Monday, September 29, 2008


Orwell's invented language for the world of 1984 has crept into our conversational English in many ways. We hardly notice how often we are plagiarizing Orwell. One item from a couple of years ago rang a bell for me, and I didn't know why until now: "The internet is a series of tubes," the famously stupid phrase spoken by Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, is remarkably like a definition from this NewSpeak dictionary:

"memory hole - A system of pipes, similar to pneumatic tubes, which were used to destroy documents. A document stuffed in the memory hole would be conveniently whisked away to the furnaces below - quickly & easily wiped from history."

Which is also pretty near to our shared visualization of the Richard Cheney Vice Presidential Archive.

Ugly Religious Extremism––Christian Style

Sly. Innocent. "Just curious." "Trying to share information." "No harm or offense intended."

Try noxious, vile, creepy, racist, hateful. Sinful. Pathetic.

The "Obama is Muslim terrorist" email has been flying around with sincere-sounding Christian phrases attached. "Pray when you send this email on to everyone in your address-book." Sort of like a disease carrier praying over his viruses. The latest bogus suggestion is that Barack Obama is not only a secret Muslim but also the anti-christ.

It's untrue, and well known to be untrue––it was well and thoroughly debunked a year ago (hard to believe it needed debunking)––but it doesn't prevent "sincere Christians" from spreading the lie. Getting the letter from another "Christian" also helps people trust it, and pass it along. Isn't there a rule in the Bible against bearing false witness? Or is that only regarding neighbors?

Are enough Americans gullible enough, ignorant enough or simply obedient enough to vote against Obama just because of this rumor? Yup. Just because some other Christian has whispered in an email that they heard from a friend that someone said that a preacher who went to a seminary somewhere said the letters in Obama's name multplied by the number of the apostles after subtracting Judas plus the numeric value of the letters G, O and D times the number of letters in Jesus full name (Christian name and surname) equals 666. (Someone quick do the math.)

Am I saying that people are stupid? No, I'm saying the people who send you this noxious lying material think you are. You know who they are. And we all know who is using these methods.

The whisper campaign was helped by the McCain ad of a few months ago. The one using code-phrases from Christian end-timers and the none-too-subtle insertion of a minaret behind Obama. Gosh, who does those ads? Do you think they had any intention of inflaming prejudice? What does God think of those people?

The authors of the Left Behind novels say Obama isn't really the AntiChrist (sound of angry moan from disappointed crowd) but it's hard to stop a mob after it's lit all of its torches and grabbed its pitchforks.

"LaHaye and Jenkins take a literal interpretation of prophecies found in the Book of Revelation. They believe the antichrist will surface on the world stage at some point, but neither see Obama in that role. “I’ve gotten a lot of questions the last few weeks asking if Obama is the antichrist,” says novelist Jenkins. “I tell everyone that I don’t think the antichrist will come out of politics, especially American politics.”"

There you have it. Obama is NOT the antichrist. Go home and tell everyone you spread that rumor to that you were wrong, and pray real hard that your false-witnessing can be undone. Otherwise... what happens to people whose sins cause real harm?

But this antichrist accusation isn't new with right wing media talkers. Long before Glenn Beck asked the antichrist question about Barack Obama, he said Hillary was the antichrist, and Don Imus said she was Satan... Lots of creeps out there. Lots of influential lies being told, and the most Democrats say about it is that it's not helpful. Turn the other cheek? Doesn't sound antichristy to me––sounds almost Christian. Will it be enough? Can goodness triumph over evil religious extremism? If Obama wins, yes. God help America.

Whose Economic Team Do You Trust?

Who do you trust in this moment of crisis: McCain or Obama?

It's an important question, and never more important than now. The answer ought to be obvious, but obvious isn't always enough for some voters.

Obama's team of economic advisors is deep and experienced. Paul Volcker, Robert Rubin, Paul O'Neill, Lawrence Lindsay, Warren Buffett. Smart people who've been through economic crises before this one, who have piloted the economy out of bad times and through good times. A Fed Chairman, a couple of former Treasury Secretaries and the wisest investor in America (whose office is in Omaha not on Wall Street.)

