Saturday, January 30, 2010

How To Report the News and Watching It Is So Pointless

Why watching network news is so pointless. Thanks Steve Bennen of The Washington Monthly for sharing this.

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Culpepper County, Virginia Bans Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

Photo: AP

Remember Anne Frank? The little girl who spent two years of her life hidden in an attic with her family and others, and then spent seven months in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp before dying of typhus? We know about Anne and the hopes and dreams of a young girl because of the diary she wrote that she received on her 13th birthday. This diary became the only outlet for her deepest thoughts and feelings and as such, is very personal. It gives us a view of the Holocaust that is unlike any other we have been given. The Culpepper County, Virginia, public schools have banned the book, The Definitive Edition, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, because of the objections of one parent over one passage:

When the book was originally published, Anne's father Otto redacted about 30% of the diary because of comments Anne made about her mother and other's in hiding with the family, and because of some of her sexual thoughts. The 50th Anniversary Edition publication contains the entire diary and is the edition used by the Culpepper County Schools. The passage objected to?

"There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!"
 Seriously. Have these people actually read their Old Testament? Or when they say The Bible, do they mean the modern versions of the New Testament with Jesus's words printed in red? One of the most sexually explicit books around is The Bible if anyone took the time to read it.

Another example of parents believing that they can direct the thoughts of their children by limiting their exposure to ideas. Do they think their children have never heard the word vagina? Do not know where babies come from or how by the time they are in 8th grade (the grade this book was assigned)?

A partial list of other books that have been banned in this country include:

To protect the children:
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman because it talks about the necessity of not following religion blindly which some have seen as anti-religion. Umm, okay. Freedom of speech anyone?
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding because it contains violence, language, and struggle for good and evil and forces us to examine human nature and its faults. Again. 1st Amendment, and why exactly is self-reflection a bad thing?
  • Lady Chatterly's Lover by DH Lawrence because of adultery
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald because of sex and language
Religion and Politics:
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck actually because it made the growers look bad
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin because it was anti-slavery
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift because among other things, it was ultimately anti-colonization
Race and Gender:
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because of racism, language, and the rape scene although it is really because of Lee's highlighting the racism of her time in order to change it (I read this for the first time at age 7 and had no trouble understanding all the 'complex' issues
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott because some see the one character with a feminist perspective punished by marriage to an older man
  • Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship but is censored because of language, they say.

In a country where the radical right trumpets the Constitution, it's interesting how easily they are able to ignore it.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Senator Judd Gregg - Bully. And Now by Executive Order on Fiscal Commission.

This is the man who proposed the Fiscal Commission that President Obama has signed an Executive Order to establish after the Senate blocked a bill that would have created it. A more dishonest and offensive man would be difficult to find, and that's saying something for Congress.

From Crooks and Liars.

A portion of the transcript:

Contessa Brewer: So my partner Melissa, Senator Greg, is really asking for specifics. If you don't believe that we should have a 1.3 trillion dollar budget, which programs are you willing to cut. Are you willing to tell schools, no money for you? And do you side then with those who say, when you look back at the great depression, economists say that we landed back into real problems in 1937 when people got onto cutting the deficit and a lot of government spending was pulled back before it should have been?

Gregg: Well first off, nobody is saying no money for schools. What an absurd statement to make. What a dishonest statement to make. On its face you are being fundamentally dishonest when you make that type of statement.

Brewer: We're just asking which programs you would cut

Francis: tell us what to cut...


Brewer: Senator, you're going to be asked to cut certain programs if you're on the Senate banking committee. Which programs would you want to cut?

Gregg: Oh I have no problems telling you. I would freeze discretionary spending. A real freeze, not a freeze plus inflation. I would eliminate the TARP money which would get us close to 400 billion dollars. I would end the stimulus spending effective in June of this year, if not sooner, so we can recover all the money that's going to be spent outside the window of this recession and we shouldn't be spending it adding it to the debt. I would take a major effort to try to reform our entitlement programs. In fact we had a major vote yesterday to try to do that under a bill which I've proposed with Senator Conrad.

So I've made some very specific proposals and I'm willing to stand by them. The problem is that this administration's view of governance is that economic prosperity is created by growing the government dramatically and then it gets misrepresented by people like yourself who are saying that if you do any of this stuff you are going to end up not funding education. That statement alone is the most irresponsible statement I've heard probably in a month.

Brewer: it wasn't a statement, it was a question...

Gregg: And there are a lot of irresponsible statements made by reporters and that was the most irresponsible I've heard.

Francis: Senator, with respect, that's not what she said, she was asking you what you would like to cut ..

Gregg: That's exactly what she said! Go back and read your transcript.

Brewer: thank you for your time, Senator ...

Gregg: You can't be duplicitous about this! You can't make a representation and then claim you didn't make it. You've got to have some integrity on your side of this camera too.

Francis: She asked you what you would like to cut, she asked you if you would cut schools. You said no.

