Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Someone, Please, Tell Dick Cheney To Shut The F*ck Up

In a statement released Tuesday, former Vice-Presidentn Cheney once again lambasts President Obama for doing his job in a manner differently than he would have done. In its entirety, Mr. Cheney said,

"As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.

“He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war."

Since the incident of Christmas Day, I have heard various right-wing pundits and politicians state that the perpetrator absolutely must be made to tell all that he knows about Al Qaeda; its locations, future plans, plots, and American targets. What they are refusing to say in so many words, is that this man must be tortured to release information that he obviously must have.

What is equally obvious to others - as by all reports, the individual arrested after the incident has freely claimed responsibility and given up all kinds of information - this young man is a disaffected, isolated, and angry young man who is unlikely to be in possession of any information useful to government intelligence services. Al Qaeda may not be very successful, but so far, they have not shown themselves to be stupid.

Mr. Cheney, however, forgets--as usual--that Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" was arrested, read his Miranda rights, tried in federal court, and is currently being held in a federal prison. Mr. Cheney seems to forget that it was the Bush Administration that released a number of Guantanamo detainees who then returned home and later engaged in terrorist activities (not that I am suggesting that we should keep Guantanamo open). Mr. Cheney forgets that it is his own Defense Department that has said that it is Guantanamo and "enhanced interrogation" techniques that have made us less safe from terrorists by creating terrorists. And finally, Mr. Cheney forgets that a majority of Americans replaced Congress with Democrats because they reject the social philosophy of the Republican Party, the practices of the Bush Administration, the exorbitant deficit that Bush created by starting two unnecessary wars,  a desire for reform on Wall Street, health care, and other social programs. America did not just vote for a Democratic president. We voted for a Democratic Congress.

Interesting how Mr. Cheney attempts to re-write history to make himself look good and is as usual, unable to accept even a scintilla of responsibility for any mistakes made during the previous eight years.

I wonder how long before we will have Liz inflicted on us? I would bet she will be on the Sunday talks if not before.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Why the Media Caters to Sarah Palin

I am still away from home dealing with family issues, but wondered if you all caught Ezra Klein's excellent article in the Washington Post of Dec. 23. Remarking on Dave Weigel's post in the Washington Independent "Why I Don't Write About Sarah Palin," Klein discusses the media's choices in what to cover, and why.

The article talks about the media need to publish and air news that is both true and interesting, often leaving its audience with a false impression. He uses as an example, stories about shark attacks. The frequent use of stories about shark attacks while interesting, might lead readers or viewers with the impression that such attacks are common when they are not, just as reporting on Palin's use of the term "death panel" while true (she did say it), suggested problems in the health care bill that were not there.

Klein says that,

"...Palin sneaks onto the front page because she seems to square that circle: Her utterances seem like news (former vice presidential candidate and 2012 hopeful Sarah Palin says ...) but actually aren't."
 The tension occurs, he says, when the need to sell papers and add viewers to cable news shows is looked at against the fact that news is sometimes boring, concluding by saying that,

"The continuing irony of all this is that for all the enmity between Palin and the press, no one has a closer and more mutually beneficial relationship than Palin has with the media, and no equivalently powerless political figure receives anything near the free coverage that the media lavishes on her."
 I continue to wonder why Sarah Palin receives so much attention with so little accountability and how she is able to set the terms in a way that no political figure has ever achieved before, and I believe that these two articles go a long way towards answering those questions.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope that 2010 sees progress for us all and I wish you my best.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Housekeeping and Personal Business

Just wanted to thank people for their interest and comments. I am coping with learning Windows 7 (grrr) after having to unexpectedly research and purchase a new computer, transfer files, and prepare to fly north to help family cope with a health emergency. As far as the computer goes, the most difficult has been transferring my iTunes files! I now have enough space to no longer need a separate external drive except for backup, but iTunes only recognizes music and videos that you get from them. Silly, as it is set up for you to import your own music and videos, and when I got my iPod, I put our entire music library onto it (3,000+ songs) as a way to backup our CD's. Sigh. Anyhoo, except for a bunch of videos, I seem to be up and running. Although I'm sure I will at some point love 7, I must say that I really want my Windows XP back!

So, sorry for no recent posts. I had planned to use my several hour layover on Wednesday to get some writing done, but just scheduled a phone interview (fingers crossed please! do you know how few responses I get to God knows how many applications I send out?) for that time slot with the expectation that I can find a quiet corner somewhere. So, posts will be infrequent until I get north and the family situation is stabilized.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sarah Palin is Really Saying, I Got Mine As She Conflates Weather and Climate

Sarah Palin's recent Facebook post has been published in the Washington Post as an editorial. This is the newspaper that at one time employed two investigative reporters named Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. Their reporting led to Watergate and ultimately, the resignation of Richard Nixon. More recently, the Post has been caught selling "face time" with its reporters, via elegant dinner parties, to political insiders and lobbyists, fired one of the finest political analysts on its staff (Dan Froomkin), and is happy to print whatever garbage Sarah Palin has written for her (come on, you heard her resignation speech not six months ago, you don't actually think she has actually learned spelling and grammar in that period of time, do you?) on its editorial page.

Staying true to form, Palin inserts herself into the issue of the day, and offers President Obama policy advise based, no doubt, on her depth of experience that as she said to Bill O'Reilly last week, is so much greater than Obama's and even Vice President Biden's. After all, she was a city council member, a mayor, served as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (for a whole year), and Governor of Alaska for two years. She also claims business experience, although she claims that her qualifications for higher office (and the reason that she is better than Obama or Biden) are her executive experience, so her work fishing likely does not count as she has never included it herself.

Seriously, when did it become about executive experience anyway? Who cares? We need political experience, foreign affairs experience (Biden has decades), experience dealing with politics at the national level (Obama and Biden), experience with working hard for what they've got (Obama and Biden - both worked damn hard for what they've got - where on earth did she get this elite nonsense about them? So Obama went to Harvard. How does she think he got there? And Biden is as blue-collar as they come.) All Palin has is city council and mayor of a town of 7,000, one year on a commission (quit), two years as governor (quit), and a failed national campaign in which she couldn't even handle the media. After three interviews, she had to bring McCain with her, then after that, no more interviews. No press conferences. Her behavior since and her book only serve to demonstrate how thin her skin is and her inability to deal with the slings and arrows that are inevitable at the national political level. Rumors? Threaten a lawsuit. Innuendo? Threaten a lawsuit.

As a brief aside, O'Reilly actually asked her some of the more difficult questions of any I've seen, asking her if she thought she was smart enough, and she promptly equated intelligence with common sense (which she says she has) to elite ivy league educations that produce spineless weakness (implication being that is what Obama has) and a resume that is based on anything but hard work and free-market principles (?!?).

Back to the Post post.

In that post, Palin suggests that Obama cancel his trip to Copenhagen as the email "scandal" has revealed the

"...appalling actions by so-called climate change experts [that] allows the American public to finally understand the concerns so many of us have articulated on this issue."

"Climate-gate," as the e-mails and other documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia have become known, exposes a highly politicized scientific circle -- the same circle whose work underlies efforts at the Copenhagen climate change conference. The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won't change the weather, but they would change our economy for the worse."

Sarah, Sarah, Sarah. You don't get to conflate weather and climate. Conflate means to combine the two because you don't know any better. Weather is today. Weather is what happens now. Sunshine, rain, snow, sleet, what the weatherperson talks about on the five o'clock news. The day to day, immediate happenings around us that absolutely, we cannot change. Weather is whether or not it is going to be an early or late fall, or whether or not Punxsutawney Phil is going to see his shadow or not. Climate, however, is the cumulative effects of weather. Climate is usually looked at in increments of thirty years or more and is regional rather than local as weather is. Climate is important because it can take years before we see changes and patterns and if there is damage, can take years before we can correct it. The one positive aspect of climate, is that we know that man has an impact on it, and because we do, we can change it.

