Thursday, November 02, 2006

Would Someone Please Build This Guy A Memorial Library So He Can Retire?

Having a hard time finding a full clip of Kerry's speech. Here is a clip from the Olbermann show that includes a little more preamble, and some of the Kerry response to GOP criticism.

Start at 1:00 or so for the Kerry speech clip. It still seems to me like a stupid thing to say -- if he was joking about Bush, he blew it like he did so many times in 2004, with a miss so large that the "joke" re-explanation defies credulity. How do you have a 30-year career of public speaking experience and make a joke about Bush miss by so much that you sound like you are insulting "the troops'" intelligence?!? How do you do it a mere week before the midterm election, when your party has swung so far in front that all you have to do is not introduce any distractions from the news cycle of corruption, Iraq, torture, unaddressed terror, corruption, pending landslide, Iraq, rinse, repeat?

Check part of his response, around 3:30 in the Olberman clip...once again, just because Kerry's scripted point is right doesn't mean he is anything but an incompetent public speaker. At least Bush manages to convey a semi-coherent and generally cohesive statement (read:lie) when he speaks. He stays ON MESSAGE, appropriately trading any image of intelligence for the appeal and rhetorical advantages of simplicity, perceived strength, and implied strength of character.

Staying on message was invented for pols who can't speak extemporaneously, who can't stick to the point, who will ramble or say damaging things if given anything but a short leash. And that's Kerry, as much as Bush.

Kerry is rambling, scattered and seemingly incapable of saying anything in a direct and declarative way. He can't just leave it at that. He insists on including repetitions and rephrases within his delivery that are distracting, dilutive and disconcerting to ME, and I'm on his team.

Again, if I can't find more video that shows me he was talking about Bush, the idea that this was a botched joke is the real joke -- a rerun of Kerry's atrocious public presentation. It shows that he and his team learned nothing from their 2004 errors and loss.

Kerry continues to do more harm than good for the Democrats and American political discourse, and needs to be put out to pasture if he can't find the way himself.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Paging Dennis Hastert, or "They Look Alike, They Sweat Alike, They Even Deny Regret Alike"

Sing it with me now: "Cause they're scumbags...identical scumbags, just the same!!"

I love to see the porky, sweaty, pasty Illinois pols squirm in the spotlight. I really do.

Seems like that lovable former wrestling coach is gonna need to pull some crafty moves to wriggle out of this chokehold.

At a press conference today, Hastert read a prepared statement in which he denied having any knowledge about the online conversations from 2003. "No one in the Republican Leadership, nor Congressman Shimkus, saw those messages until last Friday when ABC News released them to the public."

He added that he found the messages "vile and repulsive."

Exactly the point, Denny!! You should have seen them, because when the problem was brought to you, you decided, by most reports I've seen, to do nothing. You just accepted the explanation that it was no big thing, there was no need to examine it, no need to report any allegations, no need to ask anyone else about it.

To paraphrase the classic street cop refrain: "Nothing to see here, let's move it along, folks, nothing to see."

I guess the political judgement that got him to the top of the heap wasn't keen enough to keep him there any longer. Not only has Foley resigned and handed his seat to the blue side, but this blows up much closer to the elections than it needed to, for Denny's and the reds' sake.

For those that think this can't stick, maybe the remarks of the House Majority Leader, John Boehner (R-OH), were about Hastert's mea exculpa:
ABC's Teddy Davis reports: In a radio interview with 700 WLW radio in Cincinnati, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) placed responsibility for the Foley matter not being handled properly on House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL).

"I believe I talked to the Speaker and he told me it had been taken care of," said Boehner. "And, and, and my position is it's in his corner, it's his responsibility. The Clerk of the House who runs the page program, the Page Board—all report to the Speaker. And I believe it had been dealt with."

Please note that by saying that he talked with the Speaker about Foley, Boehner is reversing course and going back to his original position. [props to superblogger, Atrios, for this snippable synopsis]
Denny may lose not only his leadership post, but his seat as well.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

True Hollywood Stories: 28 Days Later

This is, officially, Extremely Bad News. Seems there is now a form of tuberculosis (TB, as it prefers to be called, and I would begin showing it a little respect, if I were you) that is resistant to all medical treatments, save one.

The Guardian also reports that the lone remaining treatment is expensive, toxic, and really doesn't do shit. Of the 53 people who had super-TB in South Africa, 52 died within a few weeks.

But wait -- that's not all! There are over 4 million people in South Africa alone that are HIV positive, who have no shot if they catch this bug and, as we all know, whose immune systems offer comprimised resistance, at best.

Aren't you glad you visited Rejoinder today?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bill Does His Hillary Impression, and I DON"T LIKE IT

Wtf, Bill? Campaigning for Lieberman?

I know, I know -- everyone loves to talk smack about how conservative Big Bill really was, but he wouldn't be the apologist for W that Loserman has been. And you would NEVER hear talk of WJC as a possible cabinet officer for W, let alone at D. of Defense, ala Jingo-Joe.

The story says they have been tight since '70...I guess my ignorance was bliss, after all.

Let's take a trip down memory lane, and recall Joe's support of his good friend Bill and of Democratic priorities, as he spoke on the Senate floor, in 1998... is harmful, for it sends a message of what is acceptable behavior to the larger American family, particularly to our children, which is as influential as the negative messages communicated by the entertainment culture. If you doubt that, just ask America's parents about the intimate and often unseemly sexual questions their young children have been asking and discussing since the President's relationship with Ms. Lewinsky became public seven months ago...something very sad and sordid has happened in American life when I cannot watch the news on television with my ten-year-old daughter any more.
Ahh, yes, Joe: tough on sex, soft on war. Just one of many reasons you are in the wrong party.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Genies Don't Go Back In Bottles

Please read this article, and never forget it.
The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.
This is the goal of the NSA: total information, achieved through perpetual surveillance, guarded by abrogating any checks or balances, even from within its own branch of government.

Big Brother is here, and he will NEVER go away.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pigs At The Trough Leave CIA

Seems that Porter Goss resigned his post atop the CIA because he likes playing poker with the most corrupt public official in American history (as characterized by victorious prosecutors). It's not because he was involved in the bribery, contract auctioning, and prostitution going on at those same weekly parties.

The "No. 3" at the CIA, Goss' top aide, seems to have ordered from the full menu.

Maybe that will get Porter Goss to forever shut his sanctimonious mouth; nothing else would.

Bye-bye trough, hello medium security!!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Blame The Victim, Part MMVI

FEMA has closed it's New Orleans long term recovery office.

The stated reason? New Orleans hasn't done the planning necessary for FEMA to continue helping, or even maintaining a presence.