Gregg: You're suggesting we should have a zero in education. Well of course, nobody's suggesting that. Nobody's even implying that. But in your introduction to me you said that. That education funding would be cut. Well, education funding isn't going to be cut.

Brewer: Well Senator, I'm sorry for any communication problems that we've had, but as always, we appreciate your time ...

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

In Remembrance on the Anniversary of the Challenger - A Moment of Zen

On the anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, a moment of zen. h/t @dceiver

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More on SOTU. Still Looking for the Impossible.

It was, truly, a good speech. I did not agree with everything the President said nor did I agree with everything that he proposed. I am glad that he finally emphasized the condition that the country and the economy was in when he took office, and I am glad that he discussed some of the accomplishments and successes of his presidency to date, and I am delighted that he pointed out the responsibility of the Republican Party for holding up legislation essential to this country.

I am disappointed that he appeared to pander to the right by suggesting off-shore oil drilling and clean coal (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) rather than emphasizing alternative energy solutions. He deserved the laughter from both sides of the aisle when he said that:
"...we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions." 
But he completely lost me when he suggested a partial freeze on government spending. Everyone knows that you do not freeze spending during a recession and saying that:
"...I know that some in my own party will argue that we cannot address the deficit or freeze government spending when so many are still hurting.  I agree, which is why this freeze will not take effect until next year, when the economy is stronger. "
I'm sorry, I would love to think that the economy will be strong enough in one year to handle addressing the deficit, but I do not think it will.

The real kicker for me, however, was his continued quest for bipartisanship. In various media appearances leading up to and since the SOTU, White House officials have said that now that the Republicans have 41 votes in the Senate, they have to work with the Democrats. They can no longer be obstructionist because they now bear some responsibility for what happens in Washington.

In an interview today, David Axelrod said:
"They [Republicans] either work with us or they have to pay the price for working against us."
WTF? What price? Later in the same interview, as reported by Ezra Klein at the Washington Post, he said that:
"If they want to block everything, they will be held to account." 
He also said that:
"We are going to very visibly seek their support moving forward, and we will shine a bright light on them when they don't."

Excuse me. Pay the price? Held to account? Shine a bright light? This from the administration of the President who in his speech last night also said:

"...Look, I am not interested in punishing banks, I’m interested in protecting our economy.  A strong, healthy financial market makes it possible for businesses to access credit and create new jobs.  It channels the savings of families into investments that raise incomes.  But that can only happen if we guard against the same recklessness that nearly brought down our entire economy."

The President's entire economic team was a part of the Wall Street culture that created the mess we are in. He spoke of "a small fee" to recoup some of what bailing out the banks cost this country, but the CEO's and other executives remain on Wall Street. Bernanke was just approved for another term. Geitner is his Secretary of the Treasury. The SEC has no teeth, no one has been charged with a crime, levied a fine, or forfeited their Hamptom estate.

Accountability? In discussing defense and security, he says that since 9/11 we have lost the sense of unity that we shared, saying that:

"...I am not interested in re-litigating the past.  I know that all of us love this country. All of us are committed to its defense. So let’s put aside the schoolyard taunts about who is tough.  Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values.  Let’s leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future – for America and the world."
Why on earth would anyone care about paying the price, being held to account, or having a bright light shone on them? Torture and other war crimes, assassination squads, unlawful detainment, unlawful wiretapping, kidnapping, and on and on and no one has been held to account. We are to move forward.

We don't get to pick and choose rules to abide by, what laws to follow. We don't get to decide whether or not we like how our taxes are spent and thus whether or not to pay them. We don't get to decide which tasks or chores we will or will not do while at work, but apparently political officials do. That being the case, why would members of the Republican Party reach across the aisle when, according to a Pew Poll released today--as reported by Ezra:
"...only 26% of Americans could correctly identify 60 votes as the numbers needed to break a filibuster. Another 25% thought 51 votes was sufficient, and 37% had no idea.
Similarly, 39% of Americans have no idea how many Republicans voted for health-care reform. Only 32% know that zero Republicans voted for health-care reform, at least in the Senate. For that matter, only 39% of Americans know who Harry Reid is."
If most of the country has no idea or interest who is responsible for what is going on and sees only who is currently in office, then the Republican Party has no incentive to work with the President and in fact, has every reason to continue obstructing his efforts and ensuring that the country continues on a downward spiral not only until the mid-terms, but through 2012 as well.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The State Of The Union Speech

