Monday, May 24, 2010

Sarah & Vinnie complaint

I'm writing to complain about the reaction on the Sarah & Vinnie show this morning to the story about the child molester who got turned in by his girlfriend. The story was that the guy accidentally showed his girlfriend pictures of himself molesting a 2-year-old girl and the girlfriend didn't turn him in until he began "making comments" about her own daughter.

The hosts' reaction was to immediately attack this girlfriend. You guys don't know the first thing about her, what her own abuse history was, what her survival options were. Think about it - no molester is going to "accidentally" open those picture files. *The event was staged.* This predator obviously goes step by step in targeting babies, dated a woman with a young daughter, and built a relationship in which his girlfriend knew he'd kill her if she turned him in. When she saw the kid porn pictures, she survived that event. That in itself is remarkable. And then, when it came right down to it, *she put her daughter's personal safety ahead of her own life.*

I'm offended that your first reaction was to attack her. What you guys did is the exact equivalent of slamming a rape victim for not fighting back, or for not calling the police. When you're in a situation like that, survival is the first order of business. She clearly wasn't "stupid" or "mentally challenged" as you guys immediately labeled her. She's a hero. Because of her, this monster is going behind bars.

a sometimes listener,

Thursday, April 1, 2010


I just read another amazing post by Harriet over at Fugitivus. About three months ago, I discovered her blog (I think via Feministing) at which point I spent the next three weeks reading every single post and every single comment published, three years' worth of posting. There simply is not another writer dealing as honestly, completely, humorously, wisely, and empathically with issues surrounding rape, feminism, and privilege. Today's post is about privilege.
So I’m trying to apply that to this. I’m cisgendered, and I don’t have any right to talk about a transgender experience. But I do have a right – and now an imperative – to talk about the ways in which strict gender roles have limited or damaged my life. These are things that have always fallen under the concept “Feminism,” but that’s a word that very obviously isn’t specific enough, because it’s a word that allows transphobic bigots to spread their wings. I need to find ways to understand, personally and politically, how my freedom rests on the freedom of transfolk, that these things cannot be divided. I know I have these experiences – I know many people have – and have just never believed that they had anything to do with transsexuals.
It's hard to quote Harriet; her essays are multi-layered and structured in a non-linear but pyramidal method so that you're reading along, laughing and engaged, and then she gets to something that you, the reader, recognize as A Point, and it's like getting walloped on the back of a head by a nun - you get the feeling that you should have known this all along. I can't recommend her blog enough. I even wrote my own Harriet-style blog entry once - imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - but this blog isn't quite anonymous enough for me to post that kind of personal honesty on the web for all to see. However, it is the perfect vehicle for me to post these kinds of paeans to her writing that otherwise would clutter up her comments. Really, all I want to do is stand up and clap. She doesn't need that from me, and I'm guessing that her readers won't get any value out of reading the applause from a privileged male.

Here's what struck me about today's post: It's the beginnings of a method for internally attacking privilege. Do you remember, on the first Utah Phillips disc that Ani produced, the story about the pacifist friend who ran the halfway house? Utah is telling a story about Ammon Hennacy:
He said, "You were born a white man in mid-twentieth century industrial America. You came into the world armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons. The weapons of privilege: racial privilege, sexual privilege, economic privilege. If you wanna be a pacifist it's not just giving up guns, and knives, and clubs, and fists, and angry words - but giving up the weapons of privilege and going into the world completely disarmed. Try that!"
That old man has been gone now about 20 years, and I'm still at it. But I figure that if there's a worthwhile struggle in my own life, that's probably the one. Think about it.
That absolutely is a worthwhile struggle. I've been working on it for about 20 years myself. And Harriet, in the post I linked above, actually outlines the first active steps in the struggle. Here's how I understand it:

1. Recognize your privilege at work. This most often occurs when someone you've hurt stands up to say, in effect, "ouch." It's hard not to react defensively, but remember, lots of others that you've hurt have not stood up in the past.

2. Connect the experience of the underprivileged to your own experiences. It's remarkably easy to do, once you start looking. It's why actors can play any role, and Shakespeare is so relevant even today - because all human experience is universal human experience. The only difference is quantitative, not qualitative.

3. Learn about how other people have dealt with the fallout of privilege. Read first-hand accounts of oppression and, when possible, successful strategies against oppression. Claim those individuals who have defeated oppression, in small and large ways, as your heroes - despite whatever surface differences there may be between you. Is your goal the same as theirs? Then claim them. Mother Jones, Mahatma Ghandi, Dr. King, James Madison. What did they do, how did it work, where did they mess up, what did they say that we have not yet heard?

