate Senate Democrat broke with his party to restore funding for Vice President Dick Cheney’s office. The 15-14 vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee came after the House last month narrowly rejected a companion bid to punish Cheney in a continuing battle over whether he is complying with national security disclosure rules.... Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., switched his position from a subcommittee vote Tuesday." I think deserves a piece of all of our minds…for crying out loud, how tiresome to see the lack of spine in these guys. on yet another spineless vote that Nelson is likely to make.

A Reuters photographer yesterday took a picture of President Bush’s welcoming journalists to the new White House briefing room. As On Deadline notes, “As you can see, the speech has been marked up and includes a large ‘X’ through this section: ‘And there’s no truth to the rumor some of those new seats can be .’”

Roger Ebert on the

This scares the hell out of me “Undercover Congressional investigators from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in March that would have allowed them to buy the radioactive materials needed for a so-called dirty bomb,” demonstrating once again that the security measures “to prevent radioactive materials from getting into the wrong hands are insufficient.”

Repug war on science continues Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona’s has once again highlighted the extent to which the Bush administration suppresses and manipulates science to fit their narrow ideological view. Whether it’s stem cell research, , the Plan B contraceptive, or abstinence-only education, they consistently put appeasing their extremist, fringe base over the interests of the country at large. CNN’s Christine Romans details the many battles in Bush’s War on Science. (1781) | (1507) (792) | (885)

TONY SNOW: But nobody, as far as I could tell, was, “muzzling” him. But on the other hand, there is certainly nothing scandalous about saying to somebody who was a presidential appointee, you should advocate the President’s policies.

That about says it all: If appointed by the Bush administration, you are required to advocate their policies, even if that means suppressing and distorting facts at the expense of the well-being of those you are in office to serve. The American Prospect’s Chris Mooney has written the on the GOP’s War on Science. You can see his keynote address to Planned Parenthood .

Today's must read: Harriet Miers blows off Congress, appropriately enough, .

Health care rationing I doubt there's anyone over the age of 25 who doesn't have extensive experience with this.

The will of the people Both the American public and the Iraqi public want us to leave Iraq. However, both the American government and the Iraqi government want us to stay. So we're staying. This is called "democracy promotion."

Straw man

Getting into Iraq was President Bush's decision, and history will judge his administration harshly for its mistakes in the postwar occupation. But getting out of Iraq is now partly in the hands of the Democrats who control both houses of Congress. History will be equally unforgiving if their agitation for withdrawal results in a pell-mell retreat that causes lasting damage.

Can we please cut the crap? There are virtually no Democrats — and certainly none with any real influence — who are advocating a pell-mell retreat. But for some reason every columnist in the world seems to find it necessary to warn us against this nonexistent straw man. Why?

Those of us who want to leave want to do it in an orderly way. If the Pentagon says it will take 12 months, that's fine. 18 months? Also fine. It just needs to be real. Nobody wants to endanger any American lives by ignoring legitimate force protection issues, and I'm really, really tired of lazy writers who continually imply otherwise on no basis at all. Knock it off.

The Great Gay Debate. The latest Democratic presidential dustup is scheduled for August 9. The event will---for the first time, mind you---focus on issues related to the . (Yes, the New York Times editorial board actually this week, but I digress...) At the same time, jeers to the debate's co-sponsor---the Human Rights Campaign---for , who would help keep the top-tier bunch from getting too slippery with their answers. With friends like these...

Happy 90th birthday to , the grand old man of realist painting. His works hang in the virtually every major art museum in the country. But I warn you...don’t ever hire him to come paint your living room, as he apparently has never heard of a DROP CLOTH!! See you in small claims court, pal.

Firefighters fighting Rudy You can see the web video at the website set up by the Firefighters at . Like the swiftboaters who targeted John Kerry in 2004, the New York City firefighters intend on following Rudy's every step as he campaigns for the Presidency. Unlike the swiftboaters, they will have the truth behind them. The president of the Fire Fighters Union for Tweety about the Rudy myth and his failures before and after 9/11. If you haven't seen the the firefighter just put out on Rudy, check it out. It's a must see.

