Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Will Ferrell on Health Care Reform

Just out from, this biting video on health care reform starring Will Ferrell, Jon Hamm of Mad Men, Olivia Wilde of House, Thomas Lennon of Reno 911, Robert Ben Garant of Reno 911, Masi Oka of Heroes, Jordana Spiro of My Boys, Linda Cardellini of ER, and Donald Faison of Scrubs.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

What We Have Done in the Last 7 Months

Pretty good work out of the DNC, especially on ad push back.

It is not enough, and I know we still need more, I also know we've been disappointed-- but I think it is important to point out the good stuff too.
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On Families and Overturning Prop 8(hate) is working on ads to help in the campaign to overturn prop 8. Here's one about families and grandkids with a great awwww quotient.

help them spread the word.
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Friday, September 11, 2009

Broad Cast 11 September 2009

Alan Turing (Alan Turing)

Many historians credit the cracking of the German Enigma code by English mathematician Alan Turing with eventual Allied victory in World War II. At the very least, this breakthrough turned the tide of the war and saved untold thousands of lives.

After the war, Turing went on to invent the Turing machine, which is considered the basis of all modern computing.

For his accomplishments, in 1952 Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" because he admitted to having a gay relationship. Just that -- he loved a man. The punishment for that crime was either a prison sentence or chemical castration. Turing chose castration. Two years later, at age 41, he committed suicide.

If you don't know about Turing's contribution to our freedom and our current ability to communicate via the internet, consider the reasons for why he has been relegated to obscurity -- why Quentin Tarantino will likely never make a movie based on his life. Why we don't have a "Turing Day" or a Turing monument on our national plaza near other World War II honorees.

Bombe decoding machine (The Bombe decoding machine created by Alan Turing to crack German Enigma code.)

In an effort to remedy this injustice, last month computer programmer John Graham-Cumming started an online petition to campaign for Alan Turing's recognition. The petition swiftly drew more than 30,000 signatures, including those of scientist Richard Dawkins, actor Stephen Fry, author Ian McEwan and philosopher A.C. Grayling. Now, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has issued a posthumous apology for the "appalling" treatment of Alan Turing.

According to an article by Hilary Whiteman for CNN Europe, Brown stated "He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely."

Roma women

During an August concert in Bucharest, Romania, singer/performer Madonna featured Roma musicians and a Roma dancers in her show. Roma people are often called Gypsies, though their preferred name for themselves is Rom or Roma. However, when during the concert Madonna paused to speak out against the way these people are discriminated against in Eastern Europe, she was booed by thousands in the crowd of 60,000.

According to the 365Gay article reporting on this incident, "There are officially some 500,000 Roma in Romania, but the real number could be around 2 million." Roma were among those singled out for internment and slaughter by the Nazis during World War II.

Gay activist stepping around police horses 1971 (Gay activist steps between pair of police horses to be interviewed during New York demonstration in 1971; photo by Grey Villet, from Life photo archives.)

The National Black Justice Coalition has issued a statement celebrating the recent American Psychological Association (APA) declaration that "health professionals should avoid telling clients they can change their sexual orientation". NBJC Interim Executive Director Dr. Sylvia Rhue commented: "This report is a long overdue repudiation of the 'reparative therapy' movement that is based in fear, error, discarded psychoblunder from the 1950's, and bad theology. The 'ex-gay' movement has done untold damage to thousands of people."

In a related story, the Denver Post reports "Focus on the Family will shed its controversial 'Love Won Out' program for transforming homosexuals into heterosexuals because of budget troubles."

Former and new oil rig lighting comparison (Image from Philips Habitat Lighting.)

In conservation news, Utne Reader reports "European researchers recently sought to stem the mortality rate of birds migrating over the North Sea, where lights from oil and gas rigs can distract and disorient the fair-feathered travelers. After finding that blue light and green light are much less disconcerting to birds than the red and white lights favored by these sites, the researchers worked with a Dutch oil and gas company to swap them out."

Sun in hands photograph (Sun in Hands, photo from Stopped Time, Part 5 series.)