"The e-mails reveal that leading climate "experts" deliberately destroyed records, manipulated data to "hide the decline" in global temperatures, and tried to silence their critics by preventing them from publishing in peer-reviewed journals ...This scandal obviously calls into question the proposals being pushed in Copenhagen. I've always believed that policy should be based on sound science, not politics."

I note that Sarah Palin has not included in her diatribe that the emails were 1) hacked (stolen), and were between a few scientists, meaning that, 2) they were not even the complete record of the communications between the scientists involved. The emails have "proven" that all of the data regarding climate change must somehow be false because included in these emails is the use of the term "decline" in referencing data patterns, and instructions on use of a "trick" to manipulate data.

What has been explained, several times, and Sarah Palin and the talking heads at Fox News refuse to acknowledge, is that scientists use the term "decline" to refer to the fact that the tree-ring density patterns used to record temperature are no longer valid after 1960 and after that date, recorded temperatures are used instead. This is a "trick" or "trick of the trade." Palin and others have instead chosen to see the use of the word "trick" as trick to fool us, pull the wool over our eyes, cheat us, manipulate us for some reason.

Not being a scientist, I can't explain the specifics of their data, but I am trained in scientific methods of research as they are the same for any field. To be valid, results must be repeatable, and the data must be collected according to standards set forth within that field. For example, in sociology, we study people. Once we have a hypothesis (the question we want to prove false), we decide the sample needed to collect valid data to reflect that population. Obviously there will be variations, but over time and with enough replications, if your sample is truly random and properly drawn, and you have shown cause and effect, then eventually you or anyone can repeat the results. That is what the bell curve is all about. In the case of climate change, thousands and thousands of scientists from around the world contribute data that is collected according to the same standards, collated according to the same standards, and produces results according to the same standards. A few (relatively) emails taken out of context read by people who do not understand the jargon (language unique to a specific field) prove absolutely nothing.

This brings me to the point of Sarah's comment about trying to silence their critics by preventing their publication in peer-reviewed journals. I'm not sure Sarah understands what peer-reviewed means, but in the academic world, it means exactly that. Unlike the Washington Post, which has apparently lost all journalistic ethics and standards, academic journals publish academic papers. Academics do research. A lot of people outside the university world think universities are all about teaching, but they're not. They're all about research. The teaching is to produce more researchers and money to fund research, at least at the higher level universities. Research, to be valid, has to be repeatable (see above). To prove that your research is valid, you share it with your peers. To do this, you submit your research in the form of a paper at conferences, and to journals. There, your peers analyze your research methods and your data. They try to replicate your results. They make sure that you are using sound science. They make sure that you haven't cut any corners. They argue, they discuss. They review. Sometimes they make you go back and rework some of your conclusions and rewrite your paper. Sometimes, if you are really lucky, your work is accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Think about it. There are a lot of journals, but there a lot more academics out there doing research (this includes graduate students and even some undergraduates if they have a professor who thinks they have done good work). Academic journals are not like magazines; they do not publish every month. Typically, they publish at most, four times per year. But. Here is a big one. Not all journals are created equal. If a journal has a sloppy peer-review process, then other researchers will not value the work published in it or the researchers whose work is accepted for publication. Sort of like a degree from U of I vs. Harvard.

In the case that Sarah Palin cites, research was published in a journal that had sloppy peer-review and other scientists did not use the results cited in that journal and recommended that others do the same. Some scientists had built their own work on data published in a journal whose work had been found to be faulty, thus making the entirety of that work faulty whether it was or not. Sort of like building an excellent house on a cardboard foundation. First time it rains, there goes your house. Not political, just sound science.

"Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits -- not pursuing a political agenda. That's not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate -- far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state ...But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs..." [emphasis added]

"...What Obama really hopes to bring home from Copenhagen is more pressure to pass the Democrats' cap-and-tax proposal. This is a political move. The last thing America needs is misguided legislation that will raise taxes and cost jobs -- particularly when the push for such legislation rests on agenda-driven science."

"Without trustworthy science and with so much at stake, Americans should be wary about what comes out of this politicized conference. The president should boycott Copenhagen."

I think I have satisfactorily debunked Sarah Palin's Facebook post, reprinted in the Washington Post. Who has a political agenda? Of course President Obama has a polical agenda. He is a politician. He also listens to his advisors. Climate change has been supported as fact by 95% of the world's scientists for years. The fact that some years are colder than others means nothing (ever heard of El Nino or La Nina?). Climate is completely different.

As I read somewhere the other day, conservatives like to drive SUV's because it drives liberals crazy. Because they don't care. Even if there is climate change, the attitude of the Sarah Palin's of the world, the GOPhers and other bots, I got mine. And that is about as political as you can get.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

David Frum on Obama's Speech False Equivalency

Although this post is about David Frum and a column he wrote today, my post is actually longer than his column. As I read it over, I realize that I am actually responding to many of the conservative pundits I have been listening to in the past couple of days, especially on the subject of President Obama's speech about Afghanistan. So, although specifically about Frum in many ways, I will leave its length because I believe it can be extrapolated to many of the villagers instructing us progressives on appropriate political behavior.

Conservative columnist David Frum writes about President Obama's speech last night from his usual pedantic pillar of certitude, always taking the high road, instructing us in the appropriateness of our political intercourse. Frum is often as concerned with style as with substance, something he made clear when he presented us with the conclusion he reached last night after hearing the speech, and the conclusion he reached this morning after reading it. One wonders if he reads his own writing before submitting it for publication. If so, he might have realized that the equivalency he reached between Bush and Obama is false.

In his commentary, Frum analyzes the decision Obama made and approved the clearness of purpose, mission, and strategy, but like many others, argued against the decision to set a deadline for withdrawal. Interestingly, like many other conservative pundits and the Republican leadership, he falls into the fatal lockstep of believing that being a good American and supporting the troops means supporting the President. Period. Had others been a little less eager to support President Bush, perhaps been a tad more deliberative and asked that he spend more time considering his options, we might have avoided President Obama's need to speak last night.

In his column, Frum said: [emphasis added]

"Having urged the president to honor his commitment to the Afghan war, we Republicans must honor our commitment to support him as he fights it ... I know many Republicans and conservatives will say: “Hey – the Democrats did not give President Bush support when he most needed it.” Correct. They didn’t. And the country suffered for it. The right way to react to that dereliction of duty is not by emulating it, but by repudiating it..."
For weeks, conservatives have been lambasting President Obama for not making a decision fast enough. They have cited his lack of military experience, his supposed lack of concern for the troops, evidenced, they say, by not immediately giving General McChrystal everything he asks for (ignoring that McChrystal's mission and concern is Afghanistan, only, while Obama must consider the military in its entirety - two wars, potential hot spots, recruitment, etc.), his traveling the world apologizing for past U.S. actions (a total mischaracterization as they know full well). Instead of appreciating the calm, deliberative process he was undertaking, he was accused of "dithering."

What Frum has completely missed as he criticizes Democrats of failing to support Bush, is that Democrats did not support Bush because they did not agree with what he was doing. Bush had almost universal support for his actions in Afghanistan. Had he actually stayed there and finished the job, he most likely would have enjoyed continued support - even from Democrats/ He lost support because he made poor decisions. Republicans should support Obama's decision because it is the one they have been demanding that he make. Should they now object, it will be just one more example of the Republican agenda of making sure that there are no successes on the Obama ledger, regardless of the needs of the American people (or our troops).

Frum then goes on to discuss Obama's treatment of Republicans and what they should be able to expect for their support: [emphasis added]

"...Republican leaders are entitled to close consultation on war policy and the larger national security strategy – and to more attention and respect generally than they have received from this administration to date..."
I find this last comment somewhat astounding myself. The progressive side of the Democratic Party has been quite vocal over the last year over Obama's penchant for bending over backwards to accommodate the Republicans and conservatives in general. His first social engagement with the media was with conservative pundits. He risked the wrath of a large segment of his base by inviting Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration.

