Archive for Washington Post

America: A Culture Of Bullies & Violence?

Posted in Politics, THE PLAGUE with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by halmasonberg

America loves a bully. Despite the word’s definition: A person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. We, as Americans, celebrate the bully at every turn, while accusing those who use brains over brawn as being weak. Take our current president, for example. Here is a man who is consistently painted as being weak by his critics, both Republicans and Democrats alike. America’s love of the bully is what, for so long, made Russia such a formidable opponent. They were bullies and they were threatening our global bully position. Yes, we often claim to be the saviors of other “weaker” nations, but when given an opportunity to move a couple of notches up the evolutionary ladder, we almost always resort to our most basic, animalistic tendencies. That being said, we often do manage to grow eventually, but not before enacting irreversible brutality on both ourselves and those around us.

Barack Obama is fully capable of devouring his enemies and critics. But he does so with a knife and fork and a bib tucked neatly into his shirt. His recent live Q&A at a House Republican retreat in Baltimore proved that to be the case. Despite the ongoing insistence by the radical right that Obama is nothing without his teleprompter (that he’s all smoke and mirrors and his “illusion” of intelligence and knowledge has more to do with his well-rehearsed oratory skills), Obama cleaned the floor with these fools on live national television while suggesting “a tone of civility instead of slash and burn will be helpful.” And no teleprompter! His victory here was so complete that, according to MSNBC’s Luke Russert, one Republican official and other GOP aides confided that allowing the “cameras to roll like that” was a “mistake.” Even Fox News cut away from the live proceeding 20 minutes before it ended! And Ezra Klein of the Washington Post called it “the most compelling political television I’ve seen…maybe ever.” But in perfect pathological fashion, folks like Florida Republican Marco Rubio continue to insist that Obama is helpless without his teleprompter. It should be noted that Rubio made that claim again the other day while standing before a set of teleprompters and flipping through pages of notes on the podium before him.

So what exactly is this pathological rewriting of reality? I had a handful of very disturbing interactions with a Libertarian acquaintance of mine recently and felt I got a series of first-hand examples of this kind of mindset. The same mindset that allowed Fox News to cut away from Obama in Baltimore and replace him with talking heads who immediately started rewriting history even as it was happening! And what was most terrifying about my exchange with this Libertarian fellow who sees himself as “an extremely socially, ultra-liberal independent voter” was the complete and utter lack of self-awareness that accompanied it. This fellow would make accusations against Obama and other politicians, basically regurgitating “facts” which he’d heard or read elsewhere and, when confronted with proof to the contrary, would either A) delete his previous comments (when interacting online) or claim never to have said any such thing; or B) refuse to respond to any rebuttal by changing the subject entirely or simply calling his debate opponent crazy. All the while NEVER backing up any of his statements or admitting when he’d been proven wrong. Even when confronted with deleted comments he claimed never to have made (they were, unbeknownst to him, saved on our email accounts), he would then backpedal by saying “Well, that’s not what I meant to say.” But when asked what it was he had meant to say, he would again resort to name-calling, but never actually answer the question at hand. It seemed, time and again, truth and reality were of no interest to him. There was a complete and total pathology at work that would allow him to create new realities in any given moment to suit his desires. With this tact, logic and reason had no effect and were therefore of no importance. And while, in certain situations, an interaction like this might serve as a source of mild amusement or come across as innocently baffling, here, in the political arena, it was downright terrifying. And I took it to be a signifier of a mindset all too common by some of today’s most vocal political protesters.

Meanwhile, political henchmen and possible presidential candidates like Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin stir the pot by publicly proclaiming Obama weak for apologizing internationally for America’s past transgressions (mostly committed while Cheney was Vice President). As if admitting you were wrong or apologizing for mistakes was ineffectual and spineless as opposed to honorable, ethical and, that dirtiest of all words, conscientious. They also condemned the president for politely bowing before asian world-leaders (despite it being tradition and a sign of respect–much like a handshake). But to the bully, showing respect or admitting that there may be common ground is tantamount to surrendering. So while Obama continues to act like an intelligent, thoughtful, educated and civil world leader, many Americans simply can’t stomach the fact that he’s not more outwardly aggressive.

Recently, the National Review’s Daniel Pipes outlined his thoughts on how Obama (“a president whose election I opposed, whose goals I fear, and whose policies I work against”) can regain the respect of the nation and lift his sagging poll numbers in an article he called “How to Save the Obama Presidency: Bomb Iran,”:

“[Obama] needs a dramatic gesture to change the public perception of him as a light-weight, bumbling ideologue, preferably in an arena where the stakes are high, where he can take charge, and where he can trump expectations… Such an opportunity does exist: Obama can give orders for the U.S. military to destroy Iran’s nuclear-weapon capacity.”

Because, let’s face it, two wars is not enough. And they weren’t Obama’s. Obama needs his own trophy war if he wants to gain the respect of all those Americans who believe him to be a socialist wimp. And of course the simple-solutions everywoman, Sarah Palin, agreed wholeheartedly with Pipes:

“If [Obama] decided to toughen up and do all that he can to secure our nation and our allies, I think people would, perhaps, shift their thinking a little bit and decide, ‘Well, maybe he’s tougher than we think he’s—than he is today,’ and there wouldn’t be as much passion to make sure that he doesn’t serve another four years.”

