Saturday, September 05, 2009

Saturday Stuff

And by the way, Keith Olbermann isn't the only one who knows how to deliver a Special Comment (hat tip to Daily Kos blogger CitizenOfEarth for this - and once more, here is a history lesson; I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Obama's presidency ultimately hangs in the balance over this)...

...and I thought this was an interesting report with Mark Leibovich of the New York Times on the posthumously-published Ted Kennedy memoir True Compass.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Friday Stuff

Lord knows I detested Bushco, but when they were riding high, they knew how to keep their "base" happy, a lesson that our current president apparently needs to learn (health care, Afghanistan, taking the lead on repealing DADT, which I know Patrick Murphy is doing in Congress...this is a recording).

Of course, that prior comment has to do with the politics of the health care debate, though apparently that has consumed the Obama White House to the point where, for the sake of the prized, Broder-esque notion of "bipartisanship," they're about to cave on the public option and deliver on a crappy deal (if so, Obama will pay the political price, and the rest of this country will pay the "real world" one, which I think Markos Moulitsas indirectly communicates to K.O. here).

I've been tempted to post on the fact that stories have popped up all over the place recently (like this one) stating that the young voters who helped elect Obama haven't taken the same initiative now that he's been elected. I always thought that was an incredibly simple story line which has more to do with the fact that people took time off from jobs, school, etc. and BUSTED THEIR ASSES TO GET THIS GUY ELECTED and now have to go back to living their lives, and that's why they haven't been as omnipresent as they were in last year's election, but I will reluctantly admit that disillusionment probably has something to with it also...

Update 9/5/09: And I would call this an instructive history lesson also.

...and the REALLY funny part about this to me is that the young one goes back on September 9th, so it doesn't matter to us one way or the other (Jonathan Alter pretty much sums up my thoughts anyway)...

..."Worst Persons" (Sean Inanity mixes up Obama, Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayres - well, at least he's got a three-day weekend coming up to review his talking points; "Straight Talk" McCain breathes new life into the "death panel" nonsense - I read a column from some pundit...may or may not have been Broder...where this person presumed that McCain might end up as the next Ted Kennedy in the Senate because he would be "bipartisan," and I laughed so hard my morning coffee almost came out of my nose - not pretty; but Mike Pence gets the nod for embracing another one of these "town hall" loonies invoking Hitler in a setting as scripted as McCain's, with Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao and Mel Martinez; you'd think Martinez would show some fortitude for a change since he's going to be retiring his clown shoes, greasepaint and rubber nose, but I guess that's too much to ask)...

...and I started this week with The Rolling Stones, so I should probably end it with The Fab Four, particularly because of this.

Friday Mashup Part 2 (9/4/09)

(And I also posted here.)

  • The seemingly unending story of the trial of murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya has taken another twist (as noted here – I’m not able to keep up with world news the way I’d like to, but I want to “keep in the loop” with this)…

    Investigations into the suspected murderer, Chechen Rustam Makhmudov, who has not yet been found, must be taken into account in the current trial of the four other men accused of being accomplices, said a judicial spokesman.

    'The decision means we're one step closer to clearing up the case,' said the Politkovskaya family's lawyer, Karina Moskalenko. 'But it's important to remember that it's already been three years since the murder took place.'

    A spokesman for the state prosecutor's office warned that expectations should not be raised too high. 'We will go over the charges thoroughly,' he said. 'But much depends on finding Makmudov.'

    The four men on trial face charges as accomplices in the contract- style slaying in Politkovskaya's Moscow apartment block on October 7, 2006. They were freed in February due to lack of evidence.

    In the initial trial, prosecutors had accused two brothers of the suspected murdered Rustam Makmudov, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, of being accomplices and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov of helping the killer get away.

    The fourth defendant, Pavel Ryaguzov, was acquitted in a separate case. Ryaguzov, an agent of Russia's FSB security service, was accused of providing the killer with Politkovskaya`s address.

    The identity of those who had ordered Politkovskaya's killing is still unknown.
    And as noted here, Politkovskaya drew the ire of former Russian president Vladimir Putin for her courageous reporting on the Chechen wars…

    Her excoriations of (Putin) insured isolation, harassment, and, many predicted, death. “I am a pariah,’’ she wrote in an essay last year. “That is the result of my journalism through the years of the Second Chechen War, and of publishing books abroad about life in Russia.’’
    From what I've read, the family and friends of Politkovskaya don't care so much about the four defendants currently in a legal limbo, as it were, as much as they are about trying to track down Rustam Makhmudov (ironic I guess that a Chechen is accused of killing her considering how she reported on the war affecting Makhmudov's countrymen).

    Maybe someday justice will be done – maybe…

  • And from the journalistically sublime to the ridiculous we go with Christine Flowers in the Philadelphia Daily News today (here).

    She laments the Eric Holder investigation into torture (which I already posted about here), does her “echo chamber” bit to make sure the whole “Black Panthers at the North Philadelphia polling place” thing isn’t justly deprived of oxygen (which I also already posted about here - second item), mentions how Holder was involved in the pardon of Marc Rich (as noted here, a certain one time US Attorney for the District of Manhattan named Rudy 9iu11ani was more concerned with prosecuting Rich into infinity than he was about making restitution), and also notes that New Mexico governor (and one time Commerce Secretary nominee…and veep candidate put forward by yours truly) Bill Richardson was neither charged nor exonerated here (and of course, since Richardson is a Dem, Flowers automatically alleges a conspiracy - let's at least wait and see if "another shoe drops," OK?).

    But what really got me in Flowers’ screed today was this sentence (in the matter of trials and investigations by our government into real or alleged wrongdoing)…

    The Watergate hearings were the real thing (though Democrats could barely hide their glee at the destruction of a GOP administration). The McCarthy hearings were not.
    Putting aside her ridiculous characterization of the Senate Watergate hearings (implying it was a "Dem only" show trial, even though the panel was composed of four Democrats and three Republicans), I don’t know what the sentence “The McCarthy hearings were not” means.

