Monthly Archives: October, 2008

Colin Powell Supports Our Troops

Religious freedom is one of the fundamental principles of American civic life. We are Americans no matter how we worship, and we obey the law and when the time comes, we sacrifice…

Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan was a 20-year-old Stryker soldier based at Fort Lewis. He was killed last August in Baqouba.

Khan was a Muslim. And Powell made a correlation to the decorated Stryker Brigade soldier and Obama in context of negative Republican campaigning somehow insinuating that Obama is a Muslim.

In a moving statement, Gen. Powell posed the rhetorical question to Meet The Press host Tom Brokaw:

“I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.”

Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.â€?

Politicians and talk show entertainers who like to talk tough from the safety of the US are not walking the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan trying to engage the population in fighting terrorists. When they disparage the religion of people we need to enlist as allies, they paint a target on the backs of our troops. They undermine pro-American Muslims, and they disregard the principles that Americans have lived and died for. They undo the efforts of Christian missionaries over decades and give ammunition to extremists who want nothing better than a religious war.

Colin Powell was speaking as an experienced soldier. When we have been hurt, lashing out blindly is not a strategy. There are violent extremists who have to be stopped. Bigotry against our fellow Americans and against a whole world religion is a dangerous distraction, and not in our best tradition.

Get Real

I wouldn’t ever want to be in Sarah Palin’s position on Saturday Night Live. She is consistently good on camera and came off as a good sport. If the heat had been turned up any higher she would pick up sympathy votes. She sure didn’t get the respect and deference her running mate thinks she is owed.

But a show like SNL is supposed to be a chance to humanize the candidate after a tough campaign of defining positions and laying out a platform. That’s what the candidate does when she is interviewed and answers questions. Sarah Palin hasn’t done that.

It’s true, she came in late in the race, but then she went into seclusion for emergency VP classes. Then she was interviewed by Katie Couric. It was not good. For the past few weeks it’s all been preaching to the choir at rallies. She’s extremely good at that.

The problem is that only dictators get to preach to the choir all the time while in office. Even a VP needs to be able to face opposition without resorting to vague patriotic sentiment or questioning the patriotism of her opponents. And a president needs to make her case to her own party, the opposite party, and other nations.

So going on SNL is kind of the lighter moment after the heavy stuff. But we haven’t seen the heavy stuff. Will she give some real interviews in the next two weeks? Nope. So all we have is her record. That’s fair game.

Ringers Part 3-Staying on Message

UPDATE 2011: Armstrong Williams is again in the news, this time for publishing his sermons on virtue, dissing gay rights, and allegedly getting much too personal with his male personal trainer. But before that, he was cited by the Federal Communications Commission for taking payola to tilt the news to favor the Bush administration.

“Although a small price to pay given the scope of Armstrong Williams’ deception, the fines were long overdue. Using taxpayer-funded propaganda to shape popular opinion is illegal, unethical and an insult to the public. Broadcasters who allow such propaganda on the air should be dealt with strictly and swiftly.

The Bush adm. was rotten with this kind of thing, and Williams had his career made as a black man who would propagandize for conservative causes. There’s no law against that, but there are laws against posing as a newscaster when you are paid to preach a party line.

BACK TO 2008: Elsewhere in disaster management, showing the coordination for which they are famous, FEMA made sure they controlled the message, scheduling a news conference without those pesky reporters asking annoying questions…

FEMA scheduled an early afternoon news briefing on only 15 minutes notice to reporters here Tuesday to talk about its handling of assistance to victims of wildfires that were ravaging much of Southern California.

But because there was so little advance notice for the event held by Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy FEMA administrator, the agency made available an 800 number so reporters could call in. And many did, although it was a listen-only arrangement.

At the news conference itself, some FEMA employees played the role of reporter, asking questions of Johnson — queries described as soft and gratuitous.

“I’m very happy with FEMA’s response,” Johnson said in reply to one query from a person who was an agency employee, not an independent journalist.

And did you know that our tax money went to make commercials for the Bush adminstration disguised as news? So we can see on the ‘news’ what a heckuva job they are doing. Pretty circular, huh?

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.

Sometimes the administration uses real people instead of actors, but that can be expensive, as seen here…

U.S. communications regulators cited conservative commentator Armstrong Williams on Thursday for violating a ban on “payola” in promoting the Bush administration’s education plan.

After investigating for more than 2-1/2 years, the Federal Communications Commission concluded that Williams and his firm violated agency rules by promoting President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” policy on television without disclosing they had been paid to do so…

Williams was not immediately available for comment. He has denied any wrongdoing but has acknowledged that the Education Department’s outside media firm paid $240,000 to promote No Child Left Behind during a television show he owned and hosted.