A little something for everyone. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. My first impressions.
  • No handouts for the Republicans to wave (or many Blackberries)
  • Recognition that he could have done better on some things (Bush still doesn't think he made any mistakes)
  • Frequent references to inheriting the deficit, two wars, an economy in shambles
  • Reminded everyone that TARP was a Bush program
  • He (finally) listed his accomplishments in a meaningful way
  • Calling out the Republicans for their obstructionism, name-calling, and other tactics
  • Calling out the pundits for focusing on negative trivia rather than issues
  • Calling out the Democrats for giving up when they lost Massachusetts reminding them that we still have one of the largest majorities in history)
  • Promise to repeal DADT (loved the looks on the faces of the generals)
  • Calling on Congress to enact legislation reigning in the banks and lobbyists
  • Criticizing the Supremes for their decision on Citizen's United (what was up with Alito? very inappropriate to comment like that, saying "not true" during the speech)
  • Calling for a spending freeze - bad idea (basic economics say to avert a depression takes government infusions of cash, not trying to pay down the deficit, just think Hoover) plus, why protect defense? we are supposedly drawing down on two wars - why is that line item sacrosanct?
  • Seating arrangements (Nelson & Lieberman, what a pairing)
  • Real emotion, finally
  • Needs to give up his quest for bipartisanship - just is not going to happen and he is alone in wanting it
  • And the Republican response. How many times did he say "All Americans ..."  I think he prefaced every remark with that phrase - really tiresome
More thoughts to come
Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Update. It's Not Looting. It's Survival.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Thanks to BagNewsNotes for this post which speaks to the issue of looting vs. survival a lot better than my earlier post.
Several recent newscasts and newspaper articles have noted how many tent-cities have sprung up and how the Haitians have such a calm and civil society. Many have commented on how patiently they have waited for help--many speaking in wonder at how long the people waited for aid to arrive without resorting to violence in the streets and when violence occurred, how minimal it was. There has been much said at the orderly construction of these tent-cities and the industry of the Haitian people as they create order out of disaster--even though the problem of looting still exists they say.

Exactly where do they think the materials for these tent cities came from? Again people. It is not looting. It is survival.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Merriam-Webster Dictionary Banned in Menifee, California Schools

Remarkable. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Collegiate Edition, has been banned by the Menifee School District in Menifee, California. Why you say? Evidently, a child discovered a reference to the phrase "oral sex" and his or her parent/s complained according to the Riverside County Press Enterprise. No discussion, no vote, not even any contact with the school board. All copies of the dictionary were pulled off the shelves and:
"A memo from the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction this week called the Merriam-Webster dictionary a respected resource but noted district officials found that "a number of referenced words are age-inappropriate."
Evidently a committee is being formed to review the situation and:
"determine the extent to which the challenged material supports curriculum, the educational appropriateness of the material and its suitability to the age level of the students," according to school district policy." 
A number of years ago, the State of Washington introduced a new, and mandatory, AIDS curriculum at the middle-school level. Parents could waive the participation of their children, but in order to do so, the parent/s were required to review the materials first. Being new in town and also eager to see how the subject was to be handled, I attended the parent session. It was conducted just as it would be taught to our children and I thought, very well done. After the class, we were divided into small discussion groups and I had my first experience of small-town small-mindedness and bigotry. This is not to say that this mind-set would not have existed in the big city from which we had come, but if so, I had not yet experienced it directly.

I was appalled to discover how many parents truly believed that if their children did not know something existed, then their was no danger of their being affected by it. If children did not know that such a thing as homosexuality existed, then, there was no risk that they would ever engage in homosexual behavior (these were people who could not conceive of homosexuality as a state of being rather than a behavior). If children did not know about sexuality, then they would not be sexual. If they were taught about birth control, then that was permission to engage in sexual activity. When I made a comment about critical thinking--along the lines of wanting my children to have as much information as possible so that they could think critically and make up their own minds about things, one of the mothers said "I don't want my children to think critically. We tell them what to think and what to believe." And all the other parents nodded and agreed. I laughed, thinking they were joking. But they were not.

This decision in Menifee has gotten little attention and upon learning about it, very few parents objected. Dictionaries are used to look things up, meaning that if a child has not first heard the word or phrase, it is not likely they would go to the dictionary to find its meaning, and, with all the computers available in the schools (and most homes), a simple search would provide a much more in-depth response (with images) and faster than any dictionary could provide.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's Not the Democrats Fault. Or the President's Fault. It's the Media. Still.

Okay. To continue piling on the media, who is so deserving, here is a short post from Bob Cesca:

"On Morning Joe just now, Tom Brokaw was complaining that Americans don't know what's in the healthcare reform bill. Scarborough laughing the background. As if this is the fault of the Democrats and the president.
You know what, Mr. Brokaw? This is your fault, sir. You and your colleagues.
The television news media has a responsibility to explain policy and, specifically, this legislation to the American people, and the television news media has failed in lieu of the Letterman and Tiger Woods underpants party. The television news media has failed in lieu of manufacturing "smackdown" drama. The television news media has failed on so many levels to deliver the readily available details of healthcare reform to the American viewing public.
So when you guys sit around and bullshit about how people don't know anything about policy, don't blame anyone but yourselves."
Normally I just excerpt, but this is short, to the point, and I couldn't say it any better.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Racist Media Coverage of Haiti Continues. Some History & Taibblog Analyzes Brooks

I've already discussed some of the racism that has occurred in the news coverage of the crisis in Haiti here. There has been a slight amount of push-back against the more virulent words of Limbaugh and others, but what is creeping into the media--tolerated no doubt by the racism that has been rising since the nomination of Barack Obama--is a subtle form of racism couched in terms of economics and caused, as usual, by ignorance.
A google search this morning returned 2 million hits using the keywords Haiti coverage racism, telling me that 1) it is a subject written about at length, and 2) a subject of concern to many. What is unfortunate, is that in 2010, the hits returned listed media from the major broadcast and cable networks, print, and other sources ranked highly enough to appear on the first few pages returned.

