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I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Doggerel Democrat
POLITICAL GRAVITY -- POLITICAL LEVITY -- VERSE AND WORSE
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat!

BlogDoggerel
for July 2007

 


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Today's Top Non-Story

Harriet Miers became the subject of today's biggest non-story when she failed to appear in response to a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee.

Apparently, to hear the Bushists tell it, executive privilege not only protects Bush or his staff from testifying about internal one-on-one deliberations with the preznit... it also gives him the power to order his staff to ignore a congressional subpoena altogether. In our brave new world, not only is the preznit above the law, but he can extend the privilege of lawlessness to other people of his choosing. To this low pit has the GOP, once the alleged party of law and order, sunk.

House Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers delivered the line of the day (Miers might have had the opportunity to do that, but her chair was literally vacant): "If we do not enforce this subpoena, no one will ever have to come before the House Judiciary Committee again." No kidding. Allowing anyone simply not to show up in response to a subpoena is an open invitation to lawlessness. It's not a slippery slope, it's a precipice.

The thing that did not surprise me but did dismay me is this: GOP committee members voted along party lines against the ruling by subcommittee chair Linda Sanchez (D- CA) that Miers's decision to follow White House instructions not to appear at all in response to the subpoena was an invalid claim of executive privilege. A vote along party lines of course succeeded; now, the full committee must vote on whether to hold Ms. Miers in contempt. But how do the GOP committee members face themselves in the mirror, after ruling that their preznit may order lawless behavior?

I am so frustrated, cranky, cynical and fatigued by the process of digesting and responding to the White House's assertion of a privilege of utter lawlessness, above every check and balance, that I am not going to attempt a takedown of anyone or anything right now. I'll simply say that executive privilege has never worked this way before, that no president, not even the preznit, is above the law, that no president has the power to determine unilaterally who may disobey the law with impunity, that Miers should be cited for contempt for her failure to appear, that if necessary, Miers should be apprehended and brought before the committee (even if only to assert a privilege to decline to testify, which privilege can then be ruled upon), that anyone (including the preznit) who directly interferes with Miers's appearance before the committee is surely committing not only contempt of Congress but probably obstruction of justice, and that if Congress is unable to obtain information it demands by a subpoena in pursuit of all investigations of possible criminal acts, THE HOUSE SHOULD IMMEDIATELY INITIATE IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS against any and all senior administration officials... yes, most certainly including at least Bush and Cheney... who obstruct the investigations.

And now a bit about Speaker Pelosi, who figured so prominently in a certain recent comment thread upstream...

Speaker Pelosi should immediately place impeachment back "on the table"; it was never hers to take off the table in the first place. Impeachment is a constitutionally specified safeguard against an executive branch gone wild... and it's increasingly clear we have one of those on our hands.

I understand why Pelosi said what she said back then, to remove all appearance of partisanship as she ascended to second-in-line in presidential succession after Cheney. But as suspicions of "high crimes" ... remember, those are not specifically listed criminal acts, but rather crimes against the nation and dereliction of constitutional duties of the office... emerge from the investigations, the mechanism for dealing with the consequences of such crimes must re-enter the discussion. If Pelosi does not (at a minimum) resume discussion of possible articles of impeachment, she is neglecting her own duties as the only leader in a position to provide a genuine check and balance against an administration increasingly aiming toward dictatorship.

You know, I still don't believe Cindy Sheehan can effectively apply the screws to Pelosi. But I am increasingly sympathetic to her desire to do so, and I acknowledge that somebody's gotta do it. Damn it to hell, how long do I have to tolerate mealy-mouthed platitudes while Democratic leaders toy with us about matters of life and death, war and peace, and democracy and totalitarianism?

C'mon, Madam Speaker... it's time to suck it up and do your job.


(Here ends the cranky rant for the afternoon. I won't promise there won't be another one later. I am good and pissed off, and suffering in silence has never been my style.)

Steve
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What In Thunder...

Actually, not thunder but lightning. Our friendly AP indulges in a bit of fear-mongering regarding lightning and iPods...

Lightning points to hazards of electronic devices
Gadgets can give extra jolt
By LINDA A. JOHNSON
Associated Press

LISTEN to an iPod during a storm and you may get more than electrifying tunes.

A Canadian jogger suffered wishbone-shaped chest and neck burns, ruptured eardrums and a broken jaw when lightning traveled through his music player's wires.

Last year a Colorado teen received similar injuries when lightning struck as he mowed the lawn while using his iPod.

     ...

Oh, good grief. How long before we get even a hint of the truth? All right, it begins in graf number 4...

Physicians report other patients with burns from freak accidents while using other personal electronic devices such as beepers, cell phones, Walkman players and laptop computers outdoors during storms.

... finally emerges in graf number 5...

However, electronic devices don't attract lightning the way a tall tree or a lightning rod does.

... and begins to flower six paragraphs into the story...

"It's going to hit where it's going to hit, but once it contacts metal, the metal conducts the electricity," said Dr. Mary Ann Cooper of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

When lightning jumps from a nearby object to a person, it often flashes over the skin. But metal in electronic devices — or in jewelry or coins — can cause contact burns and exacerbate the damage.

At last, we have it. Wear or carry metal objects of just about any sort, and if you are struck by lightning, or if lightning would have harmed you anyway, your iPod or cell phone or portable framij-widget player or even the coins in your pocket or the bracelet on your wrist may make it worse.

