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Cheers to the State of the Union speech. Because without it, Senator Jim Webb wouldn’t have been able to put its contents into the and shred the president's scriptwriters' words into a fine powder. (Applause.)

Eating on the job. A few minutes into the speech, a frequently-distracted Dick Cheney snuck something in his mouth (nitroglycerin?) and proceeded to suck the life out of it. Ringing off the hook this morning: phones at the offices of child trauma counselors. (Our dog's still cowering behind the sofa.)

Historic firsts. The classiest moment of the speech actually put a lump in my throat:

Tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own---as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker.

In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Congratulations.

Just this once, my snark gun remains holstered.

Wow, this is quite a sight: Obama aggressively Fox News for spreading lies about him. Over at what Keith Olbermann now calls , they just can't back away from their attempt to slime Barack Obama. Not only did John Gibson repeat the lies long after they'd been debunked, he also repeated the bogus "it came from Hillary" assertion.

And since Fox follows the Bush administration's golden rule "when you're in a hole, dig faster," they've also gone after CNN's for calling them on their lies. Hilariously, Fox spokesperson Irena Briganti demeaned Cooper's reporting ability and called his correction of Fox's errors "a cry for help." Coming from a network whose sole purpose is whining, Cooper should take this as unvarnished praise.

The Obama lies are a model for the off-key moaning of the right's media machine. Fox ran the lies on two shows, and plastered it on Papa Murdoch's king of yellow journalism, the New York Post. From there it was picked up by right wingnut talk show hosts who to keep the swift boats sailing. This included Dan Caplis, who not only repeating Fox's false accusations about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but adding his own dash of nuttery by calling Obama's elementary school a "Muslim seminary."

As usual, no one on the right seems to be interested in facts when they've got a good character assassination underway, especially if they can sling mud at Obama and Hillary at the same time. Stopping now would be slander interruptus.

Weighing in today delivered his own verdict on the Fox follies.

"Insight Magazine published these allegations without a single named source, and without doing any independent reporting to confirm or deny the allegations. Fox News quickly parroted the charges, and Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy went so far as to ask, 'Why didn’t anybody ever mention that that man right there was raised — spent the first decade of his life, raised by his Muslim father — as a Muslim and was educated in a Madrassa?'

"All of the claims about Senator Obama raised in the Insight Magazine piece were thoroughly debunked by CNN, which, instead of relying on unnamed sources, sent a reporter to Obama’s former school in Jakarta to check the facts.

"If Doocy or the staff at Fox and Friends had taken [time] to check their facts, or simply made a call to his office, they would have learned that Senator Obama was not educated in a Madrassa, was not raised as a Muslim, and was not raised by his father -- an atheist Obama met once in his life before he died.

To think, some folks actually laughed when Hillary first talked about the "vast right wing conspiracy." Her office also a comment on the affair.

"This is a textbook example of how the other side works. A right-wing rag makes up a scurrilous charge and prints it with no real attribution. The smear gets injected into the atmosphere and picked up by talk radio. In this case both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton were victimized."

What a strange man. After disarmingly gracious opening remarks about Nancy Pelosi's speakership, the president congratulates the 'Democrat majority' -- words most every Democrat takes as a calculated insult. The prepared remarks say "Democratic majority". But apparently he couldn't help himself.

Evil Cheney OK, everyone who was really surprised by the revelation at the Scooter Libby trial that our vice president was drop your pants and start singing La Marseillaise with a dead chicken strapped to the side of your head. Thought so.

Titan of the West. Joe Klein pens a mostly-agreeable article on how Democrats are poised to . Our favorite paragraph is this:

I asked [Democratic Governor of Montana Brian] Schweitzer how a Democrat could sell that energy pitch in a presidential campaign. "I can do it in a 60-second spot," he said. "Put me on the clock." And he was off to the races:

"Folks, we've got a problem. We Americans use 6.5 billion bbl. of oil a year. We produce 2.5 billion ourselves. We import 4 billion from the world's worst dictators. We need to stop doing that. We can save 1 billion bbl. through conservation. Things like more efficient cars, homes and appliances. We can produce another 1 billion bbl. of biofuels with agricultural crops like corn, soybeans and canola. We can produce 2 billion bbl. a year turning our enormous coal reserves to clean-burning gas. We can achieve energy independence in 10 years, create a whole new industry with tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, and you'll never have to send your grandchildren to war in the Middle East. I'm Brian Schweitzer, and I approved this message."

