As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, July 22, 2005

Medical Malfeasance

One thing I don't often bring into the discussion here is the fact that I am an NBA junkie. As a kid I was obsessed with pretty much all spectator sports, but now I've settled into basketball. I came across something today that brought home for me something which I think is seldom discussed in sports circles; the questionable ethics of medical professionals in big-time sports. This is from today's LA Times:

Laker draft pick Ronny Turiaf will undergo open-heart surgery to repair an enlarged aortic root and will sit out one season, if not longer, as he recuperates from a condition that could have taken his life if not diagnosed.

Turiaf, 22, will have surgery in four to six weeks to treat the condition, which was detected by Laker doctors after extensive testing. Turiaf, a 6-foot-10 forward selected No. 37 by the Lakers in last month's draft, signed a two-year contract last week that was contingent upon his passing a physical.

Turiaf was a great college player at Gonzaga who I hoped my preferred team (the Philadelphia 76ers) would draft. What I didn't know is that doctors have known about his abnormal heart for years:

Turiaf, who grew up on the Caribbean island of Martinique and played high school basketball in Paris, had tests done several years ago in France that showed an abnormality of the heart, but was cleared to play. Tests done last month at the NBA's pre-draft camp in Chicago also presented an abnormality, but he was cleared there as well.

"Naturally, we wish that they would have seen it the way our doctors found it," Laker spokesman John Black said Thursday. "It would have made a difference, but we don't want to point fingers. We feel fortunate that it was found when it was. It probably saved the kid's life.

The Lakers' spokesman is being nice, IMO. Suffice to say that to those that hold the purse strings in sports, the owners and the agents, what a player can do on the field is often far more important than their long-term (or short-term) health. And this is about more than just medical ethics; it's the entire sports culture. Fans call players "tough guys" for playing hurt and "as soft as tissue paper" if they don't. Everybody but the player has a vested interest in him getting back on the court, and the player wants to play too, because he doesn't want to lose his job, or he doesn't want a negative reputation, or whatever. For their entire lives, these guys are called gifted physical specimens, able to do things ordinary humans can't. Of course they believe they're physically immortal. Meanwhile, early deaths of athletes are commonplace.

Whether it's burying evidence of potential maladies, prescribing steroids and other harmful drugs for athletes, or generally cutting every corner possible to allow injured players to get back on the field quickly, the sports medicine community has failed to put their patients' rights over that of the owners, or the fans. I don't think it's a stretch to say that a real Patients' Bill of Rights would go a long way to remedy this.

Plenty of Americans who don't pay close attention to politics pay attention to sports. They understand in their daily lives how HMOs are often unsympathetic to their concerns, how insurance companies don't want to pay for their procedures, how those in charge of their health care allow "acceptable risks" to their safety to go unchecked. By showing how even multi-million-dollar athletes, role models in this society, have to face the same garbage (albeit for somewhat different reasons) would be an instructive way to get those not clued into the health care debate on the side of concepts like a patients' bill of rights and universal coverage. This would be an outside-the-box move for Democrats, to publicize the Ronny Turiaf case as an example of this country's misplaced health care priorities.


Treasongate gets curiouser and curiouser...

Today Bloomberg reported this:

July 22 (Bloomberg) — Two top White House aides have given accounts to a special prosecutor about how reporters first told them the identity of a CIA agent that are at odds with what the reporters have said, according to people familiar with the case.

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, told special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that he first learned from NBC News reporter Tim Russert of the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador and Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, one person said. Russert has testified before a federal grand jury that he didn’t tell Libby of Plame’s identity, the person said.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove told Fitzgerald that he first learned the identity of the CIA agent from syndicated columnist Robert Novak, according a person familiar with the matter. Novak, who was first to report Plame’s name and connection to Wilson, has given a somewhat different version to the special prosecutor, the person said.

I'm no lawyer, but I believe the technical term for that is perjury. And it's a felony. It's never the crime, always the cover-up, remember?

Add to that this bombshell: MSNBC's Hardball reported yesterday that John Bolton (hi, remember me?) is tied up in this mess too. He apparently testified to the grand jury in the Plame case, and it's unclear whether or not he disclosed that to the Senate Intelligence Committee during confirmation hearings. Any nominee confirmed by the Senate is required to disclose any criminal investigations with which he or she is involved.

The hub of the Bolton sage on the Web, Steve Clemons' The Washington Note, has more:

This takes us back to whether it is possible that John Bolton's shop played a role in promulgating not only the Niger/Uranium story inside the State Department but in its cozy relationship with the Vice President's office tried to help undermine Joe Wilson by exposing the identity of his wife....

