Filtered news 3/28

Maher Strikes Again. Stand back:

Valerie Plame was the CIA's operational officer in charge of counter-proliferation. Which means she tracked loose nukes. So when Bush said---as he once did---that his absolute, number-one priority was preventing terrorists from getting loose nukes, okay, that's what she worked on. That's what she devoted her life to, staying undercover for 20 years, maintaining two identities every goddamn day. This is extraordinary service to your country.

Valerie Plame was the kind of real-life secret agent George Bush dreams of being when he's not too busy pretending to be a cowboy or a fighter pilot. ... George Bush likes to claim that he doesn't question his critics' patriotism, just their judgment. Well, let me be the first of your critics, Mr. President, to question your judgment and your patriotism. Because let's not forget why they did it to her. Because Valerie Plame was married to this guy---Joe Wilson---who the Bush people hated because he busted them on one of their bullshit reasons for invading Iraq. ...

Mark Twain said, "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." And I say Valerie Plame is a patriot because she spent her life serving her country. ... Valerie Plame kept her secrets. The Bush Administration leaked like the plumbing at Walter Reed.

Read the whole thing . Better yet, watch the whole thing .

This never gets old. When America's venerable newsweeklies don't think Americans can handle the truth -- see Newsweek's work on and -- they put real reporting on their international covers and soft-peddle the U.S. with all sorts of nonsense.

And if you're going with nonsense, why not the nonsense that -- pop theology. According to Folio magazine, a cover featuring Jesus or the Bible can raise single-issue sales by roughly 50%, and as a result TIME and Newsweek frequently try to out-Christian one another on consecutive weeks. (See from the Dec/Jan 2006 issue of Mother Jones.)

So, yeah. This week it's TIME serving up "The Case for Teaching the Bible" to Americans, and "Talibanistan" to its international audience. As puts it, "Americans get the special-ed stories." I don't know if I should be disgusted with and embarrassed by the magazine editors who made this decision, or the magazine readers whose tastes they are clearly pandering to.

Matt Drudge is currently linking to a “fact sheet” produced by the Republican Budget Committee claiming that the new House budget plan “represents the ‘.’” It’s not true. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities :

Consistent with the Pay-As-You-Go requirement that all tax cuts and entitlement increases be paid for, the plan assumes the same level of revenues over the 2007-2012 period as projected by the Congressional Budget Office under its current-policy baseline; the baseline essentially assumes no change in current laws governing taxes. … [C]harges that the plan requires multi-hundred-billion dollar tax increases are not correct.

More at .

Huzzah! to fighting faux foes. Over in the Persian Gulf, a huge American invasion force is , mainly to remind Iran that our balls hang lower than theirs. There was a brief delay when Ensign Whoopsowitz dropped the keys to the aircraft carrier down a grate. Thank god for Triple-A.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush expanded the uses of the list of "specially designated nationals," which banks have traditionally used to thwart financial transactions of drug dealers and other criminals. The Washington Post that Bush retooled the list to target terrorists. It then grew longer, reaching 250 pages, and all businesses were blocked from doing businesses with those on it.

"The law is ridiculous," said Tom Hudson, a lawyer in Hanover, Md. "It prohibits anyone from doing business with anyone who's on the list. It does not have a minimum dollar amount. . . . The local deli, if it sells a sandwich to someone whose name appears on the list, has violated the law."

The problem is, the names of many innocent American citizens are similar to those on the list. The penalties businesses face for violating Bush's rule—up to $10 million and 30 years in prison—are stiff enough to scare them away from customers whose names vaguely resemble any of the nearly 3,500 on the list. Take Tom Kubbany. He has good credit, but couldn't get a mortgage because his middle name is Hassan—an extremely common Arab name, which is also purportedly an alias of one of Saddam Hussein's sons. Never mind that Kubbany was born in Detroit in 1949, and the government believes his alleged namesake was born in 1980 or 1983. There is no penalty for wrongfully turning someone away.

You're most likely to suffer these humiliations if your name is or sounds Muslim. The Bush administration's no-fly list also mainly affects those whose names resemble Muslim terrorists', but "300 names a day are added to the government’s “no-fly” list, which has Senator Ted Kennedy, the star of Ozzie and Harriet, and at least 14 infants. The so-called watch list is more likely to affect you. The names on it include everyone who has purchased a last-minute or one-way ticket, or whose name resembles that of someone who did. (I'm on that list, so I have to take my shoes off and have my bag hand-searched at every security checkpoint.)

