Political MoJo

"If We Don't Get a Hold of Ourselves, We Will Wear Out Elizabeth Edwards Long Before Her Cancer Does."

| Tue Mar. 27, 2007 3:13 PM EDT

That's the gist of this very good article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, whose reporter noticed that on a recent trip to Ohio, poor Mrs. Edwards couldn't each lunch because press photographers needed (apparently) another five hundred pictures of The Woman Who Dares to Keep Campaigning With Cancer. It's a solid article, and touches on the idea that the press, by second-guessing the Edwards' decision to not cancel the campaign, is imposing its standards on a couple who have every right to do as they please. The best embodiment of that is this video compilation from Katie Couric's 60 Minutes interview, which I'll run without comment other than to say I found it on post called "Leave Elizabeth Edwards Alone" at AmericaBlog. "Some say...."

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Gonzales Gets Set to Throw His Entire Staff Under a Bus

| Tue Mar. 27, 2007 2:39 PM EDT

In an interview with NBC, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wouldn't give a straight answer to the question, "Can you be certain that none of these U.S. Attorneys were put on that list [to be fired] for improper reasons?" (Video at Think Progress.)

Instead, he said, "If I find out that, in fact, any of these decisions were motivated, the recommendations to me were motivated for improper reasons to interfere with the public corruption case, there will be swift and — there will be swift and decisive action. I can assure you that."

He's trying to be Mr. Super-Accountable-Tough-Guy. But really, Gonzales is just blaming his staff. I know the idea of a fall guy isn't rare in Washington, and Gonzo's chief of staff has already packed up his stuff and headed home, but to say, essentially, "Anyone in Justice could be guilty of doing something wrong -- except me," well, that's pretty ballsy. And further, to argue that the only reason you should be exempt from blame is because you were the only one who didn't have the straight dope -- that's "write a memo justifying torture, including crushing the testicles of a terrorist's child, and do it all with a straight face" ballsy. A whole different level, you see.

Interesting note tangentially related to all this: Gonzales will be sitting on the same roundtable discussion as Patrick Fitzgerald today, as part of a program on keeping children safe from online predators. It was Fitzgerald's rating on the DoJ's list of U.S. Attorneys -- "not distinguished" -- that proved to a lot of people that the DoJ had completely divorced their evaluations from actual job performance. Fitzgerald won the Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in 2002 and is widely seen as one of the best warriors in the DoJ army.

Banning Gay Adoption Would Cost Foster Care System $130 Million

| Tue Mar. 27, 2007 12:00 PM EDT

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

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

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

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

-More than one in three lesbians has given birth, and one in six gay men have fathered a child.
-65,500 adopted children are currently living with a lesbian or gay parent, amounting to four percent of all adopted children in the United States.
-10,300 foster children are living with lesbian or gay parents.
-Nearly 52,000 lesbian and gay households include an adopted child under the age of 18.

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

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

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

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

Grab Your Rifle: It's Open Season on Grizzlies in Yellowstone

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 9:04 PM EDT

Yellowstone's grizzly bear population just got kicked off the endangered species list.

Details at The Blue Marble.

My Answer to Automakers: Get Outta Dodge

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 7:06 PM EDT

The epic continues: A handful of chronically floundering non-innovative companies which have contributed more to the current climate disaster than almost anyone else continue to run the country in the most asinine, illogical and Orwellian fashion possible. Who am I talking about? The U.S. automakers, of course. Meeting with President Bush, the Big 3's CEOs pronounced with a straight face that ethanol is the answer to the country's environmental and national security issues.