Every year the Sunlight Foundation has a contest called Apps for America, seeking web applications whose purpose is to enhance the usefulness and transparency of government data. Clicking on the line above will give you a list of all this year's applications. Below is an abstract of the list and brief description -- for more information, check out the Sunlight Foundation. (The three applications in bold at the top are the winners this year.) Be sure to bookmark this fantastic resource and pass it on.
ThisWeKnow -- ThisWeKnow sheds light on what the government knows about every community
DataMasher -- DataMasher lets you take state level data sets and mashem
GovPulse -- The Federal Registry at your fingertips. Over 1,000,000 pages finally accessible. View, explore, search, locate and take the pulse of your government. Catalog Dashboard -- A look at the Catalog
Jobs In The USA -- Statistics of importance to the American Worker including stimulus money impacts.
Fund Flows -- Visualizer for comparing government procurements by geographic area. -- Understand US Government economic statistics through easy interactive charts -- Adding Political Context to USA Federal Spending
loquake -- location based earthquake lookup
House Scoreboard -- Just how representative is the House?
Jobless -- Compare jobless rates by region over time
DataRemix -- A community documented catalog of public data sets and developer tools
Pattrends -- Getting trends out of patents
Local Recovery -- Find out how much Recovery Act money has been spent at your current location
Wiki MapMaker -- Making custom, dynamic maps for Wikipedia
simpler/gov -- Simpler/gov is a platform that connects people and data. It is available to every local government that wants to share data and connect with the public.
Refugee Flow -- Uses Hans Rosling's Trendalyzer Software to Display Time-Series Asylum Grantee Data by Country Against GDP Per Capita Values and Freedom House's "Civil Liberties" Scores
Local Spending -- Find out how much federal money is being spent at your current location...
Budget -- Explore the federal budget.
Quakespotter -- Earthquakes rumble across a 3D globe. Tweets and maps pinpoint the action. Donations carry the day.
Superfund Finder -- Have you ever wondered how many Superfund sites are located near your home, your work, your loved ones? Now with Superfund Finder you can find out with help from, Google Maps & geolocation support in Firefox 3.5, iPhone & Android mobile browsers.
Geodata Explorer -- Visualize census data at a neighborhood level
Maps for America: EPA Edition -- Explore the relative chronic health risks, hazard levels and toxic release volumes across the country. Maps for America combines population, toxic chemical release reports, and chemical toxicity into easy to navigate maps.
Data-Gov Wiki -- Our Data-gov Wiki is the delivery site for a project where we investigate the role of linked data in producing, processing and utilizing the government datasets found in -- Integrating top contractors for each congress member's state.
Goodness500 -- ranks the largest companies in the world based on corporate social responsibility.
WaterGoodness -- is a free website shining a bright light on America’s waters, both what flows from your tap, and your local bay/lake/pond/reservoir/river/ocean/stream. We show a mix of government and crowdsourced water quality data on a Google map. -- Use to easily search government contracts for spending trends.
UsaOpenGov -- Provides help in identifying and fixing crippled data and APIs -- produces visualizations of custom consumer price indexes (CPIs). Its custom CPIs are generated by mashing up demographic groups' average expenditures with consumer goods' price changes.
Eureka Invention Generator -- Eureka generates random inventions by analyzing the word frequencies of US patent application abstracts.
Disasters Map -- Maps, history and real-time comments to the natural disasters with Twitter and Capitol Words.
AHDI Calculator -- AHDI Calculator is a web-based application support expert user formulate the AHDI for their sake of research and improve the advance concept mining of AHDI to discover new social indicators
Employment market explorer -- Employment Market explorer is tool designed to help people understand local employment market, giving them a chance to compare local, regional and state unemployment rates and analyze the labor market dynamics. Time Machine -- new and interesting look for any historical data - time series in dynamic
GreenSpace Map -- GreenSpace Map is a web based and mobile application that allows the user to identify all of the EPA Featured Environmental Interests sites relative to a specifed location.
Fedtastic -- Fedtastic is a dynamic portal to government information referenced in the catalog and other sources.
Bernie - The Federal Register Watcher -- Post community comments on new Federal Register items, and keep track of your favorite agencies with Atom Feeds.
Quake Alert -- Find out which friends might be affected by recent earthquakes. See the Google Maps mashup and opt-in to receive Facebook notifications.
AlexLIb -- AlexLib is a KM/research tool which permits the user to create an ontology to search and everything else on the web at the same time. The search bot is a web page which only requires refreshing the page to (re)search.
typologies of intellectual property -- An interactive visualization of intellectual property.
D.C. Historic Tours -- Free Tour Planner of the Nation's Capital
MAICgregator -- MAICgregator is a Firefox extension that aggregates information about colleges and universities embedded in the military-academic-industrial complex (MAIC)
Top Dangerous Mines -- A website showing a real-time list of the most dangerous mines in the US based on recent earthquake data. -- Find the most on-time flight from one city to another.
FBI Fugitive Concentration -- Play Concentration with photos of FBI Fugitives

Invention drawing by Maira Kalman (By Maira Kalman from her "Can Do" column.)

And, finally, I can never say enough good things about Maira Kalman. We are now lucky enough to have her publishing a blog at the New York Times called "And The Pursuit of Happiness". Pursue your own happiness by reading her.

(By Maira Kalman from her "I Lift My Lamp Beside The Golden Door" column.)

[Hat tip to Calico, commenter at Dykes To Watch Out For, for the lead about Alan Turing.]

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Liars, Damned Liars, and the Bush Administration

Pants on fire
After natural distasters, there are folks who are up bright and early the next morning to defraud devastated survivors with lying offers of roof repair, cut-rate funeral plots, and, oh yeah, toxic trailers in which to house their children and ill family members. We have a special contempt for these particular kinds of deceit, which plays on need and vulnerability to make money and accrue influence.

On this anniversary of 9/11, a day when briefly we mourned together as a nation and hoped for leadership that would give us guidance, I urge us to complete our grieving process by also catharsing the justifiable rage we feel at those who used this terrible event for personal gain.

I'll "let it go" once all the truth has been exposed and the criminals are held responsible. And no, I'm not referring to those in Gitmo, I'm referring to the criminals whose decisions resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands more innocent lives, bankrupted an economy, and shredded our Constitution.

Bush reading My Pet Goat on 9/11 "After being told 'America is under attack' when the second plane hit the tower on 9/11, George W. Bush continued to read 'My Pet Goat' in a Florida classroom for the next seven minutes." -from Fahrenheit 911 by Michael Moore

If we do not demand accountability for the vile treachery perpetrated on us in the name of 9/11, we'll be stuck here forever.

Keith Olbermann addressed it last night in his Special Comment. (Hat-tip to Crooks and Liars for the transcript and the video.)

And finally, as promised, a Special Comment about the shout of "You Lie" during the presidential address to the joint session of Congress last night on the
matter of health care reform.

The 43rd president of the United States lied the nation into the war, lied 4,343 of his fellow citizens to death in that war, lied about upholding the constitution, and lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction.

He lied about how he reacted to Al-Qaeda before 9/11 and he lied about how he reacted to Al-Qaeda after 9/11.

He lied about getting Bin Laden, and he lied about not getting Bin Laden.

He lied about nation-building in Iraq, lied about the appearance of new buildings **in** the nation **of** Iraq, and lied about embassy buildings in nations like Iraq.

He lied about trailers with mobile weapons labs in them, and he lied about trailers with Cuban prostitutes in them.

He and his administration lied -- by the counting of one non-profit group -- 532 times about links between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. Only 28 of those were by that President, but he made up for that by lying 231 times about W-M-D.

And yet not once did an elected Democratic official shout out during one of George W. Bush's speeches and call him a "liar."

Even when the president was George W. Bush, even when he was assailed from sidelines like mine, even when the lies came down so thick the nation needed a hat... he was still the President and if he didn't earn any respect, the office he held demanded respect.

More over, that President and his Congressional tools like Congressman Addison Graves "Joe" Wilson of South Carolina insisted not just unquestioned respect for the office; they wanted unanimous lock-step compliance with the man.

And when the blasphemy of mere respectful criticism somehow came anyway -- say by, or built on that by, the real Joe Wilson -- lord help he who might have made the slightest factual error in that criticism.