Just look marvel at that. Clear problem/solution set-up. Short, punchy sentences. Direct, simple thoughts. Conviction and common sense. Hope and opportunity. And an effortless dig at the opposition. Quick, bronze him!

Not so fast there Dubya Bush said yesterday he has a “goal of reducing U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next 10 years.” The Washington Post notes the fine print: “Administration officials said that the goal is 20 percent below projected annual gasoline usage, not off today’s levels,” meaning “that carbon dioxide emissions from transportation fuels ; other parts of the economy produce the other two-thirds of greenhouse gases.”

What a change an election makes! The House yesterday joined the Senate and voted to strip pensions from lawmakers “convicted of crimes such as .”

Exposing religious hypocrisy. One of the films at the Sundance Film Festival explores the way a few passages in the Bible are used to justify violence and discrimination against Americans who ." For example, take a look at how the fundies edited this oft-cited rule:

---LEVITICUS 20:13

Tsk Tsk.

Toss an extra communion wafer to the Rev. Laurence Keens of Pepperdine University for this: "There's nothing wrong with a fifth-grade understanding of God [or the Bible], as long as you're in the fifth grade." Amen.

Cheers to the Academy For five amazing films in the 'Best Documentary' category yesterday: Deliver Us From Evil (about the Catholic sex abuse scandal), An Inconvenient Truth (preventing environmental Armageddon), Iraq in Fragments (The Sunni/Shia conflict), Jesus Camp (how fundamentalists brainwash their kids), and My Country My Country (the run-up to the Iraq elections).

Happy 90th birthday to . We’d almost forgotten he won an Oscar for 1955’s Marty, but we’re much more partial to Flight of the Phoenix, From Here to Eternity, The Wild Bunch and The Dirty Dozen. But nothin’ holds a candle to a pizza, a rum and Coke, and reruns of McHale’s Navy.

The Deep Thinkers of America gather to think deeply:

David Brooks: I've heard no evidence that Al Gore wants to run for office, and unless there's a sharp increase in sales of Slim-Fast...

Chris Matthews:: HA!!! Ha Haaaaa!!! That's what I say!! That's what I say!! Can a black man win the presidency? Can a woman win the presidency? Can a fat white man win the presidency is the other question!

Brooks: I'm not one to talk, of course...

Matthews: You're not overweight, not compared to him!

Brooks: And finally, you know, [Democrats have] stars running for office. They've got three real stars.

Matthews: OK. If we see a plummeting in the scales of Al Gore this summer, a super Slim-Fast diet, does that say this guy's getting back in there?

Howard Fineman: It will be front-page news. Al Gore buys a package of Slim-Fast. But, y'know, I don't know...

Matthews: Norah, what do you think? Are we going to watch the scales here to see how it's going?

Norah O'Donnell: I think that's unfair. But I think...

Matthews: There's always somebody to put me in the position of bad guy. I'm going for the white guy. You're talking about the black guy.

--- (1/21/07)

Hat tip to Kossack Scarce for

The blogger ethics panel convenes at 10. Don’t be late. The journalismsers will be instrucin' us.

What To Do About Fox At some point those in the media who imagine they have some standards are g

How do they not see their own bigotry? “FOX News’s Brian Wilson informed us that the (’I'm seeing a lot of purple’). He then stated that Nancy Pelosi will be wearing a ’sea foam green’ outfit. Brit Hume then chimed in to say that Pelosi had intended to wear a different jacket (he asked her about this earlier today), but then spilled chocolate on it, hence the sea-foam green jacket. No news on the fellas’ outfits.”

Shall we take up a collection to buy Wolf a spine? to Dick Cheney: "We like your daughters." Wolf did an interview with VP Dick Cheney, and it's a doozy. See the transcript .

Health care choices, unless you're female In last night’s State of the Union address, President Bush acknowledged that :

[I]n all we do, we must remember that the best healthcare decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.

Despite his rhetoric, Bush signed into law the “,” which is the first federal statute to tell doctors what specific methods they may and may not use when providing legal medical services — regardless of the patient’s condition or the doctor’s opinion about the safest course of treatment.