So...the city that was wiped out, and then had its residents shipped out, doesn't have the money or the people to operate on the lightning-speed timetable that FEMA is famous for? Go figure.

I wish FEMA was running our invasion of Iraq; we barely would have made it in, and would have been out years ago.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Now, Who's the Bitch? Rove? Ryan? Yet Another Official "A"?

There's an Olbermann excerpt has become a major blog meme, especially amongst Illinois' web-addicted set. I don't know what the money shot is in this post, but read all the way to the end, and you four readers of mine can post your own opinions.

My opinion - lawbreaking and corrupt officials can all rot in prison, no matter how they feel 'bout abortion, schools, the death penalty, the war or the flag. There's always more people who will take exactly the same policy stands, come the next election and the one after that; political wannabes are a dime a dozen. Why not have butts in the chairs that aren't underneath greedy criminals?

BONUS corruption nugget - here's an excerpt from Scott Fawell's 500+ page (!!) secret list of favors made for George Ryan while Jailbird #76 was Sec'y of State. A LOT of familiar names, most wanting more than a vanity plate (though almost every one on the list asked for those, too).

Note, also, that the ongoing corruption scandal probe that just nailed #76 with 22 guilty counts currently has a record of 76-0; nothing but guilties. Go, Fitz & Co.!!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I Cannot Wait

Until George Ryan goes to jail.

Follow The Barcodes... paraphrase Deep Throat.

Is anyone surprised? I'm not. I mean, I'm pretty sure my dad had a nuclear weapons program hidden under the driver's seat of his Mustang in the 80's, and if he could do it, then why not Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Pat Robertson?*

I just hope Robertson is senile enough to have forgotten where the button is -- he was voted "Most Likely To Launch a First Strike" by the Oral Roberts Class of 1902, after all.

* - Actually, that's where he hid his smokes; Silva Thins. Same diff.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Tube Steak

No, not a hot dog: test-tube meat.

This grossed me out. Not because I don't think it could be good; I'm pretty sure it will be, given time and thousands of focus groups that I will NOT participate in. It's gross in the Fast-Food Nation kind of way. I don't want to see behind the curtain.

A question that comes to mind: WWPD, What Will PETA Do?

Friday, March 24, 2006

Trust the Market

It will care for us all.

Especially when we need healthcare and we're poor.

Just look at how well hospitals in LA treat their "indigent" patients.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Get Geraldo In There With A Camera!! NOW!!!

In a world, where we get photos of the food between Julia Roberts' teeth and secure video of George W. Bush being told about the impending wipeout fo New Orleans before he lied about not being told about it, WHY, oh why, are there not pictures of the retarded (AFP's word, not mine) family of human quadrupeds in Turkey?!?

Get the torrent of the BBC Mar. 17 broadcast, please, someone, ANYONE.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I Refuse To Admit Agreement

But, hey, I'll take paleocon foreign policy over neocon. Every day.

Anyway, the rapidly aging George Will calls for an end to Bushrovik happy talk. We'll see if anyone in the GOP (Gibberish Over Policy) listens.

(And too bad he's too old and dim to apply his historical analogy about vocal and violent minorities hijacking parties and nations for decades to his own sad excuse for a party and our body politic. How did he ever win a Pulitzer???)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Babies and Bathwater Award

Goes to the douchebag from Kentucky, Sen. Jim Bunning (R. - surprised?), for his justification in killing proposed amendments to the Patriot Act which would protect the civil liberties of all Americans:
"Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead."
Life before liberty. He must have left school around 5th grade, before they got to the part about Patrick Henry.

(inscription on Bunning's B&B Award)
The Patriot Act -- Too Important For Liberty!!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Throw the Bums In (Jail)

Most folks think all politicians are corrupt. Meet the new poster child:
"Having admitted unparalleled corruption, defendant Randall H. Cunningham now comes before the Court to be sentenced for his stunning betrayal of the public trust."
This guy was SO brazen in his feeding at the trough. The bullet points on that list don't really do his act justice; read the sentencing memorandum for the meat of his law-breaking and shameless abuses of privelege and power. It's pretty jaw-dropping, and well-paced, to boot.

Prosecutors have demanded the max, 10 years in jail. I wish it was life, with parole. The guy knew what he was doing when he committed a laundry list of felonies, and did it out of pure greed.

Thirty strikes, he's out.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

POLL - Scalia: Kettle or Pot?

Scalia refers to himself as "Scalia", and as "he", eclipsing even Michael Jordan's abuse of speechification. He then goes on to call, though not by name, his fellow Justice, and anyone who agrees with him, an "idiot".

Well, at least we now know he keeps an open mind when he's hearing cases, and listens carefully to the points of the other Justices. That's a relief.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Coming To A Cube Near You

They used to say punchcards were dehumanizing...(wimps)...
An Ohio company has embedded silicon chips in two of its employees - the first known case in which US workers have been “tagged” electronically as a way of identifying them.
When they can download from iTunes, then you'll see demand for these babies really take off. Until then, maybe they can co-brand with Miami Ink for a really edgy, low-cost "worker" identifier. They could call them TreblInkaz, or Bergen-Belsen-Bling'en.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

It's Been A While

Yeah, it's been three weeks since I did anything on here (yes, I'm talking to the 2 people per week who visit; thanks, Tony and Ella).

Here's something amusing, gross, and scary from the mouths of the boring:
When the Commerce Department recently tallied up consumer finances for November, it found that Americans shelled out more money than they took in. It was the seventh such month of red ink during 2005.

Kevin Lansing, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco, tracks the personal savings rate -- the Commerce Department's measure of how much consumers have left after spending is subtracted from income. In November the savings rate was a negative 0.2 percent.

Given how much red ink households racked up in the first 11 months of last year, Lansing said the nation's personal savings rate could well be negative for all of 2005.

That, he added, would be "the first such occurrence since the Great Depression."

The term "savings rate" may be a misnomer. Keith Leggett, senior economist with the American Bankers Association, described the measure as a tally of all the income that isn't spent.

"Savings is the absence of consumption,'' he said.

Bankers...they say the darndest things!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Too Much Not Enough

I would normally advise you to prep the fallout shelter, get a bunch of canned food, go to Wal-Mart to stock up on ammo, destroy your cellphone and start making tinfoil hats: Big Brother is here. The NSA now gets to spy on Americans in America, without making its case for a warrant before a court, without being held accountable, and without providing recourse to any aggrieved, offended, or abused parties. Wasn't there some BS about search and seizure in the Bill of Quaint Rights?

Actually, I don't see too much to worry about. We can't even recognize and hang onto a guy with a multimillion dollar bounty on his head when he's in our jail. His name's Zarqawi. I hear he's bad, but maybe the NSA should listen to him ordering take-out to make sure. Gives "catch and release" a whole new meaning.