And what’s saddest about all of this is that they may be correct. This would, quite likely, make a significant percentage of Americans more comfortable with Obama. Sure, it would plunge our already disastrous economy deeper into the toilet and hundreds of thousands of lives would most likely be lost in a war that would extend far beyond any comprehensible expectations (not to mention result in the further alienation of our Nato partners and other countries and citizens around the globe), but at least Obama would take his rightful place as another American bully and save face among his fellow citizens who think him a sissy boy. Or would it? We already know that, despite appalled denial, many Americans still struggle with racism and are not comfortable with a black (or even half-black) president. So what would happen if this president suddenly got tough, angry even, and became the bully we’re all so used to seeing in that highest of political offices? Well, he’d have a whole new set of problems to face that, well, a white guy might not, as Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg Times discussed back in April of 2008:

“For new school black politicians, it is an essential question: How do you recognize the righteous anger of those frustrated by racial inequality without looking like just another Angry Black Man?

Those of us who write often about black folks and politics knew there would come a moment when the first black man with a realistic shot at becoming president would have to face this challenge — reconciling black anger and frustration with white fear and resentment.”

Would Obama go from intellectually-threatening wuss to scary, angry black guy in the eyes of the fearful? I mean, in this country, as sad a commentary as it is, a white president and a black president are still not treated equally in the eyes of some of our citizens. Take that Wingnut email being forwarded that takes outrage at Obama putting his feet up on the desk in the Oval Office:

Does this photo of President Obama in the Oval Office convey anything to you about his attitude?

Would you speak with the Chief of Staff, your Chief Economics Adviser, and your Senior Adviser with your feet up on the Resolute Desk – a gift from Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880?

We should inundate the White House with emails demanding he keep his feet off of our furniture.

This arrogant, immature & self-centered man has no sense of honor, or of simple decency.

While this posture is disrespectful in any culture, it is absolutely never done in any executive setting.

Further, in over half of the cultures of the world, it is recognized not only as disrespectful, but as an extreme insult.

He thinks of himself as a king — and not as a servant of the people, humbly occupying our White House for his term in office.

Electing him was an enormous mistake — and will cost us in many ways, for generations.

Where were all the letters of appall and outrage when our last (white) president did the very same thing?

So one wonders if it is possible for a man like Barack Obama to be the bully America loves without being stamped “another Angry Black Man.” Would he gain some level of twisted respect from the very men and women who fear him (after all, in America, fear equals power and strength, right?), or do we only like our bullies to be white?

Personally, I’m thrilled not to have another bully president even though I find myself at times wanting Obama to be a little more forceful in his political dealings. While I admire and celebrate what I hope will turn out to be a more evolved approach to politics (it’s one of the reasons I voted for him), I believe he would actually be more effective if he were a bit more ruthless. Sadly, the current climate in Washington is set up to keep Obama from achieving any successes, regardless of whether or not they are in the best interest of most Americans. So he is essentially bullied by a divided House and Senate who will try and keep his hands tied for as long as he’s willing to allow them. At the same time, I believe Obama has a bigger picture in mind and is actually putting his money (and career) where his mouth is:

“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president… There’s a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. And, you know, that’s not just the view of elected officials themselves. That’s also the filter through which the media reads things.”

So while I am frustrated and angered by the eternal roadblocks put in place by lesser men and women, I am also thrilled to see America with an intelligent, self-aware leader who recognizes the changes that need to be made if we are to grow out of our infancy. Sadly, our love affair with violence (both verbal and physical) and our passion for vengeance and our need to be “stronger” than any potential opponent regardless of ideology or purpose, gets in the way of our actually making strides in the betterment of our people, our nation, or our world. And perhaps the above-mentioned live Q&A in Baltimore is a significant step in Obama bridging the gap between substance and politics. NBC’s Chuck Todd commented on the live event:

“The president should hold Congressional ‘town halls’ more often. Public needs to see this if they’ll ever trust Washington again.”

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein added:

“Obama assumed the role of responsible adult to the GOP children, or, at the very least, of a college professor teaching and lecturing a room full of students.”

Dee Dee Myers, Clinton’s former press secretary, backed up that statement with:

“On one level it looked brave but on another he was the substitute teacher there, lecturing the audience. A lot of us have been waiting for that moment, a little more fight, a little more politics.”

And then there’s that poor fella so outraged by the IRS he decided that violence was the only answer to his problems and so he created his own 9/11 by crashing a plane into an Austin IRS complex. It seems in our celebration of bullies, we simultaneously send out a non-stop message that violence is a justifiable means to an end. I tried to address this concept metaphorically in my film THE PLAGUE, but the studio behind it decided that the film should actually be the polar opposite of its intent and set about systematically removing the film’s message and attempt at cultural self-reflection. Instead, they tried to turn it into a film about killer-kids; essentially, they were far more attracted to the notion of a film that celebrated its violence rather than one that made an informed commentary on it. And this is, as many of us already know, not a new development in the industry. God-forbid anything should illicit individual thought or stir conversation or promote questions. The studios would rather keep people right where they are (our base impulses sell more tickets than our intellect or common sense). Like Sarah Palin, who actually sells herself as a presidential candidate by publicizing the fact that she’s not qualified to run this country:

“I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I’m not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I’m going to fight the elitist, because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America feel like we just don’t get it, and big government’s just going to have to take care of us… I want to speak up for the American people and say: No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that.”

Good common-sense solutions. Like bombing Iran. And I don’t know about anyone else, but the thought of a president who doesn’t know more than I do about running this country scares the shit out of me. But somehow this comforts many. They can relate to Palin. And she can be a bully. Unreasonable, unrealistic, ignorant, under-educated and completely incapable of admitting –or even understanding– when she’s wrong… Sounds like someone else I know. Or a vocal group of people I read about daily.