4. Create positive tactics in your own life to chip away at oppression. Write down your thoughts. Don't laugh at rape jokes. When you see a situation that could turn to violence, witness it with attention. Place yourself in environments that are open to all people - stay away from all Country Clubs, whatever they may be. Work to them even further. Refuse to accept oppression, stand up and say "Ouch."

Disarm yourself. It's the only way to survive.

Friday, March 12, 2010

HCR comment discussion

I got involved in a discussion last week with an HCR opponent in the comment section on this news story.

Even though my interlocutor had the last word in this particular thread, because of my time constraints, I thought it was interesting enough to post. The dialogue follows:

fredschumacher wrote:
To accept health care reform is to accept we are mediocre.
*** Right -- we're so mediocre that rich politicians from Canada fly across the border to get heart operations rather than wait in line for government health care.
The "our health care is mediocre" claim is one of the standard talking points for progressives who want the federal government to have even more power over the average American.
But nobody's buying that ruse. Come off it -- if you were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, do you seriously expect us to believe that you'd want to get treated anywhere except right here in the United States?
("Hmmm ... the Mayo Clinic vs. a Castro government clinic in the middle of Havana ... gee, which to choose, which to choose?")

...there are 50 million Americans who can't get regular care. Go read this article about a free health clinic in Illinois and then tell me we have the best health system in the world.

First, tell me which country you'd prefer to get treated in if you were suddenly diagnosed with cancer.
Because ours is still the best health care system in the world, regardless of whether every bit of it is perfect or not.
It's a false choice to say that either we embrace the Senate version of ObamaCare ... or we don't get health care reform. Start again, this time from scratch, this time without the pork and the bribes, this time without spending trillions of dollars, and this time without trying to create dozens of new bureaucratic agencies.
One of the things that makes the Senate bill repulsive to the majority of Americans is that it puts every American under the thumb of the benevolent federal government. Congress can create a government program for people who want and need health insurance without making 300 million Americans subservient to the benevolent federal government.

later, uponfurtherreview:
You still haven't laid a glove on my point -- if government health care is so wonderful, how come rich Canadians who can afford it choose to get treated in America? Obviously, because they consider American medical care the world's best ... and they don't want to wait weeks and months for the treatment, which is what happens with socialized medicine.
Also, if health care is so unavailable for some people, why can illegal immigrants walk into emergency rooms in the United States and get treated, regardless of their ability to pay?
As for being diagnosed with cancer and not being able to afford it, you have no idea what you're talking about. My mother was in that exact same situation and was able to enroll in a hospital program that offered her treatment for a reduced charge.
So don't even try to tell me that it's either ObamaCare or dead patients in the street -- I've lived the reality, and I know the progressive talking points when I see them.

then, a very reasonable W. Doc Stodden:
The idea that rich Canadians come to the US to the standard clinic which is in most of our reach is ridiculous. They come to be treated at the best facilities in the world, which would be the best in the world if they were in Minnesota or Bombay. The notion that there is something special about American medicine that the rest of the world doesn't have is ludicrous. And yet, most of us can't access the best that they have in this country. After all, those rich Canadians don't fly to LA and try to get into the emergency room in the public hospital there. Why not? because they are rich enough to afford WAY better.
I find that interesting. If our health care is so great that Canadians can access it, why should the average person also have access to that sort of health care? Cost is one good reason. Get rid of insurance, and make it all free, and then we can all got to Mayo Clinic like the rich of foreign countries can.
Without reform, we're going be stuck sitting in emergency rooms for hours and hours while we bleed out. Because that's the sort of care most of us have access to. People who can afford to use the best of the best use it, and the rest of us can't and we get something significantly less than the best.