Doin' a great job, Bushie.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Say It Ain't So, Joe

I already think Joe Lieberman sucks. He is a Republican at his core, and should just admit it. He could have acted against the bankruptcy bill and didn't, and he is all about Iraq...if I had even five minutes to put into a real list of his errors, I wouldn't have to write this at all. I could just substitute his name into my anti-Terry Gross thing and leave it at that...


The rumor is that he is going to replace Rummy as Secretary of War Crimes and Plan-Free Incompetence, I mean, Defense.

Yeah, I know, it's only a rumor. It just makes enough sense for me to already be pissed.

He sucks just for having that rumor seem believable. Which it is. And he does.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Back to the Good Old '80s

With folks like Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte and so many other luminaries from the Reagan/Bush years running the show for us (and a host of others "advising", such as Richard Perle, Wolfy and like-minded geniuses), it shouldn't be a surprise that they have thawed the "death squads" strategy from the meat-freezer where they keep Bill Casey's head stored for revivification.

And yet, I was surprised.

I know that there are plenty of people happily willing to do "whatever it takes" to achieve whatever they currently want. I understand that "winning is the ONLY thing" for these same myopic and power-drunk robots of the American Way.

But have they heard the one about the babies and the bathwater? Or pot and the kettle? The glass houses and stones? What goes around comes around?

There are no laws for the neo-cons. For W and friends, law is for anyone who can't steal an election, can't take a bribe, can't call dissenters unpatriotic and can't use confidential information to strike back at those who dare dissent.

But in the 80's, some heads did roll in Iran-Contra, which also slowed down the Reagan/Bush machine mightily. If it weren't for Dukakis' issues, '88 should have been a gimme (as well as '00 and '04, lost by candidate issues, electoral robberies, and nothing else).

In the 00's, so far, we get Libby's head. But, The Raw Story, one of my favorite blogs, says that Rove's head is all but plattered, which would bring an end to our 80's revival before we have to put shoulder pads in our suits, let alone start digging up the new victims of our new death squads, who the apologists will falsely laud as heroes, using terror and murder to secure freedom.

Monday, November 28, 2005

What's Good For GM Is Good For...India

Hmm...I wonder where they found the money to hire people in India?

Thursday, November 17, 2005


David Irving, world-renowned Holocaust denier, is arrested in Austria, where denying the Holocaust is a crime...

...which reminds me of the program I heard on radio today. All about how Pinochet and other war criminals are being arrested for their crimes against humanity and human rights abuses while travelling abroad, under the auspices of international laws which require signatories to arrest suspected war criminals that remain unprosecuted in their home nations.

Those in jeopardy of foreign arrest under those treaties and agreements include American officials by the name of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hadley, et al, for their abrogation and violation of the Geneva Convention (as well as others).

Which is worse: to deny the Holocaust as the basis of a career, or to promote and sanction the torture of uncharged, undefended prisoners of war, as policy and politics?


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Maybeas Corpus

Bye-bye, due process. Nice knowin' ya.

Lindsay Graham finally just said no to that albatross known as habeas corpus. It had been a yoke on the exhausted shoulders of power since, oh, 1215, in that stupid Magna Carta thingy. And he wasn't gonna let it make its 800th birthday without finding someone he thought didn't deserve it. That's right: start with the terr'rists.

Last week, it passed as an amendment, in a 49-42 vote. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon, all Democrats, drew the line in the sand with him.

Republicans voting against were limited to Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

Haven't dug up thenine no-shows yet.

UPDATE: Seems like there has been a change of heart (shouts to the NYT for this digest):
The Senate also approved, 84 to 14, a compromise, announced Monday night, that would allow terror detainees some access to federal courts. The Senate had voted last week to prohibit those being held from challenging their detentions in federal court, despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary.
Now, I am very confused where things stand, I admit. It's bizarre that this is getting SO little attention. It must not be a big deal, because terror detainees in American prisons aren't American, or people, or whatever would make anyone notice, or care, or the slightest bit worried for their self-centered little selves...

And speaking of prisons...peep this for the latest on the prisons in Iraq that our government acknowledges. Total in prison is over 13,000, up from 5,673 in March, 2004, from a stated total of 35,000 taken to date. Of the grand total, only 4% have been tried, and 2% convicted of anything at all.

Think that any of those 22,000 released were less than pleased with the effectiveness of American war-fighting and ineffective systems of justice? Hmm, where to vent that anger...

UPDATE: I blogged too soon. This article says that the total prisoner count in the GWOT is over 83,000.

Bushie's GWOT: Now, with more fodder than ever before!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Robertson declares that God Has Left the Building

Don't you dare tell Pat that Intelligent Design doesn't belong in your science class:

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city."

And in case you didn't get it the first time, Sodomites, oops, I mean, Doverites,

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.

No God, Pat? Thanks for clearing that up.

And all it took was a school board election in Dover, PA...

Friday, November 04, 2005

If Only It Were Retroactive

An idea whose time has come...citizenship tests for babies born in the USA!

"There is a general agreement about the fact that citizenship in this country should not be bestowed on people who are the children of folks who come into this country illegally," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

Birthright citizenship, or what critics call "anchor babies," means that any child born on U.S. soil is granted citizenship, with exceptions for foreign diplomats.

Yes, yes, those little baby time-bombs are just surruptitiously dropped overboard to give families an anchor here...the kind of anchor that doesn't prevent those despicable freeloaders from being deported, or being taxed without having a vote, or working for less than minimum wage, or getting in on our fabulously efficient healthcare system for anything less than extortionate costs.

If only it were retroactive to all the grown-up descendants of illegal immigrants of bygone days, we would likely have very few members of Congress left to debate this insane trial balloon from the "our"-side-of-the-fence party.

I wonder if Tom Tancredo's immigrant grandfather got here legally, those many years far he hasn't returned my email (below). I'll update when he does...

Hello Representative Tancredo,

I just read this statement, attributed to you by UPI.

"There is a general agreement about the fact that citizenship in this country should not be bestowed on people who are the children of folks who come into this country illegally," said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

May I ask, did your family (for instance, your grandfather, mentioned on your website) enter this country legally? Can this be verified in some way for the general public?

Also, would you be willing to make this proposed law retroactive, and strip the citizenship of anyone whose parents, grandparents, etc., entered this country illegally? That would create consistent policy, address the legacy effects of "anchor babies" on contemporary American society, and let the remaining Real Americans have an undiluted, unified voice in how to deal with this pernicious state of affairs and its historically beneficial influences on American society.

Thanks for your answer (in advance),

Monday, October 24, 2005

Syriasly, What Happens Next?