Here’s a quote I thought hit the nail on the head:

“If you were to imagine a bunch of middle-class white people who conceive of themselves as the oppressed productive backbone of the country, and who embody a strange collection of unbridled ignorance and bizarre ahistorical conspiracy theory, you’d have a pretty good handle on the teabaggers.”

Yep. That pretty much sums up Palin and her many followers and fans. That gun-toting, angry mob you see on the news pretty much every day. And like so many people in this group, they struggle, fight and vote against their own best interests. Blogger Ben Grossblatt put it quite eloquently, I thought:

“The Tea Party is a quasi-Libertarian collection of people who think Obama is a socialist, and who delude themselves into believing they’re more than just ventriloquist dummies for the Republicans. They fancy themselves populists, but they support the same economic and legislative policies that have put regular people under the heel of big business.”

Big business, in the form of corporate entities, is the friend to the “tea-bagger”, despite any claims they may make to the contrary. And why is that? Because big business are bullies. And, no matter how much we may fear them, they give us some measure of comfort in the fear they illicit. We have a certain twisted “respect” for their power over us. And to make matters worse, we secretly hope to one day become a member of those wealthier-than-god, untouchable bullies. I think Reagan’s trickle-down economics proved that to be true. A failed economic plan that put the biggest tax breaks in the hands of the wealthiest Americans and opened the door for what turned out to be the complete corporate takeover of our nation (the world?) and still has the support of some of America’s least-wealthy and most-hard-hit-by-the-recession individuals. And despite the gross reality of this backward economic plan, there’s always a chance that one of us may find ourselves a member of that elite group (you sure you don’t like elitists, Ms. Palin?) and then we can finally reap the benefits of a misguided nation which fights to eliminate its middle-class (despite true Capitalism’s dependency on it) and broaden the division between rich and poor. Because the rich have historically always bullied the poor. And, as I said before, America loves and respects a bully. Even when we’re under their heel.

Donald Trump Wants Al Gore Stripped Of Nobel Prize

Posted in Politics, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by halmasonberg

Yes, another brilliant move by one of the nations wealthier Americans. Donald Trump joined the ever-growing pack of idiots that proudly flaunt their complete and utter misunderstanding of climate change, also known as “Global Warming.” It seems the word “warming’ has confused some of our more “successful” entrepreneurs. You see, they saw some big snowstorms so, clearly, global warming isn’t happening. Cause snow is cold. Not warm. Get it? It’s cold. Brrrrr…

Not doing his little boy homework, Trump never discovered that climate change can be both warm AND cold. Yes… The effects of Global Warming result in volatile weather patterns.

But Trump saw snow.

“With the coldest winter ever recorded, with snow setting record levels up and down the coast, the Nobel committee should take the Nobel Prize back from Al Gore… Gore wants us to clean up our factories… when China and other countries couldn’t care less… China, Japan and India are laughing at America’s stupidity.”

Now I don’t know if he’s just really stupid or whether he’s just using this opportunity to appeal to the “lesser-educated” Americans out there ready to throw some stones (or snow balls). Trump laid his claims before a country club crowd of 500.

Luckily, Trump was trumped by another even wealthier, successful American. Bill Gates. According to CNN:

Gates said the deadline for the world to cut all of its carbon emissions is 2050. He suggested that researchers spend the next 20 years inventing and perfecting clean-energy technologies, and then the next 20 years implementing them.

The world’s energy portfolio should not include coal or natural gas, he said, and must include carbon capture and storage technology as well as nuclear, wind and both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power…

Gates told the audience that climate change will cause poverty and famine that will disproportionately affect the world’s poorest people.

So what IS Global Warming really? According to Wikipedia:

Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth’s near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation… The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century was very likely caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation

An increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts. Warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. Other likely effects include changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, species extinctions, and changes in agricultural yields. Warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe, though the nature of these regional variations are uncertain…

These basic conclusions have been endorsed by more than 40 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries.

You know, if anyone’s actually interested.

In reality.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post put it all quite humorously into perspective:

“As a scientific proposition, claiming that heavy snow in the mid-Atlantic debunks global warming theory is about as valid as claiming that the existence of John Edwards debunks the theory of evolution.”

Ouch. But point made. Milbank goes on to suggest why so many people are misinformed or confused about Global Warming:

For years, climate-change activists have argued by anecdote to make their case. Gore, in his famous slide shows, ties human-caused global warming to increasing hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, drought and the spread of mosquitoes, pine beetles and disease. It’s not that Gore is wrong about these things. The problem is that his storm stories have conditioned people to expect an endless worldwide heat wave, when in fact the changes so far are subtle.

Other environmentalists have undermined the cause with claims bordering on the outlandish; they’ve blamed global warming for shrinking sheep in Scotland, more shark and cougar attacks, genetic changes in squirrels, an increase in kidney stones and even the crash of Air France Flight 447. [There's a website that lists over 600 things that have allegedly been caused by global warming, from "acne" to "yellow fever."] When climate activists make the dubious claim, as a Canadian environmental group did, that global warming is to blame for the lack of snow at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, then they invite similarly specious conclusions about Washington’s snow — such as the Virginia GOP ad urging people to call two Democratic congressmen “and tell them how much global warming you get this weekend.”

Alas, misinformation mixed with a basic misunderstanding can be a dangerous tonic. Especially if it is in the hands of people who make some of the bigger decisions regarding Climate Change. Like Ed Rogers, once White House staffer to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and chairman of BGR Group, a self-proclaimed “premier bipartisan government relations, strategic communications, and investment banking firm”:

There is global climate science and then there is the Global Warming Movement. The movement hijacked the science a long time ago, and it has had its share of setbacks lately. Its leaders have tried to stiff-arm their way past errors, lies, fraud, pointless tax increase proposals and some really peculiar posing in Copenhagen.