Juggling. A New York Times article reports on a study that shows multitasking actually :

The human brain, with its hundred billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of synaptic connections, is a cognitive powerhouse in many ways. "But a core limitation is an inability to concentrate on two things at once," said René Marois, a neuroscientist and director of the Human Information Processing Laboratory at Vanderbilt University... In a recent study, a group of Microsoft workers took, on average, 15 minutes to return to serious mental tasks, like writing reports or computer code, after responding to incoming e-mail or instant messages. They strayed off to reply to other messages or browse news, sports or entertainment Web sites.

Now you know why the Bush administration only focuses on one thing: lying. And, man, they're good at it.

It's about time “Federal and state lawmakers have launched a new drive to pass the Equal Rights Amendment,” which “would subject to the same strict scrutiny given by courts to allegations of racial discrimination.” The constitutional amendment was three states short of passage in 1982.

Huh. Dems can help; Repugs couldn't.... “The House on Tuesday approved a [through 2010] of a program offering tax credits for construction of low-income housing in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”

I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you! Back in January, Dan Dzwilewski, the FBI's special agent in charge of the San Diego field office, the San Diego Union-Tribune that Carol Lam's dismissal would jeopardize on-going corruption investigations and that "I guarantee politics is involved." After his quotes were published, the folks back in DC told him to . And now for suspicion over Carol Lam's firing. So the next time you hear that there's "no evidence" that she was fired because of an ongoing investigation into Republicans, you know where to look. Here's of the dispute over Lam's handing of border cases -- that's the administration's story, remember, for why she was canned. And here's the evidence that Justice Department officials no matter what. Nobody can say we didn't give it a hard look.

A is an abnormal connection between the rectum and skin that can cause pain, bleeding, infections, and discharge of fecal matter through openings in the body other than the anus. The condition is generally caused by infection of a gland within the anal canal. Bacteria multiply and create an abscess that goes through the rectal wall to the surrounding skin. The condition can also be caused by cancer, Crohn's Disease, and an episiotomy that does not heal.

Sue Clark, M.D., a surgeon in Harrow, England, had a patient with fistula-in-ano who had been treated through surgery. The 48-year-old man had a long-term seton to control sepsis. This particular seton was a length of suture material knotted to form a loop placed into the fistula track. Last August, this patient traveled from England to New York for a vacation. Upon arrival, he was interrogated by immigration officials, and then examined and searched. During the rectal exam, an official yanked hard on the seton, causing the patient severe pain. The patient was told he could not enter the United States unless the seton was removed.

Not wanting to give up his vacation after he had flown across the ocean, Dr. Clark's patient allowed a doctor to remove the seton. The physician claimed he had never seen an anal seton before. The good news is that the yanking done by immigration officials did not cause any damage to the sphincter muscles. The bad news is that Dr. Clark's patient must now go under general anastesia to have a new seton inserted.

In a letter to last month, Dr. Clark said she wanted to "highlight this rather bizarre manifestation of 'homeland security' in order to warn other patients with setons who travel to the U.S." Former Sen. Carol Mosely Braun talked about Homeland Security's propensity to "look between your toes." Former Texas governor Ann Richards at the airport. And now an Englishman has had his surgical procedure (not to mention his dignity and his physical comfort) destroyed so that the U.S. can be safe from terrorists.

The real pulse of America. Conventional ivory-tower pundit wisdom: "." Americans who are living in Reality Land: "!" Tut tut, you rabble...such language.

"We serve at the pleasure of the president. But in this case, it looks like the authority was
delegated down through Harriet Miers, Karl Rove, Gonzales and all the way down
to a bunch of 35-year-old kids who got together to decide who was the most loyal to the president."
-- Fired Arkansas U.S. attorney Bud Cummins, on CBS's,

What liberal media? The Associated Press launches a on Barack Obama. It gets better. Now the Republican National Committee is the AP piece to reporters.

Judge not lest ye.... ah fergit it! Dobson gives the thumbs down to a Fred Thompson candidacy.

Happy news Swiftboat ambassador nomination .

: the history behind last month's now infamous press briefing on Iran's supply of weapons to insurgents in Iraq. (Spoiler: they didn't tell the whole truth.)

"In half a century, I've never seen a president
this isolated from his own party, not even when
Richard Nixon was facing impeachment.."
-- Bob Novak, traitor to his country

Ain't karma grand?! There's your answer. White House personnel appear to have been systematically using their government emails on the job because they knew they might some day be subpoenaed. This may have been too clever by half. If the president's aides were using RNC emails or emails from other Republican political committees, they can't have even the vaguest claim to shielding those communications behind executive privilege.

Why she's taking the 5th? Goodling when Domenici called Justice to complain about Iglesias going too soft on Democrats.