I thought it was all natural disasters from here out, but the report from the UN that fingers most of the miggest bereted and bescarfed heads below the PM of Syria leads me to wonder when the shiz will hit that fan, and just how Bushy will botch it for the locals and us.

I mean, W and Condo are calling for hasty meetings, speedy conclusions, and so on from the UN. Events have evolved such that they need to like the UN for a while, and given the likelihood of a dozen or two White House creeps doing the perp walk for Fitzgerald and Co., they will unironically take even the point of a scimitar in trying to deflect the treason/corruption shitstorm headed towards DC.

So...W finds much new love for the UN, and then what? Some thoughts on the possibilities...

  1. Seems unlikely that the UN would want to, but if they thought Assad and friends had to go, the US can't do much but cheer from the sidelines, thanks to the bogus strategy in Iraq. We're stuck there, unless there was some sort of timetable for a UN takeover in Syria that coincides with a withdrawal from Iraq (for which there is no timetable or plan).
  2. UN has recommended that the investigation, which is not complete, be finished up by Lebanon, with help from the "international community". That would seem to let Bush saber-rattle or finger-wag or flop-the-US-cock-on-the-table while the investigation gets wrapped up. It also allows him to hide behind a convenient faux "cooperation among law abiding nations" stance for a while, and then blame the UN as a failed institution if they can't get together and decide to invade like real men. That might work on some rubes here, but staying in Iraq would be even harder to defend to everyone else.
  3. UN does decide to take down the Syrian Baathists' "Open For Business" sign, and we can't join in because we're still kicking so much righteous ass in Iraq and Afghanistan that we can't be bothered. That would be a major face on W, especially among True Believers in the GOP who want to reshape the Middle East, bring on the Second Coming, Fedex capitalism and the flag up the ass of anyone they can bend over a Humvee, etc.
  4. We pull out of Afghanistan to join a UN-backed Syrian liberation and collateral damage resolution. Afghanistan freaks out and goes all civil war, all the time. People here decide they can handle that (we already have, for the most part), but it makes for more "issues" down the road with Pakistan, India, Iraq, Al-Qaeda, the Roadmap and so on, after we totally lose track of what little clue we currently have about anything or anyone in Afghanistan.
  5. Juan Cole, a superinformed and smart blogfessor, thinks the likely outcome of regime change in Syria (sans UN intervention or overt invasion) would be a Muslim Brotherhood state. Allow me to say, not that tight; likely as bad or worse than Assad for Syrians, their neighbors, and us. This could also be known as the "US and UN Do Nothing" scenario...but that would never happen, riiiight?
More scenarios anyone? Israel? Russia? The 'Stans? More electoral fraud in the USA as a GOP bailout in '06/'08?

It's not a fun view, but it is in our future. It is not going to just fade away.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Judge For Yourself

Here are a couple things about Harriet Miers you might not know...

She donated money to Al Gore's 1987. (and has only donated to R's since '94).

She's also probably anti-choice, anti-gay, and anti-union.

Not too tough to tell which way she swings.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Not Surprising, Just Disgusting

Why hasn't there been anything about this incident in our beloved mainstream media?

Racism in life-and-death situations isn't news -- it's very everyday.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lying Liars

Atrios hands us good blurb on the Bush administrations two mass media hits falsely blaming the governor of Louisiana for delays in response (she declared a state of emergency on August 26; "senior Bush official" lied that it wasn't until Sept. 3). One occurrence in the Post was retracted and corrected, but the Newsweek one has not. Mr. A. correctly asks, "Who was the source?"

If there really was investigative reporting going on in the USA mass media, the pattern of Bush administration lies planted in the press would be shown to the masses for what it is: not just dirty politics, but active subversion of freedom of the press and the use of all means necessary to avoid the consequences of and blame for policy mistakes and incomptence.

The media would also be able to free itself from its addiction to White House "access"; out the planters of the lies and cease printing statements from the lying stooge. Make it harder for Rove and company to find those willing to lie by jumpstarting the power of the press: start using the power to investigate and corroborate as the means to glean and report easily verifiable FACTS.

But we all know, an addict must want to change if they are to break their addiction...I guess Newsweek doesn't want to live clean and sober. And the loser, the enablers.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall relays that the NYT "confirms that the White House damage control operation is being run by Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett". (Shocking!!)

MORE UP TO DATE STILL: Here is damning evidence of how Bush, Chertoff, FEMA and friends blew off their own policies on how to act in circumstances involving mass casualties and evacuations, signed in December, 2004.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Normally, Pat Richelieu Robertson is a man unafraid to call for serious action from his Almighty. Asking for His help to open a second Supreme Court vacancy, for example.

But He doesn't even rate a mention in this one. PR blows off the man upstairs and subs the job out to our flextime President, declaring that it's time to deliver Hugo Chavez's head on a platter.The sourcing decision seems to hinge on fiscal concerns:
We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
At least we know that if Pat doesn't struggle with morality, he does keep an eye on the books.

UPDATE: 8/24/05
Well, it seems like something made Mullah Pat reconsider his fatwa. Since nothing is cheaper than an assassins bullet, I guess his reputation is worth the extra cost of a kidnapping, or something...

Friday, July 15, 2005

"We Don't Do Politics in the Department of Homeland Security." (it's just a perk)

Try this on for size, as distilled by Juan Cole. It's another example, already getting a lot of blogburst, of Bush Admistration politicking at the expense of real security efforts and lives lost.

This whopper includes prematurely unmasking the first British-Pakistani agent in Al-Qaeda, losing the chance to get some real players in Al-Qaeda, and having one of those lost opportunities go on to be one of the London bombers.

Can we get a "my bad" from GWB and Co.?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Alert the "Media", This Might Be "News"

Josh Marshall at gives us the straight skinny on what Novak knew, when he knew it, and who told whom. Novak let it (the TRUTH) slip before the heat was on, before he was put on notice by DOJ.

Put that together with phone records allegedly showing a bunch of calls between Novak and the White House after the news went out that this outing was illegal and there would be an investigation, and...there is an obvious conclusion, that neatly works with Occam's Razor. Rove, and at least one other "top level source" (Novak had two sources), made a boo-boo of felonius proportion.

I couldn't put it better, so here is how Josh laid it out...

once the Plame story burst into the open and the DOJ got involved, Novak made the rounds claiming that neither he nor his sources knew she was covert. But, particularly with the alleged spate of phone calls between Novak and his White House sources, the relevant question would be, What was he saying before the story caught fire?

As we noted in that earlier post, there's a way we can get at this question.

The first newspaper report on the Plame outing was written by Timothy Phelps and Knut Royce in Newsday on July 22nd, 2003, about a week after Novak's column first ran.