Do these guys read the paper? Any paper? Here's a sampling of headlines from this year alone:

• "The truth about ethanol," AP, March 17
• "A test tells the story of ethanol vs. gasoline," San Jose Mercury News, March 11
• "Ethanol is still a long way off in U.S.," Los Angeles Times, March 10
• "Ethanol is politicians' snake oil," Denver Post, February 15
• "It's time to move beyond ethanol," The Houston Chronicle, January 26
• "Bush's 'clean fuel' move may cause more harm, say environmentalists," The Independent, January 25
• "Bush pushes plan to cut gasoline use; Tours DuPont ethanol research site," Plain Dealer, January 25
• "Contradictions seen in alternative energy plan," Los Angeles Times, January 24

There's plenty more where that came from. Here's a quick synopsis of what's wrong with the ethanol "solution":

• The only flex-fuel vehicles the automakers have made thus far are versions of their biggest gas-guzzlers.
• We don't have enough land to grow the corn to make the ethanol we need to drive all of our cars.
• Corn-based ethanol—the only kind currently available in the United States—requires as much fossil fuel to produce as it generates.
• It costs more than gasoline, and will almost certainly drive up the price of corn and meat.
• As a car burns ethanol, it produces slightly less greenhouse gases than a conventional car. But you know what burns less—a lot less—than a flex-fuel vehicle? A hybrid vehicle. So why aren't U.S. automakers making any hybrid vehicles?

If you've seen "Who Killed the Electric Car?," you'll know the answer already: The Big 3 promise things which will take years to develop, and then they wait for the political winds to change so they never deliver on their promises. It's time to give these losers the boot.

Moving Mountains Just Got Harder

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 6:28 PM EDT

Moving mountains may not sound that bad until, that is, you realize you have to put them somewhere. So say detractors of mountaintop removal, a commonly practiced technique for mining coal in the Appalachian Mountains. The practice decimates rivers and streams, completely altering entire ecosystems.

On Friday, a West Virginia judge decided he'd had enough. Read all about it over at The Blue Marble.

-Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

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Texas Tots for Sale

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 6:28 PM EDT

Ok, so Texas isn't really selling tots -- they're selling babies. Well, maybe. Republican State Senator Dan Patrick recently proposed the Adoption Incentive Program, which some are calling the "Texas Baby Purchasing Act of 2007." Patrick's bill calls for the development of a program to encourage adoption over abortion and mandates that every woman who chooses to carry her baby and then yield her parental rights in lieu of having an abortion receives $500. I am pretty sure this type of proposed legislation is a first (if I'm wrong, do let me know) although obviously not the first tactic to be used by pro-lifers to coerce women into not having abortions. There are many. Just last week, Nicole wrote about South Carolina passing a bill that "requires women to view their own ultrasounds before having the procedure."

So, besides the fact that it is just creepy to buy and sell babies and that the price isn't really right ($500 is just $.07 an hour to carry a child for nine months), as the folks over at Culture Kitchen point out, isn't it illegal? Apparently, the Texas senator dealt with this minor barrier. The act reads: "Penal Code, does not apply to the grant or acceptance of money under this section." Now, surely this legislation is unlikely to go anywhere and is pure wingnuttery, but it is definitely symbolic. As the Huffington Post notes, this act is "reflective of just how little 'pro-life' politicians and leaders actually care about women." The Huff Post has more great insight about this program. Worth a read.

Sorry Pakistanis- This is How We Do It

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 5:23 PM EDT

American foreign policy is predictable: say one thing and do another. And what is said is usually just a half-assed attempt to satisfy critics, like the "nonbinding resolutions" on the war in Iraq. Take the new developments in Pakistan. Two weeks ago, I blogged about the massive protests that have raked Pakistan as a result of General Musharraf's decision to sack the too independent chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Yesterday, more than 200 people were arrested, prior on the eve of today's protest where thousands of Pakistani opposition supporters rallied throughout Pakistan. In total, more than 1000 Pakistani protesters have been arrested.

Officials from the religious party Jaamat-e-Islami have even chimed in. Secretary General Syed Munawar Hasan:

"Gen Pervez Musharraf is subjugating all state institutions including the judiciary with the help of military power and he has dealt a deadly blow to the judiciary by suspending Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad."

Hasan said the worst victims of Gen Musharraf's era were the constitution, law and justice and all of them had been buried alive.

"The military rulers have enslaved 160 million people of the country at gunpoint and the crimes being committed on the people and sacred state institutions are the worst in the history of the country...It is ironic that Gen Musharraff always bows before the US but fires bullets at his own people."