R.I.P [Sigh] We all knew Lady Bird Johnson would die one day. I just never thought it would happen as she was fleeing from a botched bank heist in a 1938 Studebaker while brandishing a tommy gun. [Source: Conservapedia] She . Donations can be made to her . When you see Lyndon, ma'am, tell him we're still a little miffed over 'Nam.

Neocon media The press sure flushed this Scooter Libby down the memory hole. It's the one that showed, yet again, that a strong majority of Americans wanted Libby to serve out his jail sentence. Good luck finding lots of mainstream media references to it. But as this week, by not regularly citing the overwhelming polling data that showed Bush's decision to commute a felon's jail sentence was wildly unpopular, the press was able to adhere to one of its cardinal rules of covering this administration; never suggest the Bush White House is radical. Glenn Greenwald's , A Tragic Legacy, does a good job explaining just how radical it's been. I also wrote :

For the Beltway press, the Libby commutation was, at best, a three-day story. Yet try to imagine if, in 1995, President Clinton had stepped in and tossed out the 21-month jail sentence for Webster Hubbell, his senior aide and minor Whitewater player who was convicted of tax evasion. Would the press have treated that as a two- or three-day story?

Meanwhile, The Next Hurrah the Armitage straw man routinely used by the Libby sob mob.

Journalism revealed As much as I enjoyed Michael Moore's with CNN this week, in which Moore rightly pointed out he's held to a much higher standard by the mainstream media, which is obsessed with selectively his work, I enjoyed , televised showdown even more. It was between MSNBC's David Shuster, filling in for Hardball host Chris Matthews, interviewing war supporter Fouad Ajami. Ajami never had a chance. Recall that it was Ajami who wrote a wildly offensive column in the The Wall Street Journal comparing Scooter Libby to a fallen comrade in the war in Iraq and that Bush, following the Soldier's Creed, should never leave Libby behind on the battlefield. (Frank Rich clobbered Ajami .) Shuster was professional yet firm, pressing Ajami again and again how he could compare Libby, an East Coast elite who never served a day in the military, with soldiers being killed in Iraq. (I was just a metaphor, Ajami explained.) Shuster's handling of Ajami was satisfying in part because the unvarnished debate is so rare on television. As Steve Benen at TPM:

Ideally, this should be routine. A marginal neocon appeared on MSNBC to talk about a column he wrote a month ago. A professional broadcaster, who knew what he was talking about, pointed out the guest's errors of fact and judgment for the benefit of the television audience. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, this is what TV shows are supposed to do.

Excessive punishment. Over in Iran, a man was stoned to death for : "[Iranian Judiciary spokesman Ali Reza] Jamshidi did not elaborate on how the stoning was carried out. Under Islamic rulings, a man is usually buried up to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her neck with her hands also buried. Those carrying out the verdict then throw stones until the condemned dies." In response, U.S. Senator David Vitter issued a brief statement: "Dear Jesus, thank you thank you thank you for !" Please give a warm welcome to Senator Vitter, the newest member of the GOP . Swell bunch.

Your Molly Ivins Moment:

You have more political power than 99 percent of all the people who ever lived on this planet. You can not only vote, you can register other people to vote, round up your friends, get out and do political education, talk to people, laugh with people, call the radio, write the paper, write your elected representatives, use your email list, put up signs, march, volunteer, and raise hell. All your life, no matter what else you do---butcher, baker, beggerman, thief, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief---you have another job, another responsibility: You are a citizen. It is an obligation that requires attention and effort. And on top of that, you should make it into a hell of a lot of fun. ---From Who Let the Dogs In?

Contempt This morning, Harriet Miers refused to appear after being subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee. I don't mean she refused to answer certain questions -- I mean she, through the White House, declared herself immune to subpoena, period.

This is -- yet again -- a remarkable situation. Harriet Miers isn't merely refusing to answer certain questions under the rubric of executive privilege, the White House is asserting that her very person is immune to constitutional oversight, and that thus she may ignore congressional subpoenas in their entirety.

That's an astonishing claim, if for no other reason than it is flatly, unambiguously, and laughably wrong. It's not even a debatable statement, but one of those now-regular White House quasilegal statements that mocks well-known and well-established laws to such an extent that no other conclusion can be reached but that the White House legal team is willfully setting out to break laws just to demonstrate that they can.

