Saturday, July 31, 2004

Ashcroft on the Prowl
Artists and Nuns, Look Out!

I ran across an article that makes John Ashcroft look bad. It caught my attention, because it referred to a case I had read about earlier in the journal, Nature. The Nature article was in the 17 June 2004 issue: Bacteria raid may lead to trial for artist tackling biodefence Nature 429, 690 (2004) doi:10.1038/429690b Geoff Brumfiel, Washington - An artist who uses live organisms and laboratory equipment in his performances is being scrutinized by federal officials who suspect he has broken bioweapons laws. Federal prosecutors are deciding whether to file charges against Steven Kurtz, an art professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, for possessing strains of bacteria, laboratory equipment, and several books on biowarfare. But Kurtz's friends and supporters say that the materials are part of his group's performance pieces. Since 1987, 46-year-old Kurtz has been part of a Buffalo-based performance group, the Critical Art Ensemble, whose work offers political commentary on scientific topics. They often incorporate laboratory techniques into their shows, according to Nato Thompson, a curator at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in Boston who has seen the group's work. "The lab experiment is the performance," he says. The news article I saw today is from the Utah Daily Herald: Ashcroft targets protesters to pad antiterror record The Daily Herald Thursday, July 29, 2004 - 12:00 AM Jonathan Turley Attorney General John Ashcroft recently went to Congress to herald another record year of fighting terrorism, showcasing numbers showing 310 defendants charged as evidence that "the Patriot Act is al-Qaida's worst nightmare." Few would argue about the nightmare part, but it is hard to see al-Qaida losing much sleep: To a large degree, Ashcroft has used antiterrorism laws against citizens with no ties to al-Qaida or even terrorism. With many in Congress opposed to renewing parts of the USA Patriot Act, the 29-page report by Ashcroft attempts to show "a mountain of evidence that the Patriot Act continues to save lives," but it omits critical facts that seriously undermine that claim. In fact, the report is part of an annual effort by Ashcroft to prod local prosecutors to bolster their terrorism numbers -- often by using terrorism laws against conventional criminals and a curious hodgepodge of nuns, protesters and artists. [...] (Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University Law School) The Daily Herald article goes on to cite many specific examples of the questionable practices of Mr. Ashcroft. Although it is not possible to know what the motivation is for sure, the examples certainly give the impression that the DOJ is trying to inflate its record of fighting terrorism-related cases. they give an example of three nuns who got on top of a nuclear missile silo, then got arrested and labeled "national security threats." Quite a nasty outcome, for people who merely were expressing their pro-life philosophy. Dr. Turley does miss one point. Remember Dr. Kurtz, the art professor who was arrested for having bacteria, etc. ? He is not being prosecuted under antiterrorism laws, although that was the intent originally. Again, from the Nature article: The US attorney's office in Buffalo declined to comment on the case, but a website that supports Kurtz's group says the case is being pursued under the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989. The act was amended under the USA Patriot Act of 2001 to allow the prosecution of "whoever knowingly possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system". The bacteria were identified as Serratia marcescens, Bacillus globigii, and a nonpathogenic strain of Escherichia coli. Of course, anybody who has a functioning intestine has ready access to E. coli; S. marcescens can be gotten over the Internet, from companies that supply material to high school biology labs; and B. globigii is so harmless that it is spread freely in the environment during experiments to test bacterial detection systems. It is used in such experiments precisely because it is harmless. True, they all are "biological agents," but it would appear that Dr. Kurtz deliberately used bacteria that are quite safe. That would make it hard to infer malicious intent. As an aside, S. marcescens sometimes grows on Catholic communion wafers when stored in a damp place. It is bright red. Once, this was thought to be a miraculous recreation of the blood of Jesus Christ. Back to the point: what did happen to Dr. Kurtz? He still faces criminal charges, but the charges have been changed to mail fraud. He faces up to $250,000 in fines, and up to 20 years in prison. Apparently, the B. globigii was obtained from a supply company that sells only to legitimate laboratories. Dr. Kurtz, being an art professor, could not order it directly. So he had someone else order it for him. This all seems rather pointless. You would think that, once it was clear that there was no criminal intent, and no threat to public safety, the DOJ would spend their time going after real criminals. What would cause them to pursue Dr. Kurtz so avidly, on such flimsy grounds? Could the fact that his artistic performances are "political commentary," a protest against the government, have anything to do with it??? The nuns were protesting against the government, and now they are being called terrorists.

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Emergency Contraception Generates Controversy

Last night, on the way home from work, I listened to a segment of All Things Considered, entitled Alabama Nurses Quit Over Morning After Pill.  This link should open the audio stream:


The gist of the story is that state-sponsored public health clinics in Alabama have started to offer emergency contraception (EC) to their clients.  Some nurses objected, and quit.  The state began to offer employees "accommodations," if they object to dispensing EC.  The accommodation is either to transfer them to another job, or to allow them to continue the job without being compelled to be involved with EC. 