The healthcare bill was held hostage at length by Senator Snowe, at Obama's wish. The discussions began in a committee that gave Republicans an equal voice, ensuring that the bill that made it to the floor will be essentially worthless before any votes are ever taken. Many other decisions have been made that have been frustrating and incomprehensible to members of his own party in his desire for bipartisanship.

The response from the Republican Party? Obstruction, back-stabbing, name calling, smears, lies and distortions, and when it came down to it, 100% party line votes against anything on the Obama agenda. I believe that people are to be respected because they are human, but in the context of Frum's statement that the Republican leaders deserve more attention and respect than they have received from this administration to date, his words are simply ludicrous. He has crafted a column that shows himself as the arbiter of political style, and is condescending to show President Obama, most likely because he is new in town and all, the way it is done, what is expected, and how to get along.

As anyone who has ever written a college term paper knows, you cannot count on spell check. You need to re-read what you wrote to ensure that it makes sense. Frum's column simply does not.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Umm Sarah Palin - Media Priorities Not Bizarre. You Are

This from Sarah Palin's Facebook page (h/t Palingates) emphasis added. This is bizarre.

"Media's Priorities Shine Bright, Again! :)"
Today at 1:40pm

"It’s really comical at this point! Despite all of the important events happening in the world today – the president’s speech tonight on the strategy in Afghanistan, the Senate debate over health care reform, the disturbing details of the “Climategate” scandal, the continuing challenges facing the world economy – the media is concerned about my travel and lodging arrangements on my book tour?! Does this sound familiar? It should. The media showed the same out-of-proportion obsession with my personal arrangements, clothes, and hairstyles last year instead of focusing on the crucial issues involving the election."

"So what is this news “story”? That I fly on an airplane to complete some of the stops on my book tour when it’s impractical or physically impossible to reach the next event on time by bus. Some news outlets are behaving as if my travel was a secret that they didn’t know about – despite the fact that I’ve tweeted about my flights and at least one local newspaper reported on the arrival of my flight into Rochester, NY. [...]"

"If you’re scratching your head wondering why my flight and hotel logistics warrant news coverage, join the club. They can, of course, report on whatever they like, but in my opinion CBS loses whatever professional integrity it still has when it links in its report to a website devoted to the bizarre conspiracy theory that I’m not the real mother of my son Trig."


-Sarah Palin"

Does she ever go back and read what she's written? Watch herself on TV? Listen to family and aides who might critique her performances and offer suggestions for future events? Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.? These are all things that people in the public eye - especially politicians - do to ensure that they make the best impression possible. Clearly, Ms. Palin sees no reason to fine tune herself as I see no change since she first burst upon the national stage.

Did you catch her comment (I bolded it) about "when it's impractical or physically impossible to reach the next event by bus"? Granted, I am not watching the tour on an event by event basis, but my impression, is that she gets off the bus, waves, makes a few remarks, then sits down and starts signing. When has it been reported that she does not get off the bus at one of her stops? We all know about the Franklin Graham loan to visit Billy, but routinely, part of her schtick is stepping off the bus. So, that comments is clearly disingenuous and makes no sense.

Yes Sarah, the media is concerned about all of the above issues you mention not because they are not concerned about the other issues, including Afghanistan and President Obama's speech, but because you appear to have some relevance to the Republican Party plans for the future, other Republicans seem to value (why escapes me) your support, and you don't look like you are going away. So, these issues become important because they speak to ethics, integrity, values, and, you know, whether or not people should or should not trust you in elected office. It sort of speaks to your priorities. Personal comfort and appearances, or others. Think of two hands, palms up, weighing something, true, false. That is why the media focuses on those irrelevant little things like clothes ($150,000 in campaign funds on clothing, $20,000 in children's travel you had to retroactively change disclosure forms to 'fix'...) because they tell us more about you than what you say at a podium when you mouth words someone else has written for you.

Oh, and as far as relevant in relation to all the important events happening in the world like President Obama's speech? Don't worry, the people that matter are attending to those issues, his speech, the wars, the economy, legislation, etc. Your continued attempts to place yourself on an equal plane are somewhat humorous, as if your advice to him, or Hillary could ever be considered as anything but laughable from someone who doesn't even know what the Bush Doctrine is (extremely relevant to Obama's speech last night by the way).

And CBS's integrity? Why is it bizarre to report on what is being said out there? That's what the media does. I think that much of what you have said is bizarre, but hey, that is what free speech is all about. And Sarah, contrary to your own bizarre beliefs, the 1st Amendment is not there to protect you from the media, the 1st Amendment is there to protect the media from government. Period. Sorry.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Sarah Palin: Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, My Thoughts

I just received my copy of “Going Rouge: Sarah Palin, An American Nightmare” and have been skimming through it. The entries are a collection of articles, essays, and blog posts written over the past year or so about Sarah Palin that I have already read but there are several that I missed the first time around and most are well worth another read. I know that some of my friends and relatives, or perhaps I should say friendly acquaintances, are fans of Sarah Palin (I find that I am becoming less and less tolerant of stupid people as friends, and frankly, am finding it difficult to comprehend how, in the face of all the evidence, people can continue to support Sarah Palin).

Checking my Facebook page, which I do once or twice a week, I noticed that a friend in the Tri-Cities of Washington State posted that her husband had gotten her not one, but two (adding three exclamation points) signed copies of Sarah Palin’s book, having obviously loved her so much as to have stood in line so long (and spent the money for) to score (in her words) so many points. My sister and I message each other back and forth giving each other support in our efforts not to engage our relatives in debate over Glenn Beck, or politics generally, when the desire to respond to some inane comment becomes almost too much to resist. Sort of like an AA sponsor. We do this for the sake of family harmony. I am still clenching my fists, fighting my desire to post a comment saying something along the lines of ‘just received my copy of Going Rouge: An American Nightmare, so excited to see all my favorite Sarah Palin articles and blog posts in one collection!!!” Spouse tells me that most people will simply read my comment it as saying Rogue, not Rouge, reminding me that most of us see what we expect to see. Knowing he is right, I desist.

Over the years, one of my favorite comments regarding elections has been that people get what they deserve, and the rest of us pay for it. Following in that vein, my belief about the base of the Republican Party has been that it’s middle-America, family-values voters are exactly those most harmed by the policies of the party. Most of this base is composed of hard-working people who depend on a “traditional” economy for their livelihood. Farming, manufacturing, and the services that support them. The small businesses that fill every town; the printer, the accountant, the mechanics, the office supply store, the plumbers, lumber yard, the laborers and professionals that depend on others to purchase the products they sell and the services they provide in order to generate their own paychecks. This base is made up of workers who have perhaps gone to college, but often have depended on work in factories or on farms, or jobs in cities manning the millions of cubicles processing the paperwork that keeps those factories running, those supplies shipping, and every other facet of the economy functioning. This base is conservative in values, believes in church, and community, and supporting our troops. They are raised to believe in authority and the institutions of our society. The police are there to protect us, the courts are there to lock up criminals, and Democrats want to steal their money. They believe that the best government is one that is small, infinitesimal, and consists only of the military.

The paradox is that while believing unquestioningly in authority, government is bad. The Constitution has become an almost sacred document, but its contents—the formulation and structure of government—are subjects of attack. The Republican mantra of a free-market economy that insists on deregulation has resulted on the widest margin between the rich and the poor in history. After teetering on the edge of an almost epic disaster requiring government intervention (or so they insisted), Wall Street’s finest are raking in record-breaking bonuses while credit card interest rates for those with excellent credit scores are reaching 30% and foreclosures are at all-time highs as are unemployment rates. TARP funds, intended to ease credit to allow businesses to purchase the goods and services needed to re-hire laid-off workers instead were spent on acquiring banks and businesses not so fortunate as to receive government assistance. A small sidebar over the weekend noted that luxury spending on Wall Street was almost back to normal, but more discreetly as bankers are more aware of perception this time around. The Republicans complain about the size of the health care reform bill, but the TARP bill, under George W. Bush (as so many are quick to forget) was all of 3 pages.

