Monthly Archives: November, 2009

Applying the ACORN Standard to Sarah Palin

I’m not a fan of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, or his inspiration, Allan Funt of Candid Camera. It’s very easy to take people by surprise and make them look stupid, film them unawares and show them in the worst light.

I feel a little sympathy for Sarah Palin, who was ambushed by a comedian posing as a Canadian reporter asking for America’s help in fighting socialized medicine. If Palin had time to consider the issue, and maybe study up on it, she would probably not have supported dismantling Canada’s public health system. She would instead have tapped her gift for sounding forthright and committing to nothing, you betcha.

But she was caught with her guard down and spoke her mind. A unique mind seething with visions that her staffers try to keep her from revealing before the appointed time…

After being kicked out of the book-signing, [comedian Mary]Walsh and her crew then waited outside at a loading dock close to where Palin’s bus was parked. When Palin emerged from the Borders bookstore, Walsh said, Delahunty – dressed in a more toned-down version of her trademark warrior princess costume – called out to her.

“Hey, remember us, we’re the Canadians! We came all the way here from Canada!” Delahunty yelled. “When we asked you that question, we didn’t hear your answer.”

Palin strolled over, looking down on Walsh and her crew to tell them that “Canada needs to dismantle its public health-care system and allow private enterprise to get involved and turn a profit.”

“Basically, she said government should stop doing the work that private enterprise should do,” Walsh said.

In addition to those comments, Walsh said, she found it equally bizarre that no one was allowed to ask Palin any questions at the book-signing.

“It was great fun, but also very strange,” Walsh recalled.

“We’re in a bookstore, at a public event, in a place one would think was a bastion of free speech. And no one was allowed to ask questions. What are they afraid of?”

Well that should be obvious. They’re afraid of an unscripted moment, or a mis-speak, caught by the candid camera.

Palin is a master of the wink and the nod, but she has trouble when she has to stand by her words. She’s a politician who is a serious candidate for president, by some people’s standards. She’s experienced in dealing with the press and the public, she’s been tricked before by impostors, and should be better at spotting them.

But she’s only human. Anyone can have an unwary moment. And on film or tape you can replay that moment endlessly.

So if American politics is going to slow it’s long slide into incivility, meanness and ‘gotcha’ moments, we have to start putting the brakes on.

Consider the young, low-level ACORN staffers who were lured into giving advice to some young right-wing activists who posed as a pimp and a prostitute. They were surely unwarned, inadequately trained, and ACORN has paid dearly for that failure. ACORN has other internal financial problems and might not withstand the current investigations.

But to find the whole organization guilty of wrongdoing based on some employees falling prey to entrapment and secret taping would be as unfair as claiming that Sarah Palin has an agenda to dismantle the Canadian health care system, or that Newt Gingrich tried to sell intimate encounters with himself to strip club owners– just because his low-level staffers sent some letters. Interesting mailing list they have, though. That might bear some investigation.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, when speaking to constituents this Fall at the Butcher Block Deli, said that ACORN needed to be investigated, but that he did not support imposing the sentence before the trial.

If it’s all about sound bites, ‘gotcha’ and entrapment, could any of us stand up?

Native American Democracy

Daily Kos has a fine tribute to the Original Americans.

There are not enough words to properly thank The Original Americans for their wisdom which helped form the best parts of our Republic. Thank you!

2,500 years before we arrived, The Original Americans had carved out a form of governance. It is human nature that, if a land becomes densely populated, the people will seek to create a system of management or government.

read the rest, here…

A Lot to be Grateful For

My husband and I just celebrated our 27th anniversary. It was on November 24 in 1982 that we eloped and were blessed by a true saint, MahaGhosananda. He was a great spiritual leader of Cambodian Buddhists who lived and taught in Rhode Island for about a decade. He generously agreed to perform our ceremony.

We asked him because he was the only clergyman we knew. My husband’s church– Guiding Star Baptist in Louisville on Mohammed Ali Blvd (formerly Walnut St.), was too far away. I was an ex-Catholic and a disillusioned Pentecostal, with Pagan leanings. I didn’t know that a Unitarian would have done just fine, so I didn’t ask. Not knowing how to find a priest, so to speak, we just went up to the Pope and he said yes.

I may someday know what sort of impression a couple of Americans requesting a wedding might have made on the good people in the temple. We were an interracial couple who were raised Christian and spoke not a word of their language. They accepted us, when so many around us were full of discouragement. Marriage is a leap, and when we joined hands and jumped we had to have faith. So we tuned out the discouraging words and got on the Cranston St. Bus and went to the temple to get married.

After our vows were made– our words in English with kind prayers in Khmer– the people gave us gifts of cash. I was thinking of what it might have meant, in hard-working minimum-wage time, to earn a dollar. It was hard to accept it. It’s so much easier to be Lady Bountiful, easier to give than to accept generosity. Perhaps it was a down-payment. Or a lesson.

