Thursday Mashup (10/1/09)


  • The New York Times reported the following today (here)…

    WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has told lawmakers that it opposes legislation that could protect reporters from being imprisoned if they refuse to disclose confidential sources who leak material about national security, according to several people involved with the negotiations.

    The administration this week sent to Congress sweeping revisions to a “media shield” bill that would significantly weaken its protections against forcing reporters to testify.

    The bill includes safeguards that would require prosecutors to exhaust other methods for finding the source of the information before subpoenaing a reporter, and would balance investigators’ interests with “the public interest in gathering news and maintaining the free flow of information.”

    But under the administration’s proposal, such procedures would not apply to leaks of a matter deemed to cause “significant” harm to national security. Moreover, judges would be instructed to be deferential to executive branch assertions about whether a leak caused or was likely to cause such harm, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

    The two Democratic senators who have been prime sponsors of the legislation, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that they were disappointed by the administration’s position.

    Mr. Specter called the proposed changes “totally unacceptable,” saying they would gut meaningful judicial review.

    On balance, I agree with Specter and Schumer on this. I think the White House is kind of torn between honoring what Candidate Obama said about ensuring reporting safeguards, though President Obama is now loathe to give back some of the privileges it inherited from the Bushco regime in the matter of executive rights versus the judiciary (and Congress).

    However, as I read this, I wondered where Specter’s concern for judicial review was during the FISA mess last year. And to be fair, I should note that Specter introduced an amendment that would have ensured judicial review (here), though the amendment was defeated.

    In spite of that, however, Specter voted for the sham FISA bill anyway, stating as follows from his web site here (showing some typical brass, I have to admit)…

    In offering an amendment for judicial review, I am mindful of the importance of what the telephone companies have been doing on the war against terrorism from my classified briefings. It is a difficult decision to vote for retroactive immunity if my amendment fails, but I will do so, just as I voted for it when my substitution amendment failed because I conclude that the threat of terrorism and the other important provisions in the House bill outweigh the invasion of privacy.

    In other words, “civil liberties don’t mean much when you’re dead,” huh Arlen?

    And I’m sure THIS wasn’t a factor in any way (and by the way, Admiral Joe Sestak, the legitimate Dem running against Specter for his Senate seat, earns no bragging rights here either based on this).

  • Dogs_539w

  • As noted here from last week’s Inquirer…

    Federal authorities have opened a civil-rights investigation into the Valley Club’s alleged discrimination against swimmers from a northeast Philadelphia day camp last summer.

    In a letter made public today, U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King wrote that the Department of Justice was looking into whether the private club’s treatment of black and Hispanic children from the Creative Steps Summer Day Camp amounted to prohibited discrimination.

    And here’s Snarlin’ Arlen again…

    U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.), who wrote to the Department of Justice in July seeking an investigation, said today the federal involvement would “give the public greater assurance” about the handling of the high publicity matter.

    And as Phillyburbs columnist Phil Gianficaro noted here last Sunday (don’t know much about this guy)…

    The Valley Club has long cited overcrowding/safety issues as the reason it pulled the plug on the Creative Steps campers, as well as on another day camp’s plans to swim this summer.

    On Tuesday it was learned the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission didn’t agree. The commission made public the findings of its investigation that concluded the Creative Steps campers were denied swimming privileges due to race, and advised the swim club provide sensitivity training to its board members and club members and pay a civil penalty of $50,000.

    However, Creative Steps attorney Gabriel Levin interprets the $50,000 figure as being for each individual child, which, if true, would raise the total amount owed by The Valley Club to more than $3 million.

    On Wednesday (9/23) it was learned that the US Department of Justice is also investigating allegations of discrimination by the swim club. If the swim club and day camp cannot settle the dispute on their own, the state Human Relations Commission board will conduct a public hearing and vote on the case. That outcome could be appealed to Commonwealth Court.

    And in case anyone has any doubts about the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission, I can assure you that they took this matter very seriously and conducted thorough interviews with many individuals at the pool on the day of the incident.

    That being said, I can’t think of a word to describe the absurdity of awarding each of the Creative Steps kids $50 grand each because of the ignorant insensitivity of the Valley Swim Club members.

    With all of this in mind, I’d like to put forward an idea.