So how... really... is this story about iPods?

It's all hype. The genuine take-away lesson: don't go out in or near lightning storms, and if you must, take precautions at all times to assure that you are not the most direct path to ground. See, wasn't that simple?

In my earlier years, I walked outdoors in lightning storms, staying near tall buildings with suitably grounded lightning rods: there was no real danger there, and the storms were awe-inspiring. A few years later, in bicycling to and from work, crossing one long open field containing nothing taller than I was on my bicycle, I pedaled like crazy to place myself closer to tall buildings when I encountered lightning: there was indeed danger there, and it was scary as hell (scarier, actually, since the contruct of hell doesn't exist in my religion).

But it is both silly and unkind to convey to people the impression that carrying an iPod is more dangerous than wearing a metal bracelet or carrying coins or a cell phone. I cannot help thinking those who wrote this story were disingenuous in the way they structured it. Isn't there enough fear of technology today, much of it legitimate, without making shit up?

Oh, by the way... your iPod can rupture your eardrums without any assistance from lightning. Turn the damned volume down! Do you want to end up with hearing like that of a drummer in a rock band?

Steve
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Lady Bird Johnson 1912-2007

R.I.P., Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson, at age 94. Our world and our nation are diminished by her passing.

Steve
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Sara Taylor, Incompetent Liar

I'm not saying that Sara Taylor is incompetent AND a liar. I'm saying that she is embarrassingly incompetent AS a liar. If this is all Bush, Cheney and Rove have to offer to congressional committees in behalf of the administration's assertion of executive privilege, they may as well give it up now. It's clear that Taylor, at least, can fool none of the people, none of the time. Republicans should demand more effective liars in those who fill staff positions. Sheesh; I could have done better than that... and I learned in childhood that I am so transparent, such a poor liar, that it is easier on me and everyone else if I just tell the truth.

You really need to see Taylor's testimony to believe it. TPMMuckraker has video clips. Start here at the beginning of their coverage of today's hearing, and watch their clips downstream over the course of the hearing.

If you are a Republican, please have the minimal decency to be embarrassed by Ms. Taylor's testimony... its content AND its manner. I did not think it possible that anyone could convey less credibility than Alberto Gonzales in his "I don't recall" testimony, but Ms. Taylor has succeeded.

I have read that Harriet Miers intends simply not to show up in response to the subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee. Refusing to testify could spark a conflict over what claims the White House may or may not make under executive privilege, but if Miers simply refuses to show up in response to a legitimate subpoena, she could well be in contempt of Congress, which has consequences similar to contempt of court... i.e., she could be physically held until she ceases her contempt. Does that make her a brave defender of Messrs. Bush and Cheney, or merely a greater fool even than Sara Taylor?

At one point today, Ms. Taylor incorrectly testified that she took an oath to the president. Sen. Leahy properly reminded her that her oath was to the Constitution, not the president, any more than Leahy's own oath was to the Senate. How many of Bush's and Cheney's staffers believe their oath is to Bush and/or Cheney? This will not do. America has no monarch to which Americans swear fealty; America has no dictator whose evil deeds Americans expose at peril of their freedom and their citizenship. America has a Constitution, an embodiment in inspired text of our common obligations to each other and to the abstract concepts that are the heart and soul of our nation. When we swear, we may swear BY different gods or affirm to no god at all... but we swear TO uphold and defend that Constitution, that idea that we hold more dear than any mere temporary leader, however powerful. If Ms. Taylor and Ms. Miers do not understand that, they should not be serving in our government. If Messrs. Bush and Cheney do not understand that, and, moreover, deport themselves in office as if they fail to understand that... THEY MUST BE IMPEACHED.

Steve
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The Universal Republican Pardon (URP)

Mark Morford offers brilliant satire of the Libby pardon commutation:

Bush Pardons Entire GOP

Prez "pre-emptively" saves all Repubs from becoming "prison bitches."

Dems: "Can he do that?"

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Allegedly reacting to some sort of hallucinogenic fever dream following an overlong bubble bath during which he reportedly sputtered lots of motorboat noises and ate one too many purple crayons, President Bush today made the stunning yet somehow entirely understandable announcement that all Republicans in his administration are hereby officially excused from any and all crimes they have committed, are in the process of committing, are planning to commit, or even merely fantasize about committing while encased in sweaty latex bodysuits in any one of a number of GOP-friendly D.C. fetish dungeons.

     ...

"Come to me, you shockingly large numbers of corrupt and disgraced Republican senators, representatives, aides, deputies, secretaries, lobbyists, governors and mayors and secretly gay meth-snorting right-wing Christian evangelists, and I shall remove from you the burden of legal, ethical, spiritual and yes even genital responsibility for all crimes you have almost certainly committed under the dark umbrella that is me! I am the walrus!"

     ...

Word of the Universal Republican Pardon (URP) quickly spread to the current Democratic congressional leadership, who were, naturally, slightly upset.

"This is a true outrage!" screamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, apparently frantically entering search terms into Wikipedia in her office iMac in an attempt to see what the hell was actually happening.

     ...

At least I hope it's satire... Do read the rest; it will improve your day.


(H/T Avedon.)

Steve
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Ralph Nader Redux?