As a technical aside, the term "morning-after pill" is a bit misleading.  There is nothing special about the pills used in EC; they are ordinary birth control pills, but they are given in high doses by having the patient take more than one pill.  Also, EC can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse.  It does not have to be taken the following morning.  See the link Back Up Your Birth Control, in the sidebar, for details.  The product, Plan B, is a specially-packaged product that uses two larger-dose pills instead of multiple small pills.  More details are available at this link  from the Feminist Women's Health Center.  Note that there are some risks with EC, so be sure to consult a knowledgeable health professional before using EC. More technical information can be found in this article  from American Family Physician.

Back to the main point: the broadcast covered a few controversial aspects of EC, although that is not what got my attention.  About 5 minutes, 20 seconds into the broadcast, the commentator, Debbie Elliott, mentioned that EC can be obtained over the Internet.  I object to that statement.  I know that it is possible for people to get all kinds of prescription medications over the Internet, in some cases without a prescription.  In some cases, it makes sense to use the Internet to get medication.  If you see your doctor and get a prescription, and can get it at a lower cost using a well-established pharmacy (such as CVS.com or Walgreens.com), fine.  But not all online pharmacies are reputable.  You could end up getting counterfeit, outdated, or improperly stored medications.  If you bypass the critical step of consulting with a knowledgeable health professional, you put yourself in danger.  For these reasons, she either should not have mentioned the availability of EC on the Internet, or should have mentioned it and  the associated warnings.

Other than that one point, I liked the broadcast.  Ms. Elliott did a nice job of presenting an important issue in a balanced manner.  This encourages public debate, which generally is a good thing.  For example, she presented both sides of the "EC is/is not abortion" issue.  She had interviews with nurses who agree with the provision of EC, and with those who object.  She did not get into the legal issues pertaining to the employment questions, but that would be another story.

The issues regarding emergency contraception have been debated to death in the Blogosphere.  For example, this post on Morons.org: the REAL Fundamentalist Agenda generated over 80 comments:

Fundies everywhere under the employment of the government are refusing to fill prescriptions...

I knew if I gave them enough time, the "American" "Family" Association would start celebrating another attack on reproductive rights. This time it's not about abortion. It's about contraception. Emergency Contraception (EC).

Now, as everyone should know, these folks are not too happy about EC. What many (including myself) can't figure out is why. EC, for those who don't know and have a passing interest, is intended to prevent a pregnancy from occurring. It is not meant to abort a pregnancy or other such nonsense you may hear.

So, the story. Basically, "at least half a dozen" employees of a State Medical Clinic in Alabama decided that, for moral reasons, they wouldn't hand out the EC pill. So they contacted the Christian Coalition of Alabama (CCA), to whine that they were told by their supervisors that they would distribute the pill or they would face disciplinary action.

This flies in the face of optimists everywhere who don't believe that these fundamentalist types are after our right to personal freedom.

The article says that Dr. Donald Williamson, the state health officer of Alabama, told the CCA that employees who had "religious, moral, or ethical objections" to the pills distribution would not be forced to hand it out. Kind of an oops on his part, yes, but I don't believe that was a claim he was entitled to make.

As an employee of the state, you cannot refuse service to a customer on the basis of religion. As an employee of the state, you are not permitted to use your power to force your beliefs upon others. As an employee of the state, you have to put your personal beliefs aside to do your job. If you can't deal with the requirements of that job, then it would be only logical to find another one. [...]

This post, on Kautilyan, discusses the political pressure applied to the FDA when they were reviewing an application for approval of an EC product:

Shame on you Mark McClellan

Recently I posted on the Rovian tactics that have been used at the FDA to stifle unwanted scientific findings regarding anti-deppressant use. The Wall Street Journal now reports that there has also been politicization regarding emergency contraceptive use. This latter example of FDA shenaningans ought to be receiving much more coverage than it has. This account was buried on page B4 of the Journal and as far as I am aware has not been brought up as a new source of embarassment for the Administration. This issue ought to be exploited by the Kerry campaign as a major issue to rally women voters. Aside from politics the misuse of science for political gain should be considered beyond the pale.
Kautilyan posted again on the same topic the following day, and Brad DeLong chimed in:

No One, No One Gets Out with Their Reputation Intact

Mark McClellan--former CEA member, former FDA head, now head of CMS--was one of the very, very few people who looked like they might get out of the Bush administration with their reputation intact. But now Kautilyan directs us to a Wall Street Journal story saying that this is not so: that McClellan has been corrupted into making FDA decisions that are inconsistent with its scientific and medical regulatory mission:

Jeanne, at Body and Soul, wrote a post  regarding her objections to the "oral contraceptives = abortion" argument, with 14 comments added.  She included quotes from a variety of sources to support her position.  She concludes:

I'm beginning to think Democratic politicians need to spell out more clearly what they mean when they say they support a woman's right to choose. The phrase has become so bland that virtually everyone mentally translates it -- pro-abortion. What pro-choice politicians support is not allowing abortion to be re-criminalized, and birth control methods to be decided by Rick Santorum.

The threat to women's health that these people represent is a lot bigger than the issue of abortion.
This is an important nuance to the debate.  Aaron, at Uppity-negro.com adds a comment:

Their logic does not in the slightest resemble our Earth logic.