The ripple effect is one that appears to be beyond the comprehension of the average American voter as I watch polling numbers. I talk informally to people who cannot fathom my fascination for politics, especially outside of presidential election years, and wonder why I would maintain my interest in Sarah Palin when she is so clearly “old news” (if talking to a Democrat). The election of President Obama was the first time since Bobby Kennedy when we have seen true excitement for a candidate as a movement, as a beacon for hope (and because of that, and only because of that, he should fear for his re-election chances if he continues with his course of strictly political calculations – you cannot be elected on the basis of an emotional wave and hope to keep those voters if you then govern from pure political calculations). In Sarah Palin, her supporters see “Everywoman.” She touts herself as a hockey mom, middle-class (we should all have a million dollar lakeside middle-class home like hers), hunting, fishing, church-going, just like you and me, mom. She trades on her looks yet is not so beautiful that women cannot see themselves in her, she has the Christmas card family, but with enough flaws – unmarried teenage daughter with an out of wedlock child, a special needs child of her own, the challenges of raising five children as a working mother – that every mother in the country can relate, she talks in magnets which aligns with the sound-bite culture which our TV society has become accustomed to, and is just “mavericky” enough to rebel against “headquarters” while campaigning that all those who never liked McCain’s less than true-blue style of conservatism would accept her dropping him when she was ready.

Americans for the most part are bored with politics and have no more understanding of why Pakistan is important (they have nuclear weapons which Al Qaeda would very much like to have, plus they are in a state of constant conflict with India), why the Republicans are so against health care reform (so Obama will have on successes come re-election time amongst other reasons), or why they should listen to something other than Fox News. The concept of critical thinking is foreign to Christian conservatives – in fact, a Christian friend once told me, several years ago when I was complaining that the schools did not teach our children how to question or to think critically, that she did not want them to, that as a Christian, the church and the parents were responsible for teaching children what to think and they did not want them to question ideas or think critically. I seriously thought she was joking, but she was not.

In Sarah Palin, the middle-American, Christian conservative sees someone to whom they can relate. The fact-checking is simply an attack, the lack of any clear policy goals is unimportant, and her ignorance of history or world affairs is irrelevant as long as she knows her Bible (it is, after all, the only book that matters). The base is content to disengage, as usual, content to bask in the star-power of this woman who believes in beauty pageants and sees elections as winning a title rather than earning a political office (one you preen, the other you work). The Republicans can continue to serve their corporate masters, convince their base that government is bad; taxes are bad, all the while funneling all the money into their own pockets until there is nothing left for the corporations to glean from the American pocketbook because they will have it all. Come election time, the electorate will, perhaps, listen to the Glenn Beck’s and Sarah Palins and vote the sound bites and their ignorance, ignoring the responsibility that comes with adulthood and democracy, before crawling back onto the couch to watch Dancing With the Stars and Fox News to complain about those Democrats wanting to steal their taxes while bitching about all the potholes in the streets and the number of homeless and their inability to get a job, pay their medical bills, or feed their kids. They will get what they deserve, and the rest of us will pay for it.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Completing My Nanowrimo Novel

In case you are new to my blog, I discussed this at more length here, but I've been off-line for a few days while I finished my novel. The National Novel Writing Month is November, and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between November 1 and 30. It was tough as I write a lot of essays and political commentary, but never fiction before this. But, my sister talked me into it, and I'm pleased to announce that I turned in my 58, 995 word novel at 4:30pm this afternoon. It was a lot of fun, and there is a great sense of accomplishment, so if anyone has ever thought about writing, we will do it again next year.

I will be back up and blogging tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to Talk Health Care Reform Over Turkey

With thanks to Buzz Flash, some guidelines (which I have paraphrased here) on what to do tomorrow if you find yourself faced with the dilemma of what to say to that difficult relative about the health care debate.

  • If Grandma is on Medicare and says "Reform is going to destroy Medicare" then she has probably fallen for some of the Republican scare tactics. You can tell her that if she is one of the 3.4 million who fall into the doughnut hole, her savings will be immediate, and substantial.
  • If Uncle is 62, and laid off and says "No job, no insurance" you can tell him that this bill will ensure that older adults who no longer are eligible for employer funded insurance, will qualify for high-quality, affordable health care through "exchanges."
  • Aunt with a pre-existing condition who says "I always worry that my insurance will cut me off" you can tell her that the insurance companies cannot cut her off (rescind) or deny her coverage or raise her rates due to pre-existing conditions, current health status, or gender.
  • Cousin, just out of college who says "There are no jobs with insurance" you can say that her parents can keep her on their policy until she is age 27, rather than 22 as it now.
  • Sister, small business owner who says "It is tough paying for employees' health insurance" you can say that reform will allow her to provide coverage at a fair price and tax credits will help her pay the premiums.
And, if everyone in your family is healthy, employed, and has adequate, quality insurance, you have much to be thankful for.You might remind them that this reform will help all the families that are not as lucky as they are and that they will all end up saving over the long term as the reduction to the overall cost of health care will be passed on to all consumers. (Not to mention a healthy society is a more productive society).

If they are still screaming about health care, politely remind them that high blood pressure is a pre-existing condition and could result in their insurance company cancelling their policy or raising their rates.

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Perino, No Terrorist Attacks Under Bush - Obama Appoints to BBG

Last week, President Obama appointed Dana Perino to the Broadcast Board of Governors (BBG). This group oversees all non-military government broadcasting overseas including Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and others.

Dana Perino was President Bush's Press Secretary at the end of his administration and, according to CBS News, among other things called torture safe, legal, and effective.

Since his election, President Obama has worked hard towards bipartisanship, reaching across the aisle when formulating policy, building his cabinet, making appointments, and setting legislative agendas. Some of his appointments have been inspired and reflected an almost Machiavellian view of his long-term political goals. Other choices have been incomprehensible to not only his progressive supporters, but to members of the media and his party.

This selection of Perino, to many on the left is an insult. As Press Secretary, she was responsible for spreading the propaganda of an administration that had lied us into two wars, broken treaties, thrown away any moral authority this country might have owned, and has continued to do so ever since.

Since her appointment, she appeared on the Sean Hannity show on Fox News to discuss the recent tragedy at Fort Hood. The investigation is still ongoing and while some information has been leaked, it is clearly too soon for any determination to be made as to the motivations of the man responsible.

In her conversation with Hannity, Perino said,

"There is one thing that I would say about Fort Hood that I feel very strongly about and I don't say this to be political, but we did have a terrorist attack in this county and we need to call it what it is."
After Hannity asks her - after several more slurs on the President, why no one else can say it so simply, she then goes on to say,

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term.I hope they're not looking at this politically. I do think that we owe it to the American people to call it what it is."
How many Republican appointments has President Obama made that have actually supported him afterward?  One? Two?

Like most Republicans and virtually everyone appearing on Fox, Ms. Perino neither corrected Sean Hannity's lies, nor did Mr. Hannity correct Ms. Perino's outrageous statemet that "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term."

Hello? September 11, 2001? The World Trade Center Towers? The Pentagon? Flight 93? "My Pet Goat." Undisclosed locations? Lynn Cheney sitting in the Situation Room passing on orders from Dick because he was too afraid to come out of hiding and W was being flown all over the place?

That was what is referred to as a terrorist attack on this country. It happened on President Bush's watch. He had plenty of warning, but he told his briefer, "Okay, you covered your butt" and went back to his vacation. You can probably be excused from thinking anything happened while Bush was president though, he was on vacation for more than a third of it.

By the way, this is a position that requires Senate confirmation. If you have a concern with this appointment, as I do, contact your Senator.

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Catch the video and more at Crooks and Liars here

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Glenn Greenwald Rips Weekly Standard

The Weekly Standard has an article up, Al Qaeda's Civil Liberties Union. As Glenn Greenwald notes over at Salon, it, "...sputters with so much fact-free, impotent, and self-defeating rage that it's hard to believe it was printed."