Now they have suffered a coup de grace: public ridicule brought on by a record-breaking blizzard blasting their East Coast home base. The movement was already dead in Congress for 2010 (its climate-change bill has been sidelined), but Snowmageddon buried it. How could it be that heat waves evidenced global warming, but so did a cold wave? The public isn’t buying it anymore.

In November, the public will give a cold shoulder to a bunch of intellectually frozen hypocrites who demand economic sacrifice to solve a problem that voters don’t see or feel. At least for a while, the left will have to think up a new way to dictate a lifestyle for the rest of us. Maybe now the science can continue without the clumsy overreaching of the movement’s priestly class.

Hmmm… I prefer Federal global warming program director of Environment America Emily Figdor’s simple but accurate response:

The snowstorms that ground the nation’s capital to a halt only underscored the need for bold action to fight global warming. Heavier, more frequent snowstorms are just what scientists predict in a warming world, as extreme weather events – whether blizzards or heat waves – become more common.

So, will ignorance, stupidity and misinformation win out over truth and reality? Only time will tell…

In the meantime, dress warm.

Today’s GOP Message: Stupid Is Good

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by halmasonberg

Just a quick glance at some of today’s GOP news. It seems that a poll done by Esquire magazine shows that 78 percent of “Republican leaders” believe that President Obama is a socialist. Those surveyed are, according to the magazine and suggested by the answers given, not from the fringes of the party. Yet nonetheless, they seem to have no idea what actual socialism is. A similar poll earlier this month by Daily Kos/Research 2000 found that 63 percent of Republicans believed Obama to be a socialist, while 16 percent were not sure and 21 percent believe he is not.

Add to this Washington Post columnist David Broder’s serious comments about Sarah Palin being “at the top of her game — a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.” Broder continued to rave about Palin:

“Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.”

But my favorite is Broder’s excitement about Palin’s comments to Fox News’ Chris Wallace. Here’s what Sarah initially said:

“I do want to be a voice for some common-sense solutions. I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person. I’m not going to pretend to be an elitist. In fact, I’m going to fight the elitist, because for too often and for too long now, I think the elitists have tried to make people like me and people in the heartland of America feel like we just don’t get it, and big government’s just going to have to take care of us… I want to speak up for the American people and say: No, we really do have some good common-sense solutions. I can be a messenger for that. Don’t have to have a title to do it.”

And now Broder’s admiring comments:

“What stood out in the eyes of TV-watching pols of both parties was the skill with which she drew a self-portrait that fit not just the wishes of the immediate audience but the mood of a significant slice of the broader electorate… she has locked herself firmly in the populist embrace that every skillful outsider candidate from George Wallace to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has utilized when running against “the political establishment.

“…This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains.

“But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty — and potentially, to Obama as well…

“Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.”

It is both amusing and frightening to see men like Broder actually admire Sarah Palin for being the answer to this country’s supposed dislike of “elitists.” Basically, what he’s saying is that you have a bunch of under-educated people who get defensive when they can’t answer the questions they are asked or engage in a political conversation from a place of knowledge or understanding. So they’d rather have a dummy in charge (Palin, Bush, those who think Obama’s a socialist) than someone who is actually educated, articulate and can see a bigger picture.

Broder and Palin actually want us to celebrate our country’s ignorance.

“I’m never going to pretend like I know more than the next person.”

Really? Is that what we want from our elected officials? That they don’t know any more than we do about their own jobs?

And then, just for shits and giggles, I’ll mention Glenn Beck’s recent euphoric conclusion that the major snowstorms hitting the east coast are actual proof that global warming is a hoax. Forget about the fact that volatile weather patterns and cycles are one of the major effects of climate change. Hot or cold!

Once again, let’s celebrate ignorance and stupidity and pass it off as fact on national television. Or honor it in print.

Go, Go, GOP!

And God Bless America.

Bush Raised Terror Alert To Win Re-Election

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2009 by halmasonberg

Picture 13

Ridge

It seems the actions, in-actions and wrongdoings of the Bush Administration are coming out into the light at an accelerated rate. Of course much of what is being revealed is stuff that had been talked about, suggested and speculated on for years, but it’s nice to see not all of it is being swept under the rug.

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge claims in his new book that he was pressured to raise the terror alert to help George W. Bush win re-election in 2004. According to US News & World Report:

Ridge was never invited to sit in on National Security Council meetings; was “blindsided” by the FBI in morning Oval Office meetings because the agency withheld critical information from him; found his urgings to block Michael Brown from being named head of the emergency agency blamed for the Hurricane Katrina disaster ignored; and was pushed to raise the security alert on the eve of President Bush’s re-election, something he saw as politically motivated and worth resigning over.

In fact, at the time of the raised terror alert, the Bush Administration admitted that the move was based on intelligence three years old, according to the Washington Post.

Once again, we see yet another example of politics-through-fear. What happened during the Bush Administration is happening again. But this time it surrounds Health Care Reform. The likes of Sarah Palin and Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and all the other shameless conservative speakers are working on the public’s fears to get what they want. Their motivation isn’t your health and well-being, but money and power. Too simple, you say? Too obvious? Hardly. It’s an age-old story and the Bush Administration was, hopefully, the peak of the rise of selfishness and greed as our nation’s defining characteristic. The system that was set up by our forefathers has gone astray. It’s time to get back on track.