Congressman Wilson and his masters and the flying monkeys of right-wing media would pursue the erroneous critic to the ends of their careers, firing hot accusations of moral or intellectual confusion and incompetence at the unbelievers.

And that is the line Congressman Wilson crossed last night when he shouted "you lie" at this President of the United States.

Not the respect line.

The stupid line.

Watch the whole thing below:
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Remarks by the President on Health Care, 9 September 2009

(President Obama speaks on health care before Congress 9 September 2009) (President Barack Obama speaking on health care before a joint session of Congress at the United States Capitol on 9 September 2009; behind him are Vice President Joseph Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.)

President Barack Obama
Remarks by the President on Health Care
September 9, 2009
To a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C.

THE PRESIDENT: Madam Speaker, Vice President Biden, members of Congress, and the American people:

When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is still many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them -- (applause) -- until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we've taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink. (Applause.)

I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who've taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.

But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came here to build a future. (Applause.) So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future -- and that is the issue of health care.

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. (Applause.) It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session. (Applause.)

Our collective failure to meet this challenge -- year after year, decade after decade -- has led us to the breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can't get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can't afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or too expensive to cover.

We are the only democracy -- the only advanced democracy on Earth -- the only wealthy nation -- that allows such hardship for millions of its people. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.

But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem for the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you'll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won't pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer had more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Then there's the problem of rising cost. We spend one and a half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren't any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It's why so many employers -- especially small businesses -- are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It's why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally -- like our automakers -- are at a huge disadvantage. And it's why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it -- about $1,000 per year that pays for somebody else's emergency room and charitable care.

Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close. Nothing else. (Applause.)

Now, these are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.

There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's -- (applause) -- where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everybody. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end employer-based systems and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

I've said -- I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both these approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. (Applause.) And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.

During that time, we've seen Washington at its best and at its worst.

We've seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors' groups, and even drug companies -- many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about 80 percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.

But what we've also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have towards their own government. Instead of honest debate, we've seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. (Applause.) Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I'm announcing tonight would meet three basic goals. It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance for those who don't. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. (Applause.) It's a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge -- not just government, not just insurance companies, but everybody including employers and individuals. And it's a plan that incorporates ideas from senators and congressmen, from Democrats and Republicans -- and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan. First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. (Applause.) Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

What this plan will do is make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Applause.) As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it the most. (Applause.) They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. (Applause.) We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.) And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies -- (applause) -- because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives. (Applause.)

Now, that's what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan -- more security and more stability.

Now, if you're one of the tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. (Applause.) If you lose your job or you change your job, you'll be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you'll be able to get coverage. We'll do this by creating a new insurance exchange -- a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It's how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it's time to give every American the same opportunity that we give ourselves. (Applause.)

Now, for those individuals and small businesses who still can't afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we'll provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have preexisting medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. (Applause.) This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now, and we should all embrace it. (Applause.)

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those -- especially the young and the healthy -- who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers by giving them coverage. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don't sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for these people's expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don't provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek -- especially requiring insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions -- just can't be achieved.

And that's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance -- just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. (Applause.) Likewise -- likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still can't afford coverage, and 95 percent of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. (Applause.) But we can't have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

And while there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe -- (laughter) -- I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that's been spread over the past few months, I realize -- (applause) -- I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I want to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.

Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. (Applause.)

There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)

President Obama before joint session of Congress 9 September 2009 (President Barack Obama addressing a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol on 9 September 2009; official White House photo taken by Laurence Jackson.)

THE PRESIDENT: It's not true. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up -- under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place. (Applause.)

Now, my health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a "government takeover" of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare. (Applause.)

So let me set the record straight here. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. That's how the market works. (Applause.) Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company. And without competition, the price of insurance goes up and quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly -- by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.

Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people; they do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill, they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations."

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. (Applause.) And the insurance reforms that I've already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. (Applause.) Now, let me be clear. Let me be clear. It would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don't like this idea. They argue that these private companies can't fairly compete with the government. And they'd be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won't be. I've insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits and excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers, and would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities. (Applause.)

Now, it is -- it's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated -- by the left or the right or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and shouldn't be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage available for those without it. (Applause.) The public option -- the public option is only a means to that end -- and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have. (Applause.)

For example -- for example, some have suggested that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others have proposed a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. (Applause.) And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. (Applause.)

Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public -- and that's how we pay for this plan.

And here's what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future. (Applause.) I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future, period. And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize. (Applause.) Now, part of the reason I faced a trillion-dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for -- from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. (Applause.) I will not make that same mistake with health care.

Second, we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system, a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care don't make us any healthier. That's not my judgment -- it's the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, I want to speak directly to seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that's been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That's how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. (Applause.) And that is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan. (Applause.)

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies -- subsidies that do everything to pad their profits but don't improve the care of seniors. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead. (Applause.)

Now, these steps will ensure that you -- America's seniors -- get the benefits you've been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pockets for prescription drugs. (Applause.) That's what this plan will do for you. So don't pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut, especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past and just this year supported a budget that would essentially have turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will not happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare. (Applause.)

Now, because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making the program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that can reduce costs for everybody. We have long known that some places -- like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania -- offer high-quality care at costs below average. So the commission can help encourage the adoption of these common-sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system -- everything from reducing hospital infection rates to encouraging better coordination between teams of doctors.

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. (Applause.) Now, much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. And this reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money -- an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long run.

Now, finally, many in this chamber -- particularly on the Republican side of the aisle -- have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. (Applause.) Now -- there you go. There you go. Now, I don't believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I've talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. (Applause.) So I'm proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. (Applause.) I know that the Bush administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these ideas. I think it's a good idea, and I'm directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today. (Applause.)

Now, add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years -- less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. (Applause.) Now, most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent -- but spent badly -- in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of 1 percent each year -- one-tenth of 1 percent -- it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.

Now, this is the plan I'm proposing. It's a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight -- Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. (Applause.) I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out. (Applause.) And I will not -- and I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it the most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed -- the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town halls, in e-mails, and in letters.

I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.