Caroline Bollinger, at her Livejournal site, wrote a thoughtful piece about the implications of limiting access to oral contraceptives.  She points out that these medications have medical uses other than contraception, and there is no way for a pharmacist  -- or a politician, for that matter -- to know for what purpose a woman is getting the medication.  Her article generated a great many responses, too numerous to count.  Some pertinent quotes:

Lacey's pharmacist and Kelley's doctors are among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of physicians and pharmacists who now adhere to a controversial belief that birth control pills and other forms of hormonal contraception--including the skin patch, the vaginal ring, and progesterone injections--cause tens of thousands of "silent" abortions every year. Consequently, they are refusing to prescribe or dispense them.

Scenarios like these--virtually unheard of 10 years ago--are happening with increasing frequency. However, until this spring, the issue received little attention outside the antiabortion community. It wasn't high on the agendas of reproductive rights advocates, who have been preoccupied with defending abortion rights and emergency contraception. But when Lacey's story was picked up by a Texas TV station and later made the national news, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and others took notice.

Limiting access to the Pill, these groups now say, threatens a basic aspect of women's health care. An estimated 12 million American women use hormonal contraceptives, the most popular form of birth control in the United States after sterilization. The Pill is also widely prescribed by gynecologists and family doctors for other uses, such as clearing up acne, shrinking fibroids, reducing ovarian cancer risk, and controlling endometriosis.

"Where will this all stop?" asks Lacey. "And what if these pharmacists decide they suddenly don't believe in a new lifesaving medicine? I don't think pharmacists should be in a position to decide these things."

[...]  What's more, oral contraceptives aren't only used to prevent pregnancy. The Pill may cut the risk of ovarian cancer by up to 80% and is used by women at high genetic risk for this hard-to-detect and usually fatal cancer. "There are easily more than 20 noncontraceptive uses for the Pill in common practice," says Giovannina Anthony, MD, an attending physician of obstetrics and gynecology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. "This drug saves women from surgery for gynecological conditions like endometriosis, fibroids, and severe bleeding and pain."  

The All Spin Zone picked up on this topic, with Woman's Womb and Politics.  Agape Press wrote an article on the Alabama story, Ruckus in 'Bama Over State-Mandated Distribution of Morning-After Pill, with more detail than can be found in the NPR broadcast.  In a bit of investigative reporting, the Sacramento News and Review discovered that many pharmacies (44%) in the Sacramento area do not stock EC. 

Overall, it appears that the majority of bloggers support the notion of women having access to oral contraceptives in general, and EC in particular.  They object to political influences at the FDA, and seem to feel that health care providers should not have the right to decline to provide contraceptives.  I know that opposing views are out there, but searching on "emergency contraception" did not turn up many hits that indicate such opposite views. 

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Convention Coverage
As Close as Lips and Teeth

There was a media flap about al-Jazeera at the Democratic National Convention.  From the Road to Boston blog:

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Al Jazeera and a DNC Bias?
It's one thing to be seen and not heard, it's quite another to be the opposite - and al Jazeera is finding that out courtesy of the Democratic National Convention.
     The Qatar-based networked, dubbed the CNN of the Arab world, made a bit of a splash when it arrived at the FleetCenter - especially when reporters noticed the al Jazeera banner alongside NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN. (One of whom emailed me here, thank you very much).
     Some complained, noting the network is often a mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden and his ilk. It apparently worked - the Democratic National Convention Committee pulled down the network's banner on Sunday, with no explanation, network officials said. The network, which is credentialed to cover the White House and both campaigns, said they've also been denied access to Democrats for interviews.
     Peggy Wilhide, spokeswoman for the DNCC, said politics had nothing to do with the sign moving. She said al Jazeera didn't have a built-in sign like CNN, it was using one of the electronic signs along the side of the FleetCenter. Wilhide said officials decided to use the sign for DNC purposes and took it back - as they did with Comcast today, she said.
     "There's just not enough room," Wilhide told us. More importantly, she noted al Jazeera is one of 5,000 media outlets covering the convention and one of only 33 given a skybox.
     Given that the Herald has twice as many reporters covering the event than al Jazeera and we didn't get a skybox, I'm siding with the DNC on this one.
     Should al Jazeera get its logo up in the FleetCenter - or even a skybox? Let me know what you think by emailing me at dguarino@bostonherald.com or just click on my name below.
     » posted by David R. Guarino at 21:02:09
     » permanent link to entry
     » post comments in forum new

So what does al-Jazeera have to say from the Convention?

Kennedy rallies party behind Kerry

Wednesday 28 July 2004, 14:02 Makka Time, 11:02 GMT

Democratic stalwart Edward Kennedy is looking to pull off his last hurrah by putting protege John Kerry in the
White House.

Kennedy took the podium at the Democratic convention in his Boston stronghold on Tuesday to herald his junior Senate colleague as the country's saviour after four years of Republican rule.

"Our struggle is with the politics of fear and favouritism in our own time, in our own country," he told 5000 delegates. "Our struggle is with those who put their own narrow interest ahead of the public interest."

Making a passionate plea for traditional Democratic values protecting the poor and the afflicted, Kennedy drew a sharp contrast between his party and a Bush administration he said had burned its bridges with the rest of the world. [...]

The entire article is fairly bland.  Certainly, they do repeat several sharp criticizms of President Bush.  One might hypothesize that al-Jazeera has an agenda: they want to portray Bush in a negative light.  On the other hand, perhaps they simply are reporting what they see and hear at the convention. 