...and more intriguingly:

TWN has just learned from a highly placed source -- and in the right place to know -- that John Bolton was a regular source for Judith Miller's New York Times WMD and national security reports.

The source did not have any knowledge on whether Bolton was one of Miller's sources on the Valerie Plame story she was preparing, but argues that he was a regular source otherwise.

It's all "thickening."

This shouldn't be a surprise. Bolton's job was concerned with WMD and proliferation. If there was a question about the Iraq/Niger story, he would be the point person at the State Department. And the special prosecutor is very concerned with that State Department memo that was floating around Air Force One right before the Novak leak, with Ari Fleischer and others reading it. We now know that the memo was marked (S), for secret.

Who do YOU think wrote that memo?

This house of cards is about one slight breeze from blowing all the way down.


Thursday, July 21, 2005

They Own It

Josh Marshall has this absolutely brilliant piece in TPM Cafe today:

Central to any message for Democrats now and through 2006 has to be that Washington is a Republican town.  It's run by Republicans.  Everything that happens in Washington is determined by Republicans.  If you're fed up with Washington, you're fed up with Republicans, etc.  It's not spin.  It's all true and painfully so. 

Every Democrat in their home district or state should be making the point that they're outsiders in today's Washington.  There may be Republicans and Democrats that voters know at home, each with some positions of power, fame, prominence in business and so forth.  Not so in today's Washington.  It's a Republican machine.  And Democrats are as much outsiders on the action as voters are.

We chose John Kerry in 2004, an establishment Democrat who has lived and breathed Washington for 20 years, negating this line of attack. The Republicans pounced on it, and if anyone was running as a Washington outsider last year, it was the President. But in the midterms, this is an absolute must for the leadership. The only reason the old saw that "Democrats don't have any ideas" has been allowed to become conventional wisdom in many circles is that the GOP leadership in the House and Senate systematically block any Democratic legislation, and we're not at this point good enough at circumventing that and getting the message out.

The outsider, "throw the bums out" thing has worked for years and years, but only when it's coupled with a strong message about what said "outsider" or "outsider party" would do if elected. I agree with Jon Stewart that it would be instructive for Democrats to loudly proclaim every day between now and next November what they would do differently if they were in power. You could go issue by issue for the next 400-odd days. Do it through media, direct mail, whatever means at our disposal.

And by the way, there's an excellent chance to get this started right now. In Ohio's 2nd Congressional district, Paul Hackett, an Iraq War veteran who will be going back to Baghdad if he loses this race, is up against Jean Schmidt, a Republican. This is an open seat created by Rep. Rob Portman's being named the US Trade Representative. The election's in just a couple of weeks. This is maybe the most conservative district in the state, serving Hamilton County (Cincinnati). It went 2 to 1 for Bush in 2000 and 2004. But since the election, Ohio's GOP has weathered a number of scandals (including Coingate, the ruining of the workman's compensation system by purchasing rare coins that were lost in the mail), their Republican governor Bob Taft has a NINETEEN percent approval rating, and Hackett has a chance to pull off the upset. Here's some more information on it.

This is an excellent test case to play out some of the themes that could work nationally. Hackett's Act Blue page is here if you want to donate.

UPDATE... The GOP candidate Jean Schmidt is making is really easy to nationalize this race, by taking $10,000 in the last month from Tom DeLay's under-indictment Political Action Committee. Slick idea, Jean.


Cable News Untruth-a-thon

So today's attempted Underground and bus attack in London (how bad a terrorist do you have to be to injure NOBODY on a Tube train? Seems like a pathetic copycat crime to me) has prompted another round of cable shouting. And on MSNBC, a British journalist described the mood on the streets of the city. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Well, you know, this isn't Madrid. I don't think the British people are going to want to throw Tony Blair out of office because of this. They're standing behind him."


OK, real slowly: Spain did not throw Aznar out of office because of a terror attack. They did it because Aznar lied about the terror attack, claiming the Basque separatist group ETA was responsible in a bid for political gain. The public found out about it in the run-up to the election and decided that they didn't want a chief executive who lies to his own people and uses tragedy as a means to consolidate power. In some countries, see, people don't like that.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

So much for knocking Rove off the front page...

The US military may not be able to fight a two-front war currently, but Democrats sure can. Page A1 of Thursday's Washington Post:

A classified State Department memorandum central to a federal leak investigation contained information about CIA officer Valerie Plame in a paragraph marked "(S)" for secret, a clear indication that any Bush administration official who read it should have been aware the information was classified, according to current and former government officials.