In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, his amazing children, who are all here tonight. And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform -- "that great unfinished business of our society," he called it -- would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that "it concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."

I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days -- the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and, yes, sometimes angry debate. That's our history.

For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their minds, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.

But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here -- people of both parties -- know that what drove him was something more. His friend Orrin Hatch -- he knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient's Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick. And he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance, what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent, there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.

That large-heartedness -- that concern and regard for the plight of others -- is not a partisan feeling. It's not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character -- our ability to stand in other people's shoes; a recognition that we are all in this together, and when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand; a belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgment that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress. In 1935, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism, but the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans -- did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter -- that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

That was true then. It remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road -- to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that is not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. (Applause.) I still believe -- I still believe that we can act when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test.

Because that's who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Michele Obama embracing Vicki Kennedy following health care speech 9 September 2009 (First Lady Michele Obama embraces Vicki Kennedy following address to a joint session on Congress on health care by President Barack Obama, 9 September 2009; official White House photo by Pete Souza.)

[From White House]

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Keeping Clear of the Pod-People: After Last Night's Speech

(Ant With Acorn from Tugboat Printshop)

I was once friends with someone who is a direct descendant of Edmund Ruffin. For those of you who don't recognize the name, Edmund Ruffin is the South Carolina slaveholding farmer who is credited with fining the shot which began the Civil War. My friend was, among other identities, an anti-racism activist. She spent a great deal of personal energy coming to peace with her family history, her white Southern identity, and her owning class roots.

According to my friend, her family's version of events is that Ruffin was definitely a fierce advocate of slavery and secession, but he was not a nutjob. In particular, they claim the men around him got him liquored up and then convinced him the Yankees were attacking in order to persuade him to be the first to fire. After the war, Ruffin committed suicide, and his family believed it was because of shame rather than an inability to adjust to a changed world.

But believing in slavery, advocating secession, and choosing suicide are all clear indicators of an inability to handle reality. They all exist on the continuum of crazy. So, alcohol aside, Ruffin was living in a particular zone of denial which won't allow his actions the excuse of an unforeseen accident. Any more than Republicans can claim there was no warning Al Qaeda would attack the U.S. in 2001 using domestic airplanes.

Richard Blair at All Spin Zone has a post up today which begins "It’s hard to believe the 'lone gunman' theory of Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) outburst yesterday evening during the president’s address to congress. Someone put him up to it. Low level hit men in crime families don’t freelance."

I agree with him. The larger point is that while there is a solid 30% functional delusional segment of our population (see my post of yesterday), there is also an organized, highly orchestrated effort being made by the Republican Party, their mouthpieces on hate radio, and the corporate elite who fund them to persistently exploit that Crazy 30% to keep change from occurring. They used fake terror alerts and trumped up wars during Dubya's tenure. Now they're relying on more "grassroots" means to scare the shit out of the rest of us and immobilize us enough to keep their dominion going.

What happens in a democracy when nobody listens to each other any more? What happens when guns and camouflage are commonplace sights in public settings? What happens when you can shout absolutely anything at an elected official? This is not protecting or promoting freedom of speech, this is tyranny by the few at the expense of information reception by the many.

And, let's be clear, the Right will be thrilled if the progressive response is to start putting curbs on public expression, because those laws will be enforced by the status quo and will not come down in our favor. (Just like hate crime laws, which I oppose because they are overwhelmingly be used against poor and/or nonwhite people rather than the most flagrant perpetrators of hate.) I think the best reaction is going to be one which comes from us, the masses, rather than through courts or g*d forbid taser-wielding SOA trained urban cops.

The tools at our disposal are education, thinking on our feet, humor, community, common decency, and, most importantly, our liberal belief that respect for the individual trumps blind adherence to authority.

There's a joke among lesbians of my generation that when you came out to your family, a day later it was as if you'd said nothing at all -- not through acceptance, but because the news was so disturbing to them, they blocked it from family consciousness. This would occur simultaneously with someone, usually your mother, saying "All right, but don't tell you're father, it'll kill him."

Alix Dobkin, famous singer/songwriter, became intrigued with this notion of lesbian as a word that is so powerful it passes by without registering and concurrently can strike men dead. As a result, she wrote one of her most famous hits, "View from Gay Head", which uses the word lesbian 22 times. The rollicking chorus goes
Lesbian, lesbian,
Let's be in no-man's-land
Lesbian, lesbian
Any woman can be a lesbian.

Thus, one mechanism of oppression is preventing certain words or kinds of speech from occurring -- though not all restriction of speech is oppression. Oppression, remember, has to be part of a systematic and institutionalized imbalance of power, not simply reflecting a difference of opinion. Another mechanism is ignoring reality, such as how the corporate-controlled media is simply not reporting on the large numbers of people currently meeting for/organizing around their need for a public option in health care reform. On a daily level, this plays out in households when someone can reel off sports statistics in minutiae going back decades but cannot recall how to load a dishwasher or separate laundry. Such deliberately obstructed learning and listening is common currency to Republicans, and if it can be linked to an underlying vein of culturally-embedded oppression -- sexism or racism, for example -- it seems "normal" enough to often not be challenged as attempted domination.

Here's a few immediate actions you can take regarding the extreme disrespect and obstructionism displayed during last night's speech on health care reform by our President:

(1) Progressive Change Campaign Committee has launched a petition asking Congress to censure Rep. Joe Wilson: "Enough is enough. On an issue as critical as health care reform, it's time to stop the lies, the misinformation, and the uncivil disruptions. Rep. Joe Wilson went way over the line by yelling 'You lie' during President Obama's speech, and Congress should censure him immediately." You can sign it by going here.

(2) Since Joe Wilson's outburst on the House floor his Democratic opponent, former Marine Rob Miller, has received over 11,000 individual grassroots contributions raising over $414,000. If you want to contribute, you can go to his Act Blue page here.