The Standard cites the case of Moazzam Begg, who after his release from Guantanamo, they say, gave his name to a video game depicting Guantanamo prisoners blasting out of prison by killing mercenaries which the Standard reminds us are really U.S. soldiers. They also complain of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) produced short film about Guantanamo prisons that includes Begg, and claims that the prisoners in the film are all unfairly detained.

According to the Standard, documents from the Bush Administration prove otherwise. As Glenn noted in his article,

"But what he dishonestly -- though understandably -- fails to note is that each of these individuals are available to appear in the ACLU video because they were released from Guantanamo by the Bush administration [Moazzam Begg (released 2005); Omar Deghayes (released 2007); Bisher al-Rawi (released 2007); Ruhal Ahmed (released 2004); Shafiq Rasul (released 2004)].  If, as Joscelyn claims, the ACLU are Al Qaeda's "useful idiots" for producing a video containing interviews with these individuals, what are Bush officials who released them onto the streets?"

Don't bother with the Weekly Standard, but Glenn is always worth the read.

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VetVoice View of Sarah Palin's Lies About President Obama

A soldier's view of Palin's comments regarding President Obama's attention to our fallen service men and women here.

The author also notes President Obama's
  • increased funding for the Department of Veteran's Affairs
  • ending the Stop Loss Policy
  • cancelling the F-22 thus freeing up money for weapons that were actually needed
As a pacifist, I must admit that I have a hard time with that last item as I see the only good decision is one that ends the war, but in all instances, we must support the troops that our bad decisions have committed to this insanity.

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Sarah Palin - Pathological Liar?

In Politico this morning Sarah Palin is quoted as saying:

“I want him [Obama] to acknowledge the sacrifices that these individual men and women — our sons, our daughters, our moms, our dads, our brothers and sisters — are providing this country to keep us safe.”

 Can anyone say Dover? Fort Hood? The fact that President Obama has taken weeks to be thoughtful and deliberative before making a decision to send our troops into harms way.

It is called pathological lying. There is no need for the lie, there may or may not be any tangible gain resulting from the lie, and you tell so many of them, that you usually cannot remember them to the point that you are caught lying. According to the Psychiatric Times, "... pathological lies often appear purposeless. In some cases, they might be self-incriminating or damaging, which makes the behavior even more incomprehensible." 

Pathological lies are distinguised from compulsive lying by the motivation. Compulsive liars are usually goal-directed. They lie to avoid consequences, to get out of trouble, to gain some benefit, to make themself look better in the eyes of other, or for some tangible reward that is evident to others. The motivation may not be apparent initially, but there is a motive.

A pathological liar has no motive. They lie because they are a liar. Many of their lies do make sense and appear to be motivated for personal gain, but it is accidental. In the case of Sarah Palin, the confusion set in when she lies for no apparent reason. She lies when there is voluminous evidence that she is lying, and she know that this evidence exists. She lies about her lies, and then lies again, and when confronted, claims that red is green and that up is down. What is remarkable, is that her followers believe her, but that is their delusion and this is not about them. Sarah Palin has no motivation for most of her lies, and would likely have achieved her goals without them.

There is dramatic evidence that President Obama has demonstrated, recently, how much he cares about our troops. Why did she lie about it? Perhaps because this week she is visiting military bases so the thought occurred to her. Perhaps if she were visiting department stores, she would give a speech about how the president needs to show how much he cares about the workers who make our shoes. Or that Michelle Obama obviously does not care about American department store workers because she shops from the J. Crew catalog and not at department stores, or something. Whatever pops. By the way, this is called lack of impulse control and I won't go into the population I work with in which I usually find that particular disorder.

Anyway, once again, Sarah Palin is on the front page. Once again she has said something controversial. Once again she has said something that is demonstrably not true. She is truly pathological.

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Churches Sign Their Own Manhattan Declaration - What Happened to Climate Change?

From Political Carnival comes this great post. A reader on the "Team Sarah" mailing list sent in an email about the "Manhattan Declaration." The post points out that the key paragraphs come at the end, when it states that:

"Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.

We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.
" If you want to sign your name to this declaration here is the link [...]"

As the post author, GottaLaff points out, can anyone say unconstitutional? Going on to add:

"Hello Team! Wow! It's exclamation point time! And guess what! The suggestions in your e-mail! Unconstitutional!

The U.S. Constitution says that abortion is legal! And that everyone is equal under the law! Yes, that's right! The law! That's the binding custom and practice that governs us and keeps us in line so we don't do bad things! Like kill people! And incite violence!

Guess what else! God didn't write the U.S. Constitution! Men did! Men we call our founding fathers! For a reason!

And if you are anti anti-life acts, don't forget about capitol punishment! And war! And assassinating physicians who legally perform abortions! Now that's immoral!

So immoral it deserves an extra !"

The actual declaration is huge, but the mission of the declaration according to the website is:

"Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.
Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

Interesting factoid. The original Manhattan Declaration? Signed on March 4, 2008, it is actually called the Manhattan Declaration on Climate Change and was signed by, "We the scentists and researchers in climate and related fields, economists, policymakers, and business leaders, assembled at Times Square, New York City, participating in the 2008 International conference on Climate Change."

Hmmm. I wonder where the churches came up with their name? Their declaration was drafted on October 20, 2009 and released on November 20, 2009. Hmmm. 2008. 2009. Funny coincidence.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

A Moment of Zen from Chad Richard

Take five minutes to relax and enjoy.

Time-Lapse Favs from Chad Richard on Vimeo.

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A Test for Sarah Palin

This is the test Sarah Palin should be required to take. Fill in the blanks. Mark Olmstead of thetrashwhisperer has even left the -stans and capital cities in for her to make it easier. Anyone who has paid even minimal attention to the evening new in the past year, or read a newspaper, or any news source for that matter, should have no difficulty filling this out.

Read the rest of Mark's suggestions for Sarah here.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Our Culture of Violence Makes Tasering 8 Year Old Okay? I Blame the Becks and Palins of the World

My interests are the intersection of sociology and politics, and as such, I've been watching the growing use of tasers. I have to wonder at a culture that believes that violence is the appropriate solution to, well, everything. Yesterday, the Anti-Defamaton League (ADL) announced that Glenn Beck is the most toxic hate monger operating in the U.S. today. He and Sarah Palin and the extremist fringe of the far right preach a brand of violence that is cloaked in religiosity that they believe makes it acceptable. Palin did not quit her job, she stopped to "reload." Citizens are reminded that Thomas Jefferson himself said that "the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots." As do most fundamentalists, quotes are cherry-picked from the original source to support whichever claim is needed at the moment. In this culture of violence, more and more extreme behavior becomes acceptable, and becomes not the behavior at issue, but the individuals involved.

Now, the police have tased an eight-year-old girl. Unable to get her child to go to bed, unable to stop her tantrum, mom called the police. Compounding that stupidity, they responded. Attempting to carry the child to bed (I wonder if the officer has any children of his own, otherwise he would have known better), kicking and screaming, she kicked him in the groin. So of course he tased her. Does he think she kicked him in the balls on purpose? Does he think an eight-year-old knew the best place to kick for maximum effect? Doubtful. The child, of course, became quiet and obedient immediately. Did mom and officer then put her to bed? Maybe take her to the hospital to ensure that she had sustained no damage from the taser (she weighs 65 pounds)? No. He arrested her for assaulting him and took her to youth detention.

In statements the mayor and police chief say
"People here feel like that he made a mistake in using a Taser, and maybe he did, but we will not know until we get an impartial investigation," McDaniel said. The state police declined his request Tuesday, saying it only gets involved if the officer in question was accused of misconduct or targeted in an internal investigation.