Very few Americans know the history of Haiti. They do not know that Haiti is the only country in which the slaves freed themselves, declaring themselves a free nation. At the time, Thomas Jefferson was President and had a secret deal with Napolean, who unknown to Jefferson, planned to establish a French Empire in the "New World" with a base in New Orleans to spread west off the Mississippi. With the loss of Haiti and decimation of his troops, Napolean eventually sold his territories and the "Louisiana Purchase" allowed the United States to double in size and eventually to spread west to the Pacific Ocean and deny France a foothold in the western hemisphere.

Angered at the actions of the Haitian slaves and afraid that the rebellion would move to American slaves, Jefferson embarked on a political and economic embargo that lasted until President Lincoln established diplomatic relations with Haiti forty years later. The murder of their first leader and political infighting within Haiti led to political instability within the new country. This upheaval and the economic chaos caused by the embargo began a pattern of political violence that lasted until recently. The reason for the poverty? The French demanded, and received, reparations for the loss of their sugar plantations after the slaves revolted and freed themselves (never mind such things as wages never paid). Twenty-one billion dollars was paid to France between 1925 and 1946. Troops from Great Britain, Canada, and the U.S. ensured that this money was paid and have remained ever since. The power-brokers in Washington maintained connections with the light-skinned elite in Haiti enabling George Bush the Senior and George Bush the Junior both to oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide both times he was elected by large margins in national elections. His presidency did not suit the Republican agenda in Washington, as it was Aristide that demanded the money be returned by France in reparation for Haiti's poverty.

So, America owes a big debt to Haiti. Even if we did not, this is a country that has just experienced a disaster of a magnitude that has been mentioned as one of the ten greatest since records have been kept. It is still unknown how many people have died and it said that it is not clear that we will ever know.

At Media Matters, their ongoing monitoring of the media shows that on January 13, Fox News top three rated shows, O'Reilly, Hannity, and Beck spent a combined total of 7 minutes on earthquake coverage compared to over two hours for Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews. 

It was Rush Limbaugh who claimed that President Obama's suggestion that we turn 9/11 into a national day of service was a "left-wing political belief," and has mocked Fox News Shepphard Smith coverage of Hurricane Katrina (Smith being the one reporter on Fox who appears to have some decency left and the ability to occassionally defy his corporate masters).

Then, comes a column by David Brooks in the New York Times. Analyzed by Matt Taibbi here, I cannot even begin to come close to the quality of work Matt has done, so I won't try. As summarized in Taibbi's introduction, the Brooks article illustrates how:

"Not many writers would have the courage to use a tragic event like a 50,000-fatality earthquake to volubly address the problem of nonwhite laziness and why it sometimes makes natural disasters seem timely, but then again, David Brooks isn’t just any writer."
Poverty isn't caused by race, or class, or national origin. Poverty cannot be erased by throwing money at the problem, or building factories (read sweatshops) as was tried in the 1980's and 1990's. When the Haitian people demanded higher wages, saying they could not live on $1 per day, Disney, among others, packed up their factories and moved to China. Poverty ends when those in poverty are given the means to end their situation on their own. 

Yes, money, but also opportunity. Build the factories, but pay decent wages. Help them re-build, but teach them how to build earthquake-safe buildings and provide some of the materials to do so. Educate them in reforestation techniques and send teams to work with them to do so. Don't take over the airport or the rebuilding, but collaborate with them. Instead of saying they have nothing and not government, take what they have and ask what they want and build on it. Don't patronize them as David Brooks has done. Learn the lessons of colonialism and understand that ensure that this rebuilding effort--and that of Iraq and Afghanistan while we're at it--are not perceived as such.

When people such as David Brooks talk about the futility of aid, he ignores the responsibility this country has for creating the situations that caused the poverty in the first place. Their situation has nothing to do with the color of their skin. Their is nothing inherently different about the drive or motivation of one person from another except perhaps that if you live in a home where your parents and their parents and all of your cousins, and neighbors, and classmates go to college and have good jobs and can expect certain things out of life, then you probably have the kind of environment in which you can learn. If you have proper nutrition, good medical care, annual dental visits, a safe place to sleep, time to play and exercise instead of having to work or care for siblings while parents work, or scavenge for food every day, then when you go to school, you are better able to pay attention and learn and retain and recall information. 