McCain's team has few names, and the top one is worrying: Phil Gramm was one of the architects of this current mess.

There are other bumps coming. Whose team will look out for homeowners, families and small businesses?

Phil Gramm called us all a bunch of whiners. McCain has been contradictory about what ought to be done. Loose cannons do not calm financial markets. Does Sarah Palin make you feel secure?

Obama has been very calm, measured and well-informed; is that surprising? He's got a good team that he actually consults.

The Democrats in Congress and a few moderate Republicans are the ones working on this rescue, adding the things Bush forgot to include: protections for homeowners, taxpayer safeguards, re-regulating the insane pay packages and bizarre dealings of Wall Street.

The Republican Party at large, especially in the House, is demanding the same things they always demand: less regulation and business tax cuts. The very things that created this mess.

Who will look out for you and me? Our jobs, our homes, our healthcare, our kids' futures. Once again, it's Democrats. The only thing the Republicans have to herd voters into their column is Fear. They are using whips and cattle prods. Judge for yourself what they have in mind for you.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain's One Angry Man

"As a psychotherapist and someone who treats people with anger management problems, we typically try to educate people that anger is often an emotion that masks other emotions. I think it's significant that McCain didn't make much, if any, eye contact because it suggests one of two things to me; he doesn't want to make eye contact because he is prone to losing control of his emotions if he deals directly with the other person, or, his anger masks fear and the eye contact may increase or substantiate the fear."

The above is from a comment at Talking Points Memo. McCain's explosive temper, his suppressed anger, his contempt for disagreement, his impulsiveness, should be a bigger issue. Sure, Americans are angry, and perhaps they identify with him for this reason. But voters ought to consider whether they want a president who acts on his angry impulses or uses them strategically.

Here's a very worrying glimpse of the McCain we didn't see last night. A very calculated use of anger. A Nixonian tactic. It's from a gun rights group's website:

"President Bush's chief of staff, Andrew H. "Andy" Card, Jr. has observed Senator John McCain's notorious outbursts of anger first-hand, Card said in his first extensive interview since leaving the White House.

"Referring to the Republican front-runner for president, Card said, "Sometimes he was pretty angry, but I felt as if he was putting on a show. I don't know if it was an emotional eruption or for effect."

"In a July 5 article, former Senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who served with McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, "I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues and exploded at colleagues.... He would disagree about something and then explode.

""It was incidents of irrational behavior. We've all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I've never seen anyone act like that."

"McCain's outbursts often erupted when other members rebuffed his requests for support during his bid in 2000 for the Republican nomination for president, the story said.

""He had very few friends in the Senate," said former Senator Smith, who dealt with McCain almost daily. "He has a lot of support around the country, but I don't think he has a lot of support from people who know him well."

"McCain has alternately denied he is given to outbursts of anger and admitted he struggles to control his anger. The March 20 Baltimore Sun quoted McCain as saying, "... for someone to say that McCain became just angry and yelled or even raised my voice or -- it's just not true."

"Interviewed in the living room of his northern Virginia home, Andy Card said he thought McCain could turn his anger on or off. McCain would say, "I don't want to deal with you anymore, or I don't want to deal with this topic anymore, or I don't want to deal with this subject or whatever."

"Card said McCain would seem to "flip the switch and turn [his anger] off. It was less with me, and more what I was observing [at meetings]." "

In last night's debate the anger was turned off, but it was there.

Here's an article from the Washington Post which raised the issue in April. It's barely been raised since.

The question we need to ask: McCain has kept the angry man in the closet for a few months, but will he stay there? And if President McCain receives a three A.M. phone call, which McCain will answer?

This story I read this morning reminds me why we should vote for cooler, calmer leadership. Not some "heroic", impulsive hothead. You might want to ask friends to think about this too.

Republican Agenda: Avoid Responsibility

Over the past twenty eight years of Republican dominance the main goal has been to take the burden off the executive class and place it on people riding in coach. It's called "risk shifting" or "cost shifting" but you might as well call it what it is: avoiding obligations. Obligations that have been key parts of the social contract for generations. Obligations we are owed because we have paid for them. Basic job security, retirement security, health insurance, a clean environment, well-funded public schools, a safe infrastructure; these things used to be part of the contract people made with their society, with their government and their employers. We work hard, but there certain things we expect in return. This was the world we lived in during the post FDR years, the best years America ever had. The Republican mission over the past generation has been to pull it all down. Helped by their corporate backers and lobbyists they have succeeded. The money is gone. They have submitted their bill, and it is enormous.