Plame -- who is referred to by her married name, Valerie Wilson, in the memo -- is mentioned in the second paragraph of the three-page document, which was written on June 10, 2003, by an analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), according to a source who described the memo to The Washington Post.

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.

And, as a side note, the whole "Wilson was pushing a bad story" thing, i.e. Saddam was not trying to buy uranium from Niger? Read on:

Almost all of the memo is devoted to describing why State Department intelligence experts did not believe claims that Saddam Hussein had in the recent past sought to purchase uranium from Niger. Only two sentences in the seven-sentence paragraph mention Wilson's wife.

Heck, even Ari Fleischer admitted that the information on yellowcake "turned out to be incorrect." The Butler Report's assertion that Iraq was looking for yellowcake from Niger is hogwash, as Josh Marshall will tell you. And plus, we now know that the whole thing doesn't matter.

Fact: information marked "secret" made its way from a classified State Department memo to Robert Novak's column in the space of 7 days. Fact: Everyone who signs SF 312, which is everyone working in the White House, cannot disclose or confirm classified information without asking an authorized official if the information has, in fact, been declassified. It's very clear Rove, Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby and potentially others did that:

Several other administration officials were on the trip to Africa (where the State Department memo was distributed), including senior adviser Dan Bartlett, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and others. Bartlett's attorney has refused to discuss the case, citing requests by the special counsel. Fleischer could not be reach for comment yesterday.

Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, have been identified as people who discussed Wilson's wife with Cooper. Prosecutors are trying to determine the origin of their knowledge of Plame, including whether it was from the INR memo or from conversations with reporters.

Here's rule #1 in Washington: the CIA knows shit, and they know how to get it out. It would be wise not to make them angry.

Who's that John Roberts guy again?


Bye Bye Bandar

The man they called "Bandar Bush" is resigning as the Saudi ambassador to the US. We don't know where all those great Beltway parties are going to be held now.

His replacement, Prince Turki al-Faisal, has a known history with bin Laden dating back to the mujahedin days in Afghanistan in the 80s. He was the Saudi intelligence chief for 27 years. Relatives of about 900 of the people killed on 9/11 filed a civil lawsuit in the United States accusing Prince Turki and the Saudi defence minister of funding bin Laden. He inexplicably resigned his post as intelligence chief exactly one month before the attacks, giving no reason.

" the new boss, same as the old boss..."

Are we going to keep this "strong alliance" with Saudi Arabia going until every single one of its citizens is either an insurgent in Iraq, a suicide bomber somewhere in the world, the head of a madrassah, or funding all of them?


Stating the Obvious

File this in the "no shit" folder:

Bush accelerated his search for a Supreme Court nominee in part because of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's name, according to Republicans familiar with administration strategy.

Bush originally had planned to announce a replacement for retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on July 26 or 27, just before his planned July 28 departure for a month-long vacation at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, said two administration officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named.

The officials said those plans changed because Rove has become a focus of Fitzgerald's interest and of news accounts about the matter.

Well, of course. The only move more calculating would have been for Bush to nominate Osama bin Laden and simultaneously raise the terror threat alert level to red. "He's infilitrating our courts!"

There's no reason why cable news can't pay attention to two things at once... oh, wait, there is, they're a pack of dunderheads. Well, then there's no reason why progressives can't do what they can to keep both issues in play. The Senate's out for a month, so the Roberts fight will necessarily take a long time. Meanwhile, new revelations on Treasongate are happening seemingly every day. No reason that won't continue. And the moment Fitzgerald actually makes a move, it'll be splashed all over the front page.

As for Roberts, I think it's time to take the word "stealth" off of his bio (as in "stealth conservative"). This was the political operative in the White House solicitor's office under Ken Starr in the 80s. He was a key behind-the-scenes player in the Florida recount fight in 2000. He's a hard-core ideological conservative, and hiding behind a "I was just doing the work of my clients" line is completely absurd. Even Ann Coulter gets this.

I don't know if Democrats have the stomach to spoil for a fight on this one. You'd have to knock down and drag out and leave no holds barred, which just doesn't seem to be where the Dems are at right now. If it comes down to winning elections, the best thing Democrats could do, after performing their required Constitutional role to forcefully question the nominee, is to show exactly what Roberts' accession will mean for ordinary Americans, and run on that in 2006. Sometimes losing now can be better for winning later if you leverage it right. A fact sadly lost on many leaders in my Party.

p.s. Billmon has some required reading on the subject.


Still the Economy, Stupid

I'm not the biggest evangelist of polls, but when the results jibe so much with what you experience in the day-to-day talking to people, I think it becomes worthy. I got this today from Greenberg-Quinlan Research. The poll shows a 36-55% right track-wrong track, and a 49% approval rating for Bush, which is pretty much where all the others have been (if not a little higher). On the message of the economy, however, there are some surprising numbers. This is from their report:

*Only 43% of respondents think the economy is "Excellent" of "Good". 53% believe the President is "out of touch" on the economy.

