Friday, March 26, 2010

Facebook, Family, and Politics.

I have a Facebook page which I use periodically, primarily to stay in touch with extended family, out of town friends, and classmates from college. My immediate family is spread across the country and it is nice to see the occasional picture and update on my Facebook page, although none of us are active Facebook users. I am struck as I see this collection of people with a connection to me gathered together on one page and catch a glimpse into their lives and discover facets of their personalities that I might never have discovered had it not been for Facebook. Were all my "friends" to friend (and isn't it amazing that friend has now become a verb?) each other, the Tea Parties of August would be nothing compared to the excitement of my own Facebook page.

I am fascinated by those who seek to gather new friends to their Facebook pages. Some are very protective - with reason in many cases - and are very careful how they use their Facebook page and who they allow to be their "friend." Others friend indiscriminately and accept every suggested friend that comes along. If someone is a friend of someone already on your Friend List, than it makes sense - some say - to friend them yourself. If they are a friend of your friend, then of course they will be a friend of yours. Right? That is what I am finding fascinating about my Facebook page.

It is important that we not insulate ourselves from new ideas and experiences and I have often argued with those who limit themselves to one information source and call themselves informed, but at the same time, there are some places where you do not want to be exposed to ideas and comments you find offensive or just irritating. On Facebook, if you want to debate ideas, you can join a group or become a fan of an organization and engage in debate to your heart's content. There are polls (usually ridiculously worded so that there is no logical answer possible) and quizzes, but for me at least, and many of my friends and family, Facebook is where we go periodically to touch base, find out what's up, and post a picture or video clip, but keep it mellow and friendly. Sort of like family dinner: you may not all agree, but you leave the arguments for later.

But, there's always that one aunt, or cousin, or wacky friend who has a different idea. The one who whenever they post a video clip or comment, your blood pressure rises and you have to bite your tongue not to fire back, because if you did, the next actual family dinner would be civil war and the phone lines would be burning. And it's fascinating, because if they could see all the pages of all the people on my friend list, not just the list itself, their vision of me and my world - which they imagine to be the same as their world - would implode.

Some in my extended family want America to return to "the good old days" and wave the Constitution (and attend Tea Parties), not really understanding what they're talking about. They post comments and video clips and make comments about current events assuming that everyone reading their Facebook page - read their entire Friend List - will appreciate (agree with) what they have to say. Sometimes their posts will go unnoticed, sometimes someone will "Like" it by giving it a thumbs up, and sometimes someone will offer a comment, which often is the impetus for others to comment as well.

Have you ever noticed that once someone has commented on a post, others are more likely to join in the comment thread? It's just like the buffet line, nobody wants to be first.

My sister and I are becoming friends on Facebook. Not that we weren't before, just that Facebook has given us a vehicle to touch base more frequently and connect in a way that is new to us. We are finding that we frequently support the same organizations, agree on the same issues, and find common cause when we are mutually appalled by something that a much-loved aunt or favorite cousin posts on their page and we realize that these people we call family are people that we do not know at all and if we were to get to know them as people, would not like. At all.

My sister has tried to engage, with spectacular failure. Some relatives pretend the conflict does not exist, while with others she finally had to de-friend them to avoid material she found offensive appearing on her homepage. I still ponder what to do, though for the moment, I simply move on past.

My friend list includes atheists, traditional Christians, Jews, others who I'm sure have a religion but don't advertise the fact, and proselytizing evangelicals. I've got liberals, conservatives, and fans of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. The member of the "In Defense of Marriage" group might post right next to my transgendered cousin or his husband. My updates from the Equal Justice Initiative or the ACLU showed up one time next to a video clip my cousin posted about Eugenics that Glenn Beck  circulated to prove that the government wants into health care so as to develop a DNA profile on every American and eventually decide who gets to reproduce (she wanted to ensure that we knew what our government was doing). Social networking indeed. A favorite cousin commented - when President Obama took to the road to campaign for health care reform - that he should go back to the Oval Office and do the job that we paid him to do, somehow equating work with sitting behind his desk. I had to sit on my hands not to remind her of the 1/3 of his presidency that Bush spent in Texas on vacation.

What do you think? Engagement at the micro level? I've wanted and tried to keep politics off my Facebook page - I am after all job hunting! - although the groups that I belong to post updates to my page - but what is the purpose of posting comments about the President, health care reform, or video clips about controversial issues knowing that at least some of the people seeing them will be upset by them? Do you engage? Take the bait? Refuse to allow them to get to you knowing that nothing you say will change their mind? Or are they even trying to get a rise out of you or simply ignorant of the reaction they cause? Are followers of Glenn Beck even likely to be willing to listen? As a sociologist, I am fascinated by the effect of social networking on the family and other friend groups (how many adult children panic when Mom sends a friend request?). What do you think?