The story's lede read: "The identity of an undercover CIA officer whose husband started the Iraq uranium intelligence controversy has been publicly revealed by a conservative Washington columnist citing 'two senior administration officials.'"

As you'd expect from that introduction, the whole focus of the article was Novak's exposure of an 'undercover' or covert agent. And the article, as you might also suspect, had a number of quotes from Wilson and others arguing for how damaging it was to have revealed the identity of a covert agent.

They interviewed Novak too. And this was his response: "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me. They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

Plame's covert status was a centerpiece of the article. Phelps and Royce must have raised the point when they talked to Novak. Yet, at this point, before the controversy became a big media story and prior to the beginning of a DOJ investigation, Novak made no attempt to claim that his article said anything other than what it appeared to say. He made no effort to claim he didn't know Plame was covert, that his sources didn't know; or that they were the source of his knowledge.

All he said is that he thought it was newsworthy and so he used it.

Given what we know now, I think that speaks volumes. Novak's claims that he didn't mean 'operative' when he wrote 'operative' don't hold up against his history of intelligence reportage. And he only started making this claim after federal investigators got involved -- and after, it would seem, a series of phone conversations with Rove and other White House officials.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

A Hovercraft? Unicycle? Popemobile?

Note the poster in this picture.

I'm trademarking "What Would Jesus Dunk" and heading to Dunkin' Donuts Headquarters immediately...

How 'bout some comments people? Real or imagined WWJD favorites, please. Starting....NOW!!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Crimes and Misdemeanors (or When They Came For Karl, I Did Nothing But Cheer)

If this is true...oh, SNAP...

Rove = The Plame Leak

I'm sure someone will try to conflate Deep Throat and Rove if Rove goes up the river for this. I also think it will damn the party and the politicians that try; so, have at it, Rove-lovers.

Evidently, a perjury conviction isn't a lock yet, as it takes two witnesses to prove it in court. But email is much stronger evidence than phone records, according to the lawyers and babblers, and the Special Prosecutor and Grand Juries aint done yet...

Pour a 40 on the curb to mourn the next 25 years of our Supreme Court, homies, but this Rove thing is gonna be good!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Vera Drake, 2005 Edition

My girl and I just saw this movie last night, and it was a laugh attack (not). However, it was a pretty solid glimpse at the world of illegal abortion and the differences class made (and make).

Texas wants those good old days of Edwardian England back, and they've gone the lions share of the distance. Go here to read the tale of a couple teenagers who run afoul of the new laws in Texas that effectively make abortion after the 16th week impossible to obtain, and criminalize the behavior of anyone desperate and poor that still needs a choice in the matter.

Need some more motivation to click the link?

The 17 year-old boyfriend got 40 YEARS in jail for helping her miscarry the fetus.

Discovery Channel vs AOL Smackdown: AOL Voters Win!

The current collective wisdom of 2.4 million Americans:

Greatest American Ever
1 Ronald Reagan
2 Abraham Lincoln
3 Martin Luther King
4 George Washington
5 Benjamin Franklin
6 George W Bush
7 Bill Clinton
8 Elvis Presley
9 Oprah Winfrey
10 Franklin D Roosevelt
11 Billy Graham

They rose up and voted by phone, text or e-mail in a poll by the Discovery Channel and AOL. There are a total of 25 pearls of opinion on there; have a hearty laugh and cry afterwards, it's cleansing.

And people say our schools are no good...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

He Be Villin' (Wouldn't You Like to Be a Villain, Too?)

Why do people care what label Mark Felt gets from history?

Go ahead, make him the "villain". Question his motives. Say he was bitter, jealous, vindictive, a cannibal, whatever you want.

It doesn't change ANYTHING: Richard Nixon broke the law and his oath of office, and resigned because it was true and it was provable. He didn't want to be impeached, convicted and thrown out of office (or into jail). That won't be changed, and an honest American history gives him the finger; anyone who thinks he wasn't a disgrace isn't a fan of the Constitution or laws, plain and simple.

Ben Stein, Pat Buchanan and the other Nixon-loving dinosaurs will go to their mercifully near graves believing either that Nixon was a wonderful man and president whose crimes were worth overlooking, or that his crimes were less consequential than those committed by other presidents, i.e. "they're all crooks".

That is an attempt to censor history, and an attempt to excuse any behavior of the current administration as par for the course. Nixon-excusers expect, and in many cases demand, nothing less from their government: Nixon-lovers and W-lovers share the need for a leader who doesn't acknowledge rules. Rules are for the other guy.

Nixon ushered in the modern Pox Americana, and W is just the latest iteration of those who feel that winning is more important than any law that might get in the way of being perceived as the winner.

Mark Felt blew the whistle and revealed Nixons lies and crimes. I don't know who the hell he was otherwise, but don't blame Felt for telling the truth. Remember the truth, Watergate-deniers?

No matter what Felt was or did, no matter whether Colson, or Liddy or any of the others were more or less honorable than Felt, before, during or after...
Felt told the truth.

Nixon was a crook.


Thursday, May 12, 2005

I Know It's Pat Buchanan, but...


Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Chicago Tribune Prints Something Fit to Print????

Hard to believe, but an editorial I actually like, in the Trib!

Maybe that's because Tribune Co.'s own cable news outlet isn't a very big deal, Big Trib can take a shot at the cable news media leaders, CNN, Fox, etc..

In any case, I'll take it.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Constitutional Crisis for Dummies, by Pat Robertson

This is courtesy of The New York Daily News, which evidently suffered through and watched Pat Robertson for half an hour (on Sunday, with George Stephanopolous),

"Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," Robertson said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

"I think we have controlled Al Qaeda," the 700 Club host said, but warned of "erosion at home" and said judges were creating a "tyranny of oligarchy."

Confronted by Stephanopoulos on his claims that an out-of-control liberal judiciary is the worst threat America has faced in 400 years - worse than Nazi Germany, Japan and the Civil War - Robertson didn't back down.

"Yes, I really believe that," he said. "I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together."

He's right, you know: slavery, The Great Depression, good times with Vietnam, assassinations and impeachments and attempts to pack the Supreme Court, LEGAL AND ENFORCED SLAVERY...all walks in the park for society and system, paling in comparison.

The USA finally faces its greatest test. After 218 years of judges judging left and right, in some judicial pupal state, The Robed Ones have finally emerged to attack us all from their mighty benches, with poison-tipped gavels, to suck our moral blood and replace us with unquestiontioning, pliant zombie replicants. Dear old Pat needn't worry, though; he has been an unthinking, cold-blooded pod person for decades.