(3) Make sure this is not simply attached to Rep. Joe Wilson, but that it is linked to the overall Republican effort to bring down Obama and stop ANY reform from occurring. Alex Koppelman, writing for The War Room at, in his post Joe Wilson Wasn't The Only Disrespectful Republican points out: "There's video of Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the Minority Whip, on his BlackBerry during the speech, for instance...When Obama addressed the charge that he plans 'panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens,' someone on the GOP side shouted out 'shame!' The president went on: 'Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical.' 'Read the bill!' someone shouted back. Obama mentioned those who accuse him of a government takeover of health care. 'It's true,' someone shouted back .... Even as Obama delivered a tribute to the late senator Ted Kennedy, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga), a leader of House conservatives, perused his BlackBerry. Shortly before the speech ended, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) walked out to beat the rush."

Call your Member of Congress today at (202) 224-3121 to express your outrage.

Longer-term, it's important to keep naming what's going on for what it is. Identify crazy when it is crazy, and don't let them shout you down that you're not being fair. The ability to scream at a President while s/he is speaking to Congress is not a right granted by the rules of that body. The assumption that this long-standing rule could be broken is NOT DIVORCED from the fact that the President in question is African-American and the Representative in question has been a member of Sons of Confederate Veterans. As researched by Dave Neiwert at Crooks and Liars, the Sons of Confederate Veterans is a white supremacist organization tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center which, among other things, defends slavery as a benign institution. What Wilson was calling a lie was Obama's denial there would be health care coverage for undocumented immigrants, a key recruitment issue for the Republican Party's white supremacist base.

It's also important to keep our eyes on the prize, which is not simply countering their terror, nor is it Obama's appeasement path (doomed to fail).

Our goal is No more loss of life or livelihood because health care is currently rationed by profit-obsessed death panels (called insurance companies) rather than being acknowledged as a basic human right.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Look 'Pon The Devil's Brow...An Impossibility...

...Hell Is Hot, This I Know...But Be That Sweat I See?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney cares not a whit about...decorum.

He does not care what you and I think.

He is a bitter cocktail of amoral thug and deflective coward...with a shot of self righteous bully—for that extra bit of burn on the way down to the pit of America's soul.

He will shoot you dead in the face and blame you for it, then sneeringly profit from your sons and daughters deaths on a battlefield he lied them into.

He does not care what you and I think.

And yet...there he was last weekend, coughed up from his lined-with-mason-jars-full-of-the-hearts-of-the-innocent hidey hole, furiously defending himself and the actions he signed off on during his VP tenure that violated every protective element of the Geneva Conventions.

He even trotted out his dutiful but punditious-ly pathetic daughter Liz to do the talking head circuit to also defend said deeds—in effect, hiding querulously behind her pant suit like some latter-day “Stinky” from Abbott & Costello as he spat lame barbs at his so-called “tormenters”.

He does not care what you and I think.

But dammit, there he was...caring more than a little bit this past weekend. On the defensive over...what, exactly?


WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. named a veteran federal prosecutor on Monday to examine abuse of prisoners held by the Central Intelligence Agency after the Justice Department released a long-secret report showing interrogators choked a prisoner repeatedly and threatened to kill another detainee’s children.


Although large portions of the 109-page report are blacked out, it gives new details about a variety of abuses inside the C.I.A.’s overseas prisons, including suggestions about sexually assaulting members of a detainee’s family, staging mock executions, intimidation with a handgun and power drill, and blowing cigar and cigarette smoke into prisoners’ faces to make them vomit.

I have written here before about George W. Bush's probable legacy to those one would've not long ago rightfully assumed would support him forever—that his pathological stumblebummery during his presidency led in no small part to their anathema that is Barack Obama—would leave him a pariah amongst many right-wingers—fueling an acid-spew of blame from them for the party's falling face-first down the steps to the crunching “curb bite” coda of Obama's election.

Cheney isn't worried about what you or I—crazy moonbats us—think of him. He is however sweating a little bit at how conservatives ultimately remember him. Oh yes, right now he's still for the most part the tough, fuck-the-world, J. Press-suited “Master Of The Universe” they slobber over...but the concern on his part is over what we'll find out he signed off on in terms of “exquisite rendering”...a.k.a. torture of anybody deemed if not dangerous, at the very least, questionable. Let me amend that. It's not over what we'll find out, but rather, what the whole world—especially the Muslim world finds out about just how crazy he was down for us to get “in the name of preserving America”. If the news breaks that the sick he urged on is detail, and those awful deeds (rape as leverage for information, willy-nilly torture and brutality for scraps of information that meant squat, etc.) become an obvious rallying point behind the likes of an upswing in recruiting for “Al Qaeda 2.1”...then that is the thing more than drunkenly shotgunning a buddy in the face that cracks his tough guy veneer like nothing else could. The flop-sweat on his brow during his reach-around “interview” with Chris Wallace on Fox News and his daughter's desperate keening on “This Week” is borne of his biggest fear.

That fear is not of jail. He'd be off to Paraguay to happily embark on his calming hobby of cloning long-dead despots before he'd ever end up in a prison cell for his misdeeds.

The fear is not of rebuke from his so-called peers.

His fear is of his legacy being that of him cast as an idiot. A fool. An unthinking clod who fucked it all up and catalyzed terrorist hellfire thanks to his ill-conceived efforts.

Dick Cheney does not care about being thought of as a jerk. He has appeared to actually get off on that perception. What does makes him crazy though is being thought of as an incompetent, and only an incompetent would sign his name off on the integrity and authority damaging awfulness that he brusquely did. His initial benefactor and mentor Richard Nixon also fed on the hatred he inspired (as Nixonland's Rick Perlstein so aptly described him, “a serial collector of resentments”) and just like Cheney, would absolutely lose his mind at the idea of people thinking him a screw-up. 'Hate me...but respect me.' is the mantra of small, egomaniacal men like these. Cheney's full-court “press” press on this is a direct result of his fear of the great Cheney historical narrative getting a “Sixth Sense”-like shock ending that subsumes the rest of the story. The damage that his unthinking, sadistic, fuck-the-world, bully-boy policy on torture has done to the U.S.'s stature around the world is like a malignant cancer deep in the gut of how we will go on as a world leader—sickening and weakening us from within but leaving us able for a time to stomp about a bit before it metastasizes and leaves us politically bedridden. That self-same damage's worst possible scenario effect—should the most heinous things he lorded over and chuckled at be brought to the bright light wouldn't be a'd be a point-blank shotgun blast to the chest. Because those terrible things done in the murky shadows of a post 9-11 'Democracy Gone Wild' would be and have been a call to arms to those who mean this country and its citizens far less than well. If you think that's hyperbole, you might want to ask Cheney's fellow GOP'er John McCain, who in backing away from Cheney on this issue on the same weekend, managed to catch ol' Dickie's belt in the bus' bumper and “Ooops!” kind of rolled over him.