The good news is that for all the ignorant Americans ready to absorb whatever fear-mongering lies are tossed their way, there are millions who have either recognized those lies for what they were all along, or are starting to realize that they have been hoodwinked, lied to, cheated, and taken for granted. But there are many who still take in these lies as truths. According to a recent Gallup poll, many of the states with the highest levels of uninsured are also the states that have the largest percentage of people who widely believe the mistruths perpetuated about President Obama’s Health Care Reform proposals. Most of these states are in the south and west.

According to the poll:

45 percent of Southerners said they thought Obama’s health care reform included a government takeover of the entire health care system. 23 percent of Westerners agreed. In the Northeast and Midwest those numbers were 10 percent and 20 percent respectively.

In the South, 26 percent of the public said they believed the health care reform plan being considered by President Obama and Congress requires elderly patients to meet with government officials to discuss “end of life” options, including euthanasia. 20 percent of Westerners said the same thing. In the Northeast and Midwest those numbers were 11 percent and 17 percent respectively.

STATES IN SOUTH AND WEST ARE AS FOLLOWS:

South: FL, NC, SC, AL, MS, GA, VA, TN, KY, LA, AR, TX

West: NM, CA, OR, WA, AK, HI, MT, ID, UT, NV, AZ, WY, CO

LIST OF STATES WITH MOST UNINSURED:

Texas – 27 percent of the population is uninsured New Mexico — 25.6 percent Mississippi – 24 percent Louisiana – 22.4 percent Nevada – 22.2 percent Oklahoma – 22.2 percent (considered a Midwest state) California – 21 percent Wyoming – 20.7 percent Florida – 20.7 percent Georgia – 20.7 percent South Carolina – 20.4 percent Montana – 20.3 percent Alaska — 20.2 percent Arkansas – 20.1 percent Colorado – 20 percent Oregon – 19.4 percent West Virginia – 19.3 percent (considered a Northeast state) North Carolina – 19.3 percent Idaho – 18.8 percent Utah – 18.1 percent Kentucky – 17.9 percent Tennessee – 17.8 percent Nebraska – 17.7 percent Alabama – 17.2 percent Missouri – 17.1 percent (considered a Midwest state)

As time passes, more information and truths will come out surrounding the inner-workings of the Bush Administration. And as they do, they will shine a light on the politics being played out in today’s Health Care debate. Hopefully in time to keep us from making yet another wrong decision and, in the process, deny ourselves the health care coverage we so desperately need and deserve.

Obama Birth Certificate History Lesson 101

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2009 by halmasonberg

obama2
According to the right-leaning World Net Daily:

If Lolo Soetoro [Obama's step-father] adopted Obama at age five or younger, then Obama would automatically have become an Indonesian citizen according to the country’s laws in the 1960’s, which stipulated any child aged five or younger adopted by an Indonesian father is immediately granted Indonesian citizenship upon completion of the adoption process.

Lolo Soetoro could have adopted Obama in Hawaii, although such an adoption would not have necessarily been recognized by Indonesia.

Indonesian law at the time also did not recognize dual citizenship, meaning if Obama became Indonesian, then as far as that country was concerned, his U.S. citizenship was no longer recognized by Indonesia. But U.S. law would still recognize Obama as an American citizen.

If Obama indeed possessed Indonesian citizenship as a child, it is unlikely he retains such citizenship. The country’s bylaws require any Indonesian citizen living abroad for more than five years to formally declare his intention to return, otherwise risk losing his citizenship status.

Indonesian school registration for "Barry Soetoro" (AP photo)

Indonesian school registration for “Barry Soetoro” (AP photo)

According to CNN:

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child, from 1967 to 1971.

According to MSNBC:

Obama, who was born in Hawaii, moved to Indonesia at age 6 to live with his mother and stepfather, attending schools in the country until age 10, when he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.

According to WikiAnswers:

Starting at age 6, Obama attended a Catholic school in Indonesia. At age 8, he attended a public school in Indonesia, nominally a Muslim school, which is where the “Muslim” tempest in a teapot comes form.

According to the Washington Post:

Birthers who commented on our Thursday posting generally continued to claim that Obama has not produced a true birth certificate, and that the document he produced last year is a fake.

They’re also fixated on the type of birth document issued by the Hawaiian government, which is called a “certification of live birth.” They refuse for some reason to believe that a certification is the same as a birth certificate.

By all rational accounts, the two documents are most certainly one and the same, only with different titles…

A certification of live birth is the “official birth certificate” of Hawaii, according to the state’s Department of Health spokeswoman, Janice Okubo. And the nonpartisan, nonprofit Factcheck.org, which examined Obama’s original birth certificate last year at the president’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, concluded, “It meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship.”

To those who continue to speculate Obama’s birth certificate was destroyed, Hawaiian health department officials answered that point of hysteria as well this week.

We don’t destroy vital records,” Okubo said. “That’s our whole job, to maintain and retain vital records.” State health officials said the original birth certificate, the same one reviewed by Factcheck.org, is back in storage in Hawaii.

But still, the birthers ask, why won’t President Obama release his original birth certificate and possibly bury the issue once and for all?

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent answer to this question: “Why should he? The demand has no basis in principle and would have no practical benefit.”

James Taranto writes in his “Best of the Web” column, “Obama has already provided a legal birth certificate demonstrating that he was born in Hawaii. No one has produced any serious evidence to the contrary. Absent such evidence, it is unreasonable to deny that Obama has met the burden of proof. We know that he was born in Honolulu as surely as we know that Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Ark., or George W. Bush in New Haven, Conn.

“The release of the obsolete birth certificate would not ‘resolve the issue’ to those for whom it is not already resolved. They claim without basis that today’s birth certificate is a fake; there is nothing to stop them from claiming without basis that yesterday’s is as well.”

