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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 Ifind myself at times wanting Obama to be a little more forceful in his political dealings. While I admire and celebrate his more evolved approach to politics (it’s one of the many 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.

Happy New Year. Lieberman’s Approval Ratings Go Belly Up

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 7, 2010 by halmasonberg

Looks like the Senator’s home state of Connecticut has deemed Mr. Lieberman unpopular. It’s about time. According to the new poll by Public Policy Polling, “Barack Obama’s approval rating with Connecticut Republicans is higher than Lieberman’s with the state’s Democrats.”

This is good news, indeed. Despite a popularity plunge in Obama’s own ratings, the truly despicable Lieberman was given a thumbs down by over 80 percent of Connecticut Democrats with only 14 percent giving him a thumbs up. As for the state’s Republicans, 48 percent disapproved of Lieberman while only 39 percent approve. And Lieberman’s own independent party gave him a 62 percent disapproval rating with only 32 percent approving.

I knew it would be a good year.

This guy has been out of touch for a long time. He’s an embarrassment to all parties. He won’t be up for reelection until 2012, but one can hope he doesn’t even bother trying.

Here’s to an optimistic future.

Cheney’s Need To Man-Up

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 25, 2009 by halmasonberg

Cheney has some serious problems with President Obama bowing respectfully to foreign leaders. And yet he expects Americans to lay down before him and be trampled over by his corporate cronies. This is a man who has taken advantage of more people to get what he wants than any other American figure in recent history. There is a thorough and complete brainwashing that goes on here. And it’s brainwashing through fear, which has always been America’s greatest enemy. And now he’s at it again trying to convince his incurious hordes that Obama needs to “Man-up” or “step-down.”

Commenting on Obama’s bow to the Japanese Emperor during the president’s trip to China, Cheney commented that:

“”There is no reason for an American president to bow to anyone. Our friends and allies don’t expect it and our adversaries perceive it as a sign of weakness…

“I think it’s fundamentally harmful and it shows in my mind that this is a guy, a president, who would bow, for example, who doesn’t fully understand or have the same perception of the U.S. role in the world that I think most Americans have.

“What I see in President Obama is somebody who bows before foreign leaders and spends his trips aboard primarily apologizing for U.S. behavior. I find that very upsetting.”

Really? Cause Lord knows the world openly embraced our macho posturing during the eight years of the Bush Administration. Why, we were seen as parent figures, protectors, the good guys, right? Thank God for an evolved America. Leading by example, and all that. You know, like the Bush Administration’s charming,  jingoistic vision of  “cowboy diplomacy.”

No, the truth is Cheney’s view of America has something to do with carrying a gun and shooting your friends in the face. Accident or not, it’s the perfect metaphor for Cheney’s approach to heroism, manliness, and American strength. And anyone who goes “hunting” with this man has what’s coming to them.

What was it Ghandi said?

“The science of war leads one to dictatorship, pure and simple. The science of non-violence alone can lead one to pure democracy…”

Here’s Cheney commenting on war:

“It will be necessary for us to be a nation of men, and not laws.”

Well, that’s never been more on display than in Cheney’s attitude toward war and interrogation. According to journalist/author Mark Danner (Stripping Bare the Body: Politics, Violence, War):

“According to the Bush administration, the Convention Against Torture allows waterboarding; allows confinement in small boxes; allows sleep deprivation for up to eight days; allows beatings; allows the use of insects and various other things to terrify detainees; allows the use of heat, light, severe cold, prolonged nudity.”

Danner also goes on to describe some other “ineterrogation methods” supported by Cheney:

“[They] threatened detainees with drills, that they were going to drill into their heads, threatened to shoot them in the head or threatened to rape their daughters or rape their wives.”

And now Cheney (and his daughter Liz) are systematically attempting to undermine our current president by suggesting he is “weak.” Danner continues:

“Republicans, in the person of the Cheneys, Kit Bond and others, have criticized the Obama administration nonetheless for starting a witch hunt of Bush administration officials, which clearly isn’t the case.