McCAIN: “I think these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq... I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed.”

Being blamed for not merely inciting, but borderline justifying horrors done to us because of horrors “we've” done to someone else—with his patently stupid blessings, is the thing he cannot take, because it casts him as not merely bellicose...but a bellicose buffoon.

Being thought the machiavellian evil genius? “Cool”.

Being thought the dumb-assed political goon? “Deep Hurting!”

And as Carly Simon sang, “He Hasn't Got Time For The Pain”.

This is why he's fighting the potential of his misdeeds being brought to light—which points out the cartoonish, jaw-dropping irony of his protestations against the investigation...

AT LEFT: World Renowned Animator Tex Avery's Cartoon Rendition Of You, Me, And Anyone With A Sense Of Fairness Reacting As Noted Above To The Former VP's Protestations.

His railing against a closer look because of so-called intelligence exposure issues is a simultaneous exercise in contempt for common sense and a bold display of how desperately afraid he is of his legacy being forever stoopid-ulated. Remember...this is the same pasty sack of mendacity that outed a CIA officer and with her some pretty delicate covert operations because her husband dared to “sass” George W. Bush (a.k.a. Cheney's Edgar Bergen to Bush's Charlie McCarthy) over his Iraq War impetus and policy. Now this son-of-a-bitch is all...treason-struck?

Take a laugh break on that, everyone. I'll wait.

Okay, now gather yourselves. Come on. (BEAT) Good. We're back.

There's Cheney's ego-driven fear of being viewed as just a stick-swinging dolt, and secondly—and this one he'll never admit to—his fear of the scarlet letters “WC” for “War Criminal” dogging him about for the rest of time. It's an ugly moniker, and one that once stuck, is like duct tape on angora. Remember Christopher Hitchens' revelatory book “The Trial Of Henry Kissinger” on the one-time Secretary Of State's death-fueling, back-channel misdeeds while supposedly “strategizing” the Vietnam War? In that book he famously tagged ol' Hank (and pretty much rightfully so) with the moniker “War Criminal” and left it there an ugly part of him, like a huge, un-ignorable goiter around his neck. It hasn't gone away. In fact that rough re-branding has damaged Kissinger's legacy and stature ever since. Cheney's problem though, is that the evidence we've seen, and based on his panicked defensiveness of late—he appears actually closer to the epicenter of “War Criminal-dom” than Kissinger is. It's to the point where Cheney, unlike any other VP in memory probably cannot travel abroad unfettered due to the risk of being snatched up by freelancing vengeance seekers, agents for aggrieved governments or worse—done in outright by the angriest of either lot based on the depth and breadth of his unlawful actions over Iraq. Should an investigation (a transparent one, mind you) reveal the hollow-hearted evil that too many assume true to just pooh-pooh, the retribution would not just be directed at a relatively well-protected him, but at the less-protected average U.S. citizen daring to move about the world. The day the nadir of his perfidy is brought to light, he will effectively have put the lives of hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions of Americans and more worrisome to him—American Interests (“Cha-CHING!”) in exponentially greater jeopardy than before.

“He does not care what you and I think.”

But he does shit barb wire-wrapped bricks over what you know about him.

His power is his ability to sneak about unseen and do his dirt. He was the shot-caller who made it all happen from his array of “undisclosed locations”. He was the guy who during his VP tenure ordered up those big-ass document shredders “just because, and had the Mosler Company build the even bigger-assed, eight-foot high custom safes to tuck away secrets too awful and unbelievable to ever see day's light in our lifetimes. Thus, he will fight to the ends of the earth to keep what we know about what he did to the barest minimum, and this is why the very idea of an investigation like this has sparked such a knee-jerk-to-the-nuts response from him.

And the more we openly learn about him (Note how he fought like holy hell to keep the particulars and names of who attended his energy confabs during those early months of the Bush presidency. We never found that out.) the more that knowledge recasts him historically. Not your view and my view...but in the grand overview reminiscent of how we mockingly recall a Neville Chamberlain as a laughing stock, because of a massive and ultra-public fuck-up. That, he cannot abide.

With that, there is one other, ohhhh...little ol' bugaboo for him.

While as stated before, “That fear is not of jail. He'd be off to Paraguay to happily embark on his calming hobby of cloning long-dead despots before he'd ever end up in a prison cell for his misdeeds.”, he would be exposed to a near-certain “in absentia” prosecution in the World Court. Again, it is extremely doubtful he'd get within a thousand miles of a Hague detention cell, but that Beyond Kissinger level of disgrace, the kind of thing that gets captioned tsk-tsk-ingly in history books for decades and is directly communicable to one's descendants (fairly or unfairly...tough luck there, Liz with the whole “Sins Of The Fathers” thing )—would be the nuking of the ashes of whatever would be left of his name.

It would be the capper to the ultimate legacy trash-fecta. 1.) Catalyst of death to countless innocent Americans. 2.) Callous Dope. 3. Prosecuted War Criminal.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney does not care what you and I think. “Thinking” you see, is to interpretation.

But what the world knows about him? Well...knowing is a whole lot more solid and damning.

What's the old saying? “The Lord moves in mysterious ways”? Fair enough. But along those lines, his infamous polar opposite we also know revels in shadows deeper still. A power-sapping uncloaking...a clear knowing the true depth of one's evil can make even a cold-blooded devil pop sweat.

And irony like one hell of a thing to see, isn't it?
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Seeing What's Been Broken For Centuries

Rick Perlstein absolutely nailed it last month: "In America, crazy is a pre-existing condition."

I want to take this extremely useful reminder one or two steps further. We need to ask ourselves (1) When dealing with manifest mental illness, what is an effective and humane form of behavior that doesn't make things worse, for us or for them? and (2) Let's be explicit about what kind of crazy we're facing here.