uponfurtherreview replies:
Let me address a few of your most "interesting" points:
1. "(Canadians) come to be treated at the best facilities in the world, which would be the best in the world if they were in Minnesota or Bombay."
Ummm ... yeah, but the best facilities in the world AREN'T in Bombay, or Cuba, or Canada, or the U.K., are they? They're right here in the non-socialized United States! And you seem to think that's somehow a coincidence.
2. "And yet, most of us can't access the best that they have in this country."
Gee, Doc, most of us can't drive the best car, live in the best house, wear the best clothing or eat the best food in this country either -- what's your point? If you seriously believe that every person in America should be entitled to the same things that every other American gets, your idea of utopia sounds more like something Karl Marx would have dreamed up.
America is about equality of opportunity -- not equality of outcome.
3. "If our health care is so great that Canadians can access it, why should the average person also have access to that sort of health care? Cost is one good reason. Get rid of insurance, and make it all free, and then we can all got to Mayo Clinic like the rich of foreign countries can."
Ri-i-i-ight, Doc ... and while we're at it, let's just pass a law that says every American is entitled to free caviar and a free bottle of Dom Perignon every night, too. Because gosh, if you get rid of those evil capitalistic alcoholic-beverage distributors and put our noble government in charge of it, there'll be an endless supply of the best of everything for one and all!
But seriously -- the more likely result of your plan is that every American will have access to lower-quality health care with longer waits for treatment ... but hey, on the positive side (in your mind, at least), we'll all finally be equal!
4. "Without reform, we're going be stuck sitting in emergency rooms for hours and hours while we bleed out. Because that's the sort of care most of us have access to."
That's simply hilarious. Where in America do people sit in emergency rooms for hours and "bleed out"? Sheesh, even illegal immigrants can walk into E.R.'s and get treated for free.
The scenario you describe is the stuff of science fiction and progressive talking points (if you'll pardon the redundancy).

Then I jump back into the fray:
Here we finally get to the basis of uponfutherreview ideology. To him, life-and-death health care is a luxury only the rich get to have ("caviar and .. Dom Perignon"). In his preferred system, the currently-existing death panels of insurance beauracracies get in between doctors and patients and deny potentially life-saving surgeries. Google "Nataline Sarkisyan" for an example.
uponfurtherreview: can you imagine a situation in which a disaster occurs and you, personally, lose all money and current health coverage? Have any pre-existing conditions? How about some unreported acne in high school? Guess what, you're out of luck in your cancer treatments next year. What, are you complaining? But you had the same opportunity as everyone else. Guess you're just dead. But thank goodness, we avoided any regulation on those insurance companies! Great, best health care ever! Go USA!

Thanks for the best laugh I've had all morning, SFHeath. Obviously you failed to grasp my rather simple analogy -- that government can dictate anything it wants, but someone eventually has to pay the tab for it, and that needs to be taken into consideration before we get stuck with the current bloated, bribe-laden health care boondoggle.
I also want to salute the fine strawman you created. Nowhere in my post did I endorse a position of "life-or-death health care" as a luxury. To the contrary, I've noted that illegal immigrants can walk into emergency rooms and get treated, regardless of their ability to pay (not to mention their citizenship).
That hardly strikes me as a system that denies life-saving treatment and lets the underprivileged die by the millions on the curb, but hey, I understand your side's desperation to impose government-controlled care on the American public before what's left of your Congressional majority gets voted out in November.
Fact is, I'm not opposed to health care reform. But ObamaCare is about power, not health care, and you're not fooling anybody with your histrionics and deliberate mischaracterization of my position. Thanks for playing, though.

Huh. I must have actually hit a nerve to get such a patronizing response. Nowhere else on this thread have you been so very dismissive. Listen, you say you aren't opposed to health reform. Do you understand that this is the one chance we'll get for health reform in a generation? The last opportunity was in the early years of the Clinton administration. Twenty years before that, we got Medicare. For over sixty years, we've been trying to put the brakes on our unsustainable medical delivery system and failed. Do you want to wait another twenty or sixty years for real changes? For the elimination of pre-existing conditions, of recission, of unregulated premium increases?
The status quo is a life-or-death situation, though you disbelieve it. It's not a strawman argument, since you have been arguing for the status quo in every comment you make. I personally know a man who lost his life when his insurance gave out and he couldn't manage his diabetes any longer. There are many life-or-death situations that won't be solved by an ER visit (which, by the way, you and I pay for out of taxes - incredibly more expensive than maintenance and prevention care would have been).
I also don't see how you say I "mischaracterized" your argument when I actually quoted your comment ("caviar...Dom Perignon"). Nowhere did I say "lets the underprivileged die by the millions on the curb" - the number is more like 45,000 per year - nor did I say I wanted to impose "government-controlled care" on anybody. What the heck does that mean, anyway? And where in the legislation does it exist? Sounds like "death panels" to me. An example of a true strawman argument. Have you been listening to the discredited Betsy McCaughey?
I hope that you can feel some empathy for your countrymen, and review the legislation a little more, with an open mind. You'll find that the provisions are paid for. You'll find that 30 million more Americans will get health care. You'll find that premium increases slow down for everybody. I don't begrudge you any skepticism of politicians - in fact, I applaud it - but the fact remains that Ds try to actually address the serious problems our country faces, and the Rs merely politick and loot the treasury.