But as you saw in this lobbying group that Cheneys have now set up, the Republicans see rich political ground to be harvested in these issues. And this goes back really to three months after the attacks of 9/11, when Karl Rove stood up before the Republican National Committee and said, “Americans trust us to protect the country. You know, we can win on this terrorism issue.” And indeed, for two elections, they did win. And the Cheneys are now really trying to set up the Obama administration as an administration that’s weak, Democratic weakness, renouncing torture, renouncing the techniques that supposedly are needed to protect the country.

And I think there’s a very calculated strategy at work here, particularly in the event of another attack. That is, the Obama administration is being put in a position where if there is an attack on the country, it can be very vigorously blamed by the Republicans for leaving the country open to the attack by its supposed refusal to torture detainees.”

Liz Cheney commented on Obama’s bow versus her  father’s own stiff meeting with the Japanese Emperor back in 2007:

“You could also look at the comparison and think, Cheney 2012.”

Eek. Is Cheney really the reigning example of American “strength?”

If you ask me, I think Cheney’s values are now, and have always been, on display for anyone who wants to see them:

“We have to make America the best place in the world to do business.”

“The Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”

Even Cheney’s comments on Saddam Hussein sound more like another country talking about America’s past and the recent Bush/Cheney’s present:

“Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression… and had built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction.”

Even in talking about the “terrorist agenda,” Cheney continues to make oblivious comparisons to his own “agenda”:

“Given the nature of the enemy we face today, and the fact that their ultimate objective is to force us to change our policies and to retreat within our borders, the last thing we need is to convey the impression that terrorists can change our policies through violence and intimidation.”

How about that Gandhi fella again:

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?”

Choose your leaders wisely.

The Continued Hypocrisy Of Joe Lieberman

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on October 30, 2009 by halmasonberg

During a 1994 press conference, Joe Lieberman emphatically stated:

“[People] are fed up — frustrated and fed up and angry about the way in which our government does not work, about the way in which we come down here and get into a lot of political games and seem to — partisan tugs of war and forget why we’re here, which is to serve the American people. And I think the filibuster has become not only in reality an obstacle to accomplishment here, but it also a symbol of a lot that ails Washington today.”

“But I do want to say that the Republicans were not the only perpetrators of filibuster gridlock, there were occasions when Democrats did it as well. And the long and the short of it is that the abuse of the filibuster was bipartisan and so its demise should be bipartisan as well.”

“The whole process of individual senators being able to hold up legislation, which in a sense is an extension of the filibuster because the hold has been understood in one way to be a threat to filibuster — it’s just unfair.”

“I’m very proud to be standing here with Tom as two Democrats saying that we’re going to begin this fight, because we’ve just been stung by the filibuster for a period of years, and even though the tables have now turned, it doesn’t make it right for us to use this instrument that we so vilified.”

Yes, the same “I’m gonna join the GOP filibuster against the public option” Joe Lieberman.

Yes, he truly is a shining example of the worst Washington has to offer. Nice to know he stands behind his “ideals.”
lieberman_1

One Face Of The DC Tea Party: Your Fellow Americans

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2009 by halmasonberg

While this in no way represents all Republicans, it is currently the strongest voice and face of the conservative party. There are enough ignorant and frightened people in this country who are victims of outright manipulation by individuals, corporations and media outlets who not only prey on that fear and ignorance, but depend on it.

We the people have an uncanny desire to follow. Oftentimes we are lazy and fearful and easily led. And when we allow this to happen, we act like lemmings and run ourselves right off a cliff. We follow without question those who lead us. What these people believe to be empowerment, is actually manipulation through fear. We allow others to think for us, to tell us what we should and shouldn’t believe, what we should feel, all the while shrugging off responsibility and denying ourselves empowerment through education. And in so doing, we lose all commonsense.

Educate!

Quote Of The Day: Bill Clinton

Posted in Favorite Quotes, Politics with tags , , , , on September 8, 2009 by halmasonberg

Picture 6“The broad canvas is that the Republicans are trying to figure out whether to keep playing their old songs or try to write a new script. Meanwhile, they’re hoping this president will fail, and they’re trying to spook the Democrats from the more vulnerable districts into helping him fail.”

–Bill Clinton.