"So this is how the "ownership society" works. We own all the bad stuff."

"Like On Wall Street, Current Health Care Policy Privatizes Profit And Socializes Risk"

"Gaming-the-system-for-profit has spawned the $20 billion annual insurance subsidiary known as "denial management" - health insurance middlemen whose sole purpose is to search claims for excuses to delay, deny or renege on reimbursements. Furthermore, thirty percent of provider health claims are initially denied, requiring multiple resubmittals."

"Denial Management Industry Grows Amid Debate Between Health Insurers, Physicians Over Claims"

"Almost 1/3 of every health care dollar goes to CEO’s, stockholders, marketing, duplicative claim processing, and insurance companies generally fighting patient claims. This compares to just 3.2% overhead costs for U.S. Medicare, a single payer system that virtually all seniors agree should be maintained.

"Each year, one million families go bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills."

"Scott Stoermer, a spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters, said that shifting cleanup costs from industry to taxpayers was already a potent political issue in certain Congressional districts and was likely to become more so in the current atmosphere of corporate scandals.

''This is all about government letting corporations get away with things that hurt average Americans and leave taxpayers to foot the bill,'' Mr. Stoermer. ''It's not just about cleaning up toxic waste, it's about fairness and which side are you on.''

"Efforts to replace public institutions with market mechanisms shift the burden of life’s many risks disproportionately to those without substantial private wealth. The loss of life and livelihoods after Hurricane Katrina was increased, thus, by decisions to cut public investment in social services, physical infrastructure, public communications and public administration. As is often the case, the burden fell disproportionately on racial minorities, women, and children."

"Contingent workers--contractors, freelancers and "temps"--have become increasingly common in the work force... Contingent-worker arrangements come in many forms but have a common theme: a company gets the benefit of a worker's labor without the normal employer burdens by shifting them to some other party."

"No, it's not your imagination: Employers this year continued to shift more of the cost of health care to their employees."

"Every Wal-Mart store employing 200 or more people costs taxpayers more than $420,000 in government social services used by employees whose low wages and unaffordable health insurance mean they largely subsist among the ranks of the working poor."

"The currently favored response to rising insecurity is to throw more tax breaks and individual accounts at Americans to encourage them to save and invest on their own. This may help the privileged, but it won’t provide strong guarantees of economic security to ordinary Americans, who are just barely staying afloat. Nor will it stop the huge shift of risk onto these hardworking families as jobs, health care, and retirement all become less secure. Quite the opposite: “The Ownership Society” is akin to throwing a lead weight to a drowning man, on the assumption that now he will really have an incentive to swim."

"The availability and affordability of coastal wind insurance has become a serious and growing economic problem, and something’s gotta give. Unfortunately, most legislative efforts and proposals to address these problems are based on shifting risk away from coastal property owners and on to the government – they're nothing more than broad-based transfers of risk to taxpayers. Florida, which arguably faces the greatest challenges, has turned to the state-owned Florida Citizens Property Insurance Corporation to assume significant amounts of coastal wind risk."

The Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Page- Jay S. Fishman - August 27, 2007

"In its [2006] budget, the Administration proposes net federal Medicaid funding cuts equal to $14 billion over the next five years and $35.5 billion over ten years through a combination of legislative changes and regulatory action. [1] These reductions follow on the heels of significant federal Medicaid cuts ($4.9 billion over five years and $26.5 billion over ten years) enacted as part of the budget reconciliation bill signed into law on February 8."

"Companies Dump Pension Obligations on Taxpayers"

"Bush is going to leave Iraq for the next president to clean up"

"Bush is expected to hamstring the next president with a record federal budget deficit "

Meanwhile Bush's war––McCain's war––costs American taxpayers $12 billion a month. Much of it goes into the pockets of private contractors.