I know he's any easy target, but he refuses to go away, so he deserves at least some disbelief and mockery from the rest of us.

Why Can't I Vote For HER?

Immediately change the minimum age for Senator to 13. This sensible young lady is in dire need of a PAC (or Levis 527s, or something) to support her much-needed candidacy; Florida, nay America, needs her brand of leadership and chutzpah.

For example,
"Since you guys are supposedly here for the best interest of me, then wouldn't you all look at that fact that it'd be more dangerous for me to have the baby than to have an abortion?" she asked. [Judge] Alvarez called that "a good point."
She makes many even better points, in the face of Florida DCF's many bad ones. Makes me hate Florida a little less, too, except that she seems to be fighting an uphill battle to begin with, which makes me hate Florida all over again, and I hadn't even finished my sentence.

Read with admiration, displeasure and the alcohol of your choice (70 proof minimum).

The Linking Years

I guess I am entering my blogging adolescence or something...where you realize there is a whole world of other people also doing their shizz and it seems a little hard to keep up with it all and its just so heavy, man...

Which means I am just gonna be like other blogs, and sometimes put some links to interesting bits of whatnot in here. Like this. It tells the tale of a woman who was paid a visit by His Majesty's Secret Service, for putting political statements on cardboard in her front yard.

Hint: said public statements were not in favor of Faith-Based Accounts, Filipersonals, or Flatter Taxes in 8 Minutes. Thankfully, Biggest Brother is on the case in W. Va..


or not.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

DeLay of DeLand: Not That Tight.

Some really juicy, classic DeLay spewing forth for our amusement and horror. Here's an excerpted transcript from an interview with Washington Times reporters at his office on April 13 full text is here, and the second half is the best part, but it's all real schtick).

See if you can find where he says:
1)"Ever is a very strong word."
2)"Look, I'm for an independent judiciary" [and later, at the end of the same answer]..."Read the book Men in Black." [I don't often like Slate, but this gives you the basics on that book, which starts with a foreword by Rush Limbaugh.]
3)"The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them."
Find all three, and you get a bonus prize: your brain implodes.
Mr. Hurt: Have you ever crossed the line of ethical behavior in terms of dealing with lobbyists, your use of government authority or with fundraising?
Mr. DeLay:
Ever is a very strong word. Let me start out by saying, you can never find anything that I have done for personal gain. Period. What I'm doing is what I believe in, I'm doing it the way I believe in it. Yes, I'm aggressive. I'm passionate about what I believe in, and I'm passionate about winning and accomplishing our agenda. I know since 1995 that everything that we have done has been checked by lawyers, double-checked by lawyers, triple-checked by lawyers, because I know I have been watched and investigated probably more than even Bill Clinton. They can't find anything, so they're going back to my childhood, going to my family, going to things that happened eight years ago. There's nothing there. And they can keep looking. There's nothing there. I have tried to act ethically, I have tried to act honestly. I have tried to keep my reputation - to fight for my reputation - while it's been besmirched, and I have tried to do it in a way that brings honor to the House.
Mr. Hallow:
Is there anything you want to change in perception about what you're asking on judges?
Mr. DeLay:
Look, I'm for an independent judiciary. I don't know where they get this. When you attack the left's legislative body, they get really upset. But I'm for an independent judiciary. I'm for an independent Congress. I'm for an independent executive. But the Constitution of the United States gives us responsibility for oversight and checks and balances over the executive as well as the judiciary. And we all know that this judiciary is extremely active. I have asked the Judiciary Committee to look at it and give recommendations as to what we ought to do. Read the book Men in Black.
Mr. Dinan:
You've been talking about going after activist judges since at least 1997. The [Terri] Schiavo case gives you a chance to do that, but you've recently said you blame Congress for not being zealous in oversight.
Mr. DeLay:
Not zealous. I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Death, Be Not Proud (or Sorry, Terri. It's Not Only Not Over, It's Growing)

Yeah, I know, she's dead now. That's very significant, and important. Other things are significant and important, too...

For example, Sen. John Cornyn, (R) Texas, offered this on the upsurge in actual violence against the judiciary, while on the floor of the Senate.

I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence.
Thanks, Senator. As a former District Court judge, a former member of the Supreme Court of Texas, and a former Texas Attorney General, maybe you would enlighten us on whether you feel that's a proper way to channel dissatisfaction with the workings of the American judiciary, or digress on whether that's what "courthouse violence" is really about in the first place? Does that conjecture of yours tell us what we need to know about your views on those basic questions? Thanks, I thought it did. No need for you to concern yourself with any sort of "value judgments", or anything like that; barely coded messages received, loud and clear.

I haven't found any mitigating statements to give a more favorable context to the Senator's musings, either at the time, or since (as of this post). I also don't think it's "obvious" (as his defenders will no doubt plead) that he actually believes something contrary to the "conjecture" he gave air to in the Senate.

In light of some of the appeals to violence and uses of force during the Schiavo absurdity, this falsely passive stumping validates and extends the life of the assertions that we are at a constitutional impasse, and that violence is either underpinned by some perceived and unaddressed grievances, or flat out necessary and justified (look at previous Schiavo posts below for details on that).

That threatens to be Terri Schiavo's legacy. Those ideas were not given legitimacy by so many members of our elected government until her world became ours.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Schiavo II -- Still Not Over

The Carpetbagger Report has it right: everything, and everyone, in America is officially for sale. The Schindlers have signed up with a "conservative direct-mail firm" to sell the names and emails of those who have donated money to help keep Terri Schiavo tubed up.

There is definitely some Grand Unifying Theory of Identity Theft coming to fruition here, but I can't flesh it out. I feel dirty enough as it stands.

And while I'm here...will the water-bearing protesters in Florida (led by Jesus DeLay) fly to Rome to help the Pope when the "medical terrorist" Archbishops try to "murder" him by yanking His Holiness' shiny, new feeding tube, once His brain turns to goo, and His sagging, shrunken-apple head grins at their "do-His-eyes-follow-the-balloon" tests?

Rejoinder out.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Schiavo – It Ain't Even CLOSE to Over

PLUS SIDE (there is one)

On the plus side of this giant botch, I saw a Pew poll in the Sun-Times on Saturday asking who should have the power to decide in circumstances without a will (living or otherwise): 50% for the spouse, 35% for the parents, and 2% for government. I don't know what happened to the other 13%; maybe they want Oprah to decide, or possibly a celebrity jury. Congress can appoint a blue ribbon panel from the exploding ranks of current and former celebrity jurists: I nominate Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, and the guy from Hoobastank (who shall remain nameless).

A poll from CBS shows even more support for the spouse over the parents, in general and hypothetical situations, as well as some other numbers comforting to me (which says my comfort bar is pretty low, but I'll take what I can get)...