Once I was having dinner with an old friend who had retired to a rural area for a while after an extended, messy break-up. She was back in town and we were catching up. She looked much brighter and happier than she had when she'd left town, and I was relieved to see it. Before we got to dessert, however, she confided that she'd finally gotten over her heartbreak after having visitations from aliens -- she could name the planet and galaxy -- who let her know she'd been born there, not on Earth, and she would always have problems relating intimately to Earthlings. I broke into giggles, but she was dead serious. She had come up with a way to cope, a narrative which worked for her, and I had about twenty seconds to figure out what to do.

That sort of situation, once the shock passes (take several sips of tea), is not so hard to handle. Ask questions, stay kind, remind yourself what they -- any of us -- really want/deserve is love and interest. Easy to remember when it's your friend. She didn't have any children she was responsible for, she was clean and eating well and driving okay, and she wasn't going around telling everybody she was from Planet X, only the folks she trusted, so she wasn't about to get locked up. Functionally delusional.

I'm thinking, at this point in America, about one out of every three people is functionally delusional. I think we've always had more than our share because of the nature of our immigration here -- folks who can healthily adjust to and remain in their home communities don't leave those communities. And being persecuted doesn't mean you haven't also become pretty messed up along the way.

On top of that revisitation of the great American myth, I also believe that white supremacy, woman-hating, class exploitation, and child abuse are all concrete forms of mental illness. They are interlinked, they have for millenia been fostered and supported by European governments and the Christian Church, and they are the bedrock upon which our country was founded. When Che said he envied us because we live in the belly of the beast, the point is not whether he was being sarcastic: The point is that living in the belly is a very poor strategic position from which to fight the beast unless you first acknowledge all your sustenance is coming from the beast.

To put it another way, if you say you are not a racist, you most definitely are. Racism is a core value in our culture and nobody escapes the conditioning. And the basic tenet of racism is not that "there are differences between the races" or whatever Websterian bullshit semantic game you want to trot out: The basic tenet of racism is white supremacy. If you are not white, you are second-class (on a good day). You are the Other. You are a risk to the American Way of Life.

Yes, some white Europeans got labeled not-quite-white or The Other for a while, but that merely proves the point. You can lose your position of safety in a system built on racism by associating with/defending/or becoming not-white. It keeps white people in line, this risk; most especially working-class white folks who are already on thin ice.

So, because of a brilliant campaign in which one of the subliminal messages was "I'm not entirely black, I'm not black like Jesse Jackson or Jeremiah Wright, I've picked up enough class polish to not embarrass you like Dubya, and I will NOT make America deal with its bedrock racism", we've elected an African-American to the Presidency. I'm not saying those are the only reasons Obama was elected, but for too many white people who cast the deciding votes, I believe the hope that we could simply side-step racism and Just Be Together made Obama someone they voted for.

Plus: The mess about to handed to the next President was godawful. Who do we get to clean up our messes for us in this country? The really terrible messes, the ones that make you need to gag? Women and/or People of Cullah. Goes without saying.

But for that 30% who are functionally delusional, part of their functionality vanished when the Presidency didn't go to a white guy. They simply cannot cope with what has actually occurred. They are, to use jargon, decompensating. I happen to believe the impact would have been just a great if Hillary had been elected, and if there's one bright lining in all these, it's that I'm not having to listen to the non-stop woman-hating jag that would be going on if she'd been elected. Not Sarah Palin, because she is a Real Woman, according to the delusion, which means she's under the thumb of a man. But in comparison to all the horrifying racism that has bubbled up to the surface (didn't have far to go, let's be honest), if it were Hillary as target, it wouldn't just be the Right. It would be all our nice liberal boys who get twitchy at the mention of her name.

You'll see their flecks of spittle start appearing in the comments as soon as I post this. Until I delete those comments for being unhingedly off the point, that is.

Thus, the racism that was always there, always running the show, has been unmasked for a lot of white people, and we can't live in the same comfortable pretense that we had before. Even those of us who have other labels which make us pitchforks-and-torches targets -- dykes, fags, Jews, crips, poor and not upwardly mobile -- have had a jolt, seeing how much crazy is pouring from the seams. To quote Madge, "We're soaking in it."

And the only way to clean it up thoroughly is to scrub down to bare wood. Otherwise, we'll keep having what we've got.

It won't be Obama and his inner circle who does this work. It's going to be so-called progressives (which is not a cohesive, clearly defined community, either) who will help steward our culture from about to self-destructive Crazy to admitting-we-have-a-problem-and-maybe-we-can-work-on-it Crazy. What I've promised myself in this process is to not lie just because what I'm criticizing Obama and his crew for may remind me/us of the hate pouring from racism. I have to remember, I voted for him, I want him to succeed, I want him to find a way to live up to ideals that he may have only mouthed for political expedience, but people can change.

And here's a few thoughts I've had over the last couple of weeks.

(1) The Birther insanity is code for "There is no such thing as a legitimate black birth." Admitting that black children can be born with as much legitimacy as white children strokes a sledgehammer blow at white supremacy. ESPECIALLY if it's the result of miscegenation, which was still illegal in this country for a chunk of my lifetime.

(2) The school speech "controversy" is code for "We don't let our children see or hear black people who speak well and with pride." This is no joke: Families built around authoritarian principles don't let African-American images in television come into their homes, unless they are being arrested by cops, clearly poor and/or "know their place", or the parents are there to make sure the kids hear non-stop racism instead of noticing the black people look/sound like people. White people who have been raised with this kind of isolation and deliberate poisoning are all around us. Continuing that practice is the real point of not letting their kids hear Obama speak in a non-racist, public setting. Contagion, you know -- if they find out they can be lesbians, their daughters will never choose men, and if they find out black people can be smart and powerful, they'll insist on living in a world where that's the case.

(3) Having lots of people openly carry guns makes public settings extremely unsafe for everybody present. Statistics have proven it over and over again: Add a gun to a crowd, and the odds of somebody innocent dying go way up. The point of having armed presence at public forums is to scare away the non-crazies, to get us used to further militarization of our discourse and community environments, and to have weapons handy in case somebody goes off the deep end and DOESN'T HAVE ONE OF THEIR OWN TO USE. "Hey, I was just carrying for self-defense, how was I to know that lunatic would snatch it from my holster and fire at the President?"