The US response? Nada. Oh, sure, some members of Congress are "reaching out" to the Pakistani people and "there should be more than one phone number there to dial," but nothing substantial. Some members wrote a letter to Musharraf, asking him to hold fair and free elections while still wearing his uniform.

You don't ask a military dictator to enact democracy. But the U.S. doesn't really care if democracy reigns in Pakistan. If we did, the administration would have given explicit support to the protesters, organizations, parties, and the legal community in Pakistan which are demanding democracy.

Instead, the administration simply says that the situation is a "sensitive" issue. Plus, Congress isn't exactly moving to halt military aid to Musharraf either.

Musharraf has requested that the issue not be politicized: "I appeal to all lawyers that they should let this constitutional and legal process be completed. It should not be made a law and order or political issue," he said. Pakistani protesters may not comply, but the US sure will. After all, this is how we do it.

—Neha Inamdar

Birth Control Costs On Campus Double Thanks to Medicaid

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 1:00 PM EDT

The cost of birth control sold at student health centers on college campuses nationwide are skyrocketing and women can thank Medicaid for costs that have now doubled from around $10 a pack to $22 for a month's worth of pills. The price hike comes after of a change in a Medicaid rebate law that means pharmaceutical companies are no longer providing large discounts on some drugs to universities, including, surprise, contraceptives.

Previously, pharmaceutical companies often sold drugs at deep discounts to colleges, the discounts made business sense for the companies in that they created brand loyalty for the company, plus they didn't count against the drug makers in a formula calculating rebates they owed states to participate in Medicaid.

But the 2005 Medicaid bill, which went into effect in January, means that drug manufacturers who provide any discounts to colleges mean drug manufacturers need to pay more to participate in Medicaid. The result, fewer companies are offering discounts, meaning the pills are less affordable.

About 40% of female undergrads use oral contraceptives, according to a recent survey conducted by the American College Health Association. Many colleges tried to maintain costs for contraceptives for a few months by buying in bulk before the new law took effect, but now their stocks are low and they have had to increase prices.

ACHA said that the Medicaid bill should have included an exemption for companies to provide prescription drugs to college health centers and the group has supported a proposal to change the law. And for those who are anti-contraceptives, know that this rule change affects all discounts. For example, for the 16% of college students who have been diagnosed with depression—a 56% increase since 2000— their prescription costs are up as well.

Prosecutor Purge, Sort Of Like Anna Nicole Smith...

| Mon Mar. 26, 2007 11:16 AM EDT

Thanks to Salon, we didn't miss the Republican Senator from Oklahoma Tom Coburn comparing the media coverage of the U.S. Attorneys case to that of Anna Nicole Smith during last Thursday's hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which the senate voted to subpoena Karl Rove and several other WH officials implicated in the purge:

"[I]f you're sitting out in the middle of this country and this [prosecutor purge] becomes the topic du jour...like Anna Nicole Smith for the last two months, which has sickened the American public but that's what the press has run with because it makes for a nice dirty story, what are we doing to our country?"

Granted, media coverage of Washington scandals or any scandal for that matter can get out of control, but comparing the media's obsession with the death of a former Playboy bunny to that of its coverage of blatant executive power abuse is a stretch.

Coburn's comment comes in the wake of this ever-thickening plot. Last Thursday night, more documents were released to Congress containing pertinent information about the firings of the eight U.S. attorneys last year. One email, McClatchy reports, puts AG Alberto Gonzales at a meeting about firings on November 27, 2006 (only ten days before seven of the eight USAs were told to resign). This potentially contradicts what Gonzales has been saying; that although he takes full responsibility for "any mistakes" that occurred within his department, he was not aware of the details of the firings and that his former chief of staff Kyle Sampson was heading up that "process."

Sampson has voluntarily agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this Thursday. But, Politico reports that friends of Sampson claim the former chief of staff is "not gunning for anybody" and "does not plan to deliver bombshells." "Sampson will contend there was no underlying sin, just a botched response." I'm fairly certain though, as TPMmuckraker points out as well, this "Gee, shucks, we just weren't ready with a response" routine is not going to fly with Chairman Patrick Leahy, and committee members Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer. Should be interesting. Stay tuned.