They have one other article about the Convention on the English-language version of their website:

Democratic speakers slam Bush

Tuesday 27 July 2004, 6:37 Makka Time, 3:37 GMT

The four-day US Democratic national convention has opened in Boston amid praises  showered on John Kerry punctuated only by jibes at George Bush.

Calling Kerry - the Democratic challenger to President Bush in the November presidential election - a "good man, a great senator, a visionary leader", former US President Bill Clinton said only he could show Americans the way to a safer, more prosperous world.

At the convention, meant to confirm Kerry's nomination as the Democratic candidate for the November elections, Clinton on Monday capped a star line-up of speakers that also included former President Jimmy Carter and ex-vice president Al Gore.

"Tonight I speak as a citizen, eager to join you here in Boston as a foot soldier in the fight for our future, as we nominate a true New England patriot for president," Clinton said.

Bush bashing

Though frail, the 80-year-old Carter was vocal in criticising President Bush.

"Truth is the foundation of our global leadership, but our credibility has been shattered and we are left increasingly isolated and vulnerable in a hostile world," Carter said.

"Without truth, without trust, America cannot flourish."

Bush's decision to launch a war in Iraq came in for a special roasting. Carter said the United States "cannot lead if our leaders mislead" and said Bush's agenda had polarised the country.

"You can't be a war president one day and claim to be a peace president the next, depending on the latest polls," Carter said. [...]

The rest of the article contains a brief recapitulation of the contested 2000 presidential election. 

In contrast, look a the subtitles from the Convention coverage of two American newspapers: the Detroit Freep Press (liberal) and the Detroit News (conservative):




Jobs top Democrats' platform
Kilpatrick's star rises in Boston
Dems set aside squabbles
MSU student soaks up Boston
Networks skip Day 2 of rally

The Detroit News also includes the text of serveral of the speeches. 

I notice that, indeed, there is little emphasis on the criticisms leveled against President Bush.  The American newspapers seem reluctant to say much that is negative about our Dear Leader.  Perhaps they are as close as lips and teeth.  The news outlets are the lips; the Administation, the teeth.

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Medical Reasoning:
Insight into the Mind of the Physician

Courtesy of Downstate Medical Center
The author, all wired up and preparing for, he hoped, some rest.
The New York Times today has an article about sleep apnea.  It actually is an article written by a journalist, detailing the problem he had with hypersomnia, and his experience getting a clinic polysomnogram (sleep study.) 

Published: July 27, 2004

I haven't slept well for years.  If I set an alarm for 6:30 a.m., my eyes open at 5, and I try to doze to the radio. I drink four cups of coffee a day. I don't think I have ever fallen asleep at the wheel, but I often pull over nodding off.

Cripes, man, if you have to pull over because you are drowsy, you need to see a sleep specialist, like Right Now!

I used to work nights, which first threw my rhythm off. But I liked having days with my daughters and not being a creature of habit, perhaps because my father, who slept nine hours a night, was someone you could set a clock by.

Lately, though, it had gotten ridiculous. So when the new sleep lab at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn offered to let me bring my pillow over for a test snooze, I jumped. [...]

In the remainder of the article, he discusses the seriousness of the problem of obstructive sleep apnea, and tells what he went through to get the diagnosis.  He promises to tell about the treatment in a future article.  In my opinion, he should have emphasized the dangerousness of driving while drowsy, but then, he's not a public health specialist. 

I've written about sleep disorders here before, at the Corpus Callosum, often to illustrate points about physiology or medical theory.  Use the search function in the sidebar if your are interested.  Today, I'll use the opportunity to show a connection between sleep disorders and post-stroke mortality, and make a point about interpretation of medical literature. 

From Medscape News (free registration required):

Publication Logo
LONDON (Reuters) Jul 27 - The occurrence of sleep apnea, especially obstructive sleep apnea, in stroke patients is associated with an increased risk of stroke-related mortality, Spanish researchers report in the European Respiratory Journal.

"It's the first time the link between apnea and stroke has been shown to affect mortality," said Dr Olga Parra at Barcelona University Hospital.

Dr. Parra and her colleagues monitored the breathing of 161 stroke patients shortly after they were admitted to hospital and calculated an apnea index for each one.

During the 30-month study, 22 patients died. The higher the patient's apnea score, the greater the risk of dying from stroke, the researchers found.

"This Spanish study represents a milestone in our understanding of the potential role of sleep apnea in stroke patients," Dr. Ludger Grote, of the Sahlgrenska Hospital in Sweden, writes in a commentary in the journal.

"Its results could have considerable implications for the future management of stroke," he adds.

Dr. Parra and her team have now launched a study in several centers in Spain to see if treating sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure ventilation could cut the death rate from stroke. The results of that study are expected in about five years.

Eur Respir J 2004.

The authors show a correlation between the severity of sleep apnea, and the risk of death after a stroke.  We know already that untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of death, from a variety of causes.  One might be tempted to conclude, then, that treatment of the sleep apnea would decrease the risk of death after stroke, in patients with sleep apnea.  However, the authors go on to say that they are doing a study to see if treating the apnea can reduce the mortality risk.  Why bother to do a study, especially if it is going to take five years to do the study? Is it not obvious what the result will be?