    Does Flowers mean that they were a show trial, which of course they were? Or is she merely trying to deflect attention from the fact that Senator Joseph McCarthy was a Republican? Or the fact that McCarthy followed the work of the House Un-American Activities Committee (though there was no direct correlation between the two committees) and perhaps its most prominent member, a one-time Whittier, California Republican congressman named Richard Nixon?

    As far as I’m concerned, this column doesn’t have anything to do with journalism. However, it has everything to do with propaganda.

    Un-pure and simple.

  • And as far as Flowers’ employer is concerned, this tells us the following…

    PHILADELPHIA The owners of Philadelphia's two major newspapers are trying to rally support for local management of the business — taking on banks and other creditors that hope to win the company in a bankruptcy auction. And the creditors are trying to get the campaign stopped.

    The "Keep It Local!" slogan is blasted in full-page advertisements in The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, on's home page and on delivery trucks, buttons and even subscriber bills.

    The ads suggest that outside owners — "banks and hedge funds located in New York, Beverly Hills and elsewhere" — would slash news coverage and staff and perhaps close the smaller Daily News. The creditors object to the publicity blitz and want a bankruptcy judge to shut it down. They call the campaign "scare tactics" designed to demonize any outside bidders.

    "The debtors have attempted to poison the prospects for any competing bidder ... with the debtors' unionized work force, with advertisers and with the community," a committee for some of the newspapers' creditors said in a filing Wednesday. "This is the antithesis of what the law requires."

    A judge Thursday scheduled a hearing on the objection next week.
    Of course, Brian Tierney of Philadelphia Newspapers could always consider a “revenue source” such as the one depicted in this story (I’m sure some of the creditors in this case consider journalism in general to be the second or third “oldest profession” anyway).

  • Finally, this tells us that the Justice Department will monitor a municipal election in Ohio, a far cry from the legal conduct of the prior ruling cabal, as noted here.

    Even though the Obama Administration seems to be “all wobbly” on health care, cap and trade and Afghanistan (and is only marginally better on Iraq and on the question of investigating torture, basically “punting” that over to Eric Holder), there is still no denying that they are a distinct improvement from their predecessors on most other matters, particularly this one.

    And if anyone disagrees with that, I have three words for you:

    Vice President Palin!
  • Thursday, September 03, 2009

    Thursday Stuff

    I needed a laugh after watching K.O. and Lawrence O'Donnell talking about the health care fight (No cost controls? No employer mandate? No public option - and dear God, why isn't that settled by now??!! Then no 2012 re-election!), and this was pretty funny (the latest from here)...

    ...and yep, I've been meaning to get to this for a little while, so here it is.

    "Trusting Our President" With "Britney" Broder

    The Dean Of Beltway “Journalism” pontificated as follows from here (h/t to Thers at Eschaton for posting about this first here – the subject is Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to name a special counsel to examine allegations of torture against those suspected of terrorism by Bushco)…

    Looming beyond the publicized cases of these relatively low-level operatives is the fundamental accountability question: What about those who approved of their actions? If accountability is the standard, then it should apply to the policymakers and not just to the underlings. Ultimately, do we want to see Cheney, who backed these actions and still does, standing in the dock?
    (And before I forget, I should note that the post title is an “homage” of sorts to the response provided by non-philosopher Britney Spears, who once told Michael Moore in “Fahrenheit 9/11” that we should “trust the president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that,” here, since I believe that mentality has driven everything Broder has written on this subject in particular.)

    In response to what Broder wrote today, I give you the words of Robert H. Jackson, chief US prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials (from 1945-1946, with the defendants pictured above – the plural was used by Jackson because of the multiple Nazi defendants of course, but I think the context fits Bushco also)…

    At the very outset, let us dispose of the contention that to put these men to trial is to do them an injustice, entitling them to some special consideration. These defendants may be hard pressed but they are not ill used…

    The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored because it cannot survive their being repeated.

    The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched.
    Thank God we have such a legal standard to fall back on, one which Broder (a young man when these glorious words were uttered) and the other Beltway punditry, to say nothing of our politicians, would do well to reconsider.

    And in response to Broder, we have this from Adam Serwer at Tapped (h/t Atrios)…

    There is, naturally, no concern for the rule of law here (by Broder), a complete indifference to those who died in CIA custody, or the fact that the IG report itself states that torture was used on people "without justification."

    I've already said I don't think those interrogators who stayed within the OLC's guidelines should be prosecuted -- I hold the policymakers ultimately responsible for the implementation of torture as policy. But for Broder, it doesn't matter that what the Bush administration did was illegal -- the powerful deserve immunity, because in holding them accountable, the "cost to the country would simply be too great." What, I wonder, will be the cost for becoming a society in which torture, torture, is not a crime but simply a policy preference?

    Broder isn't so much saying that the powerful deserve to ignore the law so much as he is saying that the statute of limitations is up once they leave office. He cops without reservation or qualification to the idea that Cheney did something illegal -- he just doesn't think it should matter. This idea is completely antithetical to Thomas Paine's ideal that "in free countries the law ought to be king." If this is to be the new standard, if the executive branch is to be king, then we should enshrine it in the law -- because right now our laws say otherwise.
    Indeed…also, the New York Times gets this (here today, responding to the inevitable outrage from you-know-who)…

    In Mr. Cheney’s view, it is not just those who followed orders and stuck to the interrogation rules set down by President George Bush’s Justice Department who should be sheltered from accountability. He said he also had no problem with those who disobeyed their orders and exceeded the guidelines.

    It’s easy to understand Mr. Cheney’s aversion to the investigation that Attorney General Eric Holder ordered last week. On Fox, Mr. Cheney said it was hard to imagine it stopping with the interrogators. He’s right.