This is a terrible idea:

Sheehan officially announces run against Pelosi

By PAUL J. WEBER
Associated Press

CRAWFORD — Cindy Sheehan bid farewell to her former "peace camp" near President Bush's ranch and began a nearly two-week trek today toward Washington, D.C., with her sights set on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Sheehan, a Californian, officially announced that she intends to run as an independent against Pelosi in 2008 if the San Francisco congresswoman doesn't move to impeach Bush by July 23, the day she expects to reach Washington.

     ...

Offhand, I don't believe Sheehan has the cult following Nader had, and I am not seriously concerned that if she makes a run, she could succeed in knocking off Pelosi. But such a run would have a couple of negative consequences.

First, it makes everything Sheehan has done to this point look like political opportunism in pursuit of a long-shot run for office. Not that I believe that is true; there are probably few people in public life today more sincere or more legitimately aggrieved than Cindy Sheehan. But running for office changes everyone's perception of your past, and in the political world, Sheehan will not get any Gold Star Mother exemption to that rule.

Second, as Nader proved in 2000, there is no profit in fragmenting the anti-Bushist electorate... none whatsoever, even if you are right and your opponent is wrong about a number of important things.

Let me make a preemptive (!) reassurance: I am by no means saying Sheehan should stay home. She should resume being a thorn in Bush's side, and should be a thorn in Pelosi's side to the extent Pelosi compromises efforts by Democrats to end the war. But if Sheehan runs for Pelosi's office, it will be a distraction for everyone, at a time when Bush's back is already against the wall, and we can ill afford such a distraction.


(One-word change made after initial posting.)

Steve
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The Decider As Dictator

WaPo:

President Bush, facing a growing Republican revolt against his Iraq policy, has rejected calls to change course but will launch a campaign emphasizing his intent to draw down U.S. forces next year and move toward a more limited mission if security conditions improve, senior officials said yesterday.

     ...

"Look, the president understands the American people are frustrated," said a senior official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upstaging Bush. "We've been at this a long time. We've sacrificed some of our best and brightest. . . . But they want to see that we have a vision for success that will allow us to gradually downsize our role and reduce our footprint. The president needs to and wants to remind everybody that he shares that frustration."

     ...

No. The American people are not "frustrated": the American people are outraged that the results of the last election are being ignored completely by Bush, Cheney and their henchmen. Democrats are outraged. Republicans are either outraged or fearful for the continued existence of their party after 2008. Bush and Cheney stand alone. Americans do not want to "gradually downsize" anything, and they don't give a good damn for the administration's "vision for success": Americans want to be shut of this illegally instigated, preemptive, invasive, imperial war, and if that means being shut of this administration, so be it. Enough is enough: the time to end this war is now. And if Bush and Cheney will not cooperate, the time to impeach is now. America will have no dictator, and Bush and Cheney seem determined to assume that role.

Congress: send Bush and Cheney home. Bring our troops home. Bring back the real America.


An aside: as I write this, I have been watching the Google News headline on this collection of articles soften by degrees from confrontational... more or less stating that Bush dismissed the Republican revolt and ordered the troops to chaaarrrrge... to a sort of on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand treatment friendlier to the administration... and less friendly to the fact, acknowledged by Democrats and increasing numbers of Republicans in Congress, that Bush and Cheney are on the fringe regarding Iraq. Someone in the administration is obviously on the horn to Google News, and Google News is caving to them. Do we even have an independent media anymore?

Steve
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Casting Aspersions

Oh, good grief. To no one's surprise, Bush has officially claimed executive privilege in announcing that former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former aide Sara Taylor will not be permitted to testify before Congress. He makes the usual completely unacceptable offer:

The White House, however, did offer again to make former counsel Harriet Miers and one-time political director Sara Taylor available for private, off-the-record interviews.

Let me say it once and for all:

NO PRIVATE, OFF-THE-RECORD INTERVIEWS!
ALL INTERVIEWS UNDER OATH!

Look... John Conyers got it just right about executive privilege:

Contrary what the White House may believe, it is the Congress and the courts that will decide whether an invocation of executive privilege is valid, not the White House unilaterally.

If Bush had any real interest in his much-ballyhooed legacy, he would do what Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and even Richard Nixon did on a number of occasions (including occasions involving presidential aides' testimony, and most certainly including occasions where the president was at risk from that testimony): he would explicitly waive executive privilege in the interest of furthering investigations. Thirty-one of Clinton's staffers testified before Congress on 47 occasions. And Reagan waived executive privilege for his entire staff at the beginning of the Iran-Contra investigation.

But Bush insists on swimming against the tide here. Bush claims broad privilege to prevent practically anyone with whom his administration ever exchanged casual greetings in the hallway from testifying, and he claims the same privilege about whole batches of documents, without any attempt to justify the secrecy on a case-by-case basis.

This is not how it is done in a free and open government. If Bush and Cheney wish their legacy to be a reputation for government in secret, by fiat, they need only continue on their current course.

WHAT ARE BUSH AND CHENEY HIDING?

Get used to that sentence, because you'll probably see it a lot on these pages in the near future.

Meanwhile, Fred Fielding's letter bemoans the Democratic leadership's assertion that Bush is not operating in good faith. He seems to think Leahy's and Conyers's statement that Bush's "assertion of Executive Privilege belies any good faith attempt to determine where privilege truly does and does not apply" casts aspersions on Mr. Bush's good name, or some such.