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tea Party Protests and A Birth of A Nation: Melissa Harris-Lacewell Explains

Photo: D.W. Griffith "The Birth of A Nation"
In an essay published in The Nation magazine, Associate Professor of Politics and African American Studies at Princeton University, Melissa Harris-Lacewell has written of the actions of the Tea Party protesters this past weekend on the Capital Mall as the attacked members of Congress. During their passage between the House and the White House, members were called racial and homophobic pejoratives and even spat upon. One of the valley's members, Devin Nunez, responded by saying that people were so angry at the tyranny of the Democratic Party...a statement that I know will surely come back to haunt him. Liberal commentators have linked the actions of the protesters to the Civil Rights protesters of the 1960's, something that Harris-Lacewell cautions against, saying that:

"Crafting a metaphor that connects the civil rights movement and the bigoted language of this weekend's protesters is seductive. It seems so obvious given that Representative John Lewis plays a critical role in both."
"In 1965 Lewis was a disenfranchised protester fighting to be recognized as a full citizen. When he was beaten by the police, he was being attacked by the state. In 2010 Lewis is a long time, elected representative. When he is attacked by protesters, he is himself an agent of the state. This difference is critically important; not because it changes the fact that racism is present in both moments, but because it radically alters the way we should understand the meaning of power, protest and race."
"The state is the entity that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, force and coercion. If an individual travels to another country and kills its citizens, we call it terrorism. If the state does it, we call it war. If a man kills his neighbor it is murder; if the state does it is the death penalty. If an individual takes his neighbor's money, it is theft; if the state does it, it is taxation."
She raises the point that Congressman Lewis as an agent of the state, changes completely the dynamics of race in this issue. The Tea Party and other protesters are in effect saying that our government has no right to do what it is doing. According to Harris-Lacewell, they are saying that:
"This 1915 film [The Birth of A Nation] depicts the racist imagination currently at work in our nation as a black president first appoints a Latina Supreme Court Justice and then works with a woman Speaker of the House to pass sweeping national legislation. This bigotry assumes no such government could possibly be legitimate and therefore frames resistance against this government as a patriotic responsibility."
Again, I am always struck by the comments, and include several posted in response to her essay. The first, was breathtaking in displaying the individual's ignorance as he or she said
I'm not surprised that the reverse racist Ms Harris-Lacewell has it completely backwards.It was Obama and the Democrats that staged a coup last night against the constitution.
We are those who love our country and wish to restore the constitution that was trampled on last night.
The racism charges are a red herring designed to keep ignorant Americans unaware of what these Stalinists did last night.
Posted by antisocialist at 03/22/2010 @ 10:23pm
Bigotry lies at the heart of GOP politics for the past 42 years. Newt Gingrich as much as admitted this when he compared the passing of HCR to the passing of LBJ's '65 Civil Rights legislation, the seed for Nixon's southern strategy, i.e. the continuing GOP coded appeal to racism. The teabaggers are yet another good example of the corporate GOP's targets for appeals to bigotry when furthering aims inimical to the targets' real interests. Bigotry clouds judgment, that's the GOP's game, and what progressive critics are noting once again.
Posted by sloper at 03/22/2010 @ 10:45pm
Lacewell, "The Tea Party is a challenge to the legitimacy of the U.S. state. When Tea Party participants charge the current administration with various forms of totalitarianism, they are arguing that this government has no right to levy taxes or make policy. Many GOP elected officials offered nearly secessionist rhetoric from the floor of Congress this weekend. They joined as co-conspirators with the Tea Party protesters by arguing that this government has no monopoly on legitimacy."
The Tea Party is challenging the legitimacy of a Congress that would go against the wishes of the majority of Americans and ram an unwanted bill down their throats without the benefit of one republican vote. That says it all. There has never been a bill with such sweeping reform passed without a single opposition vote.
The Tea Party takes it's name from another rebellion against tyranny in Boston at the birth of our nation. This is no different.
The real conspirators this weekend were the union thugs who infiltrated the Tea Party ranks and shouted those slurs at the Congressmen. Even if it were actual Tea Partyers, they are to be condemned for those rants. There is no place in America for such language.
The very tone of your piece seems to laud a self-aggrandized ending of the so-called struggle of blacks since the Emancipation. When will be enough for you before the entire republic collapses?
Ms. Lacewell, your people will not be able to advance in this country on the scale that you would desire until they start to reject government largess and handouts in the name of phony repartions. The debt has been paid. The country is going bankrupt. The party is over. Encourage your people to develop a sense of responsibility and to stop having babies they can't pay for.
Posted by gunslinger1 at 03/23/2010 @ 12:57am

Most of the comments were supportive, but there were many like antisocial and gunslinger1 (do they realize what they say about themselves by the screen name they choose?). I included the comment by sloper as the media seem to be ignoring Newt Gingrich's equating health care reform to passage of the Civil Rights Act--both (in his mind) equally bad, no matter how much he has tried to walk it back since his initial comments.