Armstrong Williams makes big bucks in the black conservative pundit biz. I’ll bet James Harris dreams of getting there some day.

And how’s this for supporting the troops?

Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours. But many of them are the same form letter.

Of course, this is the bad old Bush adminstration. I shouldn’t be so stressed about John McCain, but the man in the crowd who’s a talk show host, and Joe the ‘plumber’ is a lot in one week. I’m having flashbacks.

Ringers Part 2–Say it Ain’t So, Joe

And now it turns out that Joe the Plumber isn’t actually a plumber? And he didn’t pay taxes, even under the glorious Republican leadership of George Bush? And he’s a registered Republican and supporter of John McCain? At least that’s what AP says. But AP is suspect ever since they pressured Sarah Palin to speak when she just wanted to pose for pictures at the UN.

What’s worse, the The United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry officially endorsed Barack Obama. Their membership is made up of people who do have a plumbing license, and I guess most of them make under a quarter of a million a year. They think Obama’s tax plan is better.

And Joe might not be the perfect example of the average voter. Most of us are grateful that our parents are able to collect social security. Not Joe, he wants to do away with it. That’s pretty radical. I don’t think John McCain will get on board with that, even George Bush found it to be a wildly unpopular idea.

So I wonder if Joe approached Barack Obama in order to provide McCain with some good anecdotal material to use in the debate. I know I’m cynical, but I’ve been hurt a lot in the past eight years.

Why, Fluffy, Why?

sputnik squint


Why do I love you so? It’s not like you do anything useful. We don’t have mice.

That’s why you broke into the gerbil cage, I guess. But you dropped the gerbil unharmed as soon as I started choking you, so you’re a good cat.

And I know you have a sensitive stomach. You can’t help it. The vet said so. I’ve tried 27 different kinds of cat food. I’ll try them all, there has to be one you can digest. Meanwhile, I’ll just clean up after you.

It was a strain on my marriage when you vomited into the cable box, causing a 3 day sports channel blackout, but we’re past that now.

I was used to the routine, waking up to the sound of gagging, changing the litter so that you don’t pee on my paperwork, having you on my lap all the time except when I want you there — I know cats don’t come when they’re called. I thought I understood your feline needs.

But now this — I turn my back for a moment and you rip the keys off my laptop. It’s not even mine, it’s from work. And there was the N, the Y and the U, lying on the floor. I don’t know how I managed to snap them back on. It took a while.

What next? You sit on top of the refrigerator and gaze down at me so serenely. What are you thinking?

Ringers Pt. 1 — Your Reward is in Heaven

They went wild when a young Black man came up to the stage and said this to Sen. John McCain–Transcript from RawStory

“Senator, at the convention, you asked for us to fight, for you,” said the supporter. “I doubt there’s anyone in this room that’s, pardon me, taken the ass whoopin’ I have taken for supporting you, and for supporting your policies.”

The crowd roared in approval, then sprang to their feet to cheer the man on.

“Sir, I believe that, the next coming debate, it is absolutely vital that you take it to Obama; that you hit him where it hits … The soft spot,” he said, drawing another round of audience applause.

McCain crossed the stage and hugged the man.

“Thank you,” said the senator. “Thank you for your courage. I believe your reward will be in heaven, not here on Earth.”

It turns out the spontaneous demonstrator had his eye on a more immediate payoff. National TV coverage and 15 minutes of fame. His name is James Harris. He’s a radio talk show host for WTMJ in Milwaukee. He’s already managed to get on the Laura Ingraham show, tomorrow, who knows, a call-in to Rush? He’s working in a niche where there is not much competition and I’m not sure how to describe it. Just another right wing talk show host, but he happens to be black so there’s the novelty factor. That might get him on the O’Reilly Factor.

I think it is eerie that Sen. McCain told Harris his reward is in heaven, not on earth. As a voter I don’t find that at all reassuring. Politicians are in charge of affairs on earth, a Bigger Boss decides what happens after you die. So I expect my candidate to do something for me while I’m alive. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

What Will Trig Palin Do?

Did you notice that Sen. McCain referred to Gov. Palin having a special needs child and then started talking about autism? Trig Palin has Down Syndrome. I thought it might be a senior moment, like when Ronald Reagan would answer questions no one asked. But maybe not. Parents of children with autism are a much bigger voting bloc than parents of children with Down.

The Huffington Post has a good analysis here, with some background on the rise in autism and the burden on parents.