Whatever. My reaction...

FIELDING AND HIS CLIENT CAN KISS
MY ASPERSIONS.

Steve
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Good Intentions

Via TPMCafe Election Central, we have the earthshaking news that the White House is debating whether to announce its intention to withdraw troops from Iraq. NYT:

White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush’s Iraq strategy are collapsing around them, according to several administration officials and outsiders they are consulting. They say that inside the administration, debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.

     ...

Four more Republican senators have recently declared that they can no longer support Mr. Bush’s strategy, including senior lawmakers who until now had expressed their doubts only privately. As a result, some aides are now telling Mr. Bush that if he wants to forestall more defections, it would be wiser to announce plans for a far more narrowly defined mission for American troops that would allow for a staged pullback, a strategy that he rejected in December as a prescription for defeat when it was proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

“When you count up the votes that we’ve lost and the votes we’re likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim,” said one senior official, who, like others involved in the discussions, would not speak on the record about internal White House deliberations.

     ...

The Bushists are deciding to withdraw troops from Iraq, not because it would almost surely be the right thing to do, nor because it would benefit America's security or standing in the world, but because it is politically expedient. It's all about "the votes we've lost and the votes we're likely to lose" ... not about the lives of troops or the security of the nation. Are motives irrelevant? Only if they lead to the same outcomes, and that is far from assured in this case.

Bush's Good Intentions

It's not about Iraq, about a people torn asunder;
It's covering for Bush, to hide his catastrophic blunder.
It's not about our troops, about their lives that would be saved;
It's Bush's "good intentions" ... hey, that road's already paved!

- SB the YDD   

Have I mentioned lately how much I loathe these people, for who they are as much as for what they do?

Steve
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Pink-Pistol-Packing Lesbian Gangs

That's a franchise, like, say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, right?

"Pink-Pistol-Packing Lesbian Gangs," the movie;
"Pink-Pistol-Packing Lesbian Gangs," the comic books,
"Pink-Pistol-Packing Lesbian Gangs," the lunchbox,
"Pink-Pistol-Packing Lesbian Gangs," the placemats, ...

Right? RIGHT?

Wrong!

Via ellroon, Bill O'Reilly tells us all about it, and via Crooks and Liars, Keith Olbermann debunks it, between fits of nearly uncontrollable laughter.

(My insincere apologies to Mel Brooks for parodying his merchandising rant as "Yoghurt" in "Spaceballs." That would be Spaceballs, the Movie, not to be confused with Spaceballs, the Documentary, Spaceballs, the Animated Series, ...)

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Bathroom Humor Edition

I believe I've found a sign with no political connotations...



... but feel free to contribute any you think of.

Steve
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No Standing

An ACLU challenge to the warrantless NSA wiretapping program has failed because a three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit Court has ruled that nobody has standing to sue:

CINCINNATI (AP) - A divided federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit Friday challenging President Bush's domestic spying program without ruling on the issue of whether warrantless wiretapping is legal.

In a 2-1 decision with Republican-appointed judges in the majority, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the plaintiffs had no standing to sue because they couldn't prove their communications had been monitored by the government.

The decision underscored the difficulty of challenging the anti-terrorism program in court because its secret nature prevents plaintiffs from obtaining surveillance information. The National Security Agency had refused to turn over information about the warrantless wiretapping that would have bolstered the court case.

"This is a Catch-22," said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the lawsuit. "I think what in effect they're saying is that we can't tell you whether you have been wiretapped because that's a secret. And unless you know you've been wiretapped, you can't challenge that program."

     ...

The ACLU is "currently reviewing all of [their] legal options, including taking this challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court." (Press release.) Given our current Court, I doubt that will change matters, but the challenge must be made nonetheless. The 6th Circuit panel... did you note that they voted along party lines by the party that appointed them?... has in essence ruled that there are Executive branch actions that are unreviewable because the Executive branch says their factual underpinnings must remain secret. Catch-22, indeed.

When federal judges write rulings worthy of Joseph Heller... hell, worthy of Lewis Carroll in Alice... our judiciary is compromised. A Democratic president in 2008 may keep matters from getting worse, but the damage done by Bush appointees to the bench will take decades to undo.

Steve
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I've Got A Right To Singe The Blues

I've got The Blues. That, apparently, is what Blue Cross executives call their family of products in internal memos. Michael Moore has obtained one of those memos (.pdf, but you can see marginally legible images here on MichaelMoore.com) directed at coordinating a response to Sicko, or "SiCKO" as it is spelled on IMDB and most but not all of Moore's publicity material.

Anyway, I've got the Blues, an individual conventional policy I've had for about 15 years or so. I can't say they're better or worse than other companies, because it's been so long since I've had any other, and because I have not, thank goodness, had occasion to test them with any major medical expense in that time. But based on a few lines in this mostly predictable memo, I'm ready to turn up the heat, to singe [sic] The Blues.

There is too much material in the memo to deconstruct it point-by-point, but there is one talking point about the "good" things The Blues are alleged to do that caught my eye:

The Blues recently created Blue Health Intelligence a data resource that will shine light on emerging medical trends and treatment options in an unprecedented way. To further the use of evidenced-based medicine, BCBSA has called upon Congress to establish an independent, payer-funded institute that will study the comparative effectiveness of new and existing medical treatments and procedures.