At the signing ceremony in Nov. 2003, Bush justified his support of the ban by citing the opinion of Congress: “As Congress has found, the practice is widely regarded within the medical profession as unnecessary, not only cruel to the child, but harmful to the mother, and a .”

But the nation’s leading group of professionals providing health care for women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, disagrees. It because the banned procedure is often the best option for women:

The intact variant of D&E offers significant safety advantages over the non-intact method, including a reduced risk of catastrophic hemorrhage and life-threatening infection. These safety advantages are widely recognized by experts in the field of women’s health, authoritative medical texts, peer-reviewed studies, and the nation’s leading medical schools.

In other words, women sometimes need the procedure in order to protect their health and future fertility.

Bush has had the Department of Justice . A decision is expected from the Court by this June.

Evidently, the President believes that patients and doctors make the best health care decisions — except for when the patient is a woman.

State of the Union roundup

Bush said: “We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease - and that is precisely what America is doing. … I ask that you fund the Millennium Challenge Account, so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat.”

FACT — MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE PROGRAM WILL SOON BE BANKRUPT: “President Bush’s signature foreign-assistance program is likely to run out of money this year, leaving in the lurch several poor countries that have labored to meet its strict eligibility standards, according to aid officials. Mr. Bush introduced the Millennium Challenge program in 2002 as a new approach to fix the perceived failures of overseas-development assistance.” [Wall Street Journal, ]

Bush said: “We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa — and because you funded our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, the number of people receiving life-saving drugs has grown from 50,000 to more than 800,000 in 3 short years. I ask you to continue funding our efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.”

FACT — BUSH POLICY HAS LED TO SHORTAGE OF CONDOMS: The U.N. and a number of advocacy groups for AIDS patients have charged that the Bush administration policy had led to a shortage of condoms in Uganda, increasing the risk of infection for many people, particularly married women and adolescents.” Jodi Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity in Washington, D.C., said that “there has been a dangerous and profound shift in U.S. donor policy from comprehensive prevention, education and provision of condoms to focus on abstinence only.” [New York Times, ]

FACT — GAO REPORT CRITICIZED IMPLEMENTATION OF BUSH AIDS PLAN: An 87-page GAO report criticized the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) because a large part of the funding is going “to promote abstinence and fidelity is causing confusion in many countries and in a few is eroding other prevention efforts, including ones to reduce mother-to-child transmission of the virus.” The abstinence policy “is basically unworkable,” said Paul Zeitz, director of the Global AIDS Alliance. “This shows the problem very clearly and starkly.” [Washington Post, ]

Bush said: “I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.”

FACT — CONGRESS OPPOSES WORKING GROUP, FAVORS STRUCTURES ALREADY IN PLACE: In a letter addressed to President Bush on Jan. 19, 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wrote, “We believe that Congress already has bipartisan structures in place, like the committee system and other Congressional working groups such as the Senate’s National Security Working Group, that could produce the result you described in your speech.” [Pelosi/Reid letter, ]

Bush said: “Many in this Chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq — because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching.”

FACT — LAWMAKERS, MILITARY COMMANDERS, AND EXPERTS OPPOSE ESCALATION: Sen. John Warner (R-VA), an influential conservative on military affairs, offered a resolution that opposes President Bush’s escalation plan. “Combined with near-unanimous Democratic opposition to Bush’s war policy, the Republican stands show a broad bipartisan lack of confidence in the president’s course.” Nearly seventy percent of Americans say they oppose Bush’s escalation. Top military leaders, including former Gen. Colin Powell, the current Joint Chiefs, and Gen. John Abizaid, have expressed their opposition to putting more U.S. troops on the ground. The president’s strategy goes against the recommendations of the recently-released Iraq Study Group. One Bush administration official admitted that the escalation plan is “more of a political decision than a military one.” [Seattle Times, ; Newsweek, ; ; Washington Post, 1/10/07; NBC, ; ThinkProgress, ]

Bush said: “My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance of success.”