This is quite an accomplishment. Dean Campaign/DNC organizing guru Marshall Ganz , and a hopeful call for democratic renewal.

: senators grill the FBI chief over the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

Pregame warmup In advance of tomorrow's testimony by arch-Purgemeister and former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson, we're trying to assemble all the relevant information together so you can best understand and interpret just what Sampson says and whether and how it comports with the facts as they are presently known.

One part of the story which is coming into focus pretty quickly is the position of Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty and the coterie around Gonzales himself.

McNulty was the one who went up to the Hill and said the firings were for poor performance. But McNulty has since Sen. Schumer that he explicitly asked Goodling and others, who were briefing him for his testimony, various questions about what had happened in the attorney firings and that they lied to him. 'Misled' him might be the term of art. But the key point from what McNulty is saying is that if he misled Congress it wasn't intentionally. It was because Goodling et al. misled him. If true, that would be a crime. And that's almost certainly the real reason Goodling will take the fifth when called to testify.

In any case, we're going to have all this information laid out for you in time for the big event tomorrow.

"The president has lost the confidence of the American people in his war effort. It is now time
for the Congress to step forward and be part of setting some boundaries and some conditions
as to our involvement. This is not a monarchy. I would hope the president understands that."
-- Sen. Chuck Hagel, the smartest Republican in the senate

Whoops! Joe Lieberman his own dissembling over Iraq on Senate floor today.

Corruption watch In what's become yet another festering boil of corruption on the "hind end" of the Bush "administration," General Services Administration (GSA) chief Lurita Doan was called on the carpet before the House Government Oversight committee today, where she put on her best "I don't recall" show for the incredulous panel. The shameless Doan ducked and dodged when she was asked to explain what in God's name she thought she was doing when she of GSA managers for a briefing from White House political staffers on how they could best use federal government resources to help "our candidates" in 2008 -- a presentation, by the way, that included a list of the Top 20 targeted Democrats for 2008. This is as corrupt as corruption gets, folks. As always, you'll find more Nitpicker has a report that

The fraud of voter fraud One of the Bush administration’s excuses for its prosecutor purge is that the U.S. attorneys weren’t aggressively investigating voter fraud cases. Last week, President Bush said, “We did hear complaints and concerns about U.S. attorneys. Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases.” This line has been exposed. The right wing’s pursuit of voter fraud is “,” the New York Times wrote. McClatchy News reported it is part of a implemented by Karl Rove. Yesterday, FBI Director Robert Mueller confirmed some of these details under questioning from Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). Mueller said that since 2001, there have been no FBI investigations related to election fraud that “should have resulted in an indictment but did not.” He also confirmed that he was never consulted about the performance of the fired prosecutors. More on Mueller’s testimony at .

But John, here's the videotape of you sayint it.... Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told CNN that that President Bush’s escalation in Iraq is going so well, “General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an .” On Monday, he told radio host Bill Bennett that there “are neighborhoods in Baghdad where , today.” This morning, during an interview with McCain, CNN’s John Roberts rebutted McCain’s assertions, stating, “I checked with General Petraeus’s people overnight and they said he never goes out in anything less than an up-armored humvee.” He added that a new report by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey “said no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat reporter could walk the streets of Baghdad without heavily armed protection.” Her's the video: It's a . Faced with overwhelming evidence that he was wrong, McCain denied he’d ever said it: “Well, I’m not saying they could go without protection. The President goes around America with protection. So, certainly I didn’t say that.” CNN’s Baghdad correspondent Michael Ware, who has lived in Iraq for four years, said military sources greeted McCain’s comments yesterday with “.” AmericaBlog has a to get to the bottom of this: call McCain’s office and that are safe enough to walk around.

What a differece an election makes After environmental groups leaked the Interior Department’s to “gut” the Endangered Species Act yesterday, senators vowed to through appropriations legislation.

Meanwhile, Iraq continues to slide into Hell Late yesterday, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey . Based on a recent visit to Iraq and interviews with Gen. Patraeus and numerous coalition officials, McCaffrey found Iraq to be “ripped by a low grade civil war which has worsened to catastrophic levels.” He added, “,” and — in contrast — found the situation in Iraq to be dire:

There is no function of government that operates effectively across the nation … There is no province in the country in which the government has dominance. … No Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat, reporter, foreign NGO, nor contractor can walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi — without heavily armed protection.

In total, enemy insurgents or armed sectarian militias…probably exceed 100,000 armed fighters. These non-government armed bands are in some ways more capable of independent operations than the regularly constituted ISF [Iraqi Army].

But just one year ago, McCaffrey believed that Iraq was making progress. In a last spring, he wrote:

[I]n my view, the Iraqis are likely to successfully create a governing entity.