[see CBS' fancy graphics below!!]

MINUS SIDES (there are so many)

This has presented us with some outstanding examples of GOP flipfloppery in areas they are supposed to be so mainstream...

GWB - Now: "[It] is a complex case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wisest to always err on the side of life."

GWB Before Schiavo: In 1998, Gov. GWB signed the Texas Futile Care Law. The law allows for the termination of life-sustaining treatment for patients with "irreversible" conditions (i.e., conditions from which they will not recover and which leave them unable to care for themselves) even if their higher brain functions are completely normal. The law contemplates that a fully competent patient may be served by his health-care provider with a 10-day notice to find another provider or have his plug pulled; it provides that the patient has the right to attend the committee meeting at which his fate is to be decided.

Sen. Bill FristNow: Twice claims, on the Senate floor, Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state. "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office." He is a heart surgeon, not a neurologist, and has never examined Schiavo in person. He would never give this advice in an actual medical situation (which, for him, this is not), for fear of malpractice liability, and would defer to an expert, which he is not.

Frist -- Before Schiavo (specifically about Christopher Reeve, and John Edwards calling for federal stem cell research funding after Reeve's death): "I find it opportunistic to use the death of someone like Christopher Reeve -- I think it is shameful -- in order to mislead the American people," Frist said. "We should be offering people hope, but neither physicians, scientists, public servants or trial lawyers like John Edwards should be offering hype. It is cruel to people who have disabilities and chronic diseases, and, on top of that, it's dishonest. It's giving false hope to people, and I can tell you as a physician who's treated scores of thousands of patients that you don't give them false hope."

Sen. Tom Coburn - NY Times, 3/23/05: Among them was Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and a family practice doctor, who said in an interview, 'I don't think you have to examine her. All you have to do is look at her on TV. Any doctor with any conscience can look at her and know that she does not have a terminal disease and know that she has some function.'

Coburn: Tulsa World, 7/20/98: [In] an interview after [Coburn]'s panel appearance, he conceded the issue of caring for a terminally ill patient brings with it complex questions and is not always simple. For example, under certain circumstances when there is no hope of recovery, he said physicians should have the option of withholding nutrients and water from a dying patient. Coburn said he has done that in the past. 'If somebody does not want a feeding tube, I won't put a feeding tube down,' he said.

Rep. Tom DeLay's brew of opportunism, paranoia, and diversionary hypocrisy is truly unique. NOW: "It's not for any one of us to decide what her quality of life should be." And read this speech, as it is WAY out there, and not reducible to quotes. He has also called removing feeding tubes from Schiavo “medical terrorism” and “murder”.

DeLay -- 1998 and onward:DeLay's own father was disconnected from life support in 1988 , with Rep. DeLay's assent, after a “freak accident”, which then led DeLay and his family to sue a manufacturer in a product liability lawsuit, the kind he has advanced his career by opposing.

It is so plainly obvious that the states-rights lovin', anti-federal crusadin', Big Government bashin', Big Brother fearin', fear-of-judicial-power milkin', pro-family hallelujahin', pro-life marchin' stances of so much of the GOP are ripe for flipfloppery, if they think they might gain a few more seats in 2006.

BONUS MINUS– violence!!

Time will tell if we'll see more appeals to Congressional mercy, and more one-off laws passed, and what fabulous and unforeseeable legal precedents will roll out of all this. Right now, we face appeals to use force and attempted uses of force, by citizens and by the government.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush sent some modern-day Pinkertons (state police fronting Florida Dept of Family & Children investigators) down to Terri's hospice last Thursday to obtain custody of her by force and remove her to a facility to reinsert her feeding tube. This was in direct contradiction of JB's pledge to stay within the powers of his office, and in contravention of court order (multiple orders, actually).

Luckily, the local cops there showed a greater sense of duty to their oaths and due process than the state police who, in the showdown that occurred, decided using force against the local police enforcing the judge's ruling was not a smart choice, no matter what Jeb Bush and the Florida Department of Families and Children thought.

Now, ya think a Governor ordering that use of force emboldens those already looking for a cause for less-than-civil disobedience, i.e. lawless, gun toting vigilantism and/or mob rule in the name of “the sanctity of life”?

Here's some examples for you:

  1. One loony on the parents side (as though the parents want this kind of support), armed with a box cutter, tried stealing a gun to go “free” Terri.
  2. Another was arrested for offering an actual bounty for both Michael Schiavo's and the presiding judge's deaths, sent via email to two news organizations and a “national conservative talk show”.
  3. Complete racist nutjob Hal Turner publicly advocated that violence used to “save” her is justified. (BTW, he also has made remarks approving of the murders of Judge Lefkow's family. His verbatim remark: “Gotcha!”) Then he demanded Pres. Bush send in federal troops and use whatever means necessary to suppress the “rebellion” in Florida, and capture or kill whoever he must, to bring Terri Schiavo to Congress, in accordance with their subpoena.

GWB has also explicitly pledged to stay within the powers of his office in this whole mess – i.e. respect the judgments of the judicial system, at the state and federal level. So far, he has not acted and, therefore, stayed within his constitutional powers, and I think he will continue to do so, as his political advisers are at least smart enough to keep him from provoking a full constitutional crisis over this (at least I hope they are). I don't get the actual sense that he would be so forthright or committed to jurisprudence if he thought the polls pointed in a different direction, at least within his much doted-on evangelical base. turns out evangelicals are not happy either: that CBS poll puts evangelicals at 68% against Congressional or Presidential involvement. Also, a Time poll shows that 54% of all people surveyed will hold involvement in the Schiavo situation against their Congresspersons, come the next election. So GWB can, and will, take the high road, let her die (finally), and be able to pander to them, and everyone else, about his respect for life, law, and the American Way.

It probably makes GWB wish we could get back to the good old days, when he was getting his butt kicked over wanting to privatize Social Security. It should make us all wish for DeLay, Frist, Jeb Bush, and all the other control freaks trying to horn in on the Schiavo'sunending, nightmarish feud, would get back to mishandling actual governmental concerns, lest they encourage or tacitly sanction more individual violence, or just resort to the use of force between federal, state, and local governments.

That would be bad, to say the absolute least.

Those poll numbers from CBS:

They care about Terri Schiavo
Trying to advance political agenda


Federal government should decide
State government should decide
Government should stay out

There are no partisan political differences on this issue: majorities of Democrats (89 percent), Republicans (72 percent), liberals (84 percent) and conservatives (76 percent) are in agreement that the government should not be involved. 68 percent of white evangelicals think that Congress and the President should stay out of the Schiavo case


Adult children


Same as murder

Not the same

There is a strong partisan element to these views; the President’s approval rating is especially low among Democrats (11 percent approve), while 85 percent of Republicans approve.