    The government owes Americans a full investigation into the orders to approve torture, abuse and illegal, secret detention, as well as the twisted legal briefs that justified those policies. Congress and the White House also need to look into illegal wiretapping and the practice of sending prisoners to other countries to be tortured.
    There it is – the rationale for an investigation leading to filing of charges and prosecution in a court of law.

    So the answer to the question, Broder, at long last, is YES. I DO want to see Cheney, who backed these actions and still does, standing in the dock.

    Part of me understands full well why Broder continues to benefit from his “perch” amidst the beltway establishment, he being one of the keepers of the sacred “conventional wisdom.” But part of me wonders just how fouled, how polluted our media discourse, including on matters of politics, has become that someone like Broder can concoct this insult to common sense and still be taken seriously.

    So with that in mind, let’s review some past Broder lowlights, shall we?

  • Here, he claimed he was getting “killed” with negative Email for a column about the marriage of the Clintons (the only episode where I can ever recall Broder spoke out against someone in power, and of course it had to be over a matter of such little consequence; Broder, let’s not forget, once claimed here that President Clinton “trashed the place”…as in Washington…”and it’s not his place,” a quote which revealed volumes about Broder’s sense of entitlement).

  • Here, he considered the matter of the outing of Valerie Plame to be “overblown” and claimed that Karl Rove was owed an apology for being cast as the leader of a “supposed plot to silence the opposition.”

  • Here, Broder wrote that “(concerning) the Iraq Study Group report being issued (in 2006), for the 10 commission members this was an exhilarating experience, a demonstration of genuine bipartisanship that they hope will serve as an example to the broader political world,” when in fact, as BriVt notes, “the Iraq Study Group didn't solve a goddamn thing.”

  • Oh, and lest we forget, “bipartisanship” trumps all in "Broder land," as noted here.

  • Here is one of the many “Bush Bounce” columns from Broder in hope of improving approval numbers for Dubya that, in the end, never materialized (of course, that was known well in advance by most life forms on this planet except Broder).

  • Broder blamed both Democrats AND Republicans equally here for the SCHIP fight about two years ago (call me crazy, but the Dems were the ones trying to wrench funding from the suddenly-frugal Repugs, which they were eventually able to do…of course, by then the “Party of No” had blown the budget “out of the water” from 2000-2006).

  • Here, Broder concocts a column about Hillary Clinton which, for my money, is nothing but an exercise in chauvinism (of course, it’s disguised as a commentary on “the state of the Clintons’ marriage – funny, but I haven’t read too many columns from Broder about the state of the Obamas’s marriage, or even the Bushs’s).

  • Here, Broder defends former Bushco HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt as “the man I got to know and admire in his years as governor of Utah and a leader in the National Governors Association,” even though Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services during Leavitt's tenure as governor was described as “reprehensible” (from 1993 to 1996, ten children who were under DCFS care died).

  • Here, Broder offered a crackpot history lesson on the 2000 presidential campaign, telling us that Al Gore’s convention speech was, "a request to step inside a seminar room, listen closely and take notes," adding, "Never has a candidate provided more detailed information on his autobiography and the program initiatives he plans. One more paragraph and he would have been onto the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. ... [M]y, how he went on about what he wants to do as president. ... For all his Washington experience, Gore does not seem to have grasped Bush's point that a chief executive is smart to focus on a few key reforms, rather than dissipating his leadership on a crammed agenda."

    And concerning Dubya at his “coronation,” Jamison Foser of Media Matters made the following observation…

    Reading Broder's reaction to Bush's speech, you wouldn't have known whether Bush made mention of a single policy, proposal, or issue in his speech. You would, however, have learned that "Bush is seen by the public as a stronger leader -- and, by almost any measure, a man more likely to help cure the poisonous partisanship of the capital city."

    With a superman like David Broder leading the fight for less substance and fewer details, nobody should have been surprised by Thursday night's Democratic debate, in which moderator Brian Williams asked candidates about haircuts and horse-race polls, and repeatedly dumbed down the debate with questions instructing the candidates to raise their hands in response, or to "say a name or to pass." No details, please -- our titans of journalism might nod off. Just raise your hand and move on.

  • Here, Broder called Harry Reid “the Democrats’ (Alberto) Gonzales” (there’s plenty of ammunition to go after Reid out there in the “reality-based community,” but that’s a rather laughable insult to hurl at the Senate Majority Leader).

  • And finally, Broder alleged here that Nancy Pelosi didn’t want to do anything substantive on the deficit because she wanted to score political points by protecting Social Security and Medicare, remembering how Dubya lost on trying to privatize Social Security (which was the result of people not trusting him more than anything else – took awhile for that to happen on something, but it finally did).
  • So in conclusion, it should be emphasized that Broder’s opposition today to the Holder investigation is totally in keeping his desire to “comfort the comfortable,” to twist the phrase of Finley Peter Dunne intended to describe the journalistic profession. However, the stakes in the Holder investigation are much higher than those of a typical bout of Broder voyeurism into the lives of the powerful over which he so abjectly fawns.

    Once again, I give you the words of Nuremberg prosecutor Robert H. Jackson…

    We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity's aspirations to do justice.
    And what a pity that our hopelessly compromised corporate media, personified by Broder, so utterly fails Jackson’s test of “detachment and intellectual integrity.”

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Wednesday Stuff

    Note to the pathetic Max Baucus, Kent Conrad (still laughing over the Dem-sponsored commercials on health care reform in his state, I'm sure) and every one of these corporatist losers - this is what a member of your party is supposed to sound like on this issue.

    And by the way, Mr. President, you'd better have ample doses of the same "piss and vinegar" Richard Trumka has here when you give your speech next week, or else you'll continue to slide in the polls (with right-wing demagogues like Brooks and Krauthammer telling you, as always, that the way to "save yourself" is keep kissing off the people who elected you to begin with).

    Am I more than a little fed up with having to continue posting on this? You're damn right.