Police Chief Jim Noggle said no disciplinary action was taken against Bradshaw. He said Tasers are a safe way to subdue someone who's a danger to themself or others. "We didn't use the Taser to punish the child - just to bring the child under control so she wouldn't hurt herself or somebody else," Noggle said. If the officer tried to forcefully put the girl in handcuffs, he could have accidentally broken her arm or leg, Noggle said. He said a touch of the stun gun - "less than a second" - stopped the girl from being unruly, and she was handcuffed, he said. "She got up immediately and they put her in the patrol car," McDaniel said."

I'm sorry, but are there any parents reading this? I cannot imagine ever, ever calling the police to resolve a tantrum. Sure there were times when things got out of control. Fortunately, I like to think I was a pretty good parent - my kids tell me I was - and we rarely had those kinds of problems, but I think every parent has at least one story to tell... But seriously. What do you do when your child is kicking and screaming and yelling and refusing to go to bed? You walk away. You go into the other room, shut the door, and ignore them. I guarantee it, they will stop. It may take a little while, but you have to wonder at the parenting skills of a mother who has those kinds of problems with an eight-year-old. By the age of eight, bedtime is not normally an issue. I would guess that bedtime was the least of the reasons that child was screaming.

I know that our police have a difficult job and have to face scary situations every day. They never know what will happen when they walk up to that car they have just pulled over or what they will encounter when they respond to that domestic violence call; two of the most potentially dangerous situations police officers encounter. But an eight-year-old? There was no weapon reported. The child was 4' 6" tall, obviously a clear threat to a male police officer. Right. Violence has become too easy as a response to every situation. It is preached to us in the media, every day.

Within the police culture, there is a growing use of force to respond to verbal abuse, passive resistance, and the failure to instantly cooperate - even if that failure to cooperate is the result of a disability caused by a health condition or intoxication. Many times, police officers are unable to judge the cause of the resistance and discover later why the individual that they tased was not cooperative.

I am not certain when it became illegal to behave towards police officers with anything other than immediate courtesy and respect. Certainly resisting arrest is illegal, but in every definition that I could find, resistance was defined as assault and battery on the police officer or running away. Not hesitating to jump into the police car or offer one's hands out for handcuffs. Verbal abuse? Swearing? Anger and raised voices? Not pleasant. But dangerous? Life threatening? Requiring the use of physical force? I do not think so.

I could devote this blog to cases of police officers using tasers on persons who were on the ground, in handcuffs. Persons who were sitting in their vehicles unconscious. High school students who were in the hall without a hall pass. A paraplegic who had been pulled out of his wheelchair to the ground, then tased. But I won't. Other instances are detailed in a post I wrote here.

Beyond the actual use of tasers, is a culture that sees their use and shrugs, and turns the page. Of a media that listens to the Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins preach a message of hate, of death, and of division, and simply "reports, you decide." Journalism used to be about questioning, researching, and pointing out errors in what our national figures were saying. Now we have our national media figures angry because the citizens notice the lies and reject the message of hate. These figures feel attacked and threatened and incite even more violence. They claim religion as their guide, and wave a stern, vengeful God who evidently approves of a culture that would tase an eight-year-old child.

Why do I connect Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, and tasers? I write about the sociological intersection of politics and culture. Our society has become more and more violent. In the past forty years, we have embraced a law and order mentality and move away from a rehabilitation model. The behavior of our police is becoming more and more reactive, and they are less and less often expected to take responsibility. 

After all, it is not the behavior that is at fault any more. It is the label worn by the individuals involved. The President is good/bad depending on the label. The victim is good/bad (or even a victim) depending on the label. Someone is a murderer or not, depending on the label. Police always good, Republicans always good, Conservatives always good, Christians always good. Ignore sex tapes, adultery, ethics violations, bribery, murder, lying, any of the sins mentioned in the Bible, or laws on any of the books. Wear the right label, and it does not matter. Do good, be good, but wear the wrong label? Bad.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sarah Palin Wants to Cut Imports to Iraq? What About theTroops?

Thanks to TPM for catching this one. Sarah Palin is having a problem with geography, again. Where does she send Track's care packages?

"Cutting off the imports into Iraq, of their refined petroleum products. They're reliant -- 40 to 45 percent of their energy supply is reliant on those imports. We have some control over there.

"And some of the beneficial international monetary deals that Iraq benefits from -- we can start implementing some sanctions there and start really shaking things up, and telling Ahmadinejad, nobody is going to stand for this."

And this has a chance to be president? I don't think so.

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Escada Piano

Something for fun.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Couple of Fun Factoids - Palin Meets Her Doppelganger and Keep America Safe Fails to Rally

A couple of fun factoids from today.
  • Sarah Palin will be in Denver on Thursday on what she likes to call her "road trip" but what others commonly refer to as a book tour. The woman who proudly proclaims herself a "real" American and pro-life, has been rated a Tier 4 by American Right to Life (ARTL), a very powerful anti-abortion grou and they plan to rally in opposition to her.Tier 4 is earned when an individual claims that they are pro-life, but "deny the personhood and God-given right to life of the unborn." Considered one of the more radical of the anti-abortion groups, ARTL sees the issue in black and white with absolutely no shades of gray: you see abortion as murder, or you don't. The fact that Sarah Palin appointed a pro-choice judge to the Supreme Court of Alaska was enough to lose her Tier 1 position. There are other factors that ARTL cites, but that was the biggie for them. I just find the whole thing ironic, and something you might expect to see in a sci-fi movie. You know, the character suddenly meets their doppelganger or other self? Except, in fiction, there is always some sort of explosive event when that happens as two selves cannot exist in the same time and place together. Here is Sarah Palin coming face to face with some of her lies and political manipulations, but this time, it is all coming from the right, and her religious right at that.
  • Bill Kristol, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, and Liz Cheney tried to get a rally going to protest the decision by Eric Holder to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York. They each tweeted their followers (Rove has 92,000, Gingrich 1.2 million) to meet at 9:30 Wed. Nov. 18 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building to oppose Attorney General Holder's testimony as to why he had made this decision. Liz Cheney's new group, "Keep America Safe" is all about promoting the neo-con policies espoused by her father and she tweeted a reminder a couple of hours before the hearing. The fun fact part? Nobody showed up. Oh the hearing happened, and there were plenty of people there on both sides of the debate (see the post below on Senator Sessions), but there were also empty seats, and nobody identified as being a member of Keep America Safe either inside or outside the Dirksen Building. This leaves me with a nice, warm fuzzy feeling. 
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Senator Sessions Flips. Again. Enemy Combatants Become Prisoners of War

If you are a regular reader, you know how much I love to write about Senator Sessions and the serial stupidity of the GOP. I believe that Mr. Sessions exemplifies that quality.

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, today Sessions inserted both feet into his mouth when he responded to a discussion about Fort Hood, terrorism, and the upcoming trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammad by saying:

"The enemy, who could of been obliterated on the battlefield on one day, but was captured instead does not then become a common American criminal. They are first a prisoner of war, once they're captured. The laws of war say, as did Lincoln and Grant, that the prisoners will not be released when the war - until the war ends. How absurb is it to say that we will release people who plan to attack us again?"

This is a really interesting comment. The "war on terror," according to the terms set forth by just about everyone, has no real ending. When do we say it is over? If prisoners then are prisoners of this war on terror, when can they expect to be released? They can't. That is exactly why Bush and company created the military tribunal system, Guantanamo Bay, and the designation "enemy combatant." The use of the term "prisoner of war" has very specific legal obligations to the country holding that individual.  Why do you think that Bush and company were very, very careful to never, ever refer to any of the "enemy combatants" or other residents at Guantanamo Bay as "prisoners of war?" They and the mainstream media refer endlessly to the "war on terror." But they had to create a new lexicon to wage it. Enhanced interogation. Enemy combatant.

Senator Sessions just as the rest of the Republicans do, chooses which terminology fits the argument, or which argument fits the results he wants to reach.

h/t Crooks and Liars

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Image from irvinehousingblog dot com

Palin & Beck Projecting Anger Will Incite More Violence

Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, and the others or their ilk are inciting violence by projecting their anger and hate onto others. Palin's cavalier attitude about lying is obviously something she feels is acceptable, and probably so because she has projected that attitude onto others. If you assume that everyone lies, then it is okay if you do it.