As a matter of national priority, the public continues to say the war in Iraq (26 percent) and the economy and jobs (15 percent) are the most important problems facing the U.S. today. Only 6 percent mention Social Security, about the same as last month.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 737 adults interviewed by telephone March 21-22, 2005. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on all adults. Error for subgroups may be higher.

PS: Read about the sad details of Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers here, and see that Michael is likely not the devil he is made to be.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Terry Gross = Waste of Time, Funds, and Breath

Terry Gross sucks.

She tries to challenge those she thinks she can outmatch (like Gene Simmons, who showed her to be unequipped for her task), and just moves on when a guest like Boyden Gray (politically a scumbag and conversationally a dick) talks rings around her. Listen to her pathetic interview with Gray (aired on the WBEZ today, likely on their site soon). Check out his defense of William Pryor as mainstream. He basically does it by saying that Pryor is part of a mainstream, conservative movement. Gray never addresses the ludicrous statements read by Gross from Pryor's amicus brief in Lawrence v. Texas (in which, in part, Pryor could find no legal or logical distinction between same sex sodomy, as the brief and Texas law quaintly put it, and incest, rape, and prostitution, were same sex sodomy legalized). She lets Gray walk with his “mainstream by association” argument, without rejoinder or remark, and moves on to something that interests her more than being made a fool, some topic that might bamboozle her less.

She gets guests who have brains or at least have things to say and she softballs, she doles out rhetorical passes, and she gets huffy when her shoddiness is revealed. I don't think that I could necessarily do better from my couch without preparation, but with her resources, and decades of experience botching opportunities with unusual and varied guests, I think I, or anyone else reading this, would do a better job than her.

She is the Barbara Walters of radio.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Tort Reform = Achilles Heel for Bush and Co.

New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer announced Monday a settlement with Marsh-McLennan, the world's biggest insurance broker, in conjunction with charges of price fixing, kickbacks, bid-rigging and other collusive business practices in New York State [Yahoo! News - Marsh to Pay $850 Mln to Settle Probe]. Marsh will pay $850M into a restitution fund for clients that initiated policies from 2001-2003.

What does this have to do with “tort reform” as the President framed it in his run for re-election? A whole hell of a lot. Pres. Bush liked to point to the need for malpractice caps in reining in runaway medical malpractice insurance costs, declaring that predatory personal injury lawyers were running our healthcare system into the ground by getting vast sums out of the courts for themselves rather than for their clients, that these damages awards are the core of the cost increases facing doctors and hospitals, and that medical-malpractice insurance providers had to jack up the rates for doctors and hospitals to cover the costs.

This is a thorny issue, knotting valid concerns and needs with the desires and influence of some of the most organized, well-heeled trade groups and industries in America (including, but not limited to, the AMA, the ABA, and the entire insurance industry). The thing GWB and the GOP conveniently leave out of their equation is the catbird seat that the med-mal insurers occupy. That industry, as part of the insurance industry as a whole, has a blanket exemption from federal antitrust laws.

The exemption shields them from basic rules that other businesses, in every other for-profit industry, must abide by in the US. Any insurance company can share any information it wants with any other insurance company – about costs, about profits, about their plans, about changes in coverage they are considering, about what areas they want to raise rates in, anything at all. These companies are also exempt from investigation by the federal government about the information they share or for what purposes they use any shared information.

The insurance industry as a whole operates as a government-sanctioned cartel. Economists argue cartels are difficult to maintain over the long term, and historical data does tend to show that to be true. The problem is that “long term” to an economist can be a decade or more, and in that time, an industry cartel can turn the screws on a lot of doctors, hospitals, and patients to make up for any foolish business or investment practices that led to lower profits or losses. A cartel can even keep their act together long enough to get legislation changed – it can collude price changes drastic enough over a handful of years to put their customers businesses and healthcare in crisis, and use that climate of fear and need to extract further change in the regulatory climate, to the industry's favor. The push for national medical malpractice damage caps is exactly such a ploy.

The federal antitrust exemption is subject to state override and modification, and some states have done that. Specifically in response to med-mal insurance, some states have enacted med-mal damage caps, and some have changed the oversight of insurers within their state. California has done both, and today has a system that has checked the growth of med-mal premiums well below the growth through the nation as a whole. In 1975, a package of damage caps and statutes of limitations was passed (MICRA) to try to deal with CA's med-mal crisis in the early 1970's (which, btw, followed a particularly bad investment period for insurers). Californians had to revisit the equation in the 1980's, as MICRA did not change the situation for the better: MICRA actually made things worse, as the insurers' costs were contained by the caps, but their cartel pricing power was untouched.

Proposition 103 passed in 1988, and that is when California's med-mal growth rates changed, both in absolute terms and relative to the country as a whole. Prop 103, among other things, forced insurers to disclose what information they shared, and forced them to submit any proposed rate hikes to state review (headed by an elected official), to prove they are related to the underlying costs and risks of writing insurance (as opposed to covering investment losses or other losses incurred by other units of those insurance companies).

I'm sure any fire-breathing free-marketeers reading about state regulation are scared, and taking deep breaths to belt out cries of “socialism” and “don't trust those wacky California latte drinking bureaucrats” or whatever else they feel will preemptively disgrace government action of any sort. Well, here's the punch-line: insurance companies didn't flee the state after Prop 103 passed, despite their objections and predictions of woe. They have had many rate increases approved since Prop 103 passed. California med-mal insurers make a LOT of profit, even today, after 17 years of state oversight. What they don't get to do is gouge a captive and blindered market, and they don't get to operate in a system of anti-competitive privilege.

Any self-respecting Republican who believes real market forces in their economy are a good thing needs to think at least twice about why this single industry has an exemption from both competition and oversight. Monday's settlement with the State of NY is an industry attempt to put a neutral face on the collusive behavior of Big Insurance, and avoid national removal of their antitrust exemption. It is an implicit admission that the behavior of Big Insurance in areas without such regulation is worse, and the willingness of a single insurer to refund nearly a billion dollars to get the spotlight off this arena shows that they will pay almost any price to guard their privileged position.

It is time for some Republicans to cross the aisle on this issue, as they seem to be willing to do to save Social Security from being Wall Streeted out of existence. This is where they get their chance to say that public interest exists, and that it can't be sacrificed on the altar of “the needs of business” without doing irreparable harm to the lives of millions of patients and tens of thousands of doctors.

It is time for Democrats to keep the pressure up on the aisle crossers. The opportunity to outflank the Republicans as the defenders of competition is here; I suggest they seize it and not let go.