    As I and others have said many times already, the Bushies were never shy about kicking and screaming for what they wanted at every turn, which was nothing but destructive to this country. If you don't respond in kind for what is good for the country instead, then be prepared to serve only one term.

    (And by the way, for Philly-area folk, there will be a demonstration for the public option tomorrow at noon in front of the offices of Independence Blue Cross at 1900 Market Street in Philadelphia)...

    Update 1 9/3/09: Daily Kos diarist politicjock tells us the following here...

    ...during the heated August health care debate MSNBC outperformed CNN by 61 percent and FNC by 4 percent in the key 18-34 demographic in prime time. Let me restate this, the cable news channel which has been the most vocal in support of the public option (Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Ed Shultz) and, to a certain extent, single payer, was also the #1 news network among younger viewers during the month of August when all the kooks were supposedly coming out of the woods against health care reform.
    This is still more proof that the Republican Party has relegated itself to minority party status for a generation – unless, of course, the Democrats cave and refuse to stand up for what they're supposed to believe in, which, sadly, is always a distinct possibility.

    Update 2 9/3/09: And here is a sane, compassionate point of view on this from today's Bucks County Courier Times (shocking, I know).

    ...and 48 seconds is about all I can take of this idiot (and he LOST MORE SPONSORS today, huh? Terrific - if anyone else wants to bail, click here...God, does he even have any left?)...

    ...and congratulations to new corporate media news anchor Diane Sawyer of ABC News, taking over for Charlie Gibson who will no doubt contemplate the intricacies of capital gains taxation now on his spare time (as a reminder, I should note that Gibson asked about that twice during a McCain/Obama debate last year - and by the way, Diane, "Mickey" doesn't approve of drinking on the job)...

    Update 9/3/09: I should have noted above that this was the reason why I took a shot at Sawyer (h/t to Atrios for jogging my memory).

    ...and either some or all of this video was shot in Philadelphia, by the way.

    Will Obama-Rama Avert A Swine Flu Onslaught?

    (And I also posted here.)

    This story tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that people should expect "a big influx" of swine flu cases this fall and prepare as best they can.

    "The best thing we all can do are the very simple things, the washing of the hands, the coughing into the sleeve," Napolitano said in a nationally broadcast interview. " ... We're in all likelihood going to have them (new infections) before the vaccine is available."
    As I read that, I recalled what happened after Napolitano predicted that the militia crowd would try to recruit veterans (somehow I don’t think “Joe Scar” on MSNBC will be laughing if the swine flu turns out to be as bad as Napolitano refresh our memories, he did so before the life form known as James von Brunn murdered a security guard at the Holocaust museum).

    Basically, if Napolitano says it, then I think there’s a better-than-even-money chance that it will occur (despite what Michael Fumento once said here).

    And the Washington Post tells us the following today…

    After months of preparation and umpteen billions of dollars, the federal government came out Tuesday with its swine flu response. It is red and furry and giggles in a high-pitched voice.

    "Come on! Wash your hands with Elmo! Wash, wash, wash!" the Muppet from Sesame Street sings in a public service announcement released Tuesday by the Obama administration. "Sneeze into your arm with Elmo," the character adds. "Ah-choo!"

    Word of this new federal initiative was released at 8:51 Tuesday morning, in an e-mail straight from the White House press office announcing the partnership with Sesame Workshop aimed at "stressing healthy habits to prevent H1N1 flu." The administration is hoping Elmo's good hygiene will go, uh, viral.
    And I was all set to pile on the WaPo’s Dana Milbank, until he shockingly provided some appropriate context…

    This reliance on Muppets rather than medicine is not the fault of the Obama administration, which has done about the best it could with limited tools. It's the result of years of failure to build adequate vaccine-manufacturing capacity in the United States. Too little work on new vaccine technologies means producers of flu shots still rely on the ancient method of making inoculations with chicken eggs. And the anemic public health system will almost surely buckle this fall as flu sufferers flood emergency rooms.

    If there's any good news, it's that the government may be jolted into building an adequate vaccine and public health infrastructure before a more severe pandemic comes along with the potential to kill millions of Americans instead of mere thousands. In the meantime, the best the feds can do is try to slow the spread of the germs until the vaccines arrive -- and that's why it's time to meet the Muppets.
    I know it gets to be a tired refrain going over how our present difficult or awful circumstances can inevitably be traced back to the occasionally murderous incompetence of our prior ruling cabal, but it is an exercise individuals such as your humble narrator must perform if we are to ever avert such calamities again.

    You see, the Repugs have consistently opposed pandemic preparedness, with both Susan Collins of Maine (here) and “Diaper Dave” Vitter of Louisiana (here) trying to remove it from the stimulus bill (Collins was successful, unfortunately).

    As HuffPo’s Jason Linkins told us in the Collins post, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey justified the pandemic preparedness funding as follows…

    Pandemic influenza poses a major threat to the nation's public health, security, and economy. CBO has estimated that an influenza pandemic might cause a decline in U.S. gross domestic product of between 1 and 4.25 percent depending on the severity of the pandemic. Providing additional funding to prepare for and respond to a pandemic will ameliorate the morbidity and mortality associated with worst case scenarios of an influenza pandemic thereby reducing the potential economic burden. Another program funded in this recovery package is BARDA, which supports advanced development and procurement of medical countermeasures, such as vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear agents, as well as other emerging infectious diseases. According to a recent independent economic analysis of BARDA, in order to develop countermeasures for all biodefense requirements identified in HHS's Public Health Emergency Countermeasures Enterprise Implementation Plan, significant increased investment in advanced development is required. BARDA also provides for the expansion of the domestic manufacturing infrastructure to support new vaccines and other countermeasures, where an expansion of domestic manufacturing is desired to provide sufficient quantities of products in a timely manner.
    Now, let’s “set the ‘wayback,’ Sherman” (shameless “boomer” reference, I know) to 2006 (from here)…

    On May 3, 2006, the George W. Bush White House "unveiled a foreboding report on the nation's lack of preparedness for a bird flu pandemic, warning that such an outbreak could kill up to 2 million people and deal a warlike blow to the country's economic and social fabric. It urged state and local governments to make preparations beyond the federal efforts," James Gerstenzang reported for the Chicago Tribune May 4, 2006.

    Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), "the senior Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued a report of his own that chastised the [Bush] administration for what it said was a failure to prepare the country for a flu pandemic," Gerstenzang wrote. "Speaking on the Senate floor, Kennedy said the administration suffered from 'competence-deficit disorder.'

    "'The United States is at the back of the line in ordering essential flu medicines, and we're at the bottom of the international league in having a coordinated national strategy'," Kennedy said.
    The Sourcewatch article also tells us the following (in the matter of how we ended up “at the bottom of the international league”)…

    In his Tuesday, November 1, 2005, speech delivered at the National Institutes of Health, Bush asked Congress "for $7.1 billion in emergency funding to prepare the United States for a possible pandemic of avian influenza," Reuters' Maggie Fox and Caren Bohan reported. "The total includes requests of $1.2 billion to make 20 million more doses of the current vaccine against H5N1 avian influenza, $2.8 billion to accelerate new flu-vaccine technology and $1 billion to stockpile more antiviral drugs."

    Bush said that "we must have emergency plans in place in all 50 states, in every local community. We must ensure that all levels of government are ready to act to contain an outbreak." Although several groups "praised Bush for making a start," they "said the requests were nowhere near enough," Fox and Bohan wrote.

    "The president also said the United States must approve liability protection for the makers of lifesaving vaccines. He said the number of American vaccine manufacturers has plummeted because the industry has been hit with a flood of lawsuits," Lauran Neergaard reported for the Associated Press.
    Uh, no (another shining journalistic moment for the AP, people) – this tells us the following (from October 2004, the genesis of this particular “zombie lie” - let's all crunch up our "tin foil hats")…

    Almost half of the nation's flu vaccine will not be delivered this year. Chiron, a major manufacturer of flu vaccine, will not be distributing any influenza vaccine this flu season. Chiron was to make 46-48 million doses vaccine for the United States. Chiron is a British company. Recently British health officials stopped Chiron from distributing and making the vaccine when inspectors found unsanitary conditions in the labs. Some lots of the vaccine were recalled and destroyed.

    Why is our vaccine made in the UK and not the US?

    The major pharmaceutical companies in the US provided almost 90% of the nation’s flu vaccine at one time. They did this despite a very low profit margin for the product. Basically, they were doing us a favor.

    In the late 80's a man from North Carolina who had received the vaccine got the flu. The strain he caught was one of the strains in that years Vaccine made by a US company. What did he do? He sued and he won. He was awarded almost $5 million! After that case was appealed and lost, most US pharmaceutical companies stopped making the vaccine. The liability out weighed the profit margin. Since UK and Canadian laws prohibit such frivolous law suits UK and Canadian companies began selling the vaccine in the US.

    By the way...the lawyer that represented the man in the flu shot lawsuit was a young ambulance chaser by the name of John Edwards.
    (God, and they didn't even find a way to make a joke about his hair? What kind of propaganda is this, anyway?)

    Now, for the reality-based perspective…

    Chiron, the corporation mentioned in this piece as an example of a "British company" that has taken over the manufacture of flu vaccine from American companies supposedly driven out of business by liability lawsuits, is not a British company. It is an American company headquartered in Emeryville, California, which last year purchased British vaccine maker Powderject and a flu vaccine plant in Liverpool, England.

    American manufacturers did not produce flu vaccine until liability lawsuits made it impossible for them to continue doing so. Most American pharmaceutical companies got out of the flu vaccine market because a variety of factors (not related to lawsuits) make it an unattractive line of business:

  • Flu viruses mutate easily, so new flu vaccine formulas have to be made up every year.

  • Because a different flu vaccine is used each season, unsold doses cannot be saved and end up being destroyed (along with any potential profits).

  • The production of flu vaccine (and the requirement of meeting Food and Drug Administration standards) is a labor-intensive process. Flu vaccine is made by injecting virus into fertilized chicken eggs — each egg must be hand-inspected and hand-injected and produces only 4 or 5 doses of vaccine.

  • Because flu vaccine is a commodity (i.e., the same product can be made by many different companies) and much of the available supply is bought up in large orders by the government, the market price of vaccine — and the profit to be made from selling it — has been quite low. (The global market for vaccine is about $6 billion a year, while the global market for drugs is about $340 billion a year. Which of these two markets a pharmaceutical company should concentrate on is a no-brainer.)

  • Sometime within the next several years, the flu vaccine industry will switch to growing vaccine in cell cultures rather than eggs, a much easier and cheaper process. No new entrant to the flu vaccine market is going to spend several years and millions of dollars investing in a process that will soon become obsolete.
  • And years before he “got the goods” on Blackwater/Xe, journalist Jeremy Scahill reported the following here for The Nation in 2005 (basically, we lucked out that we didn’t have a “Katrina”-like pandemic scenario because of another Dubya flunky appointed to a job for which he was not qualified in any way in 2003)…

    …the man responsible for coordinating the federal response to a flu pandemic or bioterror attack could well (have been) the next Michael Brown. Meet Stewart Simonson. He's the official charged by Bush with "the protection of the civilian population from acts of bioterrorism and other public health emergencies"--a well-connected, ideological, ambitious Republican with zero public health management or medical expertise, whose previous job was as a corporate lawyer for Amtrak. When Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, recently speculated, "If something comes along that is truly a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence," many of those professionally concerned with such scenarios couldn't help thinking of Simonson. They recalled his own unsettling words at a recent Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on government response to a chemical or biological attack: "We're learning as we go."
    See what I mean? Continuing…

