Posted by: mutantpoodle | October 24, 2007

Newsbits: Fires, Bush the Big Spender, Bush the Editor, Dana Milbank – useless tool?

dog-on-newspapers_smThe fires are still nowhere near me (that’s relative, of course – they are close enough that I could bike to them without too much trouble) but yesterday afternoon, I started to feel them. Literally.

There comes a time when fires are near that the ash spreads and you feel it in every breath. You feel dehydrated, you have a scratchy throat, and if you didn’t know better, you’d think a cold was coming on.

Instead, it’s the very small price those of us not directly affected by wildfires pay for their proximity. And it reminds us – even when we can’t see the smoke behind the mountains or an orange glow, at night,on the horizon – that we are in the midst of a catastrophe.

I have no great insight here – just a tickle in my throat, and a fervent hope that the winds do firefighters a favor, that those in fire zones who haven’t lost their homes don’t, and that everybody stays safe.

Oh, and that Glenn Beck shut the fuck up, strap on some firefighting gear and do something worthwhile, instead of reflexively insulting folks in Malibu.

Meanwhile, George Bush gets his props as the biggest spender since LBJ – bigger, actually. This according to the Cato Institute. Here’s the top of the list, in order: Bush, LBJ, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan.

Hmmm…it seems that 60% of the top 5 are Republicans (remarkably in line with the 5/8 -62.5% – of the presidents in that group who are Republicans). So much for that whole “GOP fiscal responsibility” chestnut – not that any sane person believed that anymore. Also noteworthy? Missing from the top 5 is the Antichrist of the right, Bill Clinton. While he did get a blowjob, his spending record is nowhere near as profligate as that free-spending Bush.

All this will change, of course – now that Bush is getting bills from those spendthrift Democrats (as opposed to those, er, fiscally responsible reckless Republicans), he’s more than willing to talk tough:

Now, near the end of the seventh year of his presidency, Bush is positioning himself as a tough fiscal conservative.

He says Congress is proposing to spend $22 billion more in fiscal 2008 than the $933 billion he requested for discretionary programs — and that the $22 billion extra would swell over five years to $205 billion.

Eventually, Bush said, “they’re going to have to raise taxes to pay for it.”

And so, the president told an Arkansas audience earlier this month, people should brace for “what they call a fiscal showdown in Washington.

“The Congress gets to propose and, if it doesn’t meet needs as far as I’m concerned, I get to veto,” he said. “And that’s precisely what I intend to do.”

He’s off to a good start, burnishing his fiscal responsibility credentials at the expense of middle-class kids without insurance.

And now, his administration is getting into the editing business – at least when it comes to testimony about climate change.

Did I say editing? Perhaps I meant eviscerating:

The White House severely edited congressional testimony given Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the impact of climate change on health, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks, according to two sources familiar with the documents….

Her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had much less information on health risks than a much longer draft version Gerberding submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review in advance of her appearance.

“It was eviscerated,” said a CDC official, familiar with both versions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the review process.

The official said that while it is customary for testimony to be changed in a White House review, these changes were particularly “heavy-handed,” with the document cut from its original 14 pages to four. It was six pages as presented to the Senate committee.

But not to worry – the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget was just making sure that testimony “lined up” with Bush administration priorities.

As opposed to, say, the facts? Because none of this testimony seems pertinent, does it?

The deletions directed by the White House included details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC’s analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels, according to one official who has seen the original version.

There’s that science word – no wonder it didn’t make the grade.

Finally, Dana Milbank swallows a Tom Coburn publicity stunt in one giant gulp.

Colburn, the same Colburn, who as a candidate for Senate, alleged that lesbianism in Coalgate, Oklahoma was “so rampant in some of the schools … that they’ll let only one girl go to the bathroom” proposed an amendment to a health spending bill mandating that no lawmakers’ pet projects would be funded until “all children in the U.S. under the age of 18 years are insured by a private or public health insurance plan.”

Milbank neglected to mention that Coburn voted against the latest SCHIP bill, which would have gone a long way in that direction. He wastes several ounces of ink on this, and even though he acknowledges it was a publicity stunt, he seems to think that it is somehow revealing – that the Senate preferred their earmarks to children’s health by a margin of 68-26.

That’s just stupid – it’s a choice created out of whole cloth by a publicity-seeking Senator purely for political purposes. Why choose between pork and kids health – why not Iraq? Or National Missile Defense? Why not rescind certain tax cuts to make it happen?

If Coburn had proposed a method of actually insuring the children he claims to care for so much, instead of a lame stunt that should have been ignored by sentient journalists, then you could look at the responses as meaningful.

But no – and Milbank played the useful tool fool on this one. Senators’ unwillingness to forego earmarks to achieve a goal that they showed significant support for on a vote that really counted – and that Coburn and the President to whom he has been slavishly loyal opposed – means…wait for it…nothing.

But now that Milbank’s blown the lid off this story, I’m sure he can move on to some alleged slight of the President by some obscure Democrat. Otherwise, after all, the terrorists will have won.

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