I've talked here a little about projection. It is a term that is extremely important to understand in the therapeutic process, and something that counselors pay attention to as we watch for transference and counter-transference. Most of the time, it has little effect on our day to day life if we are reasonably healthy (from a mental health standpoint) and functioning well.

What many people do not understand about mental illness, is that in all cases except one,* a necessary criteria for a diagnosis of a mental health disorder, is the effect on the ability to function. An individual may have a delusion, but if the delusion does not otherwise interfere with the activities of daily living, then a diagnosis of a disorder is not appropriate.That does not mean that an individual cannot have symptoms of a mental health disorder and exhibit features that are typical of someone with poor coping skills, one of the more common being projection. It also does not mean that everyone with poor coping skills and difficulty functioning has a mental illness. It is all too easy for armchair psychologists to diagnoses those they see in the news and decide what they should or should not do. Just as we complain about the pundits making pronouncements we disagree with, it is too easy to state that those we disagree with have some sort of mental illness.

Projection occurs when you place your fears and insecurities onto someone or something else. Everything that you dislike about yourself, everything that you are afraid of,is out there. The qualities you least like about yourself are those you are most likely to react to in others. Does the saying "thou doest protest too much" ring a bell? Are you having an affair, or seriously tempted to have one? You probably feel guilty about it, which sets up a cognitive dissonance. The brain does not like dissonance. It is uncomfortable. To resolve it, it projects those feelings onto someone else, so you believe your significant other is cheating, thus making your behavior okay. Do you cheat on your taxes? Then you assume that everyone else does. Do you lie? Even "tiny" lies (and tell me, where exactly is that line)? Then so does everyone else.

We assume that everyone else is just like us, that they behave like us, that they think like us, and that they will respond like us. We also believe that if people look like us, they will like us, so we like them. People tend to like those who like them, so if you like those around you, they will most likely like you. We tend to agree with those we associate with, and conversely, people who associate with us tend to agree with us. This is called the false consensus effect. It is an interesting dynamic and one that organizers of Tea Parties and Town Hall disruptions and other similar events understand. I am certain that along with all the other experts employed by public relations firms, social psychologists hold an important place.

People who project their fears and insecurities on others, have learned to avoid responsibility and to blame others. By projecting what is wrong onto someone or something else, you do not have to deal with it. Is everything going wrong in your life? Are you having problems at work or at home? Can't get along with your neighbors? It's the governments fault, those illegal immigrants, those minorities, that fake president, or something out there. It is not your fault, so you have no responsibility to solve the problem. It is somebody else's problem to fix.

If people don't look like us, then we become confused, especially if we have no frame of reference for dealing with people that are not like we are. Our normal method of processing information is shaken, and we look around for something or someone to help us and we become vulnerable to the likes of Glenn Beck, or Sean Hannity; people who look like us and appear to have authority and talk and act as if they know what they are doing. When our locus of control is external, then we look to external sources to regain control.

Someone like Glenn Beck is projecting all of his anger and hate onto the people he blames for everything wrong with this country; President Obama and the Democrats and progressives. It does not matter what the president does, what Congress does or does not do, because they are who they are, it has to be wrong. Glenn is so full of rage and has focused that rage on President Obama, that he must generate ever more illogical "facts" to maintain the emotional momentum he is building. It still is not clear whether or not he believes what he is saying or whether or not he is in it purely for the money, but it is clear that there is an underlying hate in this man. He has incited acts of violence that have caused death. He continues to do so and laughs about causing the deaths of those he disagrees with. At this point, his motives don't matter. What matters, is that he has a national platform, a lot of followers, the support of the Republican Party, and a society with a lot of deeply disturbed people looking for directions.

Stop and think about this for a moment. He laughs about the possibility of Speaker Pelosi dying, and of his causing her death. He laughs at the thought of the President dying. He laughs at the thought of revolution. What does revolution mean? It means death, war in the street, people dying. He assumes that his followers are just like him. That they believe as he does. He opens his show and tells his viewers to "be sure to DVR this." And they do. What else will they do?

Sarah Palin is on her book tour this week. Over the weekend the AP fact checked her book and found numerous instances of out and out lies, which she referred to on her Facebook page as "opposition research." What is that? On Oprah, she accused "Obama's people" of coming to Alaska after the election and doing "opposition research" and claimed it as one of the reasons for her resignation from the governorship. Why would he? Why would he care? And again, what is "opposition research?"

On Keith Olbermann's show last night, he had great fun showing video clip after video clip side by side of lies told. One thing said a year ago and reported differently in the book. Most of them so trivial it was dumb to lie about it. Rachel Maddow had AnaMarie Cox on her show to discuss Sarah Palin's treatment of Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace (McCain campaign staff) in the book. Again, out and out lies easily verified through emails, video, and statements from others who had been present during the events spoken of.

But remember, in the Palinverse, just like the Beckverse, and in the world of those who are unable to cope with their own problems so project them onto others, everyone lies, so they do. All of their problems are caused by factors outside their control - in this case, President Obama - so they blame him. Sarah Palin lost the election (funny, I thought McCain did), so therefore it was the fault of everyone who worked on the campaign. The facts weren't quite interesting enough in the book, so re-write the scenes and make them fit the Palinverse. Have the truth come out? Oh well. Everyone lies. So what. That's what life is like in the Palinverse and how she wants to recreate our country.

Why should we care? Because there are many, many people in this country who are angry, scared, confused, filled with rage, hurting, and deeply disturbed. There are many, many people who have lost their jobs, their homes, their health care, and thus their medications. People who have trouble coping and who have perhaps begun to (or continued to) self-medicate themselves as a way to cope. People who watch Fox News and grasp onto anything they can as an external locus of control, any way possible to blame someone else. Glenn Beck does it. Sarah Palin does it. Rush Limbaugh, the head of the Republican Party does it. Our legislative leadership stands back and allows it and in fact, appears with them and tacitly supports them. So we are sending the message to these people that violence is the answer. We are sending the message to people who are deeply angry and deeply disturbed that violence is okay.That these powerful, important people would like for the powerful, important Democrats to be dead.

President Obama receives on average 30 death threats per day. This is a 400% increase from the average 3,000 per year that President George W. Bush received.

The people that Sarah Palin speak to, that she is trying to attract, are the people who carry guns to presidential events. When asked by Oprah what her plans were for a presidential run in 2012 were, she responded with something her father had said, "She didn't quit, she just stopped to reload." Shortly afterward, a woman called into a newspaper in Michigan and threatened "to do what they did at Fort Hood" because she didn't like an anti-tea party editorial. Carrie Prejean runs around crying about her free speech supported by Beck and Palin, and their supporters threaten the free speech of others?

AnaMarie Cox suggested last night that with this book, any political aspirations that Sarah Palin might have are over. Other political pundits disagree, saying that with a Republican party membership at about 20%, and a primary field so large, it is very possible that Sarah Palin could win the nomination. She really doesn't need that many votes to actually win the Republican primaries. Many Democrats say yay, no way could she win against Obama. But look at the progressive and Democratic anger against Obama. Are we sure? She may be a liar and a joke, but even the Joker was dangerous.

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* DSM-IV criteria include as a condition for a diagnosis, an impairment in the ability to function in one or more of life's major activities, except one, dysthymia, which is characterized as a low-grade, chronic depression, sort of like always having the blues, but not enough to really interfere with your day to day life. So in effect, a legitimate DSM-IV diagnosis, treatable, but does not require the criteria of functional impairment.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stupak - "We Won Fair and Square" - Neener, Neener, Neener

On Fox & Friends today, Bart Stupak (D-MI) talked with Steve Doocy about the Stupak-Pitts Amendment recently passed in the House. Responding to reports that his amendment might not make it into the final bill, Mr. Stupak stated,

“They’re not going to take it out. If they do, health care will not move forward…We won fair and square.”