According to the Los Angeles Times:

CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein told staffers of “Lou Dobbs Tonight”… that CNN researchers had determined that Hawaiian officials discarded paper documents in 2001. Because of that, Obama’s long-form birth certificate no longer exists and a shorter certificate of live birth that has been made public is the official record, they reported.

“It seems to definitively answer the question,” Klein wrote in the e-mail, first reported by the website TVNewser. “Since the show’s mission is for Lou to be the explainer and enlightener, he should be sure to cite this during your segment tonite. And then it seems this story is dead — because anyone who still is not convinced doesn’t really have a legitimate beef.”

According to World Net Daily:

Directly contradicting CNN chief Jon Klein – who ordered host Lou Dobbs to quit discussing President Obama’s birth certificate – the Hawaii Department of Health affirmed that no paper birth certificates were destroyed when the department moved to electronic record-keeping.

“I am not aware of any birth certificate records that have been destroyed by the department,” Janice Okubo, public information officer for the Hawaii DOH, told WND. “When the department went electronic in 2001, vital records, whether in paper form or any other form, [were] maintained. We don’t destroy records.”

Okubo affirmed that beginning in 2001, all vital records, including birth records, moved to electronic formats.

“Any records that we had in paper or any other form before 2001 are still in file within the department,” she insisted. “We have not destroyed any vital statistics records that we have.”

According to USA Today:

Hawaii‘s health director reiterated Monday afternoon that she has personally seen Obama’s birth certificate in the Health Department’s archives:

“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago….”

According to Leonard Pitts Jr. in the Miami Herald:

My daughter was born in Los Angeles County on Sept. 4, 1990. I know this because I was there. Should that not be proof enough, I also have her birth certificate.

We requested it years ago and received a document that looks nothing like the ones I have for my folks, with names and parentage typed in tiny boxes. By contrast, this was a computer-generated abstract with my daughter’s data neatly printed on it. We asked why we couldn’t get a “real” birth certificate and were told this one “is” real; this is how they do it now. Indeed, the inscription on the certificate proclaims: “This certified document is a true abstract of the official record filed with the Registrar-Recorder.”

We used that document to get my daughter’s Social Security card, so I figure a “true abstract” is good enough for the federal government. But evidently, it’s not good enough for Stefan Cook, Orly Taitz, Rush Limbaugh, Philip Berg and Lou Dobbs.

Barack Obama, you see, has a birth certificate much like my daughter’s, documenting his birth in Hawaii on Aug. 4, 1961. He’s made it available online, just a Google search away.

According to the right-leaning National Review:

The mission of National Review has always included keeping the Right honest, which includes debunking crackpot conspiracy theories. The theory that Obama was born in Kenya, that he was smuggled into the U.S., and that his parents somehow hoodwinked Hawaiian authorities into falsely certifying his birth in Oahu, is crazy stuff. Even Obama’s dual Kenyan citizenship is of dubious materiality: It is a function of foreign law, involving no action on his part (to think otherwise, you’d have to conclude that if Yemen passed a law tomorrow saying, “All Americans except, of course, Jews are hereby awarded Yemeni citizenship,” only Jewish Americans could henceforth run for president).

In any event, even if you were of a mind to indulge the Kenyan-birth fantasy, stop, count to ten, and think: Hillary Clinton. Is there any chance on God’s green earth that, if Obama were not qualified to be president, the Clinton machine would have failed to get that information out?…

The fundamental fiction is that Obama has refused to release his “real” birth certificate. This is untrue. The document that Obama has made available is the document that Hawaiian authorities issue when they are asked for a birth certificate. There is no secondary document cloaked in darkness, only the state records that are used to generate birth certificates when they are requested…

What Obama has made available is a Hawaiian “certification of live birth” (emphasis added), not a birth certificate (or what the state calls a “certificate of live birth”). The certification form provides a short, very general attestation of a few facts about the person’s birth: name and sex of the newborn; date and time of birth; city or town of birth, along with the name of the Hawaiian island and the county; the mother’s maiden name and race; the father’s name and race; and the date the certification was filed. This certification is not the same thing as the certificate, which is what I believe we were referring to in the editorial as “the state records that are used to generate birth certificates [sic] when they are requested.”

To the contrary, “the state records” are the certificate. They are used to generate the more limited birth certifications on request. …these state records are far more detailed. They include, for example, the name of the hospital, institution, or street address where the birth occurred; the full name, age, birthplace, race, and occupation of each parent; the mother’s residential address (and whether that address is within the city or town of birth); the signature of at least one parent (or “informant”) attesting to the accuracy of the information provided; the identity and signature of an attending physician (or other “attendant”) who certifies the occurrence of a live birth at the time and place specified; and the identity and signature of the local registrar who filed the birth record…

There’s speculation out there from the former CIA officer Larry Johnson who is no right-winger and is convinced the president was born in Hawaii that the full state records would probably show Obama was adopted by the Indonesian Muslim Lolo Soetoro and became formally known as “Barry Soetoro.” Obama may have wanted that suppressed for a host of reasons: issues about his citizenship, questions about his name (it’s been claimed that Obama represented in his application to the Illinois bar that he had never been known by any name other than Barack Obama).

According to Politifact:

On Oct. 31, 2008, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, issued this statement: “There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate. State law prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.

“Therefore I, as director of health for the state of Hawaii, along with the registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.

“No state official, including Gov. Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the state of Hawaii.”