Just as an example, a study by Hart and Risely (1995, 1999) found that by the age of 3, parents with a professional background had used over 30 million words when talking to their children, while parents with low-incomes had used on average 10 million words. Other studies have found a definite correlation between high linguistic ability early in life with success in school. From a sociologist's standpoint, we also know that when the parents support learning, when the parents read and have books or magazines in the home and read to their children or even when the children observe their parents reading, it reinforces the behavior which translates to improved performance in school. Translated to 3rd world countries, to Haiti, poverty goes far beyond race. 

And before people bitch too loudly about the money spent on Haiti (which I personally think is too little), according to Kiilu Nyashu at OpEd News,
"...Obama threw a party that cost $50 million more than he's sending to Haiti. Yup! He spent $150 million on his Inaugural Ball. We also learned the following:

Top U.S. Firms are on pace to award $148.85 Billion in payouts for 2009, according to a Wall Street Journal Study. Billions with a B!

You can also buy a Beverly Hills mansion, a yacht, or a painting for more than the relatively meager sum Obama is donating. Obviously, we cannot rely on this government to do the right thing by Haitians in their hour of need. It never has."

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Looting? No, Survival. Calling it Looting is Racism.

Spouse was watching ABC News this morning where they reported a completely different set of numbers than those I heard on MSNBC last night, and a totally different slant on the story than that told by the NBC reporters on the ground.

Appalling to me, was that last night, I was told that many of the Haitians were scrambling through the wreckage, focusing on collapsed hotels and grocery stores, knowing that these were the most likely sources of food and water. This is a country that had been in desparate straights prior to the earthquake and as one reporter said, is now, "prostrate." The reporter talking about the survival measures being taken by these Haitians talked about the frustration he felt at seeing the mountains of supplies at the airport that had been there for two days, and the need of the people on the streets who were perfectly aware of what the planes landing were carrying. In the heat, water was essential. People were dying of minor wounds because of its lack. He said that people in Port-Au-Prince bought their food each day because of their poverty and the lack of facilities to keep food properly, so either the earthquake destroyed what supplies they had, or they had none to begin with.

On ABC News this morning, the reporter talked of looting. She stood before a city that was nothing more than a pile of rubble and talked of looting. Do you know what I think of when I think of looting? Images of the inner city of Los Angeles and African-Americans filmed from helicopters as they carried television sets out of storefronts with smashed windows. Images of New Orleans after Katrina when survivors (predominantly African-American) trying to survive after "Heck of a job, Brownie" did such a good job of getting them clean water and food, tried to find their own. Funny, we don't see a lot of images of whites cleaning out grocery stores.

What are these Haitians doing? Surviving. Not looting. This is one of the poorest nations on earth. It is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Unfortunately, this image above was shown on MSNBC and depicts young, black men fighting over food. Not all shows on the MSM are equal after all. Presenting this story as looting is racism. Presenting images of young, black men fighting, or marching in the streets carrying machetes as I saw earlier accomplishes what exactly? Raising fear of young black men. Young men who are simply trying to survive, doing what you or I or anyone would do if our world collapsed around us. It has been noted, repeatedly, how civil is the society of Haiti that 3 and 4 days after this disaster.

Check out Bag News Notes for a good discussion of images of the day.

Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to make your donation to one of the organizations providing help to Haiti. They are many. Come back soon.

Game Change? Consider the Source

While we have all enjoyed hearing about or reading the juicy tidbits available from the recently released "Game Change" by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, there are a couple of points to keep in mind.

They state, both in the book and in interviews, that their sources were told that they were being interviewed "on deep background" which means that they likely felt free to talk quite freely, knowing that their anonymity would be protected. The authors also relied on emails and other documents to create a book that relies on their access to political insiders, their knowledge of Washington politics, and their own perceptions of the people they wrote about. To quote the New York Times, the authors used a technique similar to that of Bob Woodward of Watergate fame " create a novelistic narrative that often reflects the views of the authors’ most cooperative or voluble sources."

It's interesting that what is probably the most racially charged statement that Harry Reid ever made is one of the few quotes actually attributed in the book. Curious. This does not speak very well of the author's honesty in promising their sources anonymity and then naming names--which I can only imagine is to generate more media attention (and sales). Sources named are 'lieutenants, or senior most lieutenants, or aides.

It is also important to remember that although the author of TIME's "The Note," Halperin is not considered the brightest light amongst the Villagers. As political director for ABC News, he famously directed staff not to "reflexively hold both sides 'equally' accountable" and that both sides used "distortions" in their campaigns during the 2004 Presidential campaign. The Republicans used this statement to emphasize their charge of media bias and minimized the distinction between the missteps made by the Kerry campaign and the blatant falsehoods of the Bush team.

As a political analyst, Halperin is also well-known for his inability to understand political trends. He wrote that Richard Lugar would definitely be Obama's running mate (the post mysteriously disappeared), that McCain's "housegate" would hurt Obama more than McCain, that McCain came out on top for the week of the initial economic crisis (even Bush was appalled when McCain demanded a White House meeting to discuss the situation - remember? I'm putting my campaign on hold ... - then had nothing to say during the entire 45-minute meeting). Halperin also expressed disgust with the media coverage of the campaign, stating that it was obviously biased in favor of the Democrats and Obama when statistics show that coverage was on average 3 to 1 Republican (number of times MSM mentioned/showed clips of say Limbaugh or Arianna Huffington as an example). David Plouffe is quoted as saying, "If Politico and Halperin say we're winning, we're losing." Obviously a reliable analyst I'm sure.