In any case, an excellent article and one that should be read in its entirety which you can do here.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Keith Olbermann Special Comment, and Sign Your Name to The Health Care Reform Bill

He's baaack! And what a special comment it is. The money quote?
"You lost. You're behind the wheel of a political Toyota." to John Boehner.

Want to add your name to the Health Care Reform Bill? Organizing for America will establish a permanent archive with all the names , so that generations to come will have a record of those who stood together in this moment and won this fight for our future. Add your name here.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

And We Have A Bill!

I have been listening to C-Span all afternoon and we are in the  middle of the second of three votes. Rep. Stupak slightly redeemed himself with his passionate defense of the Democratic position as he spoke against the Republicans motion on the abortion language which President Obama resolved in his Executive Order. Stupak rightly saw this as just another delay. I'm fairly angry at Obama who is moving very far to the right from his campaign and previous positions with this executive order, but I understand why he did it.

I am fascinated by the comments I am hearing on the call-in line. Most of the callers on the "against" line are either 1) students who have insurance or 2) adults who also have insurance. The reasons against appear to fall under the headings of being a) unconstitutional, b) a loss of freedom, or 3) too expensive. A common thread seems to be "why don't we wait until we have resolved unemployment and the deficit?" Another common meme is "if people who don't have insurance would just get a job..."


I believe absolutely that people are entitled to their opinion. But I have no use for people who hold on to an opinion that is not supported by fact. Of course, I have also spent the past two days listening to the Republicans in the House stand on the floor and speak of the abortions that will be funded with federal funds if this bill passes (not true), and all the other horrors that will happen which they know full well are not true. I watched Virginia Foxx of North Carolina get so incensed at something a Democrat was saying that she just  jumped right in and started talking right over them while they were speaking - on the floor of the House. Not only is this woman an ignorant bigot, she's also rude.
People have been informed numerous times that without some kind of health insurance reform, our economy will not only remain stagnant, it will get worse. Jobs will continue to be lost, employers will continue to move their companies overseas, and the cost of health insurance will go up. So yeah, get a job. Right.

Well. Reconciliation just passed to cheers and reports of hugs and cheers at the White House. Yay!

Lots of work ahead yet. Don't let up and don't let those Blue Dogs think they're home free. November is coming quickly and this reform is only a foundation, and a very weak one at that.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

UPDATE: Healthcare Vote Tomorrow: Another Story, and What You Can Do


It does make a difference. Two Blue Dogs in the San Joaquin Valley here in California just announced that they will vote yes tomorrow. Granted, some back room wheeling and dealing went on (water for the valley, of course, but a significant issue here), but constituent pressure WORKS!


Tomorrow is the day. Congress votes on health insurance reform and it is close. Amazingly, it is still close. The Republican noise machine remains effective at clouding the issue and spreading its lies. Using fear as their primary tactic, they convince many people that this bill will cause significant damage to the U.S. economy and to their individual lives. The reality, is that 95% of us will see no difference from this bill.

If you need one more story to convince yourself or someone else, here is a story I read a few minutes ago on Salon dot com. Cary Tennis, a columnist for Salon, who has written an advise column for them for years has been battling a very rare form of cancer. After successful surgery, he has been advised to have proton beam radiation therapy which while rare, is the standard of care for this rare type of cancer (sacral chordoma). Any guesses on what his insurance company, Blue Cross, decided on the request for pre-approval? Request denied, or in Cary's words, "drop dead."

Cary has been blogging about his experiences, but says he tried not to use his position in the media for personal benefit. After the denial of care, he decided to share his problem with his readers and requested that they contact Blue Cross on his behalf hoping that a groundswell of support would help change their mind. Unfortunately, without claim numbers and other personal details, navigating the system is difficult at best and unlikely to accomplish much (anyone who has ever tried to call an insurance company knows the first thing you have to provide before moving through the automated telephone system is a social security number and/or a claim number).

The reason that I am writing this today, is that in among the overwhelming support generated in the comments, one commenter stood out.

Friday, March 19, 2010 11:49 AM

Crucial distinction

"denied the request for this treatment."
No - Blue Shield denied your request for *payment* of this treatment.
NB – I’m passing absolutely no judgement [sic] on the situation one way or another and certainly don’t wish anyone to suffer unduly because they are unable to afford medical treatment, but the difference between denying treatment and denying payment for treatment is an important distinction to make, especially in the context of ObamaCare.