Then there was Sen. McCain’s rather scary promise to go at the federal budget–

OK, what — what would I cut? I would have, first of all, across-the-board spending freeze, OK? Some people say that’s a hatchet. That’s a hatchet, and then I would get out a scalpel, OK?

I wouldn’t go to a surgeon who operated like that. Consider that the government is complicated, and some programs take a lot of time, money and energy to start. For example, Dexter Manor elderly housing had a full time nurse in the 1960’s and the program was a success. Then it was cut. Never started again. The costs of medical care are dispersed, so no one knows how much could have been saved, or how many tenants kept out of Rhode Island Hospital ER.

Sen. McCain said this about his running mate.

She’ll be my partner. She understands reform. And, by the way, she also understands special-needs families. She understands that autism is on the rise, that we’ve got to find out what’s causing it, and we’ve got to reach out to these families, and help them, and give them the help they need as they raise these very special needs children.

She understands that better than almost any American that I know. I’m proud of her.

Sen. McCain seemed stumped for a moment when Sen. Obama answered–

And I think it’s very commendable the work she’s done on behalf of special needs. I agree with that, John.

I do want to just point out that autism, for example, or other special needs will require some additional funding, if we’re going to get serious in terms of research. That is something that every family that advocates on behalf of disabled children talk about.

And if we have an across-the-board spending freeze, we’re not going to be able to do it. That’s an example of, I think, the kind of use of the scalpel that we want to make sure that we’re funding some of those programs.

An antiabortion writer described Trig Palin as a civil rights leader. That’s a lot to ask of a six month old baby. It’s actually a baby’s job to be taken care of and a parent’s job to lead. Putting a halo on the little guy dodges the question of who is responsible for his well-being, in his family and in his community.

The Palin family is fortunate enough to have wealth and political connections, but they will still need help from the state. The McCain/Palin ticket is saying they will slash programs, shrink government, cut taxes and provide generously for special-needs children. We’re coming off eight years of the promise of prosperity without sacrifice, and there’s going to be a lot less money for good as well as wasteful programs.

What will Trig Palin do when he’s thirty, forty, fifty years old? When he’s in his forties, his parents will be in their eighties. Will he have a good place to live, a job, competent professionals who look out for his interests? If so, it will be a collective effort, and that includes taxes. That’s just how it is.

Let’s All Hate Those Gold-Plated Insurance Hogs

Ninjanurse cues into the health questions in the debates, and she favors a single-payer plan, like Congress, Veterans and Medicare recipients. Far from perfect, but when you see people every day who have no access to health care it gives you a perspective.

Last night hearing Senator McCain once again sneer at the only people he says won’t benefit from his health plan — the ones with the ‘gold-plated insurance plans that cover plastic surgery and transplants’ I wonder who those people are.

I think he is inventing a new elite group to hate on.

Does Senator McCain think that people get organ transplants for fun? I’ve had patients who were on Medicaid who were kidney transplant recipients. The sad thing is that many people who end up needing a transplant could have saved their own kidneys if they had good preventive care. Diabetes and the effects of medication are two causes of kidney failure. A vigilant primary care practitioner and an informed patient could avoid a great deal of suffering and expense.

As I pointed out in Cadillac Ambulance, the people who are collecting huge bucks for healthcare are Sick. That is why they are spending so much on Doctors, and going to Hospitals. It would be a good investment in the future to spend more money today to help people stay Healthy.

I can’t count the people in my life who are here because they got expensive, hi-tech medical care when they needed it. I am one of them. These are working, tax-paying people who would have died if they were subjected to the financial triage we are practicing on some of our citizens. It’s very costly to carry a pregnancy to term, to raise a child, to educate a citizen, to train a worker. We really can’t afford to throw people away. But that is what we’re doing.

Senator Obama’s health care plan doesn’t go far enough, but he understands that handing out a tax credit and throwing it out to the free market doesn’t work with health care. And Senator McCain’s imaginary gold-plated insurance hogs are an elite group that doesn’t exist. This is Reagan-style argument by anecdote, and more far-fetched than Reagan would have tried to get away with.

Cost of Crime

I was talking with my friend Bill Platt about Hurricane Katrina. Bill said something that totally opened my mind–

“You don’t have to publicly defund the levees. It all happens at some budget meeting that no one pays attention to. All you have to do is move funds from line item A to line item B and it’s done.�

That’s government as usual. Ordinary citizens don’t have the time or knowledge to attend every hearing and review every law. Our press, largely because we have been satisfied for so long with celebrity gossip and lazy reporting, is forsaking news for the more profitable entertainment. Shame on us for eating baloney for so long.

