The Short Leash

The “short leash” bill just passed in the House. Details to come.

Update: The vote was 221-205, which means the Dems picked up three votes from the last Iraq supplemental bill.

Here’s Jack Murtha’s closing speech:

McGovern Bill

I was out for a time and missed the vote, but here’s the role call — this was not the “emergency” supplemental vote, note, but a vote on a bill from the Out of Iraq Caucus that would have mandated for withdrawal. It failed, 255 no, 171 aye, 7 not voting.

These Democrats who voted no are henceforth to be known as the WTF? caucus.


Right now the House is debating the Iraq “supplemental” bill.

Winston Churchill Called Iraq “Ungrateful Volcano”

I believe this is the letter from Winston Churchill to David Lloyd George that Rep. Obey read on the floor of the Congress today. Churchill wrote this in 1922 advising Lloyd George to get Britain out of Iraq. I like these last three paragraphs:

I think we should now put definitely, not only to Feisal but to the Constituent Assembly, the position that unless they beg us to stay and to stay on our own terms in regard to efficient control, we shall actually evacuate before the close of the financial year. I would put this issue in the most brutal way, and if they are not prepared to urge us to stay and to co-operate in every manner I would actually clear out. That at any rate would be a solution. Whether we should clear out of the country altogether or hold on to a portion of the Basra vilayet is a minor issue requiring a special study.

It is quite possible, however, that face to face with this ultimatum the King, and still more the Constituent Assembly, will implore us to remain. If they do, shall we not be obliged to remain? If we remain, shall we not be answerable for defending their frontier? How are we to do this if the Turk comes in? We have no force whatever that can resist any serious inroad. The War Office, of course, have played for safety throughout and are ready to say ‘I told you so’ at the first misfortune.

Surveying all the above, I think I must ask you for definite guidance at this stage as to what you wish and what you are prepared to do. The victories of the Turks will increase our difficulties throughout the Mohammedan world. At present we are paying eight millions a year for the privilege of living on an ungrateful volcano out of which we are in no circumstances to get anything worth having.

This is especially delicious considering Sir Winston has become the patron saint of hawks.

Crumbs on His Face

Murray Waas reports at National Journal:

The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove’s, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The withheld records show that D. Kyle Sampson, who was then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, consulted with White House officials in drafting two letters to Congress that appear to have misrepresented the circumstances of Griffin’s appointment as U.S. attorney and of Rove’s role in supporting Griffin.

In one of the letters that Sampson drafted, dated February 23, 2007, the Justice Department told four Senate Democrats it was not aware of any role played by senior White House adviser Rove in attempting to name Griffin to the U.S. attorney post. A month later, the Justice Department apologized in writing to the Senate Democrats for the earlier letter, saying it had been inaccurate in denying that Rove had played a role.

The White House denies everything.

Meanwhile, the House has been debating all day, a process that mostly involves yielding minutes to each other. It’s a ceremonial thing, I guess. Now they are about to start three hours of debate on three bills, meaning the vote on the biggie, the Iraq War spending bill, probably won’t take place until early evening eastern time. They’re also going to debate and then vote on the McGovern bill, which would mandate that troop withdrawal from Iraq must begin in three months and be completed in six months. It’s not expected to pass, but it would be nice to see a close vote.

Bush’s Folly Updates

Greg Sargent says the House will vote on the newest version of the Iraq Accountability Act later today. I’ll monitor C-SPAN and post updates.

Tony Blair will resign as British Prime Minister in June. This is no surprise if you follow British news media. Blair had made noises last fall that he would resign within a year. Plus, it’s seemed to me that the entire United Kingdom, its people and governments, have been pretty much ignoring the Poodle for some time.

Alberto Gonzales is testifying before the House today. He’s expected to not remember anything.

Update: See David Sirota on “Blank Check Democrats.

Bushies Are Trying to Kill You

What else can one conclude from this, except that the Bushies have a dastardly plan to kill us, especially the poorer among us? Arian Campo-Flores writes at that the Bush Administration is “reforming” Medicaid in a way that will cause emergency rooms and even hospitals themselves to close.

The rule, scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, deals with the arcane world of Medicaid financing. Two provisions in particular dismay many in the health-care field. One limits states’ ability to tap certain funding sources to meet their Medicaid obligations. The other stipulates that Medicaid reimbursements cannot exceed the cost of treating the Medicaid patient. While that provision may sound reasonable, says Larry Gage of the National Association of Public Hospitals, it doesn’t account for the harsh reality confronting medical facilities that treat large numbers of the uninsured. Since these facilities don’t get reimbursed for that treatment, they rely in part on higher-than-cost Medicaid reimbursements. As a result of the new administration rule, many hospitals may need to make drastic cuts in personnel, beds and more.