And this is the result of the Republican public relations campaign of the past forty years, and the intensity of their attacks on health care reform of the past year. The success of the astroturfed "Tea Party" movement is a case in point as ignorant Americans are led to a belief that is against their own best interests. What Ramesees above fails to understand (and is pointed out by many other commenters in response), is that denial of *payment* is denial of treatment. Expensive treatments require pre-approval and is not provided without it. I have been denied chemotherapy by Blue Cross (anyone remember when they used to be a non-profit?) and believe me, it is an incredible feeling to realize that accountants are making my healthcare decisions instead of my doctors. And people worry about a government takeover of healthcare.

So, if you have not already contacted your Representative, please do so now. If you have friends, family, neighbors, or others who you know are against this bill, please share this story with them as an example of why we need reform. Will reform solve this particular problem? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will establish a foundation for future reforms. Social security and Medicare did not begin as they are now; they evolved over time on a basic foundation that provided the minimum. What I do know, is that without this bill, there will be nothing to build on, nothing to fix, and the 95% of us who are doing fine with our healthcare now, will be significantly less in the future as healthcare takes a larger and larger share of our economy.

If you do not know how to contact your Representative, or who he or she is, find that information here.

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

URGENT: Sign Health Care Reform Petition

This is it: The fate of health care reform will be decided in the next 48 hours.
It could come down to a vote or two. And that means that right now, every last message to Congress makes a difference.
It's an all-hands-on-deck moment. Even if you've already called and written your representative, it's time to send one last message. If you haven't yet weighed in, now's the time. And please send this on to friends, neighbors, colleagues, former roommates, and anyone who cares about health care reform.
I just added my name to an emergency petition to Congress before the big vote. Will you join me?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Can Liz Cheney Possibly Sink Any Lower? UPDATE

Just when I think that Liz Cheney cannot possibly sink any lower, she comes up with this.

People for the American Way President Michael B. Keegan said In a statement issued today, referring to an ad released by Ms. Cheney's group, "Keep America Safe":

"The content of this ad is repugnant. To imply that people who defend the Constitutional right of detainees to seek habeas corpus relief are aligned with Al Qaeda is preposterous and offensive. All Americans have a responsibility to defend the core values of the Constitution, and that some of the lawyers who stood up for those values are now in the Department of Justice is a credit to President Obama and Attorney General Holder."

I've been hearing comments about providing Constitutional protections quite a bit lately from the right hand side of the political spectrum and the Tea Party folk. They appear to believe that defending anyone who they believe is a member of Al Qaeda is wrong. I hear a lot about wanting to return to the way it "should" be, the way the founders meant it to be, and hearing the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin wave the Constitution around whenever the President or Democratic Congress wants to do something they don't like. They complain about the loss of our freedoms until someone commits an act of terrorism or terrible crime, and then immediately forget what freedom means.

Whenever someone commits a particularly heinous crime, there are many, many people--typically the law & order types on the right--demanding that we stop wasting "their" tax dollars and execute the suspected wrongdoer. I've known some defense attorneys. There were times when they have said they did not like knowing that the person they were defending might go free, but that in order for our system to work, that individual was entitled to the best defense they could give them. After all, how many innocent people have been released from prison?

Perhaps Liz Cheney and her crowd should to sit down and actually read the Constitution. Wonder how they would feel if they were the one to be wrongfully accused or convicted? Not to say that this is the case in this situation, but until a court of law has made that determination, I certainly wouldn't want a Tea Party rally crowd making that decision about me.


TPM is reporting that we can thank Sen. Grassley for getting this one started.

"An attack on Justice Department officials who previously represented detainees at Guantanamo was spawned by Sen. Chuck Grassley at a hearing last November, ricocheted around the right-wing media, and culminated today in a video release by Liz Cheney's group that all but accuses the lawyers of being terrorists."


"The attack began at a Nov. 18 Judiciary Committee hearing. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, raised the issue with Attorney General Eric Holder, asserting that Katyal and Daskal have a conflict of interest. A couple weeks later, Grassley and the other committee Republicans asked the DOJ to produce a list of names of officials who previously worked with detainees. The department responded Feb. 18 with a letter from one of Holder's deputies that said nine officials fit Grassley's criteria. But the letter did not give the names."

Thanks for stopping by. Come back soon.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hazmat Crews Called to IRS Office in Utah - Unknown Substance Found

Hazmat crews are removing people, by stretcher from the IRS Office in Weber County, Utah. Details can be found here. Wonder how long before the right will be claiming that these (most likely seasonal contract) workers deserved this.