Even the governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, a Republican who at the time was stumping for John McCain, said it was on the up-and-up…
The new argument goes like this: Obama never published his “Birth Certificate” (a “Certificate of Live Birth”) on the Internet; what he posted was a “Certification of Live Birth,” what WorldNetDaily describes as “a ‘short-form’ document that is generated on-the-spot and based on what is contained in a computer database at the time it was printed out.”

Some on the Internet speculate that the original “long form” — which might include the hospital where he was born as well as the attending physician — might show Obama was foreign-born and ineligible to be president, but that that wouldn’t show up on the “short form.”

Moreover, WorldNetDaily claims even the state of Hawaii doesn’t accept “Certification of Live Birth” as proof that an individual was physically born in Hawaii.

They point to a policy from the Hawaii Department of Home Lands, which stated on its Web site:

“In order to process your application, DHHL utilizes information that is found only on the original Certificate of Live Birth, which is either black or green. This is a more complete record of your birth than the Certification of Live Birth (a computer-generated printout). Submitting the original Certificate of Live Birth will save you time and money since the computer-generated Certification requires additional verification by DHHL.”

That’s actually a misnomer, said Lloyd Yonenaka, a spokesman for DHLL. In order to be eligible for their program, you must prove that your ancestry is at least 50 percent native Hawaiian. And when he says native, he means indigenous. They don’t even care if you were born in Hawaii. They use birth certificates as a starting point to look into a person’s ancestry. Very different.

Here’s what the DHLL site says now: “The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands accepts both Certificates of Live Birth (original birth certificate) and Certifications of Live Birth because they are official government records documenting an individual’s birth. The Certificate of Live Birth generally has more information which is useful for genealogical purposes as compared to the Certification of Live Birth which is a computer-generated printout that provides specific details of a person’s birth. Although original birth certificates (Certificates of Live Birth) are preferred for their greater detail, the State Department of Health (DOH) no longer issues Certificates of Live Birth. When a request is made for a copy of a birth certificate, the DOH issues a Certification of Live Birth.”
When we spoke to a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Health, she said too much was being made of the difference between the so-called “long” and “short” forms.

“They’re just words,” said spokeswoman Janice Okubo. “That (what was posted on the Internet) is considered a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii.”

“There’s only one form of birth certificate,” she said, and it’s been the same since the 1980s. Birth certificates evolve over the decades, she said, and there are no doubt differences between the way birth certificates looked when Obama was born and now.

“When you request a birth certificate, the one you get looks exactly like the one posted on his site,” she said. “That’s the birth certificate.”

As for the theory that Obama’s original birth certificate might show he was foreign-born, Okubo said the “Certification of Live Birth” would say so. Obama’s does not. Again, it says he was born in Honolulu.

We have one more thing. We talked to reporter Will Hoover, who wrote a well-researched story for theHonolulu Advertiser on Nov. 9, 2008, about Obama’s childhood years in the the Aloha State. It ran under the headline “Obama Slept Here.”

In researching the story, he went to the microfilm archives and found the birth announcement for Obama. Actually, he found two of them, one in his Honululu Advertiser on Aug. 13 , 1961, and in theHonolulu Star-Bulletin the next day . They both said the same thing: “Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, son, Aug. 4.”

But here’s the thing. Newspaper officials he checked with confirmed those notices came from the state Department of Health.

“That’s not the kind of stuff a family member calls in and says, ‘Hey, can you put this in?'” Hoover explained.

Take a second and think about that. In order to phony those notices up, it would have required the complicity of the state Health Department and two independent newspapers — on the off chance this unnamed child might want to one day be president of the United States.

According to U.S. News And World Report:

Dixie may once have been the so-called land of cotton, but it has become the cradle of creeping Birtherism. According to a new poll from Research 2000 (commissioned by Daily Kos), a majority of Southerners either believe that Barack Obama was not born in the United States (23 percent) or are not sure (30 percent). Only 47 percent of Southern respondents believe Obama was born in the USA. By contrast, 93 percent of Northeasterns said yes, he was born here, 90 percent of Midwesterners did and 87 percent of Westerners.

Wow.

And while 93 percent of Democrats say he was born in the country and 83 percent of Independents, the figure is only 42 percent for Republicans. A majority of Republicans either believe he was born abroad (28 percent) or don’t know (30 percent).

According to Politico:

In short, the problem faced by today’s conservatives is that there is no one of sufficient stature, and no group of serious political operatives, to tell the “birthers” to cut it out — to disown them as they deserve to be disowned. It’s a sad state of affairs. The entire political process suffers as a result.

According to Bill Maher:

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve all been laughing heartily at the wacky antics of the “birthers” — the far-right goofballs who claim Barack Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii and therefore the job of president goes to the runner-up, former Miss California Carrie Prejean.

Also, when Obama was sworn in as president, he forgot to give his answer in the form of a question.

And yet, every week, the chorus of conservatives demanding to see his birth certificate grows. It’s like they’re the Cambridge police, Obama’s in his house — the White House — and they need to see some ID.

And there’s nothing anyone can do to convince these folks. You could hand them, in person, the original birth certificate and have a video of Obama emerging from the womb with Don Ho singing in the background … and they still wouldn’t believe it.

This isn’t a case of Democrats versus Republicans. It’s sentient beings versus the lizard people, and it is to them I offer this deal: I’ll show you Obama’s birth certificate when you show me Sarah Palin’s high school diploma.

Sorry, couldn’t resist that last one.

Draw your own conclusions.