* When asked to focus on positive aspects of the economy, voters think of the housing boom and low interest rates, along with a lower unemployment rate.

* When asked to focus on the negative aspects, responses are richer and more multi-dimensional – focused on rising costs, exported jobs, reduced benefits at work, and macro imbalances, like the federal deficits.

* When thinking of the economy in general, voters focus much more on these negative dimensions and facts (53 to 39 percent). When asked to focus on “YOUR economic situation,” voters focus more on the positive (51 to 41 percent). But that is misleading. The better off (college educated) are critical of the general economy but positive about their own. Those less well off (high school educated) are negative about both.

* The Democrats have two strong narratives that dominate the Republican economic discussion: 1) tax cuts, deficits, and inaction on job outsourcing and health care that leave the economy in long-term trouble; and 2) policy that benefits the wealthiest and big corporations, while the middle class face rising economic burdens.

* Democrats now hold a 7-point advantage in a generic congressional contest (47 to 40 percent), which has the potential to translate into significant congressional gains.

Incidentally, 40% of the people in this survey were self-described conservatives, 40% moderates, and just 17% saw themselves as liberals. There is an absolute take-away here. A refined, honed message on jobs and the economy can be an absolute boon to the Democratic Party. The sentiment is already out there in the ether. All it would take is for the leadership to connect the dots, put forth a compelling narrative, and nationalize the message so that absolutely everyone in the country knows what a Democrat would do for their poicketbooks if they were elected. Nobody but the true believers buy the whole "Commie libruls are gonna take yer money away" argument anymore. In the past five years, government has expanded in size, government waste had exploded, deficits are skyrocketing, and it all occurred under GOP leadership. You can't pull the wool over Americans' eyes anymore. People know the truth by observing the climate in their own cities and towns. All Democrats have to do is to serve it up on a platter.

It's easy to get distracted by social issues and the like (and there are plenty of values issues about the economy, don't forget), but the way to retain Congressional power is by laser focusing on this kind of an economic narrative.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005



Didn't I say minutes after the O'Connor announcement that believing the President would pick a moderate would be nice, but also a lot like believing in Santa and the Tooth Fairy?

Well, that's what happens when you lose elections. Of course, this guy worked in Florida during the last election we WON, in 2000. He's such a Bush insider he makes James Baker nervous.

Off to watch the speech...



That's the buzz around DC today, that tonight's announcement will be that 5th Circuit Court judge Edith Brown Clement will be the pick to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Smart move by the Bush Administration to take the heat off of Karl Rove with this announcement.

We'll see how this plays out; Clement is almost entirely a blank slate, with very few opinions on the record. Of course, it could be someone else too.

...UPDATE: ABC News is now reporting it's not Clement. Oh, who the hell knows at this point?


Monday, July 18, 2005

Crystal Ball

July 18, 2005: "I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration."

August 31, 2005: "I want to get to the bottom of this as much as y'all do, and I want the American people to know, if someone is convicted of a crime, they will no longer work in this administration."

September 15, 2005: "I just want all Americans to have my word on this, that if anyone is convicted of any crime except for outing a CIA agent under the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, they'll be fired. I mean the jaywalkers are out of here."

October 27, 2005: "America can be sure of one thing: if anyone leaked the name of a CIA agent, as long as her name doesn't begin with the letter 'V', that person will be taken care of."

November 17, 2005: "As the investigation winds down, I want the whole world to know that anyone who has to serve more than 15 years in a federal penitentiary will absolutely be fired."

January 6, 2006: "Make that 20."

March 11, 2006: "I've made this very clear to the American people.  Anyone who commits more than one crime in my adminstration, they're right out the door.  See that door?  They';; be on the other side."

June 19, 2006: "I don't think I'm misleading the public.  I've said over and over again that anyone in this administration that is now living in a correctional facility, other than the Petersburg Federal Correctional Complex in Virginia, will be dealt with accordingly.  I don't want those kind of people in this administration."

August 8, 2006: "Anyone who killed a man won't work here anymore.  Period.  Got that?"

September 11, 2006: "How can you ask me that question.  You know what day it is?  It's September 11th!"

December 18, 2006: "This is the last time I'm going to answer this.  I understand the concern of the American people on this matter, and the general feeling of corruption in my Administration.  That's why, come January 2009, I will be firing my entire staff.  They're on 2 years' notice starting now.  Thank you."