It’s easy for a politician to operate under the radar, just by dodging cameras and taking care not to be taped speaking in plain language. No one can prove that Mayor Sarah Palin arranged to have her chief of police Charlie Fannon, who she hired after firing Chief Irl Stambaugh, change the policy of covering the cost of the rape exam. She wasn’t present at the press conference covered below in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman 5/22/2000…

Gov. Tony Knowles recently signed legislation protecting victims of sexual assault from being billed for tests to collect evidence of the crime, but one local police chief said the new law will further burden taxpayers.

While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.

Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams.

“In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don’t want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer,” Fannon said.

According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases.

What is the benefit to the taxpayer in funding the rape exam? Is it an act of charity to a woman, possibly poor, possibly native, as are a disproportionate number of victims in Alaska? Is it basic decency? A lot of the commentary on the net expressed shock that a crime victim would be charged for evidence collection. But this is one of the things that happens at the budget meeting. When funds are moved from line item A to line item B. And what is the impact on the taxpayer when rape is not prosecuted? Here are some stats from the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Rape is the most costly of all crimes to its victims. Total costs are estimated to be $127 billion a year in the United States, excluding the costs of child sexual abuse.

The cost for each sexual assault is $110,000; because many rape victims are subjected to more than one sexual assault, the cost per rape is estimated to be $87,000. The cost per sexual assault is broken down as follows:

Short-term medical care $ 500
Mental health services 2,400
Lost productivity 2,200
Pain and suffering 104,900

The pain and suffering cost is based on these facts:

Up to half of all victims suffer from at least one symptom of rape trauma syndrome.

Rape victims are four times more likely to have an emotional breakdown than are non-victims.

25% to 50% of sexual assault victims are likely to seek mental health services and victims often suffer from lifelong physical manifestations of sexual trauma.

The total cost of sexual assault to victims was $18 million in 2002.

I think this underestimates the lost productivity. When a young woman drops out of college, as did someone I know, and never has the opportunity to get her degree, she loses income for all her working life. The huge financial settlements against the Catholic church for covering up clergy abuse reflect the cost of therapy, the lost earning power, and the injury to families. Rape violates families as well as individuals. It is a crime that destroys trust, in society, in the protection of law.

What is the benefit to the taxpayer in funding the rape exam? Sex offenders are almost always multiple offenders. They harm multiple victims. Prosecuting and imprisoning an offender not only brings justice, it protects the community.

The rape exam is the best chance to gather evidence that can identify the guilty, and prevent mis-identification and false convictions. DNA evidence can help solve crimes, as in this 18 year old unsolved case

TMZ has learned the actor who played Random Task in the first “Austin Powers” movie has been charged with a vicious gang rape.
Joe Son’s arrest has been all over newspapers in the O.C., but no one connected the dots — that the suspect is actually Dr. Evil’s henchman — until now.

Here’s how it all went down. Son pleaded guilty back in May to felony vandalism. The plea required him to fork over a DNA sample. Investigators ran his sample and found Son’s DNA connected him to an unsolved gang rape back in 1990…

The crime was extremely violent, and it’s almost certain that he committed other violent assaults. If not for the DNA evidence there would have been no link

Rhode Island is one of the last states to institute a SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) program. Alaska created a SART (sexual assault response team) in the 1990’s. Alaska suffers a higher rate of domestic violence and sexual assault than the national average. Due to gaps in legal protection, Native Alaskans have less recourse to justice. The Mayor of Wasilla could not have been unaware of the issues. Palin’s personal physician, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, the doctor who delivered her son, Trig, was awarded the 2002 Family Physician of the Year Award largely for her advocacy for victims of sexual abuse…

Baldwin-Johnson was nominated for her work as a family physician; as co-founder of The Children’s Place, also in Wasilla; and as a founder of the Sexual Assault Response Team in the Valley. She recently received the Alaska First Lady’s Award for outstanding volunteerism.

So when the Mayor’s budget moved funds away from covering the rape exam it was not an oversight. It did nothing to help the taxpayer and plenty to discourage reporting. We can’t take it for granted that our politicians and police will do the right thing. I have my theories about why the Mayor defunded the rape exam, and which constituency she was favoring, in Kmareka here.

When we look at the damage to society, the cost of crime, we see that rape is not just a women’s issue. No politician would say publicly that prosecuting sexual assualt is not a priority. It’s what happens at the budget meeting. We need people who know what is happening when the funds are moved from line item A to line item B. We need to support a free and vigilant press, and the community organizers who refuse to settle for words when action is needed.