White House Senior Advisor, David Axelrod was reported to have said over the weekend that the language of the amendment should be adjusted, and Stupak replied as any proud Republican would (except he’s not) and stated quite firmly that,

“That is why Mr. Axelrod is not a legislator, he doesn’t really know what he is talking about.”

Ummm. Every time I read that or hear it, my jaw drops. Doesn't know what he's talking about? Serial stupidity does not belong only to Republicans. The White House Political Director, one of the two men responsible for getting Obama elected, and he doesn't understand legislating? I think Mr. Stupak will find his name missing from the White House invitation list from now on. He sounds like a little boy who hasn't learned how to play well with others yet. "We won fair and square...neener, neener, neener." Very adult.

I know it will play well to the GOPhers, but Stupak is a Democrat and wants to win Democratic votes. I think. He claims to have 20 Democrats who will join him in voting with him against the bill if his language is stripped out. Okay. There are at least forty who won’t vote for it if it isn’t.

What Mr. Stupak seems to not know what he is talking about, is that the amendment process on the House floor is a process. It is not the end of a bill. He introduced an amendment. He was told it would be voted on. It was. It passed. It was attached to the bill. It then goes, with all the other amendments and the bill to be attached to the Senate bill after their bill is finalized. No one expects that all of the amendments will make it through markup. A lot of them are just happy that they can go home and campaign on the fact that they offered an amendment and that it passed on the floor.

Most of their constituents don’t know or understand that something can pass on the floor and never make it into the final bill, or that the bill can die before it reaches a final vote, or never get signed, or that there are many, many things that can happen before a bill actually becomes law. The fact that an amendment made it onto the floor and passed is nice, but one of the reasons that legislators are willing to vote for amendments is the art of the deal. It is how they get votes for their pet amendments, or how the Speaker gets vote for the final bill. Many representatives will vote for an amendment because they know it will never make it through into the final bill. If they thought that this particular bill had any chance of making it into the final health care bill, it would never have passed.

Mr. Stupak has voted with his party 96.1% of the time, but this does not include the 8.5% of the time that he has not shown up for a vote. In the past year, the times when he has voted against his party include voting against paid family medical leave, the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights, Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009, and numerous appropriations bills to keep the government running. He lives in the C Street House owned by “The Family” while in Washington D.C., the house that became famous (infamous?) during the sex scandals involving Mark Sanford, John Ensign, and others.

[Totally off topic, but today C Street lost tax exempt status for about 66% of that house]

Stupak denies any real involvement with The Family and states that he just rents a room there. Jeff Sharlet, who lived at C Street and Ivanwald, a residence for young men also run by The Family, before he wrote his book on The Family, said that Stupak was a regular visitor to the Cedars at Ivanwald and questions his lack of participation in Family activities.

Stupak saw a way to make some video for his next campaign. He’s considering a run for governor which will be an open seat in 2010. Michigan has been blue since 92, although not solidly blue, so his conservatism clearly sells in the upper Midwest. He’s held his seat since 1993 and won his last race 65% to 35% so obviously feels pretty secure turning against his party’s platform. Many of his constituents want health care, however, and if he holds it up because of abortion, they may make him regret it.

This country still supports a woman’s right to choose regardless of what the religious right would have you say. In July 2009, a Harris poll found that 51% of Americans supported the provisions of Roe v. Wade vs. 44% opposed, with 5% unsure. On the issue of whether people considered themselves pro-choice or pro-life, a USA-Gallup poll taken at the same time found 46% found themselves pro-choice vs. 47% pro-life. Remember, someone can consider themselves pro-life, and not want to overturn Roe v. Wade. I consider myself pro-life, and support a woman’s right to choose. I just believe that if you say you are pro-life, you must also be against war, the death penalty, and allow a woman the right to decisions about her own life.

My biggest problem with Bart Stupak and the other Blue Dogs and Conservadems? They signed on as Democrats. The used the Democratic Party to get elected, they caucus with the Democrats, the accept committee assignments from the party, accept party money, and in return, accept the party platform. The platform and each plank are agreed to by everyone in the party. If the Democratic Party wants to change their platform, they can. Everyone gets together and talks about it and votes and changes are a big deal.

Being a member of the party is a big deal, its how a legislator gets seniority. Having seniority is how one gets committee assignments and what assignments you get determines how much power you have in Washington, and how much power you have determines how much your voice (and therefore your vote) matters. Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders going independent was a very big deal even though they both caucus with the Democrats. There’s a reason Lieberman gets away with the sh*t he does even though he’s not a member of the party. In fact, if he was a member of the party, and not a member of the Connecticut for Lieberman Party, he would likely get away with a lot less, but that’s another post.

Why am I ticked? Have you ever read the Democratic Party Platform? I didn’t think so. [emphasis added]

Page 50

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informal choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.

The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre-and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs.

Page 12
Covering All Americans and Providing Real Choices of Affordable Health Insurance Options. […] should have the option of keeping the coverage they have or choosing from a wide array of health insurance plans, including many private health insurance options and a public plan. Coverage should be made affordable for all Americans with subsidies provided through tax credits and other means.

So how exactly does this philosophy, these promises to women and to the American people square with the Stupak-Pitt Amendment which takes us further back than the Hyde Amendment? The Amendment means that not only can no federal dollars be used to pay for an abortion (Hyde), but that no woman eligible to receive exchange dollars to pay for her insurance coverage (whether through an employer, a public option, or whatever) can have any insurance plan that covers abortion, even if she pays for it with her own money. In plain and simple language, you don’t like the insurance plan offered to you through your employer, you shop around and find a plan that would cost you a similar amount that you would have to pay to buy into your employer’s plan, and you buy that. Employer plan does not cover abortions but receives exchange dollars, your plan does cover abortions but does not. According to Stupak-Pitt, it’s illegal.

Do you ever get the feeling that we're moving backwards?

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Sarah Palin on Oprah - Still a Beauty Queen, Not a Politician

Watching Sarah Palin on Oprah. It's too bad that Oprah isn't asking any difficult questions. Early on, Oprah did call her out when she repeats an ongoing lie, repeated in her book that during the campaign Obama said children were off limits and was obeyed, but her children were trashed. Oprah did point out that Obama was referring to Palin's children when he made that comment, something that Palin was clearly unhappy with. I would add, however, that not once did Obama use his children in his campaign. he did not haul them around on his campaign busses or planes, they didn't line up behind him on any stages, and the only time we really saw the Obama children, was when he made his acceptance speech. When you use your children as campaign props, you make them fair game.

But back to the Oprah show, there were no more difficult questions, or questions that were not expected however much Sarah Palin did not want to answer them. Palin was tightly wound with her voice rising in pitch throughout until you could see her visibly take a breath and the pitch drop. Several times, you could see her gulp a couple of times before answering--a sure sign of severe nerves--the most significant time being when asked about the Katie Couric interview.

One of the most striking things to me was at the very end when Oprah was trying to understand why she quit as governor, and Palin mentioned that she could accomplish more without the title. Not the office, but the title. When I watch something like this, my training kicks in and I pay as much attention to the tone of voice and what is not being said as to the words. After observing Sarah Palin over the past year, it's pretty clear that she's never quit being a beauty queen.

She talked today about her "team," meaning the vice president's campaign team, not ever having the script so was off message. Typical of blaming everyone else and being unable to accept any responsibility. I never heard her accept any of the responsibility for the loss of the election, ever. It is clear that this woman has the mindset of a beauty queen. She needs someone to write her script for her and that being governor, or vice president or president is a title, not an office. It is doubtful that even while holding elective office that she ever understood that beauty queens cut ribbons and look pretty, politicians hold office and do actual work. 

She made it clear that she is planning a run for the presidency in 2012. Sarah? Please, please do.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Government Has No Right To Interfere, Unless You Are A Woman

The most restrictive abortion language in years is now a part of the debate on what the final bill will look like.



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