This is a very simple premise. A subpoena is never "optional". Whether you work in a McDonalds or in the White House legal department, if you are subpoenad by a body you are bound to appear. Once there, you may assert your rights, seeking the advice of counsel, refusing to incriminate yourself, or arguing that certain questions are privileged, but you may not assert that your entire presence is privileged by presidential decree. There is no such power -- it doesn't exist. When subpoenaed, you must respond. When asked to verify your name and are asked other basic questions, you must respond. Such questions are never -- never -- "protected" by executive privilege, and for Fred Fielding to claim that they are shows a contempt for the law -- and for Congress -- that is simply unprecedented even in this administration.

Harriet Miers' very existence is not something covered by presidential executive privilege. She may very well refuse to answer certain questions relating to White House conversations or advice, but it is absurd to claim that she, as a person, is immune to subpoena. No, strike that -- "absurd" is not the word. Contemptuous is the word.

This is astonishing. That this would have to be explained -- no, more than that, that this could even be argued -- is baffling. The only explanation is that the White House knows full well it is violating the law, and is counting on political actions by their own party to block prosecution of the transparent offense.

Harriet Miers, obviously, needs to be held in contempt of Congress. More to the point, since the Bush administration has indicated that the Department of Justice will as of now not enforce contempt charges brought by Congress, the House has no other option but to use its Constitutional powers of inherent contempt, and direct the Sergeant at Arms to enforce their subpoena by placing Miers in congressional custody.

Despite what others may say, this isn't a high stakes game. It isn't a "game" at all. The power of Congress to subpoena witnesses and have them appear is an absolute Constitutional power, and not one that can be ignored. It's high time for the White House legal team to understand where the boundaries of law are.

As for Fred Fielding, I heartily recommend to the Judiciary Committee that they subpoena him next, in order for him to explain to them why he believes "executive privilege" is so encompassing as to apply not just to certain types of testimony and documents, but that it extends to individuals themselves, based solely on presidential say-so.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican, “harshly criticized” President Bush yesterday for of his former aide, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice. “,” Cox said. “We can’t let people run from the obligation of telling the truth.”

How your credit cards are screwing you A friend of mine was recently telling me the story of how he had been automatically signed up in the fine print of a new credit card for some sort of insanely abusive overdraft protection from his bank. He eventually got rid of it, but then was forced to construct some kind of monstrous Rube Goldberg scheme to protect him from overdrafts without bankrupting him. I think it involved three linked credit cards, two checking accounts, a savings account with a permanent balance of five dollars, and a signed note from Alan Greenspan. Anyway,

Consumers are paying huge fees on short-term loans that cover them when they overdraw their checking accounts, under programs that banks and credit unions often enroll customers in without their knowledge, a new study says.....The study, released hours before a House hearing on a bill that would require clear disclosure of overdraft charges, estimated that the programs cost consumers $17.5 billion in fees last year, up sharply from $10.3 billion two years earlier....The fees now exceed the $15.8 billion a year that banks temporarily lend customers via the overdraft programs, according to CRL, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

Did you catch that? Last year banks levied finance charges fees of $17.5 billion on short-term loans of $15.8 billion. And they did this via programs most people don't even know they're enrolled in.

So: why are overdrafts up? Because use of debit cards is up, and a lot of people assume that a debit card transaction will be denied if the account has insufficient funds. And why is use of debit cards up? Because, as anyone who watches teevee knows, the banking industry has been pushing them with about the same zeal as a street corner crack merchant.

Still, times are tough. $7 billion in additional overdraft fees is probably barely keeping the industry afloat. That's why they needed the extra couple of billion they got from the passage of 2005's bankruptcy bill. That should keep the corporate jets fueled for another few months.

Yesterday on The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly expressed outrage over a decision by the San Diego Padres to host a children’s hat giveaway promotion and a gay pride night during the same baseball game. “So thousands of gay adults showed up and commingled with straight families,” said O’Reilly. “[C]lear-thinking people understand it is completely .” Is there a gay germ they could catch? Seriously, BillO, gays "comingle" with straights everywhere every day. Moron.

Published

July 13, 2007 - 9:51am

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