It's not about hitting a nerve; it's about accurately reflecting my position. Speaking of which, I have these reactions to your post:
1. "Do you understand that this is the one chance we'll get for health reform in a generation?"
I understand that this may be the one chance for GOVERNMENT-CONTROLLED health reform, yes -- which is exactly why I want it to fail. I'm not interested in federal bureaucrats telling me which doctor I'm allowed to see and which treatment (if any) I'm allowed to get, nor are most Americans.
If Congress is serious about reforming health care, it should try creating a program that covers only the 30 million American citizens (if that many) who need and want g0vernment-controlled health care, and leave the rest of us alone.
2. "I personally know a man who lost his life when his insurance gave out and he couldn't manage his diabetes any longer."
Your mistake is in assuming that government-rationed care would be any better. Google "advanced breast cancer" and "UK" and "denied treatment" and you'll find out about the thousands of women who were denied life-extending drugs because the government deemed the expense unworthy. We also have the president on record as saying that a 100-year-old woman who needs a pacemaker should perhaps receive a pain pill instead.
How many more elderly Americans are going to be prescribed pain pills when what they really need are pacemakers, dialysis and countless other treatments that the bureaucrats of ObamaCare want to deny?
3. "I also don't see how you say I 'mischaracterized' your argument when I actually quoted your comment ('caviar...Dom Perignon'). "
Because it had nothing to do with comparing luxury items to luxury items. The point was, you can pass laws that say every American is entitled to (a house, a car, free food, or fill in the blank) and then call yourself compassionate. But somebody has to pay for it -- and it won't be our Congressmen -- so all they're really doing is blowing other people's hard-earned money in hopes of winning votes.
4. "There are many life-or-death situations that won't be solved by an ER visit."
Sure there are -- but there are other options, too. My mother was able to enroll in a hospital program that enabled her to get cancer treatments at a reduced rate. So the "crisis" is exaggerated by power-hungry politicians like Obama and Pelosi, who care far more about gaining greater control over Americans than whether a bunch of little people get the life-saving care they need.
5. "I hope that you can feel some empathy for your countrymen, and review the legislation a little more, with an open mind. You'll find that the provisions are paid for. You'll find that 30 million more Americans will get health care."
Again, if this were only about those 30 million people, I'd be more open to the bill. But it's not -- it's about putting the federal government in control of my medical decisions in the guise of compassion. You have to see through the smoke screens of politicians and ask yourself, "Have they really been pushing this bill so hard for the past year because of their altruism -- or because they see a historic opportunity to make government the boss of the people?"
Let me know which of us you think got the better of the discussion.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Naomi Poncho

Here's a knitting pattern I designed today. It's for a 16" square poncho for my little girl, with a built-in neck hole. I'll cast on tomorrow and, if it looks any good at all, I'll post a photo as an update.

Naomi Poncho
Designed 1/16/2010
gauge: 18 st x 24 rows = 4" x 4"
size 6 and 8 needles

Main Work
Bottom Border
In CC, cast on 73 stitches on size 6 needles.
Row 1: k1, * p1, k1, * repeat from * to * until last stitch, k1 (seed stitch)
Repeat 11 times (ending with row 12; do not cut off rest of CC).

Front Flap
Slip first 10 stitches on to stitch holder.
Switch to MC, Ball A; switch to size 8 needles.
Row 13: k54, slip remaining 9 stitches on to stitch holder
Row 14: k1, p52, k1
Row 15: k54
Row 16: k1, p52, k1
Row 17: k4, c6b, k32, c6f, k4
Row 18: k1, p52, k1
Repeat rows 13-18 twice (ending with row 30)

Neck Opening
Row 31: k14, Switch to MC Ball B, k40
Row 32: k1, p37, p2tog, Switch to MC Ball A, p1, m1tbl, p12, k1
Row 33: k15, Switch Balls, k37
Row 34: k1, p36, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p13, k1
Row 35: k4, c6b, k5, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k26k c6f, k4
Row 36: k1, p34, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p15, k1

Row 37: k17, m1tbl, k1; Switch Balls, k2tog, k34
Row 38: k1, p32, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p17, k1
Row 39: k20, Switch Balls, k34
Row 40: k1, p31, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p18, k1
Row 41: k4, c6b, k10, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k21, c6f, k4
Row 42: k1, p29, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p20, k1