Remember: Observations are gold; hypotheses, silver; and conclusions, bronze.  Nothing in human physiology is even simple.  As tempting as it may be to jump to the conclusion that the study is not necessary, because the outcome is obvious, it is not wise to jump to that conclusion when lives are at stake. 

A good example of this is seen in the standard practice of treating strep throat with penicillin.  In most cases, strep throat goes away on its own, and the treatment only shortens the duration of illness by a short time.  However, we know that untreated strep throat carries an increased risk of rheumatic fever.  We also know that many antibiotics can kill the strep.  Therefore, it is tempting to conclude that you could use any antibiotic that is known to kill the bacteria, and that would reduce the risk of rheumatic fever.

The thing is, most of the studies done on the use of antibiotics to reduce the risk, used penicillin as the treatment.  Yes, you could use something else, and it probably would work.  But, it has not been observed directly that it would in fact reduce the risk.  Since the observation always outweighs the hypothesis or conclusion, it is most wise to stick with what is known by direct observation. 

It happens fairly often in a doctor's office that a patient will come in with a printout from some web site (such as this one, I know) and propose some kind of treatment based upon what he or she has concluded from the article.  If the doctor has the time (hah!), she or he might explain the reason why the treatment is not the best course of action: it has not been shown directly to produce the desired outcome.  Sometimes, the theory is all you have to go on, in which case it may be reasonable to proceed.  Usually, though, it is not wise to do so.  There all all kinds of risks involved in basing treatment decisions on untested ideas.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Dump Cheney...?

A google search on the string (with quotes) "dump Cheney" gives this result:

about 40,400 for "dump Cheney". (0.20 seconds)

I have to admit, even though I am having trouble getting to sleep (see post below), I did not read all forty thousand.  Here is a sampling of what I did  read:

From: Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal

July 26, 2004
Department of "Huh"?

[...] But back last winter, when there were live discussions about dumping Cheney among serious Republicans, the real reason for Bush to dump Cheney was to get a better Bush administration in the second term. Consider that the most bitter critics of the Bush administration have been its insiders: Paul O'Neill--the man whom George W. Bush thought in 2001 was the best man in the world for the job of Treasury Secretary--with his characterization of Bush as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people"; John Di Iulio--the man whom George W. Bush thought the best man in the world to run his signature White House-based faith initiative--recoils in horror when he recalls his days among the "Mayberry Machiavellis"; and what Richard Clarke--the man whom George W. Bush thought the best man in the world to coordinate counterterrorism efforts--thinks of George W. Bush cannot be said in polite company. One theory of what has gone wrong in the substantive policies of the Bush administration is that Cheney has encouraged Bush's worst tendencies, and that much better policies would emerge if somebody else were in Cheney's place.

Whether or not it would be good for Cheney to stay on the Republican ticket hinges on whether this theory is false. Any argument that Cheney should stay needs to be backed by an argument that Cheney has not been a bad influence on George W. Bush's policies.

From: Boi From Troy

July 07, 2004
Dump Cheney Rollout Strategy

I have no information to corroborate whether there will or will not be a "Dump Cheney" movement, but my eyebrows were raised a week ago and have been on the lookout for evidence...Here's what I have so far:

   1. GOP Convention Press release mentions the renomination of the President...but not of the Vice President
   2. Story strategically leaked that doctor giving Cheney "clean bill of health" was wacked out on drugs
   3. New bumper sticker arrives in mail yesterday from Bush Camaign--without mentioning Cheney

Clear evidence that Cheney will not be on the ticket come October?!? Hardly... But it is enough to start thinking about a Cheney Dump Watch. If the President were seeking to replace him, it would be convenient to discredit the doctor saying he was healthy enough to be up to the job, before asking him to get a re-examination before August 28. In the meantime...save moneey by leaving Cheney off the printed materials!

From: Stupid Evil Bastard

Saturday, July 10, 2004
Will Bush dump Cheney?

Since Kerry selected Edwards as his running mate there have been the inevitable comparisons between what the presumptive VP nominees bring to their respective tickets. A tonge-in cheek Op Ed piece in today's New York Times listed some of Cheney’s negatives--manipulation of intelligence, possible association with outing Valerie Plame, and his relationship with Halliburton. The article goes on to discuss plausible plusses that Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain might bring as running mates for the President. (He neglected to mention Colin Powell’s musical talents.) There was even a letter to the editor in this morning’s St. Louis Post Dispatch suggesting that Bush should select Elizabeth Dole.

In answer to the original question--I suspect not for several reasons. Bush is big on loyalty, Cheney is his biggest ally on the myth of the Osama-Saddam link, and the campaign wouldn’t put Cheney out as their front man if they were planning on dumping him. Would Powell accept if offered? I’m a bit less certain on this one, but I suspect not.

From: Another Liberal Blog

Dump Cheney? Think again.

After Kerry's well-received choice of Edwards as his running mate, speculation is rife on the web as to whether Bush will dump Cheney from the ticket.