What is "evidenced[sic]-based medicine" ... diagnosis by insurance company? And is the institute "independent" or "payer-funded"? I don't see how it can possibly be both simultaneously. Accepting insurance industry money imposes an a priori taint upon any such institute, even if you believe... as I emphatically do not... that anyone apart from medical personnel should be evaluating anyone's medical status and treatment needs. This seems to me to be an attempt by insurance companies to externalize responsibility for denial of claims. I can see the letter now: "We regret to inform you that according to the Institute's standards, your claim is not evidence-based. Denied."

If anyone else would care to read through this document for any jewels I missed, I'd be grateful.


(H/T No Surrender of Victoria Kos, a fine South Texas political blog I just discovered through CEWDEM's excellent mailing list.)


(Oops... that lightning storm is getting mighty close. I'd better post this now...)


Afterthought: as I reread the paragraph from the memo, I realized that the emphasis is on comparing procedures rather than individual treatments. The upshot is the same, though: why should an insurance-industry-sponsored institute compare medical procedures, if not to proclaim some of them "experimental" and therefore not covered? Let's get medical work, whether diagnosis or procedures, back in the hands of medical professionals... not bean-counters.

Steve
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She'll Be Your Pal, But Not For Frey

Oh, goody goody! (Pardon the obscenity.) Deborah Jeane Palfrey may now legally distribute the customer records... reportedly containing 15,000 names... of her alleged DC prostitution ring:

"As a result, Jeane has determined to release those records under certain conditions to qualified individuals or organizations," wrote her attorney, Montgomery Blair Sibley, in an e-mail.

Palfrey and her attorney have said the list contains up to 15,000 names and could shake up Washington by revealing high-profile individuals.

Prosecutors had won two temporary restraining orders to prevent her from distributing the list, first to preserve its availability, and then to prevent the harassment of potential witnesses through its distribution.

But prosecutors' arguments did not hold up, the judge ruled. The availability of the list is not in jeopardy and it was not seized or listed with her other assets that were subject to forfeiture, Kessler wrote.

Freezing "the personal property of an individual, not yet convicted of any crime" would be an extraordinary step, the requirements of which government prosecutors failed to satisfy, the judge wrote.

Palfrey is facing federal racketeering and conspiracy charges for running what she says was a legal escort service. Prosecutors say the business netted more than $2 million from 1993 to 2006.

     ...

What a concept... "innocent until proven guilty." I wonder where the judge came up with that "quaint" bit of legal tradition.

But seriously... even if Palfrey's list contains equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, its release will disproportionately stain the reputations of GOPers. Why? because from the impeachment of Bill Clinton forward, the GOP has taken every opportunity to paint Democrats as veritable rabbits when it comes to sex... insatiable and leaning toward the criminal. The public, Democrats included, may vary widely in its opinions about prostitution, but the conventional wisdom is that Democrats just can't keep their clothes on. Any high-ranking Democrats revealed to be on Ms. Palfrey's list may find their marriages broken, but probably not their political careers: no voter who would refuse to support them because they paid for sex would have supported them anyway.

Republicans, on the other hand... and you know there will be a lot of them on the list... say, I wonder who... it is fun to speculate, isn't it? Payback is sweet, but it would be sweeter still to see a return of the days when a candidate's or officeholder's private life was considered, well, private, and as tawdry as this business is, it may have the effect of making GOPers less liable to attempt sex-based campaigns of political ruination.

I mean, really, who cares if, say, hypothetically, Karl Rove likes to be whipped with a Cat 5 cable? Do we really need to know?

Steve
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Friday Cushioned Cat Blogging

Samantha dreams: "Does this cushion make me look fat?"



Her frog reassures her: the cushion has nothing to do with it. Ah, a boy and his dog... um, I mean, a tabby-cat and her frog...

Steve
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Sicko, Quicko

I could write a tome about Sicko, or I could write a few sentences and throw you a few links. I choose the latter. The basic facts, including a list of some of the anecdotes and episodes documented in the movie, can be found on Wikipedia, and I won't repeat them here. The link on the word "Sicko" above is to a news blog; at the moment, the topmost post as I write this shows us that Fox News thinks national healthcare is a "breeding ground for terror." Who knew!

Another thing I will do is link to some facts you may want to absorb before or after viewing Sicko...

hipparchia asks the not entirely rhetorical question, "... just exactly where are those other countries getting the money?" and finds the answers in an excellent analysis by R. Neal of the Institute for Southern Studies. (Warning: you may be required to read and understand a few tables comparing dollar amounts, and you may need to let go of some preconceptions about taxes in the U.S. relative to taxes in European countries.) Big Medicine, Big Pharma, Big Insurance and dogmatic ideological conservatives won't like the answer, but I think the rest of us are prepared to accept that universal healthcare in European countries does less damage to the pocketbooks of individuals than far-from-universal healthcare does to people in the U.S. As you contemplate the savings, don't forget what the movie points out about this cheaper healthcare in other countries: its recipients live several years longer on average than U.S. residents.