Row 43: k22, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k29
Row 44: k1, p27, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p22, k1
Row 45: k25, Switch Balls, k29
Row 46: k1, p26, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p23, k1
Row 47: k4, c6b, k15, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k16, c6f, k4
Row 48: k1, p24, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p25, k1

Row 49: k27, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k24
Row 50: k1, p22, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p27, k1
Row 51: k30, Switch Balls, k24
Row 52: k1, p21, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p28, k1
Row 53: k4, c6b, k20, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k11, c6f, k4
Row 54: k1, p19, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p30, k1

Row 55: k32, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k19
Row 56: k1, p17, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p32, k1
Row 57: k35, Switch Balls, K19
Row 58: k1, p16, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p33, k1
Row 59: k4, c6b, k25, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k6, c6f, k4
Row 60: k1, p14, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p35, k1

Row 61: k37, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k14
Row 62: k1, p12, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p37, k1
Row 63: k40, Switch Balls, k14
Row 64: k1, p11, p2tog, Switch Balls, p1, m1tbl, p38, k1
Row 65: k4, c6b, k30, m1tbl, k1, Switch Balls, k2tog, k1, c6f, k4
Row 66: k1, p11, Switch Balls, p41, k1

Back Flap
Row 67: k54
Row 68: k1, p52, k1
Row 69: k54
Row 70: k1, p52, k1
Row 71: k4, c6b, k32, c6f, k4
Row 72: k1, p52, k1
Repeat Rows 67-72 twice (ending with row 84) (leave stitches on needle)

Vertical Border - Right Arm
Slip 9 CC stitches from stitch holder onto size 6 needles. Pick up one stitch from selvage of main work.
Work in seed stitch through Row 84. Slip 9 stitches on to stitch holder.

Vertical Border - Left Arm and Top Border
Slip 10 CC stitches from stitch holder plus 1 selvage stitch from main work onto size 6 needle.
Work in seed stitch through Row 84.
Row 85: k1, *p1, k1,* repeat from * to * picking up stitches from main work; slip 9 CC stitches from stitch holder to size 6 needle; *k1, p1,* repeat from * to * to last stitch, k1 (73 stitches)
Work in seed stitch through Row 96, then bind off. and sew in tails.

Friday, January 15, 2010


The stories of real heroes are starting to come out of Haiti. The kind of people who, if you met them, you would shake their hand and say "Thank you." The kind of people who inspire us all to do our best.

Writing with tears in my eyes for this horrible tragedy. And, just like after 9/11, the hero stories lift my heart. Time after time, in our darkest hour, human beings rise to the need and perform acts of valor and courage that must be remembered. Here are some links for you to peruse (the first one is the best). Please leave others in comments.

“There’s no more life here,” said a grandmother Thursday, who nonetheless rapped a broom against concrete in hopes that her four missing relatives believed to be buried inside might somehow respond.

The Southern Baptist Relief Team, once the immediate crisis is over, is prepared to go for a year to help rebuild.

Google is doing what they do best, to provide real help for Haiti now.

On Thursday, [Catholic Relief Services] officials in Baltimore monitored the progress of an initial team of three senior staff members as they boarded a chartered bus in Santo Domingo, climbed the mountains to the border with Haiti, and arrived in the capital with food, water, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and bedding."

Please Help Haiti

It's simple, fast, and will make a difference. Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T are waiving their fees for these charitable donations.

I found some information from MSNBC. You can make various amounts of automatic donations with the following texts:
  • Text the word "YELE" to 501501 to donate $5 to the Yele Haiti foundation.
  • Text the word "HAITI" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Foundation Haiti Relief Fund.
  • Text "HAITI" to 25383 to donate $5 to the International Rescue Committee.
  • Text "HAITI" to 85944 to donate $10 to the International Medical Corps.
  • Text "HAITI" to 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross.

When I texted the Red Cross, I immediately received a confirmation text from them to which I needed to reply YES to send the transaction through.

If you'd like to make a larger donation, Visa and American Express have decided not to make a profit off of the relief effort, but only for donations to organizations on their small, approved list.

It is absolute hell in Haiti right now, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Update: I found the advice on this blog to be sound, about considering which charities to support.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Citizen Me

I've been following Teddy Partridge's liveblogging of the Prop 8 trial. Since transcripts won't be available for a couple of months, and the SCOTUS upheld the defendants' appeal on youtubing the proceedings, this is the best source for the trial I can find. Alliance Defense Fund has a twitter feed, but I find it hard to follow and hard to search. It's unfortunate, because I wanted to get a defense-sympathetic report to compare.