    * Taegan Goddard's Political Wire details an embarrassing aspect of Bush's 2000 VP search: apparently Bush asked McCain in 2000 to be his running mate, and was turned down. Only then did Bush pick Cheney.
    * America's favorite oil slick, Alfonse D'amato tells Bush to dump Cheney from the ticket.
    * Instapundit speculates that Cheney will be dumped "for vague medical reasons."

I disagree. The Bush-Cheney campaign has been built around the theme of decisive (read: stubborn, intransigent, rigid, tunnel-visioned...) leadership. Any admission of a mistake, error in judgment or misguided decision would erode that image. For Bush to dump Cheney would undermine his image as a decisive leader who doesn't look at polls before making a decision. "Vague medical reasons" would simply not fly with the press, and the decision would look like transparent, desperate political gambit. Better to stick with Cheney and make lemonade out of a pretty bitter lemon.

At the Command Post, there is a post that is simply a clipping  from a news story about Alfonse D'Amato calling on Bush to dump Cheney.  Usually, when such a clipping is posted, it means either that the blogger agrees with the article, or disagrees with it so strenuously that it would be obviously ridiculous to agree with it. 

From: Greater Democracy

Bush: Vice-President Cheney to Step Down
Giuliani to Join Republican Ticket

The Associated Press
Thursday, August 26, 2004; 11:49 AM

WASHINGTON -- A somber President George Bush said today, in an emotional Rose Garden press conference, that Vice-President Dick Cheney has asked to be replaced on the Republican ticket due to health reasons.

With the Vice-President at his side, the President said that Cheney's health had to come before all other considerations. He thanked him for the selfless contributions he had made to his administration, and to the country, and wished him a calm and healthy retirement.

Bush said that he had asked former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to join him on the Republican ticket, and that Giuliani had accepted. The President said that he was confident that his party's delegates would confirm his choice of Giuliani as Vice-President when they convened next week in New York for the 2004 Republican National Convention.

(Since this actually was posted in 2003, it appears to be satire...or wishful thinking.)

From: Poliblog

March 03, 2004
Veep-Talk (In this Case, Regarding Bush)

James Joyner discusses why Bush won't dump Cheney (and links to several bloggers on the topic. I agree with his assessment: Cheney isn't going anywhere.

I will give yet another reason why Bush won't dump Cheney: doing so would make it look like he made a mistake picking him in the first place.

Additionally, dumping Cheney wouldn't stop the attacks from those who make all the Halliburton/he's the puppet-master arguments, rather it would simply confirm their suspicions that something was up and Bush had to cave to the pressure to remove him.

The only positive benefit for dumping Cheney that I can see would be to groom someone for 2008.

And while I like Giuliani, he has a problem, and it can be summed up in a hyphenated word: "pro-choice". That wouldn't play well with the social conservatives, who Bush needs to turn out in large numbers in November.

From: Signifying Nothing

Tuesday, 2 March 2004
Castration still on the table?

I think dumping Cheney, however, removes the most obvious target for criticism—and the only one actually on the ticket. While some of the Cheney criticism would devolve onto Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Tom Ridge, Paul Wolfowitz, and a host of other figures, it’s hard to pin all of the myriad problems attributable in some tenuous way on Cheney to any single one of them. Removing a lightning rod for critics like Cheney, while not immunizing the administration from criticism, at least has the effect of diffusing that criticism, thus making it harder for Democrats to personalize their attacks.

From: Kalblog

March 03, 2004

I've been figuring for some time that Bush is looking at Giuliani as a possible Attorney General. The fact is, Ashcroft is unpopular among even many Republicans, while Giuliani is widely admired and is a former federal prosecutor. I don't think the effect of a Giuliani Justice Department would be much different from Ashcroft's, but it would be more popular.

I just doubt he'll replace Cheney on the ticket, even if some are suggesting him as a possibility because he could help take New York.

Personality wise, it just doesn't work. Giuliani isn't the kind of guy who works well under people, and that is what a Vice President has to do, while an Attorney General has significant leeway in pursuing his own plan.

And I doubt he could help Bush take New York. While he remains a popular figure downstate, Gore beat Bush by 25 points in 2000, and that is an awful lot to make up for. And I'm not sure whether his endorsement carries as much weight as it did in the Fall of 2001, when he turned Michael Bloomberg from a long shot into a winner with $70 million of Bloomberg's money.

From: Blackfive

March 03, 2004
Bush VP Choices

James Joyner has more about the Bush VP issue. A lot of people I know wish he would choose Condi Rice but are concerned over race and gender. Meaning that she is a good choice but that conventional wisdom believes that America is too prejudiced to go forward with either a woman or an African American as President. This is bunk - absolute bunk - and I hate to believe that this line of thought would be considered by Republicans (or Americans for that matter).

The Economist wrote that Bush should choose Bill Owens (Governor of Colorado) to help Bush win the Southwest which is an area that Kerry is focusing on because he won't win the South. I don't know anything about Bill Owens so maybe you Coloradoans could comment in order to help us understand The Economist's idea.

I agree with James Joyner that Cheney won't really matter all that much in the election. The Bush family is well known for it's loyalty. This is something that was pointed out as a flaw in GHWB when he wouldn't dump Dan Quayle. In this case, Cheney brings a lot more to the table than Quayle AND he won't be running for President which leaves the door open for a more Presidential candidate in 2008.