(4) Recruitment and glomming together of the deranged can be subtle. During the 1980s, the activist group I worked with finally figured out how come the Klan and Nazis kept having rallies in places where they were absolutely going to be shouted down by the opposition. They didn't hope to persuade any of us to change our minds, and they knew they were pissing off the neighborhoods they intruded upon. But because of that antagonism, they had to be surrounded by cops two or three rows deep, cops who were facing screaming commies, Jews, lesbians, and POC. Those cops were the Klan's recruitment target. These days it's cops plus the military.

(5) If somebody says, in any translation, that they cannot handle what is actually occurring -- and we're hearing that now, 24/7 -- we need to point out over and over again that THEY are the ones with a problem. Crazy people seldom admit they are crazy.

(6) You don't argue with crazy people. We go on with our work, and if they interfere, we say "Nope, I don't have time to help you right now with your emotional imbalance" and MEAN IT.

There's more...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Obama Channels Bush

“You Don't Have to Talk About the Parts”

Because they're Icky. Gurl Parts. Moist and Gurrrrly. Ick.

Gays, Women, Privacy, Spying on Us'all... Tell me again; how is it Obama varies from Bush? He even captures people and does renditions to countries that do torture.

But oh yeah... Unlike Bush who hid all that, Obama's people will try really hard to follow up, sometime, eventually, most likely, to see that the bad countries didn't hurt the bad people too badly.

If they did, well... tough shit.

You could bring it up before a Federal Court of Appeals. If it weren't for the Obama Administration arguing that pesky State Secrets Act, precisely the same as Bush.

Yeah, there are some places things are different.

But if you're a girl, gimp, gay or just want some goddamn personal privacy...
The United States holds (G.W.Bush,43,2001-2009;B.H.Obama,44,2009-?):
Fuck Off. We Don't Care About You OR Anything About You Or Your Queer / Fucked-Up Pals. Seriously.

< Obama >
It isn't even that you haven't paid your political dues. You faggots especially... I wouldn't have won California without you, or Hollywood, which means the kids would never have broken early for me, which means I'd never have been totally filling 25,000 person auditoriums in February with over-flow stretching around the auditorium for the money shot, leaving Hillary stuck in a quarter-empty 2,500 person union hall down by the docks with people leaving as soon as she's done while I'm back on stage for a 30 minute rope-line. EVERYONE wants to be with the winner and the gays of California without question fed me the money and the State and the media and Hollywood. When Hollywood comes out for you that's it. You get the kids and that's show-biz. The only question then is, can you ride the tiger or does she buck you? I had the best campaign team in the biz, we'd been preparing for years, and we rode her and won.

And in spite of all that, fuck the gays, fuck the gimps, and fuck the girls. And no privacy for anyone. For reals.

I know, gang. All of y'all expected me to handle your thing right now. *cracks up* Not gunna. Ain't happening. Not till the second term. IF there's a second term. So quit your goddamn bitching, get up off your ass, stop stabbing me in the back and HELP ME ON WHAT MATTERS which is a PUBLIC HEALTH CARE PLAN and THE ECONOMY. Because if BOTH of those doesn't pass in a version that fucking COUNTS, ain't none of us going to be here two and a half years from here (and we'll lose Congress in 14 months, which is what those Fuck Heads are trying to make happen.) If we do get Public Health Care and the Economy, THERE is my Second Term and then I can not only get girls, gimps and gays, we can get the environment for the next 80 years and fix social security. Plus handle hunger and destroy most diseases.

But right now, all there is, ain't nothing else, is Public Health Care and the Economy. All out, nothing held back, at a level that will HANDLE shit for everyone.

So work, dammit, work. Because nothing these fucking white crackers want more than to see me fail (except to see me die.) What... did you think just 'cause the Black man's in the Big House, that was it? We had it made? Fuck... Those cracker's are bringing ASSAULT rifles to my events. It used to be bad during the election. Now, it's a whole new thing...

I can't do this shit alone. I need your help.
< / Obama talking >

K. This is Jesse again.

Obama -- as I wrote back at The News Blog -- received Secret Service protection way-the-fuck back long before any other candidate (excepting Hillary who lives inside the Bubble) because of the many and early no-kidding threats he was receiving. The Crackers hate the idea of a Black man in the White House. Hate, hate, if drives them fucking insane.

And now that Obama is no longer Barack for President but is President Obama, No. 44 with the formal portrait coming and already in the history books -- LM and I were there; it happened, two million people turned out and it was the most wonderful party EVAH. Yes, we were freezing our asses off and don't get me started about how badly the Capital Police and Capital planning folks from the Senate & House screwed things up. Totally typical Senate and House. They had their seats so screw everyone else -- but whatever. The thing is, those goddamn Republican LOSER Crackers just can NOT handle that someone who is not a White Man is POTUS.

Only four, no, five things could make it worse for the Crackers: If POTUS were

  • a woman
  • of color
  • and a big ol' bull-dyke (or even worse, trans)
  • and fat. Really no kidding, huge I'm talking BIG, and no issues with it either,
  • and not just a fat dyke of color, but a seriously practicing Muslim, whose father has multiple wives (and thus, obviously, is not a U.S. citizen -- although he does have a worker's visa as a Physician, which lets him take good American jobs away from good Americans. *laughs*)
My question is, if that were true...

Would the United States Congress as currently constituted even let such a President-elect ...(we're positing say, Case Orange, the 25th Amendment, or a literal act of Jebus, 'cause there's obviously no way the last three of five gets elected in the current U.S.)... does the current Congress let this President-elect I just made up take the Oath, or do they impeach her beforehand with the Senate voting her fat ass out of office the same day there's almost not enough time for the CIA to grab the bitch, slab a black bag over her head and rend her to some torture-lubbing land which will teach all fat Islamic dykes everywhere (U.S. citizens preparing to be sworn in a President especially) to stay the hell away from the U.S.A. 'cause ain't nothing gurls can do against real men.

Gurl parts = Yuck. And that's just the way it is.
There's more...