GOP Stomp Their Feet At Banker Salary Caps

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2009 by halmasonberg

00000000012It seems the GOP are making a ruckus in response to President Obama’s proposed compensation cap of $500,000 for executives at banks that take taxpayer bailout money. GOP members claim this is “unAmerican”. Senate Minority Leader Jon Kyl (R-AZ) commented:

“Because of their excesses, very bad things begin to happen, like the United States government telling a company what it can pay its employees. That’s not a good thing in America.”

Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) added:

“What executives have done is troubling, but it’s equally troubling to have government telling shareholders how much they can pay the executives.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) huffed and puffed as well: 

“[I am] one of the chief defenders of Obama on the Republican side,” but “as I was listening to him make those statements [about executive pay], I thought, is this still America? Do we really tell people how to run [a business], and who to pay and how much to pay?”

Well, let’s be clear here. President Obama is talking about placing salary restrictions on those individuals who are taking government bailout money that they need due to their own extreme excesses. These people and their businesses are responsible for tanking the global economy. We’re not talking about putting salary restrictions on businesses that don’t need or want the bailout money. Since when does the government hand out money WITHOUT restrictions? Welfare recipients? 

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post writes:

“We demand that welfare recipients do an honest day’s work for their checks. And now, since President Obama laid down the law Wednesday, we demand that the guys who ran our banking system into the ground abide by our pay scales in return for our bailing them out.”

The government requires welfare recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to undergo regular drug testing, spend time doing government approved activities and show near-constant documentation of continuing compliance.

Meyerson continues:

“After all, what’s the moral distinction between welfare recipients and the wizards of Wall Street, other than that the welfare recipients aren’t the ones responsible for tanking the global economy?”

However, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is one GOP member who agrees:

“I think it does apply to that. People are livid about these big bonuses and if the groups want to take government money it seems they should be able to have some limits on these bonuses.”

“If they don’t need it, don’t want it, fine. Don’t take it.”

Republican Sen. John Thune (R-SD), who didn’t like the idea at first, finally came around after hearing more details of the Obama’s proposal:

“You know what? I think I’m for that. I don’t disagree with what he’s doing.”

Say It Aint So, Sarah… McCain / Palin Create Dangerous Prologue

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by halmasonberg

“Say it ain’t so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again.”

Ahhh, who can forget this recent folksy remark made just days ago by the lovely Sarah Palin to Joe Biden during their debate. But within what seems mere minutes (but was, in fact, about 24 hours), Gov. Palin attacked Barack Obama and suggested he was “palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.” As I wrote about in an earlier post, she was referring to Bill Ayers whom Barack Obama has called “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8.” 

But what are other sources saying about this? The New York Times states:

“the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr. Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers.”

CNN Political Ticker:

“False. There is no indication that Ayers and Obama are now palling around, or that they have had an ongoing relationship in the past three years. Also, there is nothing to suggest that Ayers is now involved in terrorist activity or that other Obama associates are….CNN’s review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the volunteer projects in which the two men were involved.”

The Washington Post called the Obama-Ayers link “a tenuous one.” 

The list goes on. But Palin is smear-happy, even going against her own running-mate’s wishes.  While talking to neoconservative columnist Bill Kristol, Palin said about Barack Obama’s relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

“To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”

Sen. McCain had said not all that long ago:

“I think that when people support you, it doesn’t mean you support everything they say. Obviously, those statements are things none of us would associate ourselves with.”

In fact, here he is elaborating on that very topic:

Well, doggone it, Sarah, what were you thinking? 

Patrick Ruffini, a Republican operative who worked on Bush’s reelection campaign, said today about McCain’s choice of bringing up the Obama-Ayers connection: 

“…he should have been doing it back in July. Starting now appears desperate.”

Norman J. Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, posted this today:

McCain and his campaign now are acting out of frustration and a touch of desperation. With four short weeks to go, and a campaign where McCain is losing nationally, losing in the majority of the battleground states, with a diminishing number of hotly competitive blue state targets and an expanded number of red state ones, and with a campaign terrain dominated by economic turmoil, McCain needs to change the conversation.

Now, of course, the Obama campaign is hitting back by bringing up the Keating Five economic scandal I referred to in yesterday’s post. Here’s a 13 minute documentary put out today by the Obama campaign:

Now it needs to be said: In February 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee found McCain guilty of nothing more than “poor judgment” and declared his actions were not “improper nor attended with gross negligence.” In other words, McCain attended the meetings but did nothing else to influence the regulators. But it is this “poor judgment” that is in question here as the very same judgement cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, making it the biggest of the S&L scandals. In addition, 17,000 Lincoln investors lost $190 million. Slate.com adds:

The failure of the Lincoln Savings and Loan and other S&L’s pushed the country into a recession, costing the U.S. government $126 billion dollars in FDIC insurance payouts to investors. All of this came to a crescendo during the first year of the presidency of George H.W. Bush, who pushed through the S&L bailout plan to keep the economy afloat.

Sound familiar?

So what exactly WAS McCain’s relationship with Keating? Slate.com continues: 

After McCain’s election to the House in 1982, he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating’s expense, three of which were to Keating’s Bahamas retreat. McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989. At that point, he paid Keating $13,433 for the flights.

And in April 1986, one year before the meeting with the regulators, McCain’s wife, Cindy, and her father invested $359,100 in a Keating strip mall.

And what was McCain’s response to all this? Mccainkeatingfive.com says this:

John McCain

And what of Cindy McCain’s investment? After Keating was later convicted on 73 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and other crimes, Cindy McCain sold her investment for $15,000,000.

As Joe Biden stated, the past is prologue. Unfortunately for John McCain, unlike his accusations against Barack Obama, none of Mr. McCain’s past associations or history here is in the least bit tenuous or speculative but, in fact, well documented.

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