    "If I was in charge, he wouldn't be in that position," says Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University. "We don't have the best and brightest in the key positions, and this leaves us in a very, very precarious situation." So how is it that Simonson ended up in a position that could impact the lives and health of millions? Simonson's qualifications can be summed up in two words: Tommy Thompson. Simonson was a protégé of the former Health and Human Services secretary and longtime Republican governor of Wisconsin. Thompson hired him out of the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1995 and put him on the political fast track, eventually naming him as his legal counsel. Thompson then used his influence as chair of Amtrak's board to place Simonson as the rail service's corporate counsel. When Bush named Thompson as HHS secretary, Simonson again went with him, and he has been rising through the ranks of the Administration and the Republican Party ever since. "He's a political hack, a sycophant," says Ed Garvey, a prominent Wisconsin attorney and the state's former deputy attorney general. "People just laughed when he was appointed to Amtrak, but when the word came out that he was in charge of bioterrorism, it turned to alarm. When you realize that people's lives are at stake, it's frightening. It's just one of those moments when you say, Oh, my God."
    So basically, we can thank a power greater than ourselves for the fact that this country never was attacked through bioterrorism (aside from the anthrax attacks) over the past eight years (Bill Maher and others can make as much fun of religion as they want, but that works for me).

    And it also has a good bit to do with the reason why, in lieu of an immediately available vaccine (which is no doubt being rushed to production with all speed at this moment), we have to rely on the counsel of a furry red puppet to protect us instead.

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    Tuesday Stuff

    Last night Rachel Maddow interviewed Bernie Sanders on health care reform of course, with a setup that basically showed that the "party of No" has no intention now or ever to act on this urgent matter (with this as still more proof).

    And by the way, PA Sen. Bob Casey is scheduled to appear at a town hall (here we go again) tomorrow at 11:15 am; the location is the Keystone Room, 200 Prospect Street, East Stroudsburg, PA (if you can get there as early as possible - say, 9 AM? - to try and crowd out those teabaggin' wingnuts, that would be terrific)...

    ...and I really wasn't going to waste time with Deadeye Dick here, but I loved the commercial parody...

    ..."Worst Persons" (Glenn Beck gets his nightly citation - hmm, forgot about this, though...and if any more sponsors want to bail on him or Fix Noise, click here; this life form named Lynn ("Uh, Oh!") Jenkins (R - Crazyland, otherwise known as Kansas) tells a working mother who supports "an affordable option" on health care to "be a grownup" and go get coverage...the Repug Party standing up for (on?) the workers of the world once more, my fellow prisoners - and why is it that I get the feeling that Jenkins is the progeny of Martha Raye, Denture Lady?; but the firm DDB Brazil takes it for concocting a public service ad showing countless planes approaching New York, including the now-gone World Trade Center towers, presumably in the name of "respecting the planet"...kudos to the World Wildlife Fund for realizing how despicable this creation is and rejecting it - DDB Brazil quite obviously no longer deserves to be in business)...

    ...and I love this tune, but don't "Photoshop" any more Beatles' album covers, OK?

    Some Clarity From Kerry On The Carbon Conundrum

    (And I also posted here.)

    Sen. John Kerry at The Hill posted this yesterday on the urgency of enacting legislation to control man-made carbon emissions (and please allow me to observe that I can’t think of a word to describe how pathetic it is that I posted on this topic not quite four years ago here, and I believe events require that I continue to post about it)…

    The truth is that the threat we face is not an abstract concern for the future. It is already upon us and its effects are being felt worldwide, right now. Scientists project that the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer of 2013. Not in 2050, but four years from now.

    Make no mistake: catastrophic climate change represents a threat to human security, global stability, and -- yes -- even to American national security.

    Climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale. We risk fanning the flames of failed-statism, and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system. In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.

    Anyone who doubts the threat should talk to the 11 retired American admirals and generals who warned in 2007 that "Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national-security challenges for the United States."

    You can even ask the security planners in the Bush Administration, whose final national-defense strategy document recognized climate change among key trends that will shape U.S. defense policy in the coming years.

    Or ask the National Intelligence Council -- the U.S. intelligence community's think-tank -- has concluded "global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national-security interests over the next 20 years."

    Former CENTCOM Commander Anthony Zinni, no radical tree-hugger, put it simply: "We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we'll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or, we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll."
    Kerry then goes on to describe with disturbing clarity how the climate crisis could impact southeast Asia, perhaps the most volatile region in the world.

    And actually, the security threat posed by climate change has been known in this country for some time, as noted in this story, which also tells us the following…

    Nearly six years ago, two scenario planners prepared a report for the Department of Defense titled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security." The report (download - PDF), by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall of the Global Business Network, a San Francisco-based think tank, explored how an acceleration of climate change "could potentially de-stabilize the geo-political environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even war." It examined climate-induced constraints such as "food shortages due to decreases in net global agricultural production; decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patterns, causing more frequent floods and droughts; and disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess."
    And even though we know what the response was from our prior ruling cabal, I must reiterate it with this 2007 story, which tells us that…

    George Bush was castigated by European diplomats and found himself isolated yesterday after a special conference on climate change ended without any progress.

    European ministers, diplomats and officials attending the Washington conference were scathing, particularly in private, over Mr Bush's failure once again to commit to binding action on climate change.

    Although the US and Britain have been at odds over the environment since the early days of the Bush administration, the gap has never been as wide as yesterday.

    Britain and almost all other European countries, including Germany and France, want mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse emissions. Mr Bush, while talking yesterday about a "new approach" and "a historic undertaking", remains totally opposed.

    The conference, attended by more than 20 countries, including China, India, Britain, France and Germany, broke up with the US isolated, according to non-Americans attending. One of those present said even China and India, two of the biggest polluters, accepted that the voluntary approach proposed by the US was untenable and favoured binding measures, even though they disagreed with the Europeans over how this would be achieved.
    I don’t completely trust China and India on this issue either, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s no excuse for our inaction.