Although it's liveblog, and thus necessarily paraphrased, here's a section I want to highlight because it's relevant to the recent discussions I've been engaged in regarding voter registration. The witness is for the plaintiffs, and is a historian who wrote a book about marriage in America:
Yes, the form of the republican government was a government based upon consent and voluntary allegiance. Not as a subject, as in Great Britain, which had subjects and not citizens. In breaking away from GB, the founders of teh [sic - yay liveblogging!] American republic formed a union based on voluntary consent. Their best analogy, seen in newspapers and pamphlets at the time, was marriage. In popular periodicals, that analogy was frequently made, that they should consent to be governed as people consent to marriage.
What's absent on the right at the moment is any sense that they have consented to government, if the government is run by the Democratic party. If Republicans aren't in power, it must be because Democrats stole the election. It must be because ACORN stole the election. And if Republicans don't win the next election, the true believers will have to grab their guns and kill everyone who doesn't agree with them. They just can't believe that other Americans - who have all the rights they do - can possibly disagree with them on anything; liberals must just be bad guys.

Someone named Geoffrey Britain gave a response I'd like you to consider, to a comment I made at Jim Simpson's place. My question was regarding a hypothetical method of removing the electoral college, and how anyone could believe that would lead to a tyranny: "Wouldn't it merely decrease the importance of "swing states" in the presidential election, and thus let the true will of the people be heard?" The answer:
The tyranny, would be the coastal urban populations over the rural conservative populations. If simple majority rules then if I don't share the majority's view I have no say in how our government shall be run and am in effect a second-class citizen.
Of course, Mr. Britain is not speaking for Mr. Simpson; however, I have found this attitude prevalent among many on the right. It probably comes out of the myth of us being a "center-right country," whatever that means. In other words, he's saying if the side he votes for doesn't win, then he's not just a minority, but an oppressed minority. It reminds me of last fall's Republican assertion that health reform in the U.S. Senate needed "80 votes" to be legitimate. It's a sense of entitlement that I find obscene.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Don't Let the Terrorists Win

Via John Ballard, I learned of this Paul Campos op-ed. Mr. Campos presents a perspective on terrorist attacks that we don't often hear in this country, and one that I subscribe to. Here's a sample, but please read the whole thing:
It's a remarkable fact that a nation founded, fought for, built by, and transformed through the extraordinary courage of figures such as George Washington, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. now often seems reduced to a pitiful whimpering giant by a handful of mostly incompetent criminals, whose main weapons consist of scary-sounding Web sites and shoe- and underwear-concealed bombs that fail to detonate.
Terrorball, in short, is made possible by a loss of the sense that cowardice is among the most disgusting and shameful of vices. I shudder to think what Washington, who as commander in chief of the Continental Army intentionally exposed himself to enemy fire to rally his poorly armed and badly outnumbered troops, would think of the spectacle of millions of Americans not merely tolerating but actually demanding that their government subject them to various indignities, in the false hope that the rituals of what has been called "security theater" will reduce the already infinitesimal risks we face from terrorism.

If the primary strategy of terrorists is to sow terror, the American response - in general, as presented to us through our media - shows how incredibly successful the terrorists have become despite how many times they have been foiled. It appears that the only way our government can succeed is to prevent plots without the citizenry ever learning of them. As mentioned most recently in the White House
summary analysis of Abdulmutallab's Christmas Day attempt, "On a great number of occasions since 9/11, many of which the American people will never know about, the tremendous, hardworking corps of analysts across the CT community [prevented attacks]. [emphasis mine]

However, the true victory against terrorism is for the citizenry not to give in to terror: not to agree to endless invasions of privacy and inconvenience in travel; not to elevate failed losers like Abdulmutallab and Jose Padilla to supervillain status. You didn't see the British during the blitz cowering in fear; when the bombs weren't falling, they went along with their business. Here's bravery amongst citizenry:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Health Care Fast

I'm sure everyone remembers Dr. Howard Dean's pushing for the public option last fall, and his repeated statements that it should go into effect, at least in part, by the mid-term elections, "for political reasons."

Swopa has a succinct version of this with a video embed, in which Dr. Dean gives his reason:
Once health care reform actually goes into effect, the Republicans who are only selling fear and anger -- that's all they're selling -- that has to go away, because reality will always trump fear and anger.