Bryan of Why Now? takes up the problem of the paperwork overhead of the American system, induced in part by the disparate systems of illness reporting codes required by different insurance companies. Not having a single-payer system with a single illness classification method for insurance reporting purposes costs Americans dearly. Bryan also points to yet another Southern Studies article by Sue Sturgis about the relationship of the percentage of people lacking medical insurance in Southern states (of course, Texas takes the prize at 24 percent uninsured, with Florida close behind at 20 percent uninsured) and poverty in the region. Be sure to read the comment thread on Bryan's post, in which hipparchia introduces (to me, at least, it was an introduction) the notion of companies that do nothing except "denial management" for insurance companies... i.e., they find ways to help insurance companies deny claims. This outrage is explored extensively in Sicko. If you ever thought that having health insurance protected you against financial ruin due to major illness, Sicko will disabuse you of that notion once and for all. Be afraid; be very afraid: bankruptcy threatens you more than terrorism ever does.

And now to the movie itself. What to say about it that hasn't already been said?

This movie is quintessential Michael Moore: he is star as surely as he is documentary filmmaker, and yes (damn all the right-wing nut-cases who are preoccupied with the fact), he has a point of view. Documentaries are required to be factual, not impartial. Even Moore's worst critics in the conservative mainstream media (ignoring, of course, the right-wing noise machine itself, which will lie about anything) acknowledge that he got his facts right in this one. If the very sight of Michael Moore makes you break out into hives, you may want to skip Sicko, along with all his other films. If not, you'll probably find this to be his best-made and best-written film to date.

A warning to strong men (mostly) who were taught in their boyhood that men don't cry: fugheddaboutit. Bring a hankie, or perhaps two hankies.

A warning to anyone with a sensitive stomach: one of the opening scenes may be a bit hard to take.

A warning to anyone whose stomach churns when faced with gross injustice to mostly powerless people: bring your favorite antacid.

Other than that, it's mostly people telling their achingly sad stories of abuse and frustration with a faulty system, along with other people telling far less traumatic stories of their encounters with the medical care systems in Canada, the UK and France. There are humorous moments... Bush's line about gynecologists unable to "practice their love for women"; scenes from a Soviet propaganda musical intended to evoke the old bugbear of socialized medicine; etc. ... but I disagree with those reviewers who have emphasized the humor or even called the film "funny." It's not. Unless you have the sensibilities of a George W. Bush, after you see it, you will be outraged and terribly, terribly sad.

I can measure the power of this movie in a single reaction, shared by Stella and me: both of us, who have been dedicated, proactively patriotic lovers of America from our childhood to this moment, felt a visceral instinct on seeing Sicko: we felt like moving to another country with a civilized healthcare system. Of course, that's exactly backward: what we must all do is to bring the best of the healthcare systems of those other countries to America. That will not be easy; indeed, it may not be possible. But we have to try. Our system is not merely broken: it is rigged against us.

Who has a stake in the problems barely touched on in Sicko? the uninsured? the insured who have been mistreated by their insurers? only those? NO. All of us do. I do. Stella does. Many of my blogging friends do. I do not know a single adult American who does not have a story suitable for inclusion in Moore's movie; the only difference is the degree to which we have suffered... medically and financially.

At ground, this is a political problem: the politicians bought and paid for by the drug/hospital/insurance industries must be thrown out on their ears, and the current radical system (yes, I said "radical") of healthcare delivery must be reoriented to a more normal system (yes, I said "normal") like that of the rest of the civilized Western industrial/hi-tech nations of the world. Note that not all these wholly owned politicians are Republicans (though a great many are): Hillary Clinton is a major recipient of insurance industry largesse. All of them, of whatever party, must be held to account at the polls for their actions in the public arena. It's far past time to fix a system that is, precisely, sicko.

(So much for my not writing a tome!)

Steve
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Survived The 4th... How To Take The 5th?

Maybe some Bush administration officials could show me how it's done. Or perhaps the fifth I really need is that secret bottle of Black Jack that Bush keeps so carefully hidden from Laura...

In any case, weather did not cooperate yesterday; we canceled our Galveston adventure. Catherine stayed home to work on her web site; Stella and I grabbed a neighbor (gently, of course) and went to see Sicko. Many say this is Moore's best yet, and I have to agree. It certainly merits a separate post later. I haven't calmed down enough to write cogently about it yet.

Last night we walked down to the bayou just barely too late to get a distant glimpse of one of the fireworks displays. Instead, we watched a tape (made by the ever foresightful Stella) of the main display in downtown Houston, aptly named the Chevy Freedom Over Texas display, sponsored by Shell, and requiring a few bucks admission if one wanted to see it live from downtown. Hey, freedom isn't free! Just ask any lobbyist for GM or Shell...

Steve
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Liberty And Justice

... for Big Boys only:



I took the Big Boy picture in our local Whole Foods; it reminds us of all the Kip's (in Houston), Shoney's (somewhere in Stella's past), etc. over which such immense, shiny-faced boys loomed in our youth. When I was in college, the CompSci students and theater tech crew used to gather at the sign of the Big Boy late at night. Don't ask how many empty calories I wolfed down there.

Today, the Statue of Liberty for Big Boys Only reminds me of Bush's commutation of Libby's jail time, which effectively served to prevent further testimony by Libby before congressional committees about possible violations of law by Cheney and Bush.

I am sorry, but this is not the thing for which our Founders fought, died and threw off the burdens of tyrannical government by King George. Obstruction of justice is not an American value.