FACT — ESCALATION HAS BEEN A FAILURE: During the last six months, the United States has increased — or “surged” — the number of American troops in Baghdad by 12,000, yet the violence and deaths of Americans and Iraqis has climbed alarmingly, averaging 960 a week since the latest troop increase. This past summer, Bush announced a major effort to secure Baghdad, stating at a news conference that thousands of U.S.-led coalition troops would be moved into the city. Violence intensified throughout the country, and U.S. deaths in Iraq spiked. [AP, ; Washington Post, ;

ush said: “Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies — and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance. So we advance our own security interests by helping moderates, reformers, and brave voices for democracy.”

FACT — RICE AVOIDED PUSHING DEMOCRACY IN MIDDLE EAST TRIP: On a recent trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed to mention Egypt’s poor human rights record. “It was clear that the United States — facing chaos in Iraq, rising Iranian influence and the destabilizing Israeli-Palestinian conflict — had decided that stability, not democracy, was its priority, Egyptian political commentators, political aides and human rights advocates said.” [NYTimes, ]

Bush said: “For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments … raise the price of oil … and do great harm to our economy.”

FACT — BUSH’S VOLUNTARY APPROACH HAS FAILED TO CURB EMISSIONS: Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have increased by 354 million metric tons since 2001. The Energy Department’s latest analysis projects America’s carbon dioxide emissions will increase by one third from 2005 to 2030. [; ]

FACT — BUSH STILL DENIES FUNDAMENTAL CLIMATE SCIENCE: Last February, President Bush claimed there is still “a debate over whether [global warming] is man-made or naturally caused.” There is no real scientific debate over this question. Most recently, the National Academy of Sciences has unequivocally stated that natural causes cannot explain the unprecedented warmth over the last 400 years. Rather, “human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming,” the report states. [; ]

Bush said: “It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply — and the way forward is through technology.”

FACT — BUSH PROMISED TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES LAST YEAR, DIDN’T DELIVER: At last year’s State of the Union, President Bush said the “best way to break this addiction [to oil] is through technology.” Yet his 2007 budget actually proposed to spend less on energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy resources in inflation-adjusted dollars than was appropriated in fiscal year 2001 — $1.176 billion in nominal dollars in both 2001 and 2007. [State of the Union, ; President’s Budget, ]

FACT — EMPHASIS ON TECHNOLOGY IS STANDARD RIGHT-WING TALKING POINT: Influential conservative political consultant and wordsmith Frank Luntz has advised politicians to point to the promise of technology in order to delay implementation of mandatory cuts in global warming pollution. “We need to emphasize how voluntary innovation and experimentation are preferable to bureaucratic or international intervention and regulation,” Luntz advises. []

Bush said: “For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments…raise the price of oil…and do great harm to our economy.”

FACT — DESPITE PAST RHETORIC, FOREIGN OIL DEPENDENCE HAS INCREASED: President Bush has pledged to reduce our energy dependence in every State of the Union he has delivered since taking office. At the same time, the United States has become increasingly dependent on foreign oil, from 58 percent of oil consumed in the U.S. in 2000 to 70 percent in September 2006. U.S. dependence on OPEC nations for oil imports “has risen to its highest level in 15 years.” By focusing on expanding domestic exploration, he perpetuates our dependence on oil. [ThinkProgress, ; ; Financial Times, ]

Bush said: “We need to expand Health Savings Accounts … help small businesses through Association Health Plans … reduce costs and medical errors with better information technology … encourage price transparency … and protect good doctors from junk lawsuits by passing medical liability reform. And in all we do, we must remember that the best health care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.”

FACT — HSAs DO NOT OFFER MEANINGFUL SAVINGS FOR AMERICANS: “Low- and middle-income uninsured people will gain meager or no tax savings” from health savings accounts, according to a Commonwealth Fund study. Roughly 50 percent of uninsured adults pay no federal income taxes, meaning that “tax incentives for high-deductible health plans would have little impact on uninsured adults.” [Commonwealth Fund, ]

FACT — HSAs PRIMARILY BENEFIT THE RICH: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found “that the average income of HSA users was $133,000 in 2004, compared to $51,000 for all non-elderly tax filers.” Most low-income individuals “do not face high enough tax liability to benefit in a significant way from tax deductions associated with HSAs.” [CBPP, ; Kaiser Familiy Foundation, ]