So, here is a man who is clearly not an unbiased party writing a book that is hearsay gossip. The authors were not present for conversations that they relate. The book is based on mostly credible sources and I am sure that it is, overall, a reasonable representation of the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Do I believe all the details presented, however? Of course not. If you listen to Fox News, you can see Gretchen Carlson bouncing up and down, joyfully recounting passages detailing dirt about John and Elizabeth Edwards or Bill and Hillary Clinton. Switch over to MSNBC or read one of the progressive blogs, and the focus switches to Sarah Palin or John McCain.

The authors call this "Game Change." It is written as the story of the personal side of the 2008 campaign, and contains the accounts of what sound like bitter, discontented people. As someone who studies human behavior and works with people to help change that behavior, I can say that those most likely to speak freely to authors writing a book of this type are those with negative experiences and feelings to relate. Someone left with a positive reaction is less likely to have anything juicy to share.

My recommendation? Enjoy the novel. Consider the source.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Halperin Blows Obama VP Story
The Note Scorecard

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rush Limbaugh Demeans Military. Glenn Beck Piles On.

Digby has a great post about Rush Limbaugh, saying that his comments slamming aid to Haiti are actually demeaning the military and a military mission. Calling their current endeavor "Meals on Wheels" is a great thing for the soldiers to have to listen to on Armed Forces Radio. Great for morale.

Digby also adds that Glenn Beck has chimed in, equating the disaster in Haiti with the Fort Hood shooting. Beck said:

"I also believe this is dividing the nation…to where the nation sees him react so rapidly on Haiti and yet he couldn’t react rapidly on Afghanistan. He couldn’t react rapidly on Ft. Hood. He couldn’t react rapidly on our own airplanes with an underwear bomber…it doesn’t make sense. [...] Three different events and Haiti is the only one. I think personally that it deepens the divide to see him react this rapidly to Haiti."
 Let's see.  Afghanistan. Obama did exactly what he said during his campaign that he was going to do. He took time to deliberate his options and weigh the ramifications of the various courses of action presented to him. The GOPhers got upset because 1) Obama is a Democrat, 2) he did not instantly do what the generals wanted, and 3) he considered the costs of what was being asked of him. Unlike Bush, Obama actually include war spending in his budget which is why his budget figures looked so bad. General McCrystal verged on insubordination by releasing a confidential report as a way to force Obama to give him what he wanted, but what the GOPhers forget, is that Obama has to think about 2 wars, recruitment, other hot spots in the world, and all the other ways the military is used (disaster relief anyone?). McCrystal is concerned only with Afghanistan. That was made abundantly clear.

Fort Hood. I seem to recall hearing from the White House pretty quickly. I don't think I turned on my stopwatch, but who cares? I know that if Obama is sitting in a classroom reading to a class and someone flies a plane into a building, he probably won't continue reading the story, nor allow his wife to sit in the Situation Room and participate in the decision making while he flies off to an undisclosed location (Cheney).  I know that it took  Bush 6 days to respond to Richard Reid, the Shoe Bomber which is the equivalent situation to the Christmas Day Bomber.

Now, a truly equivalent situation for comparison? How about Hurricane Katrina? Remember "Good job, Brownie?" Remember how long it took for Bush to take action? Remember how long it took for New Orleans to be rebuilt? What was that? Oh right. We're still waiting.

Of course, Beck is the man who called the 9/11 families and the Katrina survivors scumbags. Very compassionate. We all know that there is no comparison, no equivalency. If Obama had an (R) after his name, he would be hailed as a savior for his actions in Haiti. It does not matter what he does or does not do. Limbaugh and Beck will only attack and smear.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Frum on Beck-Palin Conversation

David Frum,  made a very important observation regarding the hour-long love-fest between Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin yesterday. [emphasis added]

"Republicans used to be the daddy party – the party of responsibility, of rules, of the hard truths of life. Yet these two pre-eminently visible spokespersons for conservatism and Republicanism talked for a full hour about their … feelings. They talked about trust and betrayal, they talked about wounds and hurt, they talked about spirituality and even relationships. But they pronounced scarcely a word about any external reality: war, recession, the long-term prospects for the country. It was like a scene from a Marin County fern bar in 1977."

Neo-populism on the right not only has the appearance of ignorance, it is ignorant. In the past, populists tried only to appear unintelligent to their followers but were actually quite well-educated and intelligent. Today? It is all in God's hands. Intelligence is a flaw.