The foreign fighters have failed to spark open civil war from the Shia. The Samarra bombing may well have inoculated the country to the possible horror of total war.

The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent - most are adequate.

The contrast between this latest assessment and that of last spring highlights, in McCaffrey’s own words, the reality that the civil war in Iraq has “worsened to catastrophic levels” and we “have very little time left.”

And more Hell “,” retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey in an assessment on the situation in Iraq, based on a recent round of meetings there with Gen. David H. Petraeus and 16 other senior U.S. commanders. “Life in many of the urban areas is now desperate.” McCaffrey was scheduled to brief White House officials on his findings yesterday. “The Army’s new acting surgeon general said Tuesday she is because the military lacks money to hire enough nurses and mental health specialists to treat thousands of troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Half a million children in the U.S. live in foster care, and more than 100,000 await adoption. Finding stable, permanent homes for these youth, "," is a priority, and a proven way to positive outcomes for youth. Still, it's up to states to recruit and evaluate potential foster and adoptive parents, and most states turn away viable parents who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Currently three states—Florida, Mississippi and Utah—have outright bans on adoptive parents who are homosexual. Several other states have or are considering policies that would restrict LGBT couples and individuals from fostering or adopting a child. Florida forbids "homosexuals" from adopting; Mississippi bans "same-gender" couples, and Utah bans all unmarried couples.

Some states: California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington DC, actually protect potential adopters by prohibiting sexual orientation from being used as a basis to prevent a prospective applicant from being a adoptive or foster parent.

But throughout most of the country LGBT folks face all kinds of barriers to adoption. This, despite the fact that they are already raising children in significant numbers. According to census figures, gathered by the in a new study released today:

-More than one in three lesbians has given birth, and one in six gay men have fathered a child.

-65,500 adopted children are currently living with a lesbian or gay parent, amounting to four percent of all adopted children in the United States.

-10,300 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents.

-Nearly 52,000 lesbian and gay households include an adopted child under the age of 18.

The study finds that not only can homosexuals be parents, they can be good parents! They have many of the traits states specifically seek out in foster and adoptive parents: They are, on average, older, more educated and have more economic resources than other foster and adoptive parents.

If states enact laws that prevent such adoptions children currently placed with existing LGBT foster parents would be removed from those families. Nationally, an estimated 9,300 to 14,000 children would be displaced.

Aside from the psychological and other harm that would come from displacement (fewer foster care placements are associated with better school achievement, greater life satisfaction, greater overall stability, more placements with higher rates of juvenile detention, etc.), there is a pure economic argument to be made here for allowing gay foster and adoptive parenting. Like , the the economic cost of banning LGBT people from adopting and fostering would be significant. Williams Institute estimates that a national ban on gay adoption would result in costs to the foster care system of up to $130 million.

The price to pay, some say, for "."

Earlier today researchers at Bristol University "a landmark paper" that finds that and are more dangerous than many illegal drugs, including ecstasy and pot.

To anyone who didn’t already know that ecstasy doesn’t give standers-by second-hand cancer or cause people to start fights, the study breaks the shocking news that while (illegal) coke and heroin are most harmful, they’re followed closely by (not illegal) barbiturates, alcohol, and tobacco. Pot comes later, and ecstasy way after that.

The real news here is that all the experts agreed that current substance classification is wack. BU's David Nutt hopes that the study will lead to a change in the prevailing "ill thought-out and arbitrary" system by knocking some sense into those on the side of the .

California's Department of Managed Health Care randomly selected 90 (of more than 1,000) cancelled individual Blue Cross plans and whether the company had cause to cancel them. Score: 0 for 90. Blue Cross broke the rules in every single case.

The policies were individually purchased plans in which policy holders had become pregnant or sick, apparently triggering Blue Cross to rescind the policy. Retroactively—leaving individuals, hospitals and doctors holding the bag for care already provided. Policies can only be legally rescinded if the applicant lies on the application to conceal pre-existing conditions.

Individuals pay exorbitant premiums for coverage purchased outside of employer group plans, and are also more vulnerable to such cancellations in California law. But this is bad news for everyone, not just those who have to buy individual plans. Who pays when hospitals and doctors aren't reimbursed? The taxpayers do, one way or the other. The taxpayers also paid for the state's investigation, whose end result is a measly $1-million suit against Blue Cross, whose annual profit is more than three times that. Blue Cross policy holders funded an entire department of the company devoted to finding reasons to cancel the policies of sick or pregnant people.

About 6.5 million California residents, or about 18 percent of the , lack health insurance.


March 29, 2007 - 7:23am