Former Bush Strategist Warns: Republicans Playing With Fire

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2009 by halmasonberg

dowdpFormer Bush strategist Matthew Dowd On ABC’s “This Week” warned:

“I think the Republicans soon have to be careful of something. I know Republicans are all patting themselves on the back and saying, “We’ve got the Democrats on the run, Obama on the run.’ I don’t think it’s necessarily a good political place to be in by November if you’ve defeated any health care reform.”

Anyone listening?

Explaining Health Care Reform: Reality vs Fiction

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2009 by halmasonberg

Steven Pearlstein’s article in The Washington Post does a great job of breaking down truth from lies. There are those who have nefarious reasons for not wanting Obama’s Health Care Plan to become a reality. And this is a fight that started long before anyone even knew the name Barack Obama. There’s a lot at stake here. Human lives and more money than you can possibly imagine. And it’s the outright lies that are being told that are indicative that the truth of what is being proposed is not, in fact, what the opponents of Obama’s Health Care Plan actually fear. Otherwise a valid, honest argument would be made. It would be a differing of opinion. And an alternative approach would be offered.

This is not what is happening.

Instead, those who oppose the plan are telling outright lies in the hope of feeding off people’s fear and ignorance of the issues. And if you tell those lies with enough conviction, people will believe them. “Political terrorists,” as Pearlstein calls them. “By poisoning the political well, they’ve given up any pretense of being the loyal opposition.”

Here are some excerpts from Pearlstein’s recent article:

PH2007090901916Under any plan likely to emerge from Congress, the vast majority of Americans who are not old or poor will continue to buy health insurance from private companies, continue to get their health care from doctors in private practice and continue to be treated at privately owned hospitals.

The centerpiece of all the plans is a new health insurance exchange set up by the government where individuals, small businesses and eventually larger businesses will be able to purchase insurance from private insurers at lower rates than are now generally available under rules that require insurers to offer coverage to anyone regardless of health condition. Low-income workers buying insurance through the exchange — along with their employers — would be eligible for government subsidies. While the government will take a more active role in regulating the insurance market and increase its spending for health care, that hardly amounts to the kind of government-run system that critics conjure up when they trot out that oh-so-clever line about the Department of Motor Vehicles being in charge of your colonoscopy.

There is still a vigorous debate as to whether one of the insurance options offered through those exchanges would be a government-run insurance company of some sort. There are now less-than-even odds that such a public option will survive in the Senate, while even House leaders have agreed that the public plan won’t be able to piggy-back on Medicare. So the probability that a public-run insurance plan is about to drive every private insurer out of business — the Republican nightmare scenario — is approximately zero.

By now, you’ve probably also heard that health reform will cost taxpayers at least a trillion dollars. Another lie.

First of all, that’s not a trillion every year, as most people assume — it’s a trillion over 10 years, which is the silly way that people in Washington talk about federal budgets. On an annual basis, that translates to about $140 billion, when things are up and running.

Even that, however, grossly overstates the net cost to the government of providing universal coverage. Other parts of the reform plan would result in offsetting savings for Medicare: reductions in unnecessary subsidies to private insurers, in annual increases in payments rates for doctors and in payments to hospitals for providing free care to the uninsured. The net increase in government spending for health care would likely be about $100 billion a year, a one-time increase equal to less than 1 percent of a national income that grows at an average rate of 2.5 percent every year.

…While holding themselves out as paragons of fiscal rectitude, Republicans grandstand against just about every idea to reduce the amount of health care people consume or the prices paid to health-care providers — the only two ways I can think of to credibly bring health spending under control.

When Democrats, for example, propose to fund research to give doctors, patients and health plans better information on what works and what doesn’t, Republicans sense a sinister plot to have the government decide what treatments you will get. By the same wacko-logic, a proposal that Medicare pay for counseling on end-of-life care is transformed into a secret plan for mass euthanasia of the elderly.

Government negotiation on drug prices? The end of medical innovation as we know it, according to the GOP’s Dr. No. Reduce Medicare payments to overpriced specialists and inefficient hospitals? The first step on the slippery slope toward rationing.

Oh, and by the way, when people allow their fears to get the better of them and start to buy into the lies being told, you start seeing shit like this appear at protests:

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s-WASILLAKID-large

The above man’s t-shirt reads “Hitler Gave Great Speeches Too”.

Both photos were taken at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) town hall meeting in Denver, Colorado, on Thursday

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.

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