Truly frightening.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doctors Without Borders Sans Frontieres Operates One of Only Free Trauma Centers in Haiti

Please consider donating to Doctors Without Borders/Sans Frotieres which operates one of the only free trauma centers in Port-au-Prince as well as an emergency hospital in the capital for pregnant women, new mothers, and newborn children. All three of its primary medical centers have collapsed, but DWB/MSF has already set up temporary shelters and is offering emergency care on the ground. For more info on their work in Haiti, please go here.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Magnitude 7.0 Earthquake in Haiti

 photo courtesy Al Jazeera

Haiti was struck today by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Communications are difficult as power has been disrupted. According to Jonathan Katz at Huffington Post,

"Alain Le Roy, the U.N. peacekeeping chief in New York, said late Tuesday that the headquarters of the 9,000-member Haiti peacekeeping mission and other U.N. installations were seriously damaged."

"Contacts with the U.N. on the ground have been severely hampered," Le Roy said in a statement, adding: "For the moment, a large number of personnel remain unaccounted for."

"Felix Augustin, Haiti's consul general in New York, said a portion of the National Palace had disintegrated."

This earthquake is the strongest since 1770 and was centered approximately 10 miles from Port-Au-Prince at a depth of 5 miles. Schools and hospitals were most seriously affected as they are the largest, multi-level buildings.

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic reports that sources "in the know" told him that it was "catastrophe upon a catastrophe."

As one of the poorest countries, this country is especially devastated by any kind of natural disaster and one of this magnitude will be especially hard-hitting and needing all of our help.

As more information becomes available, I will post it.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

12% of Incarcerated Youth Raped

I'm a certified victim advocate and work with criminal justice clients, so feel somewhat qualified to comment on this subject. Crooks and Liars has a post up today discussing a report released yesterday by the Dept. of Justice stating that 12% of juveniles in custody in this country are raped or sexually abused by other inmates or staff.

My initial response upon reading this was shock. Not that 12% were reported to be sexually assaulted (and remember, there is no consensual sexual contact between juveniles and staff members or any adult for that matter), but that the number is so low. Considering that in the general population only 1 in 6 rapes (conservatively) are reported, and knowing what I do about the ability of inmates to report abuse, I would estimate that the number is significantly higher.

The report said,

"These figures are appalling," said Pat Nolan, president of Justice Fellowship, a group that advocates for prison reform. "We stripped a prisoner of their ability to defend themselves. They can't control where they go; they can't control whether the shower has a light bulb in it."


"Nearly seven years ago, Congress passed a law designed to reduce prison rape, establishing a commission to develop standards for state and federal prison leaders. Lawmakers said funding could be cut for prisons that failed to comply with the guidelines."

What is striking in this report, is that Congress passed legislation seven  years ago establishing this commission and linking correctional dollars to adherence to compliance with new guidelines--and this report comes out now. Guess who was in office when this legislation was passed? Guess who will get blamed for the results of this report? Our culture demands retribution rather than rehabilitation, then cuts funding to the correctional system. Our incarcerated juveniles and adults receive no services to speak of, guards are overworked and underpaid, and these blue-ribbon commissions take seven years to determine that juveniles are not safe in custody. Ya think?

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Bob Cesca's Terrorist Attacks and Presidents

With all the chatter this week about the desire by some to return to the "good old days" of the Bush Administration when there were no terrorist attacks (!?!), Bob Cesca has compiled an excellent set of graphs showing the number of terrorist attacks, fatalities from those attacks, during the terms of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. The criteria that he used when gathering data was:

  • Domestic (Abortion clinic attacks, Oklahoma City, Unabomber, Anthrax)
  • Domestic Islamic (9/11, WTC 1993, Beltway Snipers)
  • Overseas Islamic (Iraq, Afghanistan, USS Cole, Embassy Bombings)
  • Known Failed Attempts (Shoe Bomber, Underpants Bomber)
  • Overseas Attacks Against U.S. Allies (London, Madrid).

Realizing that these graphs include numbers for two presidents who both held office for two terms, while Obama has been in office for only one year, this final graph is of Presidents Clinton and Bush only. He also removed data for domestic attacks for abortion, failed attacks, and those that occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So. What was that you were saying about being safer during the Bush Administration? For a more thorough explanation of these graphs and numbers, go here.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fox Covers for Steel by Re-Writing Transcripts. Now, What About the Video?

I heard on Tuesday, RNC head Michael Steele, in an interview with Sean Hannity, promise "Honest Injun!" at the conclusion of his remarks. At the time, I shook my head thinking, "there he goes again" and wondered how this man manages to keep his job or get anything done with his feet so firmly lodged in his mouth.

The usual firestorm ensued, with Steele exhibiting his usual deer in the headlights manner as he looked around saying, "What? What did I say?" According to Jason Linkins at Huffington Post, Rep. Dale Kildee (D - Mich), Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus demanded an apology.

Did Steele man up and say "I'm sorry?" Of course not. That would entail taking personal responsibility and acknowledge making a mistake. Remember, this is a Republican. Instead, Fox News, where the interview took place, re-wrote the transcript. Easy! Honest Injun is now Honest Engine! See? Make a verbal flub, Freudian slip, or other gaffe, and just have the relevant news organization re-write the transcript! 