So, now that we know the preference of
60% of the American public is nullified by two people (Senators Lieberman and Nelson, the former going against the wishes of 82% of his constituents), that there's not going to be any kind of a public health insurance program included in the bill, is there enough policy left for reality to trump fear and anger? Politicians and pollsters will have to answer that question, but last Tuesday McClatchy reported on the parts of the health care bill that will most likely come into play prior to the 2010 elections. In the first paragraph, reporter David Lightman says there's "immediate help for the uninsured" but doesn't specify to what that refers. I've listed the specific items from his article here, in chronological order of implementation:

  • Slightly narrow the Medicare prescription-drug coverage gap and provide discounts on brand name drugs (immediately)
  • Require 80-85% of insurance companies' premium income to be spent on care (almost immediately)
  • Temporary insurance program for uninsured with pre-existing conditions (no later that spring 2010)
  • End of placing lifetime limits on coverage (summer 2010)
  • Require insurance companies to accept children (summer 2010)
  • More money for community health centers. (when?)
  • Allow youths to remain on parents' policies until at least age 26 (when?)
  • Expand health care locations for consumers (when?)

Are these policies enough for Democrats to hang their hats on? I have no idea. Would these changes be significant to most voters, or invisible? The slight relief on Medicare prescriptions might help grandma and grandma put down their "keep government out of my medicare" signs, but it's not going to make a huge difference. if the uninsured with pre-existing conditions are vocal enough, it might register with the rest of the population, however, not being directly affected means it's not as effective a policy. Requiring companies to provide coverage to all children is hugely popular but will need constant partisan trumpeting to counter the right-wing noise machine. Until the job market recovers, keeping your kids on your (presumably employer-provided) plan may help parents breathe a sigh of relief, and that might just be enough to cast the plan in a positive light.

I don't know politics, but the policies seem sound. They just need to point out (rightfully) how the Republican politicians wanted to prevent us from getting any of this. If you have more information on any of these pre-election implementations, I'd love to hear them in comments.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Voter Registration Does Not Equal Voter Vote Fraud

Via memeorandum, I happened on an article by Truth & Consequences blog author James Simpson. Mr. Simpson and I are clearly antipodal on the political blogosphere, but he was kind enough to respond to me in comments. That discussion went down a rabbit hole of tangents very quickly*, so I'd like to actually respond to the point of his post here. Mr. Simpson, I invite you to comment. And you can call me Heath.

He points to a speech given by voter-fraud hawk John Fund of the WSJ:

In January, Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank [John Conyers - see below] will propose universal voter registration. What is universal voter registration? It means all of the state laws on elections will be overriden by a federal mandate. The feds will tell the states: 'take everyone on every list of welfare that you have, take everyone on every list of unemployed you have, take everyone on every list of property owners, take everyone on every list of driver's license holders and register them to vote regardless of whether they want to be...'

John Fund apparently has a
history of lying, so it's hard to understand what exactly he's talking about here. I emailed him at, and asked him what his source was and why he named Messrs. Frank and Schumer and if he had seen the legislation. I am very grateful for his prompt reply to my e-mail, which read in its entirety "If I said Rep. Frank, that was an error. I meant to say Rep. John Conyers, chair of the Judiciary Committee."

Conyers or Frank, the upshot of his speech is to create a Palin-style "death panel" lie out of some old news with regards to Chuck Schumer.
Here's a New York Times editorial from last July:

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law looked at voter registration in 16 countries and four Canadian provinces. The registration rates ranged from 100 percent in Argentina and 97 percent in Belize to 68 percent in the United States. That 68 percent reflects poorly on American democracy. To live up to the ideal of the founders of a nation governed with the consent of the governed, the United States should aspire to get as close to full registration of eligible voters as possible.

In the American system, state and local officials, who have the primary responsibility in this area, have overwhelmingly failed to put in place the sort of system needed to bring eligible voters into the electorate. In many states, legislators and election officials have actually adopted policies designed to interfere with registration drives or erected other barriers.

Bolder action is needed to impose a higher standard on the states. Senator Charles Schumer, the Democrat of New York who is chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, is at work on a national voter registration modernization bill.

Of course, non-partisan voter registration has long been a cause for Schumer.
Once he even got a Republican, John Cornyn, to take part, when trying to make it easier for military members and families to register. I can easily imagine Schumer taking the lead on implementing some of the changes recommended by this report (pdf), from the non-partisan group Election Protection. Jonah Goldman of the Election Protection testified on 3/11/09 in front of Schumer's Senate Rules Committee about the disenfranchisement of voters in the 2008 elections. Some of the group's recommendations seem like the kind of thing Mr. Fund would want to spin into a lie:

Modernizing the voter registration system to one that is automatic, permanent, and allows for Election day correction will go a long way to solving these persistent problems by providing all eligible voters with an assurance that their names will be on the rolls while preventing the flood of last minute registrations that strain election administrators in the critical weeks before an election. A modern election system will include more eligible Americans, will save money in increased efficiency, and will build confidence in the electoral process.