I Dare the Maverick

Since Senator McCain’s spokesmen were so shocked, shocked, that Rep. John Lewis would mention George Wallace when McCain supporters screamed threats at Sen. Barack Obama–

I dare the Maverick to go to any campaign rally in the South and repudiate George Wallace.

Younger people remember George Wallace as a distant racist nightmare. We old ones remember him as the longterm Governor of Alabama, and a candidate for president in 1968. Reading the Wikipedia entry is a trip down memory lane I really can’t handle without Tums, and I’m out of Tums right now. But I’ll paste in what to me is the most damning evidence against George Wallace…

A black lawyer recalls, “Judge George Wallace was the most liberal judge that I had ever practiced law in front of. He was the first judge in Alabama to call me ‘Mister’ in a courtroom.”[2] Later, when a supporter asked why he started using racist messages, Wallace replied, “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.”[3]

Failed run for governor

He was defeated by John Patterson in Alabama’s Democratic gubernatorial primary election in 1958, which at the time was the decisive election, the general election still almost always being a mere formality. This was a political crossroads for Wallace. Patterson ran with the support of the Ku Klux Klan, an organization Wallace had spoken against, while Wallace was endorsed by the NAACP.[2] After the election, aide Seymore Trammell recalled Wallace saying, “Seymore, you know why I lost that governor’s race?… I was outniggered by John Patterson. And I’ll tell you here and now, I will never be outniggered again.”[2][4] In the wake of his defeat, Wallace adopted hard-line segregationism, and used this stand to court the white vote in the next gubernatorial election.

Let me simplify this. He was not inclined to racial prejudice himself. Perhaps his time in the military had introduced him to a greater America than the Alabama state line. He tried listening to the angels of his better nature. But the angels were losers. So he chose the winning strategy. He played on fear and prejudice for political gain.

Do we look back on Gov. Wallace’s tenure as a time of safety and prosperity for Alabama? He was Governor in 1963 when the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed during Sunday service.

At about 10:22 a.m., when 26 children were walking into the basement assembly room for closing prayers of a sermon entitled “The Love That Forgives,” the bomb exploded [1]. According to an interview on NPR on September 15th 2008, Dennise McNair’s father stated that the sermon never took place because of the bombing [2]. Four girls: Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Denise McNair (aged 11), Carole Robertson (aged 14), and Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), were killed in the blast, and 22 additional people were injured.

What was the ‘law and order’ Governor’s role?

Civil rights activists blamed George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, for the killings. Only a week before the bombing he had told the New York Times that to stop integration Alabama needed a “few first-class funerals.”

What was the Governor’s responsibility?

The incompetence of law enforcement in Alabama under Governor Wallace was mind-boggling. District attorneys, many of whom owed their election or appointment to him, felt little pressure to prosecute civil rights murders. When forced to do so by national opinion, they often favored manslaughter over murder indictments.

Most tellingly, Mr. Wallace turned the highway patrol over to Albert J. Lingo, whose lack of law enforcement expertise made him a laughingstock even among segregationists within his own department. Colonel Lingo was famously close to many violent citizens. In one notorious incident, a segregationist gunman reportedly called Mr. Lingo directly from a Black Belt town to say, “I just shot two preachers. You better get on down here.” The shooter was acquitted.

In the 1963 church bombing, Colonel Lingo destroyed the promising investigations being conducted by two seasoned homicide detectives, Ben Allen and James Hancock, by ordering the premature arrest of their chief suspect, Robert (Dynamite Bob) Chambliss. It would be 13 years before Mr. Chambliss could be convicted.

The beauty of power is that you can be sure that it’s only your subordinates who get their hands dirty.

Ultimately George Wallace fell prey to the passions he aroused.

A few people had noticed the “little guy” in red, white, and blue who led the crowd in cheers at a Laurel, Maryland, campaign stop on May 15, 1972. Cameramen had seen him at other Wallace rallies, had even filmed him in Michigan. When the then-anonymous Arthur Bremer finally got the clear shot of Wallace he’d been waiting for, he fired five times at close range. The violent murder of a political figure that Bremer had sought to distinguish his otherwise unremarkable life didn’t happen. Instead, Bremer’s shots paralyzed Wallace for life, effectively ending his long quest for national office, as well as Bremer’s own quest for infamy as one of the century’s great assassins.

I remember all too well the political violence and serial assassinations of the 60’s and 70’s. I know as a caregiver what a bullet can do to a human being — George Wallace, Larry Flynt, countless crime victims and military veterans. I am sure Senator McCain knows this too.

So let’s see the Senator go to his base in Alabama and repudiate George Wallace.


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