    So where are we at the moment concerning climate change legislation?

    Well, Marshall Saunders of the Citizens Climate Lobby tells us the following today in the Philadelphia Inquirer in support of a carbon tax (I haven’t quite made up my mind about this guy, but I have a feeling he’s “on the beam” here - the fact that the Inky published him automatically makes me suspicious)…

    The more I look at Congress' legislation to address climate change with a cap-and-trade program, the more it looks like a Rube Goldberg device - one of those amusing contraptions that employ all manner of moving parts in a complicated, convoluted process that performs a simple task.

    The task we're talking about - reducing carbon emissions by making fossil fuels more expensive - is pretty straightforward. And yet to accomplish it, Congress has come up with a 1,400-page bill that makes War and Peace read like a short story.

    To raise the cost of carbon-based energy and make clean energy technologies, such as wind and solar, more competitive, cap-and-trade creates a market in which thousands of companies are required to purchase permits to emit carbon dioxide. But wait - most of the permits will initially be given away rather than auctioned off. And there's also this messy contrivance called carbon offsets, which allows polluters to invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions. Good luck verifying the efficacy of those offsets.
    This seems to verify what Mother Jones points out here about Waxman-Markey (the ACES bill, which passed the House by seven votes as noted here); the MJ post tells us the following…

    The split (over the bill) encompasses more than predictable ideological divides. Debate over the relative merits of a carbon tax versus this bill's cap-and-trade model has mostly given way to concerns about whether the legislation, sponsored by representatives Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.), lines the pockets of polluters with little to show for it. The most it would cut carbon emissions by 2020 is 17 percent below 1990 levels, nowhere near the 25 to 40 percent reduction sought by scientists and international climate negotiators. The Sierra Club has withheld its endorsement in hopes of improving the bill before a final vote—it wants to prevent polluters from receiving tradable emissions permits for free, preserve the EPA’s authority to independently regulate carbon, and better fund energy efficiency and clean energy—but Fahn and other environmentalists are skeptical that lawmakers will listen. “From my perspective,” he says, “the prospects of strengthening it to where we’d want to support the ultimate version are growing slim.”

    Many environmentalists blame Waxman-Markey’s flaws on the United States Climate Action Partnership (US-CAP), a coalition of industry and moderate environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council that, during the last years of the Bush administration, quietly hammered out what has become the bill’s framework. Sierra Club board member M.K. Dorsey, a professor of global environmental policy at Dartmouth, calls the environmentalists in US-CAP “well-meaning liberals who do not pay enough attention to political economy.” He adds: “They got out-maneuvered, they got hoodwinked, because they were in over their head.”
    As much as I respect the two principals behind the House bill, this seems to verify what I’ve read from other sources also (this recommends a carbon tax as does the Saunders column today, and even Exxon supported a carbon tax in Australia, as noted here, so there is a precedent - we also learn the following)…

    Imposing a global carbon tax would ease pressure on the climate more cheaply than emissions trading, according to a study released last week by Danish professor Bjoern Lomborg.

    A $0.50 tax for each ton of emissions may generate $1.51 in avoided climate damage, compared with costs as high as $68 per ton, resulting in 2 cents of avoided damage, under some emissions-mitigations models, the study said.
    And that leads us back to the Senate bill sponsored by Kerry and Barbara Boxer of California, which, as noted here, will not be introduced until late September (with Dem senators from states dependent on coal manufacturing claiming here that they won’t support the legislation without job protection measures; I respect their fight, but I think they may lose on getting our trading partners onboard with this also).

    I sincerely hope the Boxer-Kerry bill favors the carbon tax as opposed to the “cap ant trade” Waxman-Markey model. My suspicion is that the former would have a better shot at passage, since it’s a lot harder to demagogue on such a direct concept (though the “teabaggin’” demagoguery will come, of course).

    I know a lot has transpired this year between the automaker assistance, the stimulus, the health care reform battle, and now this. But all of these are necessary components in the process of rebuilding an economy that has suffered from years of neglect.

    And let’s hope and pray that I don’t somehow find myself in a position to post about our inaction on this four years from now. In that event, anything I or anyone else would say on it probably wouldn’t matter any more.

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Monday Stuff

    I would think that the answer to the question posed to Grassley by this courageous American is self-evident by now based on this (and click here for more)...

    ...and "The Pap Attack" takes on this subject once more here because it's necessary to do so...

    ..."Worst Persons" (there are people out there still allowing Betsy McCaughey to peddle her long-since-destroyed lies on health care, this time about people supposedly being forced to buy the "government plan"...hard to tell who's a dimmer bulb, her or Just Plain Folks Sarah Palin; Pat Boone - is he still alive? - tiptoes ever so closely to that racist razor's edge, and takes a shot at liberals also of course...funny and/or pathetic that Boone would do this seeing as how he made a fortune covering the music of African American artists; however, Michael Scheuer takes it again for claiming that Obama and the Dems want to see another 9/11, or words to that effect - this is as old as the Hitler stuff by now, and of course it's even more tasteless given the fact that another anniversary is coming up)...

    ...and I thought this was an appropriate vid given this rather interesting story.

    Monday Mashup Part 2 (8/31/09)

    (I ended my most recent post here on torture, so I guess I should follow up here also.)

  • In yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Mark Bowden pontificated as follows here…

    I will predict right here that the investigation ordered last week by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will not result in prosecuting CIA agents or any top officials of the Bush administration. If the investigation uncovers a clearly rogue interrogator guilty of some murderous outrage, that's one thing, but those who were working under close supervision from Washington, complying with their instructions, no matter how outrageous some believe them to be, will not be charged with crimes. Ordering the investigation will please those on the left who are more angry than most Americans about harsh interrogation methods, and they may shed further light on whether such tactics worked - early indications are that they did.
    As far as “pleasing those on the left” is concerned in the matter of investigating torture, I should note that “close to two-thirds” of those surveyed here claimed that they wanted an investigation (this information is from February, which was the most recent data I could locate; given the leveling of other Obama polling numbers, though, I can easily envision that it’s closer to 50-50 by now).