FACT — HSAs WILL NOT DECREASE THE NUMBER OF UNINSURED: HSAs are “not likely to be an important contributor to expanding coverage among uninsured people” because most of uninsured Americans “do not face high-enough marginal tax rates to benefit substantially from the tax deductibility of HSA contributions.” [Commonwealth Fund, ]

FACT — AMERICANS ARE DISSATISFIED WITH HSAs: Just 33-42 percent of enrollees in consumer-driven health plans were satisfied with their health care, compared to 63 percent of those people with traditional coverage. Two-thirds of people prefer an employer-selected set of plans over an employer-funded account and choosing insurance on their own. [Commonwealth Fund, ]

Bush said: “My second proposal is to help the States that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive Federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing Federal funds and use them to create ‘Affordable Choices’ grants.”

FACT — BUSH PLAN WILL CUT $30 BILLION FROM PUBLIC HOSPITALS: Bush’s ‘Affordable Choice’ grants will not involve any new federal money. It will instead “redirect some of the $30 billion the government spends annually to care for people without health insurance who show up at hospitals and emergency rooms. There are about 47 million Americans without health insurance.” [USA Today, ; American Progress, ]

Bush said: “First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. … [F]or the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans.”

FACT — MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WILL BE UNABLE TO AFFORD EXPENSIVE INDIVIDUAL PLANS: Karen Pollitz, a Georgetown University researcher who co-authored a 2001 study on the individual health-insurance market for the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that people who aren’t in perfect health are largely unable to buy individual health insurance. In her study, Pollitz found that “roughly 90% of applicants in what’s known as less-than-perfect health were unable to buy individual policies at standard rates, while 37% were rejected outright.” Individual health insurers may deny coverage to people based on their medial history, or put them in “a high-risk category that it makes health coverage too expensive.” []

Bush said: “The time has come to end this practice [of congressional earmarking]. So let us work together to reform the budget process … expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress.”

FACT — BUSH HAS ENGAGED IN HIS OWN EARMARKING: Bush has engaged in his own earmarking, using the federal budget process to “reward political supporters, campaign contributors and sometimes members of Congress” for votes on a presidential priority. Unlike with appropriations bills, you have no way to know whether an executive earmark “comes from some agency’s discretionary fund, and they decide to put it in some key district or state” for political gain. [Wall Street Journal, ]

Bush said: “A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy — and that is what we have. … This economy is on the move — and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government but with more enterprise.”

FACT — BUSH’S TAX CUTS THE LARGEST CONTRIBUTOR TO BUDGET DEFICITS: Tax cuts “have been the single largest contributor to the reemergence of substantial budget deficits.” “Between 2001 and 2006, the passage of the Bush tax cuts without the offsetting savings have cost $1.2 trillion in lost revenues, or more than 80 percent of the cumulative deficit during this period.” [Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, ; Center for American Progress analysis, ]

FACT — DEFICITS HAVE MUSROOMED UNDER BUSH: Bush has “never proposed a balanced budget since it went into deficit, never vetoed a spending bill when Republicans controlled Congress and offered little sustained objection to earmarks until the issue gained political traction last year.” “The budget outlook for the period 2002 to 2011 deteriorated by $8.5 trillion from 2001 to 2006 and for 2006, it decreased by $753 billion.” [Washington Post, ; Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, ; Center for American Progress analysis, ]

FACT — ECONOMIC GROWTH HAS BEEN RELATIVELY SLOW UNDER BUSH: Economic growth fell to 2 percent in the third quarter of last year, following 2.6 percent growth in the second quarter and a surprisingly strong first quarter growth of 5.6 percent. “This was the first time in more than three years that the economy registered two consecutive quarters of growth below three percent.” [CBS News, ; Center for Amercan Progress analysis, ]

Bush said: “Tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own — as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker. In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum. But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Congratulations.”

FACT — BUSH SUGGESTED ‘TERRORISTS WIN’ IF PELOSI ELECTED SPEAKER: “[President Bush] mocked [Pelosi] as ‘a secret admirer’ of tax cuts and an opponent of measures crucial to keeping Americans safe, warning that ‘terrorists win and America loses’ if her Democrats prevailed on Election Day”; “Setting the Record Straight: Rep. Pelosi Downplays Progress In Iraq.” [AP, ; White House fact sheet, ]


January 25, 2007 - 10:43am