Automatic Registration: Automatic registration shifts the burden of registration from voters to the government and eliminates the need to rely on independent, third-party voter registration organizations to sign up voters. Such a registration system will help states efficiently identify eligible voters from other government databases and add those names to their registration rolls. Voters can opt out if they prefer to not be registered, but for those who want to be included on the rolls, this system will continually update the names of eligible voters, eliminating the last minute deluge of registration applications just before registration deadlines.

Permanent Registration: Every year, at least one in six Americans move, most within their state. Millions more change their names. Under current, outmoded registration systems, the process for updating registrations is cumbersome, increasing the possibility for mistakes by voters or administrators. Many voters simply do not realize that they must clear this hurdle to remain eligible. Voters should be able to update their registration when their circumstances change, such as when they fill out a change of address form with the postal service. This will lessen the administrative burden on election officials and make it more likely these voters will not face problem at the polls.

Election day Correction: Making registration automatic and permanent will go a long way to overcoming the obstacles that our current registration system creates. No system, however, is perfect. Voters who are not automatically added to the rolls, those who change their names or who move without updating their registration, or those voters who show up and find their information on the voting rolls is incorrect should be able to update that information up to, and on, Election Day. A modern, sophisticated system of automatic and permanent registration will make this fail-safe rare. No eligible voter should be turned away at the polls because her name was not added or was incorrectly taken off the list.

The goal, like the NYT editorial stated, is to get every American registered so that every American has the opportunity to vote. That would seem to me to be the epitome of democracy - one person one vote, after all. I've e-mailed Senator Schumer to get his response. I don't really expect an answer - I'm nobody, after all, not even a constituent - but if I happen to get any kind of a response from him, I'll post it.

However, to the antipodal Mr. Simpson, who seems battle-hardened into anti-Democrat partisanship after decades of political engagement, it's a sinister conspiracy. Here's his takeaway from the idea, although it's unclear whether he has investigated any sources other than John Fund regarding this proximate issue:
The problems with universal voter registration are numerous and obvious. Many state lists include vast numbers of illegals, including some states which allow illegals to obtain driver's licenses; because many homeowners have more than one home there will be duplicates; because so many people are on so many separate federal and state government agency lists, there will be duplicates, and because so many lists exist with little or no cross-checking capability these duplicates are likely to go uncorrected. Add to this the fact that Dems hope to extend voting rights to felons and the whole thing begins to look like a nationwide Democrat [sic] voter registration drive facilitated by taxpayers.

I think the "problems" Mr. Simpson sees are derived from his imagination, not from any reliable source in reality. While I agree that non-citizens shouldn't be allowed to vote, I know that any legislation that actually gets passed will be air-tight against it - see the recent health care debate. Also, the simple way to prevent a voter registration drive causing an unequal impact on an election is to defer the implementation for an election cycle - have it begin in 2012 or 2016 for example, whatever is appropriate. The Election Protection group included something like that in its report, if I remember correctly.

Like all voter fraud snake-oil salesman, Mr. Simpson fails to describe how 'voter registration fraud' becomes actual 'vote fraud'. Mickey Mouse has probably registered thousands of times on college campuses over the last eighty years, but I'd be amazed to discover he'd ever cast a ballot!

And finally, why are Republicans always interested in suppressing the voter turn-out? Self-identified Republicans are
fewer now than they have been for sixteen years; they can no longer count on a huge turn-out from southern white evangelicals to carry them over the top. If they want to win any elections they need to get votes from African-Americans, Latino/Latinas, the young, minimum-wage workers, etc.; however, Mr. Simpson assumes all those demographics (including felons, for some strange reason) are a monolithic block of Democratic party voters! Not a very smart way of creating an electoral majority, I would say.

*basically, I started in a very limited manner, asking him to use the correct adjectival form of Democratic, rather than using the noun form of "Democrat" as a modifier; I got in response the most honest answer I've ever received from a right-wing partisan. His response is no longer available in the comment thread, but if can, I'll try to paraphrase it fairly: "I use Democrat in every instance to emphasize that there is nothing democratic about the Democrat party." I found that to be a fascinating assertion, and suggested I should start using the word "Rethuglican"; but I just can't bring myself to do so. At its base, it's an ad hominem attack.