Nearly a year ago the Institute of Medicine issued three reports (key findings here) saying the nation’s emergency rooms are inadequate and getting worse. Among other things, it found:

  • Demand for emergency care has been growing fast—emergency department (ED) visits grew by 26 percent between 1993 and 2003.
  • But over the same period, the number of EDs declined by 425, and the number of hospital beds declined by 198,000.
  • ED crowding is a hospital-wide problem—patients back up in the ED because they can not get admitted to inpatient beds.
  • As a result, patients are often “boarded”—held in the ED until an inpatient bed becomes available—for 48 hours or more.
  • Also, ambulances are frequently diverted from overcrowded EDs to other hospitals that may be farther away and may not have the optimal services.
  • In 2003, ambulances were diverted 501,000 times—an average of once every minute.
  • After these reports came out, David Brown wrote in the Washington Post:

    The number of deaths caused by a delay in treatment or lack of expertise is especially uncertain, though it may not be small. San Diego established a trauma system in 1984 after autopsies of accident victims who died after reaching the ER suggested that 22 percent of the deaths were preventable, said Eastman, one of the Institute of Medicine committee members.

    This is related to the ongoing controversy over disaster response (quoting the key findings from the National Institute of Medicine linked above):

    The emergency care system is ill-prepared to handle a major disaster. [Drawn from all three reports]

  • With many EDs at or over capacity, there is little surge capacity for a major event, whether it takes the form of a natural disaster, disease outbreak, or terrorist attack.
  • EMS received only 4 percent of Department of Homeland Security first responder funding in 2002 and 2003.
  • Emergency Medical Technicians in non-fire based services have received an average of less than one hour of training in disaster response.
  • Both hospital and EMS personnel lack personal protective equipment needed to effectively respond to chemical, biological, or nuclear threats.
  • That going on six years after 9/11 there has been no coherent effort to prepare the nation for biochemical or nuclear attacks goes way beyond the parameters of incompetence, IMO. The ridiculous Department of Homeland Security tosses money at pork projects and “contractors” (with ties to Republicans in Washington, one suspects) who don’t deliver. Yet to fund tax cuts for the rich and Bush’s pointless Iraq War — which is supposed to be about keeping America safer somehow — Bush’s government lets our ability to respond to disasters go to rot.

    On 9/11 New York City actually had surplus medical emergency response. That day the city’s wealth of world-class medical personnel and state-of-the-art facilities mustered a triage army around the Financial District. (I understand this was done on the initiative of New York City’s medical community; Rudy Giuliani didn’t have to ask.) But the nature of the disaster was such that people either got out, or they didn’t. The crack medical teams had little else to do but wipe bloody noses and wash dust out of eyes.

    But poor New Orleans after Katrina was a different story. Kerry Sanders reported for NBC News on September 2, 2005, that the sick, injured and dead alike were being stacked up at the New Orleans airport:

    The stench of death reeks inside portions of the airport here. Other parts of the airport just smell as any hospital would if there was no way to clean up. It is human misery as people are lying in pain, ailing and wailing.

    The pained screams from patients is like fingers on a chalkboard because there is nothing you can do to reach out and help these people. They have limited medical supplies. They do have aircraft coming in. The C-17s, Storm-30s are moving people out of here as fast as they can. …

    … A reporter is supposed to remain detached and just report what’s going on. But, when there is a man lying on the ground, and he’s yelling out to anyone walking by, “Help me! I need some water! Help me!” and there is no one to help this man.

    The moral is, if you’re ever a victim of a natural disaster or terrorist attack, be sure you’re someplace with really expensive real estate. Increasingly, America’s alleged “best health care in the world” is reserved for the well-to-do. Last year Jane Bryant Quinn wrote,

    America’s health-care “system” looks more like a lottery every year. The winners: the healthy and well insured, with good corporate coverage or Medicare. When they’re ill, they get—as the cliche goes—”the best health care in the world.” The losers: those who rely on shrinking public insurance, such as Medicaid (nearly 45 million of us), or go uninsured (46 million and rising).

    To slip from the winners’ circle into the losers’ ranks is a cultural, emotional and financial shock. You discover a world of patchy, minimal health care that feels almost Third World. The uninsured get less primary or preventive care, find it hard to see cardiologists, surgeons and other specialists (waiting times can run up to a year), receive treatment in emergencies, but are more apt to die from chronic or other illnesses than people who pay. That’s your lot if you lose your corporate job and can’t afford a health policy of your own.

    But now, in true Bush style, the Bush Administration is going to take a grim situation and make it worse. Let’s go back to Arian Campo-Flores at

    The administration calculates that the rule change will reduce federal Medicaid expenditures by about $3.8 billion over five years. But Gage and others estimate the impact on hospitals will be much larger. At Grady, where 42 percent of revenue comes from Medicaid, Kellerman estimates that the hit could total $200 million over five years. “Grady is already struggling,” he says. “This would put it out of business.” Were Grady to close, the consequences would be far-reaching: the hospital is the only Level I trauma center (the highest designation) in a 120-mile radius of Atlanta, and one quarter of Georgia’s physicians are trained there.

    Let’s see; the Bushies have run the National Guard into the ground and now they’re fixin’ to close hospitals. This at the very time that disaster and terrorist attack response is supposed to be a critical priority. Does it get dumber, or what?

    See also: The Mahablog, “Je m’amuse” (June 15, 2006).