    To lessen any punitive costs incurred by the swim club, how about if they agree to some kind of an “exchange” program next summer, whereby some of the Creative Steps kids will be able to attend the Valley Swim Club free of charge, while some of the Valley Swim Club members will be granted free pool admission to a facility in Northeast Philadelphia near where Creative Steps is located. I’m sure it will be an enlightening experience for all concerned.

    (Also, I believe the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board opined on this subject recently, but as far as I’m concerned, any alleged editorial board that publishes an opinion column with a headline of “loony liberals” doesn’t even deserve a link.)

    And in other news pertaining to Phillyburbs columnists, I should note that J.D. (Keeping It Local) Mullane waxed philosophic today here about the fact that, as a consequence of his attendance at the 9/12 rally in Washington, he ended up getting stuck with the bar tab for a couple of drunken teabaggers.

    Heh, heh, heh…

  • hua

  • This CNN Ticker post tells us the following…

    WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican Sen. Bob Corker suggested Wednesday that when it comes to health care, Canada and France have a “parasitic relationship” towards the United States.

    During a hearing of the Special Committee on Aging, the Tennessee Republican told Canada’s former Public Health Minister, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, that her country is “living off of us” because they set lower prices for health care and “all the innovation, all the technology breakthroughs just about take place in our country and we have to pay for it.”

    You truly can cut the stoo-pid with a knife, people; this tells us the following (concerning a study comparing U.S. treatment outcomes and other quality indicators with that of at least 30 developed countries, including Australia, France and the United Kingdom). …

    (The study) examined health care system research conducted during the past 10 to 15 years and found there was “no hard evidence” that U.S. health care quality stands out across the board. They did find that the U.S. had high scores in some specific treatment areas, such as cancer care. However, it didn’t do as well when compared to other nations at handling preventive care or treatment for acute conditions, including heart disease and hip fractures.

    Perhaps one of the study’s most unexpected findings—depending on your political point of view —is that the quality of health care in Canada tends to be higher than in the U.S. The researchers looked at 10 statistically adjusted studies of broad populations and found that five favored care in Canada. The U.S. came out better in two. Three were inconclusive. Docteur points out the universal coverage in Canada helps to ensure that Canadians receive the care they need throughout their lives. “I think the main point is that our study showed quite clearly that it is not the case that the U.S. is dominating Canada … in terms of quality of care,” she said.

    And as far as France is concerned, this tells us the following…

    French public health experts thought patients with chronic disease weren’t getting the kind of sustained, coordinated medical care that they needed.

    But in the course of a few dozen lengthy interviews, not once did I encounter an interview subject who wanted to trade places with an American. And it was easy enough to see why. People in these countries were getting precisely what most Americans say they want: Timely, quality care. Physicians felt free to practice medicine the way they wanted; companies got to concentrate on their lines of business, rather than develop expertise in managing health benefits. But, in contrast with the US, everybody had insurance. The papers weren’t filled with stories of people going bankrupt or skipping medical care because they couldn’t afford to pay their bills. And they did all this while paying substantially less, overall, than we do.

    In both the Netherlands and France, most people have long-standing relationships with their primary care doctors. And when they need to see these doctors, they do so without delay or hassle. In a 2008 survey of adults with chronic disease conducted by the Commonwealth Fund – a foundation which financed my own research abroad – 60 percent of Dutch patients and 42 percent of French patients could get same-day appointments. The figure in the US was just 26 percent.

    The contrast with after-hours care is even more striking. If you live in either Amsterdam or Paris, and get sick after your family physician has gone home, a phone call will typically get you an immediate medical consultation – or even, if necessary, a house call. And if you need the sort of attention available only at a formal medical facility, you can get that, too – without the long waits typical in US emergency rooms.

    The article notes that it took longer on average to see a specialist in France and the Netherlands than in this country, though I would take that trade if it meant better access to everyday and preventative care.

    Oh, and when it comes to “parasites,” let’s not forget that Corker owes his Senate seat in part to former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who was responsible for the infamous ad against Corker’s Senate opponent Dem Harold Ford in 2006 in a which a white woman claimed to have met Ford at a “Playboy party” and said “Call me” to him (here).

    Tennessee must be so proud (more here).

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