Forgive my cynicism at the moment. If you want to understand it better, read (Salon; get a site pass) and, most especially, watch Keith Olbermann's special comment, one of his most powerful ever, in which he states, better than I ever could, just why Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence... and all the other self-serving, heavy-handed, anticonstitutional and illegal acts that Bush and Cheney have committed... are fundamentally, deeply wrong from an American perspective. Olbermann also urges Bush and Cheney to do the same constructive thing, the only constructive thing, that Nixon did: resign.

Your assignment for this July 4, should you choose to accept it, is to devise a way to solve the nation's energy problems by harnessing the motion of all our nation's founders spinning in their graves. Whatever you decide to do, have a safe and (to the extent possible) happy Fourth of July.


Weather permitting, Stella and I and Catherine will head to Galveston tomorrow afternoon for at least part of the Fourth, possibly stopping at an Indian restaurant and a used book store in Clear Lake, just down the road from NASA, and eventually watching the inevitable fireworks display near the bay. If I put up a post tomorrow morning, I'll probably keep this post with its grotesque picture at the top of the site for the day.

Steve
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Bush's 'Cronkite Moment'?

RJ Eskow on Firedoglake points out that Bush has lost the confidence of... wait for it... Merle Haggard. Please go watch the YouTube video (preferably through FDL, where they are also on a roll about the Libby commutation and Bush's effective obstruction of justice).

I doubt that I share much of Merle's politics (though I try really hard to trim my beard like his). I would have mixed feelings about a song whose title message is "Rebuild America First" ... except that the Bush crew has screwed up things so unbelievably badly that I feel we have no choice. We cannot save the world if we do not save ourselves... and regular readers know me well enough to understand that I'm not advocating anything less than a global perspective in approaching that rebuilding.

Why am I posting on this? Because Merle really got to me when he sang, "Get out of Iraq" about midway through the song. Who would have thought I'd find myself aligned with an old country-western singer on the major issue of our day. Get out of Eye-rack indeed. Sing it, Merle.

The post title? LBJ is said to have said, in response to Walter Cronkite's change of heart about the Vietnam War, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America." Is Bush... is Cheney... smart enough to recognize that losing Merle Haggard is his "Cronkite moment" ... that he has lost America?

(Haggard's video ends with a hand-painted sign that reads "God bless Johnny Cash." Indeed.)

Steve
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Is Gates Nuts?

Spencer Ackerman at TPMCafe:

WSJ: Gates Trades the Surge for Permanent Iraq Bases
By Spencer Ackerman | bio

Guantanamo isn't the only issue on which Defense Secretary Bob Gates is seeking a middle path. Gates made headlines during a trip to Hawaii a month ago when he called a decades-long U.S. troop presence in Iraq "a great idea." Now, reports the Wall Street Journal, Gates figures the path to Congressional assent for an enduring, South Korea-style stay in Iraq is to come up with near-term troop reductions. It's basically a trade-off: cut the surge short in order to stay in Iraq indefinitely.

     ...

What part of the outcome of the 2006 election does Gates not understand? And just how does this help the preznit he works for?

Ackerman offers an explanation of Gates's "reasoning," but I'll stick with my assessment. Links for the quote and the WSJ article are available in Ackerman's post.

Steve
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Go To Jail. Go Directly To Jail.

As noted in the update of 17:15 below, since my original post, Bush has commuted Libby's sentence. This statement is just to give some context to all the following updates...

UPDATE 20:13: Hillary, at long last... talk about making a grand entrance, or maybe waiting for polls or focus group results. The statement is acceptable, but hardly what I'd call strong. Never have so many waited so long for so little...

UPDATE 19:42: Patrick Fitzgerald's statement, via TPM:

We fully recognize that the Constitution provides that commutation decisions are a matter of presidential prerogative and we do not comment on the exercise of that prerogative.

We comment only on the statement in which the President termed the sentence imposed by the judge as “excessive.” The sentence in this case was imposed pursuant to the laws governing sentencings which occur every day throughout this country. In this case, an experienced federal judge considered extensive argument from the parties and then imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws. It is fundamental to the rule of law that all citizens stand before the bar of justice as equals. That principle guided the judge during both the trial and the sentencing.

Although the President’s decision eliminates Mr. Libby’s sentence of imprisonment, Mr. Libby remains convicted by a jury of serious felonies, and we will continue to seek to preserve those convictions through the appeals process.

Don't you know Fitzgerald is pissed off.

UPDATE 19:04: it is being reported that Conyers will initiate hearings on the commutation as early as next week. Meanwhile, among Democratic presidential candidates, Edwards has the strongest statement so far, Obama issues a passable statement (but with a reference to "bitter partisanship" as if that is the fault of both parties), and Hillary... it's 7:00pm CT; where is your Hillary?

UPDATE 18:58: the ever sensible and timely (NOT!) Joe Biden says that Americans should "flood the White House with phone calls tomorrow expressing their outrage over this blatant disregard for the rule of law." Yeah, Joe, sure... the White House has shut down its switchboard today; what makes you think they'll turn it on tomorrow?

UPDATE 18:46: Talking Points Memo and TPMMuckraker are all over this. Start with the linked post and work your way downstream to more recent posts. They have linked just about everybody's reaction... everybody except Hillary's, who hasn't responded as I write this, about two hours after the commutation. Um, Hil, don't you think you'd better say something?