Forget all those inconvenient video clips and other news reports. Forget all the people who watched the interview and heard him clearly say "Honest Injun." We all know that the "official" transcript is what rules, and if Fox News says he said "Honest Engine" then that's what he said.

Funnily enough, someone even made a recent entry (seriously, May 2007? I don't think so) into the Urban Dictionary listing the phrase Honest Engine as having the exact same definition as Honest Injun.

Imagine that.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Another Chapter in Serial Stupidity. Cokie Roberts of NPR

My uber-educated, liberal-elite family with whom I spent much of the holidays was appalled to discover that I no longer listen to NPR and left the room rather than watch Ray Suarez on PBS one evening. Knowing how progressive I am, they could not understand why I would not want to watch or listen to the only liberal media available. Liberal? I think not.

The pundits on public television and radio are as firmly entrenched in the village as are those on the major networks and cable channels. They interview each other, socialize with each other, and rotate in and out of government service, journalistic positions, and think tanks with the changing of administrations and corporate ownership of media. Ray Suarez, for example, can more often be seen on Fox News as a champion GOPher whose contract states that Fox can no longer identify him as being with NPR (they, NPR, were embarrassed to be associated with his views as stated on Fox). While his reporting for NPR may be excellent, I cannot watch it without doubting every word he says, knowing what his own personal views are on the subject. Granted, every journalist and pundit has an opinion, but a good reporter keeps it to him or herself. For a journalist to be a pundit, and an extremely biased, conservative one at that, on one network, and attempt to be an unbiased reporter on another, makes all he or she reports suspect. I do not think one can be both.

A classic example is Cokie Roberts on NPR recently discussing the recent attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day and the ramifications for the president. She stated that,

"Well, it's always politically difficult for Democrats when they are dealing with an issue like terrorism. It remained the Republican's only winning issue through most of President Bush's second term, and it's a particular problem for a Democrat who hasn't served in the military. But the policy problem is that it takes up a great deal of the administration's time, and will from here on out - particularly when the Senate Intelligence Committee starts hearings in a couple of weeks." [h/t Crooks and Liars]

Hello? Did I miss something? When was President Bush in the military? Vice-President Cheney? Secretary Rice? Oh right. Bush was in the National Guard for a few minutes, although the records show that he was absent more often than not and received his plum spot because of his last name rather than ability. Cheney managed five deferments and his obvious fears for his personal safety were evident in that and his behavior on 9/11 and thereafter. Republicans are very, very good at sending poor young men into combat and their own to officers' training school where they can avoid danger. Democrats who served honorably and earn medals (Kerry?) are smeared.

Democrats prefer a party of imclusion, reaching consensus, accommodation, and policies of social justice, so therefore are perceived as weak. Republicans are a party of "I got mine, screw you" and therefore are perceived as strong (by whom, I wonder?). The American ideal of pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps implies that anyone who does not is a failure (that good old Calvinist work ethic again). This ignores the fact that for over 200 years, a very heavy boot remained on the neck of many, many men and all of the women, ensuring that they had no bootstrap to pull.

Waving a magic wand and saying "it's all good now" does not instantly create the back-room networks available to all the good old boys, or change the mindset of the Cokie Roberts of the world that Democrats, especially those who did not serve in the military, are somehow incapable of responding to terrorist or other threats. If President Obama were to have an (R) beside his name, would he then be capable? Is his lack of service any different than Cheney's or Bush's? Or all the other members of Congress who did not serve but yet enact law and set policy?

Did any of these pundits comment on Bush or Cheney's lack of military experience after 9/11? When they planned to go to war? Ever? I didn't think so. So why do we listen and give credence to them now when they attack Obama's lack of military experience as a problem when dealing with terrorists?

What is particularly telling in this statement by Roberts, is her comment that "...the policy problem is that it [terrorism] takes up a great deal of the administration's time." Umm. That's a problem? Isn't terrorism one of the biggest issues facing our country today? We have the economy, global warming, healthcare, and the sub-issues under the economy of jobs, banking reform, and re-regulating some of the areas de-regulated under Reagan and Bush, but still, terrorism and the two wars begun because of terrorism would seem to me to be at the top of the list of important policy issues. Perhaps if Bush and company had spent a little more time on the policy problem of terrorism, President Obama wouldn't have to spend so much of the current administration's time on an issue that Ms. Roberts feels he is so unsuited for.

The Villagers are truly idiots, reporting on serial stupidity. We somehow continue to chant the mantra that NPR and PBS are liberal bastions of the media elite when in fact they are as conservatively biased as the network and cable pundits to whose village club they belong.

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Moment of Zen - Kseniya Simonova Sand Painting. Enjoy.

This creation won Kseniya Simonova the top prize in the 2009 "Ukraine's Got Talent." Having lost her business during the 2001 credit crisis, she began making sand drawings less than a year prior to entering the competition. A friend sent me the video and while the artistic aspect is amazing, her message is equally important during this time of war.

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