    However, even at 50-50, that’s an awfully big group of people “on the left,” wouldn’t you say?

    And in response to “Deadeye Dick” Cheney’s claim that “coercive interrogation techniques” were successful, CNN’s Peter Bergen tells us the following (here – as his bio tells us, Bergen, CNN's national security analyst, is a fellow at the New America Foundation)…

    Historians will likely judge the putative intelligence gains made by abusive interrogation techniques were easily outweighed by the damage they caused to the United States' moral standing.

    That is certainly the view of Adm. Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, who wrote in April 2009, "These techniques hurt our image around the world, the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefits they gave us and they are not essential to our national security." Quite.
    And as Think Progress tells us here…

    There have been no documents supporting Cheney’s claim that torture was essential to saving American lives. Even CIA memos from 2004 and 2005, which Cheney claimed would back him up, have been released and have no evidence linking torture to valuable intelligence. In fact, these memos show that “non-abusive techniques actually helped elicit some of the most important information.”
    I guess observations such as this from Bowden will no doubt curry favor from sources that would be amenable to providing material for future books, so from a marketing perspective at least, columns such as this one could be judged as a success.

    But from a standard of basic journalistic integrity, if this is the best Bowden can do with his every-other-month-or-so columns for this failing newspaper, than he shouldn't even bother at all.

  • At least Bowden is an accomplished author, but I know of no such claim that can be made for Kevin Ferris, another Inky editorialist, who waxed indignant here yesterday over Samir Shabazz, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and Jerry Jackson, a party member, who were both "deployed" eight to 15 feet from the entrance of a polling place at 1221 Fairmount St. in "military style uniforms" last November 4th (and if you’re thinking this has already been rehashed by the Drudge/Malkin crowd, you win a free subscription to Clown Hall dot com)…

    "Shabazz brandished a deadly weapon" - a nightstick, the complaint said. "Shabazz pointed the weapon at individuals, menacingly tapped it [in] his other hand, or menacingly tapped it elsewhere."

    The complaint continued, "Shabazz and Jackson made statements containing racial threats and racial insults at both black and white individuals" and "made menacing and intimidating gestures, statements and movements directed at individuals who were present to aid voters."

    "That would be intimidating to anybody," says Linda A. Kerns, an attorney who was representing the GOP city committee that day. The police were called and they escorted Shabazz from the polling place. Jackson, a credentialed Democratic poll watcher, was allowed to remain - and credentialed again for last spring's primary.

    The Panthers and their national chairman, Malik Zulu Shabazz, were also named in the complaint.

    As none of the defendants had responded to the complaint, the case could have been won by default. But (the Obama Justice Department) dismissed the case against the Panthers, their chairman, and Jackson in May. Samir Shabazz was banned from "displaying a weapon within 100 feet of any open polling location on any election day in the City of Philadelphia."

    That slap on the wrist leaves too many questions unanswered.
    Well, maybe Justice decided not to prosecute because they felt that the goal of keeping the thug Samir Shabazz from the polling place had already been achieved, and they felt there wasn’t enough of a case against anyone else named in the complaint and decided not to waste time and taxpayer dollars in the effort (to say nothing of giving these characters more publicity than they deserved).

    But of course, that doesn’t placate the easily offended conservative sensibilities of Ferris and his brethren.

    Oh, and by the way, Inky, one of the reasons why I’m bothering to post about this at all is because I left a comment on this story to this effect that was not abusive in any way, but you declined to publish it all the same.

    I hope you don’t make this mistake too many more times. The last thing an operation in your precarious financial straits can afford to do is turn away readership.

  • Update 9/1/09: This should make Ferris happy (hat tips to Atrios and The Opinionator at the New York Times), though, as Mary Frances Berry said, the Civil Rights Commission "totally lack credibility in the civil rights community."

  • And venturing over to The Old Gray Lady today, Katharine Q. Seelye brings us the following (from here)…

    SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Senator Jim DeMint, the South Carolina Republican who predicted that President Obama’s effort to overhaul the health care system would become his “Waterloo,” is doing his best to make that happen.

    Taking questions from a friendly crowd of 500 people here the other day, Mr. DeMint did little to correct their misimpressions about health care legislation but rather reinforced their worst fears.

    When one man said the major House bill would give the government electronic access to bank accounts, Mr. DeMint told him the bill was never about health care. “This is about more government control,” he declared. “If it was about health care, we could get it done in a couple of weeks.”
    As Atrios would say, “THE STUPID….IT BURNS US!!!!”

    That being said, I should point out that Seelye actually does plug in some context towards the end of the story to balance the wingnuttery a bit, such as the fact that “South Carolina, much of which is poor and rural, faces some particular challenges. Its unemployment rate of 11.8 percent exceeds the national rate of 9.4 percent. And 16.2 percent of the population has no insurance, more than the national average of 15.3 percent.”

    However, would it have killed Seelye to also point out the following (from here)?...

    The 1,017-page bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee does call for electronic fund transfers—but from insurers to doctors and other providers. There is zero provision to include patients in any such system.
    (And by the way, in the matter of our elected leaders acting like adults, this Guest Opinion that recently appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times tells us that Patrick Murphy has included a bill in the health care legislation to close a loophole involving Medicare and Medicaid fraud…as always, read the comments from “my2cents” and ignore just about all of the others – my God, what hideous trolls!)

    And finally, getting back to DeMint, we learn the following from Seelye…

    …(South Carolina) voters seem more interested in whether Mr. DeMint might run for president.

    “I wouldn’t get out of my driveway without my wife shooting me in the back,” he said in Greenville. “You’ve got to find somebody who’s smart enough to be a great president but dumb enough to want to be president. Right now, I think I’m still too smart to be president.”
    I wouldn’t bet on that.