I would like to see Rice as a Candidate though. She is someone that could be a contender for President someday and have a shot against Hilary. Imagine the debate in 2008! Dr. Rice would pick Sen. Clinton apart...

Therefore, aside from VP qualities being the most important factor, I believe that the Republicans should either choose someone that will be a good candidate in 2008 or keep Dick Cheney. To bring on a candidate in order to win a state is not a good long-term strategy to keep a Conservative in the White House. We'd end up losing in 2008 or wind up with an LBJ.

Commentary:  These present a fair sampling of the opinions: few people seem to think it is a good idea.  One idea that has not come up yet, but which should get some serious consideration:

Why doesn't Bush dump Bush in '04?????

  1. No more worries about whether Cheney will have a heart attack, when they go together to testify before Congress (as is sure to happen many more times, if they are re-elected.)
  2. The Republicans will get to blame the Democrats for the economic problems caused by the deficit.
  3. Other countries will not hate us, so there will be less risk of a terrorist attack.
  4. He will get to spend 100% of his time in Crawford, as opposed to the 40% he gets now.  ( 1  2  3)
  5. He will avoid another embarrassing recount in Florida, which still can't get it's voter registration right.
  6. Jenna and Barbara Bush will be able to get drunk without worrying about the paparazzi.
  7. George W. Bush will be able to get drunk without worrying about the paparazzi
  8. He will be able to get back to the oil business, which is turning record profits now.
  9. He will have the time to write a book.  (You do not have to know how to pronounce "nuclear" when you are writing.)
  10. Isn't nine enough?

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Conceding the Moral High Ground

From: New York Times

July 24, 2004
Seeing Double on Ballot: Similar Names Sow Confusion

José E. Serrano encountered a slight impediment on the way to being re-elected to Congress from the Bronx. It was Jose Serrano, an unemployed former loading dockworker with the same name, who had decided that he, too, wanted the Congressional seat.

But anyone trying to pin the unemployed Mr. Serrano down on the issues gets some murky answers. When asked about his platform, he replied: "Platform? Well, I'm not sure what you're talking about." Questioned about how he decided to run, he said a friend - someone he knows only as Jose - one day asked him to. After thinking about it for a moment, he recalled: "I said, why not? I don't have anything else to do."

The candidacy of Mr. Serrano (the unemployed one) is just the latest example of a curious novelty being increasingly seen in New York City politics: two candidates with the same name, running for the same office. Call it coincidence. But some say it's a perfect way to make trouble for a popular candidate by splitting the vote so that a third candidate can benefit.

Just last year, City Councilman John C. Liu, a Queens Democrat, faced a competitor named Jay C. Liu, a businessman who had never run for office before. In 1991, Jose Rivera faced a challenge to his City Council seat from Jose L. Rivera. And Assemblyman Vito Lopez said he was once opposed by a political novice named Victor Lopez. "Even though the first names were different, they were similar enough to confuse the voters," Mr. Lopez said.

As it turned out, Mr. Serrano, 47, aborted his nascent political career this week after being questioned by a reporter in calls to the apartment he shares with relatives on East Tremont Avenue. But nominating papers he filed at the Board of Elections on behalf of his campaign committee show that his petitions included hundreds of signatures, some on behalf of several other figures in Bronx politics that have long been at odds with the local Democratic Party, which supports Mr. Serrano (the congressman).

From: Votelaw

Saturday, 24 July 2004
House ethics committee will consider charges against DeLay further

AP reports: The House ethics committee on Friday declined to dismiss a complaint accusing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of misusing his office to raise money for Republicans and to marshal government resources against Democrats.

The committee said it would extend a preliminary inquiry into the charges made against the Texas Republican lawmaker for up to 45 days. The extension could push a decision on whether the accusations warrant a formal investigation to past Labor Day, when the fall election campaigns are in high gear.

DeLay has denied the allegations and labeled as frivolous the complaint filed last month month by freshman Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas. The complaint is the first filed against a House leader by a member of Congress since the ethics committee took up a case against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. -- Ethics panel extends review of Delay complaint (AP via Star-Telegram.com)

Saturday, 19 June 2004
Rep Cannon faces charges for asking for illegal donations

As voters gear up for the Utah Republican primary on Tuesday, four-term Rep. Chris Cannon is fighting off charges that he is in violation of campaign finance laws after making an appeal to illegal immigrants for campaign donations.

Cannon, sponsor of the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003, which gives long-time illegal immigrants employed in the U.S. agriculture industry the chance to qualify for work visas, appeared on Salt Lake City Spanish-language radio station KBJA last month with a part-time congressional aide.

During the 90-minute interview, which was conducted entirely in Spanish, Cannon's aide, Marco Diaz, urged illegal immigrants and those under 18-years-old to send in donations to Cannon's campaign.

"Really, if you are undocumented you must find, we welcome this money, but you have to find someone who is legal in order to donate money," Diaz told listeners, according to a translation of the broadcast.