UPDATE 18:22: Jane Hamsher, appearing on the Rachel Maddow Show on Air America Radio, discussed the fact that a commutation is much worse than a pardon. Why? Because

  • if Libby challenges it, the White House can still claim they cannot discuss it because there is a court case pending,
  • Libby can still take the Fifth Amendment if called before Congress, and of course
  • Libby can still appeal the conviction itself, and may yet get a pardon from Bush.

Great. Just great.

UPDATE 17:15:

Bush has commuted Libby's prison sentence. Fucking goddamned bastard. Of the original punishment, only the $250k fine remains. (Correction: that, and two years of probation. But no jail time.)

(Original post follows.)


Scooter Libby, that is. Actually, he has a couple more stops on the way... the full DC Circuit, and if they won't spring him, the Supreme Court... but I will celebrate if Libby spends even a day in jail for the crimes of which he has been convicted. Longer would be fine with me as well.

Steve
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L'État, C'est Moi

According to Wikipedia, Louis XIV probably never said that himself. But according to Bloomberg, George W. Bush might as well have said it, through one of his spokesliars:

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in a statement last week that the lawmakers "continue to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of separation of powers." Fratto said that "if the committees just want the facts, then they should withdraw the subpoenas and accept the president's offer, instead of this continued pattern of gross overreach and confrontation."

Apparently, "separation of powers" means divvying them up... all of them for Cheney's Bush's Executive, none of them for any other branch. No "fundamental misunderstanding" there; oh, no. If the Legislative branch would just shut up and take what the president says they should have, everything would be fine. Oh, yeah. We have a name for that type of government, and it isn't "republic."

Fortunately, Patrick Leahy and John Conyers have other ideas:

Leahy and Conyers sent a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding last week threatening legal action to enforce the subpoenas. They said Bush's refusal to produce the documents is reminiscent of "Nixonian stonewalling," recalling former President Richard Nixon's refusal to give Congress tapes and documents about the Watergate scandal, which ended his presidency in 1974.

The congressional panels have subpoenaed former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor, Bush's former political director, to force them to testify. Bush has offered to let his aides be questioned behind closed doors without a transcript and under the agreement that lawmakers never issue a subpoena for a follow-up, conditions the panels have rejected.

Legislative Malpractice

"I would be guilty of legislative malpractice if I accepted it," Leahy said today.

When asked whether he was confident that the U.S. attorney's office in Washington would prosecute should Congress seek a criminal contempt citation, Leahy said he believed it would be "very difficult for him not to."

It sounds as if Leahy has a clear understanding of where things are going next. One can only hope that when... not if, but when... this goes to court, the court understands the "separation of powers" better than the preznit. If they do, then we may still have a government of laws. If they do not... the State is Bush.


(The Nation has a good blog post editorial on the subject.)

Steve
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First Ever YDD Caption Contest

Shamelessly stolen from ellroon; goddess knows where she got it:



Your prize? Uh... um... the undeniable satisfaction of offering the best snark? This is already a nonprofit, noncommercial site; I can't afford to turn it into an actual loss...

Steve
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Gore Beyond Kyoto

It's now or never, says Al Gore. The more I read other popular scientific works, the more I tend to believe him: the amount of time we have to avert global climate catastrophe may well be measured in decades (or even A decade), not generations. As usual, Gore touches on everything from the science to the politics to the marketing (in this case, next weekend's Live Earth concerts). And as usual, his work is worth a read.

Steve
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Selected Links To Recent Posts

 
Click any permalink below to go to the original article on a previous page. Click a comment link below to add a comment to the original article. Your comment will be noticed, by the YDD at least: HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to.

Saturday Signs

Steve
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Oh, How I Wish...

Steve
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Brown Boarded Up

Steve
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Friday Top Cat Blogging

Steve
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Shit... Fan... Splat!

Steve
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Romney's Dog Talks

Steve
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DeLay Indictment Dismissal Upheld

Steve
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Game On

Steve
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Stupid Interface Tricks

Steve
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Giuliani Scraping The Bottom

Steve
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Can't Keep Secrets

Steve
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TMI About Cheney

Steve
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Caging Voters

Steve
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'I Believe In The Bill Of Rights...'

Steve
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Showdown Hoedown -- DOGGEREL!

Steve
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<TAG> I'm It </TAG>

Steve
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Two For Tom Lehrer Fans

Steve
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Saturday Signs - Sunday Edition

Steve
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Saturday Signs

Steve
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Microsoft Big-Ass Table™

Steve
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Day Of Action To Restore Law And Justice

Steve
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Special Ops At Home

Steve
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Friday Calico Kitten Blogging

Steve
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White House To Close Gitmo?

Steve
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Cheap AT&T DSL

Steve
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Grinding The Ax Of Evil

Steve
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I Am So Embarrassed

Steve
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Obama Event Off Limits To Bloggers

Steve
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Digby For President

Steve
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The Merry Little Minuet

Steve
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When Pigs Don't Fly

Steve
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She Can Be Had For A Song

Steve
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Book Title Of The Month

Steve
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Impeachment Is Possible -- DOGGEREL!

Steve
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Hersh On Taguba Re: Abu Ghraib

Steve
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Melissa Noriega!

Steve
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Saturday Signs: Balancing Act

Steve
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Vote TODAY For Melissa Noriega

Steve
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