A bit later in the interview, Cannon, a proficient Spanish speaker, said minor children of citizens can donate, leading Diaz to exclaim: "Very good! I hadn’t thought of that! But if your child is a citizen, you can donate in the name of your child. The only thing that you need is, is to be a citizen. Many of you, perhaps, have children who are citizens." -- Cannon Under Gun For Appeals to Hispanics (FOXNews.com)

Warning: an ad covers the screen for several seconds before the story appears.

From: Pandagon

Render Unto Bush

"The Republican National Committee has asked Bush-backing Roman Catholics to provide copies of their parish directories to help register Catholics to vote in the November election, a use of personal information not necessarily condoned by dioceses around the country."

"In a story posted Thursday on its Web site, the National Catholic Reporter said a GOP official had urged people who attended a Catholic outreach event in January to provide parish directories and membership lists to the political party."

"'Access to these directories is critical as it allows us to identify and contact those Catholics who are likely to be supportive of President Bush's compassionate conservative agenda,'' wrote Martin J. Gillespie, director of Catholic Outreach at the RNC. 'Please forward any directories you are able to collect to my attention.''

From: Taegan Goddard's Political Wire

GOP Submits Signatures For Nader

Ralph Nader hopes to get on the Michigan presidential ballot through the state's Reform Party. "But Michigan Republican Party officials handed in 43,000 petition signatures on Thursday -- far more than the 30,000 needed -- to ensure Nader can be on the ballot regardless of whether he gets the Reform Party nomination," the Detroit Free Press reports.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Democratic Party said "it would file federal election complaints against Ralph Nader over what it calls illegal and excessive contributions unless Nader withdraws from the Michigan ballot as an independent candidate."

From: WurfWhile

Corruption That Takes The Vote From DuPage Voters

Coroner Richard Ballinger was given a couple hours to accept $4,000.00 a year in increased retirement in exchange for retiring a month after the upcoming election, so that he could be replaced by a handpicked Robert Schillerstrom appointee. If he did not do this he would have his office/position removed by the County Board, in favor of a medical examiner, which is an appointed position.

[...T]he behind-the-scenes deal-making has sparked a volatile rift among once-united county Republicans at a time when they're still licking their wounds from a devastating fall from power in the 2002 election.

Once a loyal GOP soldier, Ballinger said he isn't playing by the party's rules any longer. When he leaves office, he said, it'll be on his own terms.

"They want to be monarchs," Ballinger said. "They want to be king. They like people who say, 'How high?' when they say to jump.

"Well, I won't."

From: The American Prospect

Retreating from Reform

Innovative, bipartisan immigration bills are languishing in the Senate because Karl Rove needs the nativist vote.

The Dream Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last fall, with heavy bipartisan backing and the support of Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch. But like the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003, or AgJobs, which also looked bound for passage until some recent mind-boggling legislative maneuvers, it has fallen prey to the Bush administration's reluctance to do anything that might rouse the ire of the nativist right.

The demise of AgJobs is particularly instructive; it was the first bill since God knows when that commanded majority support from each party's Senate delegation and from the unlikely duo of agribusiness and the United Farm Workers.

[...] Earlier this month, though, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist refused to let the bill come to a vote -- so adamantly, in fact, that he willingly doomed the business community's top legislative priority, a tort reform bill, to which AgJobs would have been attached as an amendment. Frist has no history of nativist passions; he was simply doing the bidding of the White House.

And the White House, it is clear, has made a strategic calculation. Karl Rove knows perfectly well that the Latino vote is growing and is an increasing factor in such swing states as Florida, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. But he also knows that the president's half-hearted steps toward immigration reform were greeted by a storm of protest from anti-immigrant forces in the very same states, and that Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) actually incurred a primary challenge (which he beat back) because he had co-authored AgJobs in the House.

So once again, George W. Bush has decided that the votes he'll fish for are all on the right. Gone are any illusions that he can do better among Latino voters than he did in 2000.

From:  Purple States

Censorship Runs Rampant

Common Cause has just issued a report examining the improprieties and misconducts surrounding last year's Medicare bill. Much of what's said in the report has already been reported elsewhere: the vote was left open for three hours, instead of the normal 15 minutes, as Republican leaders begged for votes. The most damaging account came from Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI), who said Republican leaders had offered him a bribe on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Smith claims he was offered $100,000-plus in contributions to his son’s campaign, if he were to switch his vote from nay to yea.

But there was one new element that surfaced in this report:

"In an interview on the 25th anniversary of C-SPAN’s television coverage of Congress, the head of C-SPAN, Brian Lamb, noted that the congressional leadership has always controlled the cam-eras in the House and Senate chambers, generally focused on whoever is speaking, but also panning across the chamber to show activity on the floor. Lamb pointed out how the leadership’s control of the cameras can subvert C-SPAN’s studiously nonpartisan, objective coverage of Congress.

"Lamb said:

'"You saw what happened in the middle of the night over the vote on Medicare on the floor of the House of Representatives, when they controlled the cam-eras. And I noticed that the camera wasn’t moving from — it usually moves constantly from side to side. For almost the entire two or three hours that they had it open, the camera was showing the Democratic side. And that’s where people don’t get a fair shot."

"In other words, the Republican leadership of the House intentionally diverted the C-SPAN cameras away from the Republican side of the House floor. Consequently, there is no visual record of who was talking to who that night while votes were sought by the leadership."

Commentary: none needed.

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