After we left the temple we got on the bus and went downtown, to the Pot au Feu. The Pot was the pinnacle of elegant dining in the 80′s, and ain’t too shabby now. We went back last night to appreciate old times.

I’m grateful the place is still there. One lovely thing about Providence, and much of Rhode Island, is that the past is not totally razed. The bulldozers missed a lot of spots. The Custom House survives on its foundation of two-century-old stones. In the foyer of the Pot au Feu, St. Julia Child beams from a black-and-white photo near the door. She’s shaking hands with a youth who strongly resembled the distinguished man in formal dress who came to ask us how we were enjoying our dinner.

I’m grateful for what has not changed. I’m grateful for what has. When I eloped with my sweetheart I was working at a hip photofinishing lab downtown. I was out of my depth as a Rhode Island factory girl thrown in with so many future photogeniuses on their way to fame. AIDS passed through that workplace like the Reaper, taking a tithe of the young by stealth and ambush, the older by despair.

During those years, survivors of the Cambodian genocide arrived in Rhode Island. My own Irish family had preceded them by about a century, fleeing genocide by malignant neglect and an ethnic cleansing carried out via strategic advantage of crop failure . America in the 80′s was in a state of uncertainty. After the end of American war in Vietnam the college students went back to their studies. The draft was over. We had a decade of the Smiley Face. There was a natural and predictable reaction to the ‘nostalgia’ of the seventies.

In the 80′s we all wore black. If you went to buy a sweater or something you would see racks and racks of black. Sister Mary Curmudgeon could have chosen her whole year’s wardrobe at Ann and Hope. Punk was on the radio. Talking Heads was the local band that made the big time. Roomful of Blues and the Young Adults were playing at Lupos. I joined the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation and studied Uechi Karate with Charlie Earle downtown.

I remember November dusk with the glowing windows of the Arcade. I came to know Providence more intimately when I took up the occupation of nursing.

I am grateful to live in this beautiful city. I am grateful to the crazy idealists who named her Providence– who blessed her streets with names like Benefit, Benevolence, Hope and Peace. I’m grateful to be alive and feeling young at an age when Woman would be globally and historically in her old age. It’s an accident of birth, as far as I can tell. I’m grateful to live in the age of instant publishing. So I can throw this note in a bottle out to the world. Very Blessed. Happy Thanksgiving y’all.

Back on the Blog

Whew! The good news is that the guys and gals at Brown got my computer working again and it didn’t cost too much. The bad news is that they don’t know what was wrong with it. I think it’s the spirits. My coffeepot went out too, and my palm pilot has lost the touch screen on the bottom half, I’m kind of half palming until I think of something better.

So much to have an opinion on, and no one but my long-suffering husband to vent to. He did say that it was nice to see something besides the back of my head for a while.

So what did I miss?

Something to be thankful for…

This Thanksgiving day, as many of us sit with family and friends devouring pretty much anything in sight, there is something to be thankful for.  It’s not 2012.  Or at least not the version of Apocalypse in 2012 as indicated below. An epic battle between good and evil (with all apologies to St. John).

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

National Survivors of Suicide Day

It’s worth mentioning that today is National Survivors of Suicide Day:

National Survivors of Suicide Day is a day of healing for those who have lost someone to suicide. It was created by U.S. Senate resolution in 1999 through the efforts of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who lost his father to suicide. Every year, AFSP sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together for support, healing, information and empowerment.

May those who have suffered this kind of loss find peace and new joy — and may this day help us to learn more about how to prevent suicide. More information about National Survivors of Suicide Day can be found at the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide.


A fine video documentary by Scott Kingsley and/or David DelP about Thundermist Health Associates. It was my first job in 1991. How they’ve grown.

Good Save

If I ever have to call a doctor in the middle of the night, I hope I talk to one like Dena Rifkin. Forgive me for quoting the NYT at length, but this is what real practice of medicine should be…

The voice on the phone was authoritative, even brusque. A father was calling our after-hours line to ask about his teenage daughter.

“She’s got another headache,” he said, as I recall. “I’m going to the pharmacy, just wanted your advice on what strength of Tylenol to get her.”

Those opening lines did not admit much room for questions. I knew neither him nor his daughter, but there seemed to be little margin for error in my response. I could almost hear his foot tapping, waiting for the answer.

I hesitated. Who is this young woman? Why is her father calling about a simple headache?

I began to ask questions. Yes, his daughter had headaches every now and then. No, this one seemed a bit worse, that’s all. He wouldn’t even have called, but he wasn’t sure if Tylenol was safe, now that she was breast-feeding.


Yes, yes, there was a new baby, just a few days old. Yes, there had been some problem with the pregnancy and delivery — something about blood pressure — but she had come home just fine. Could I just tell him the right dose?

I sent the young woman and her father to the emergency room, and she was admitted to the hospital with severe pre-eclampsia, a rare but life-threatening postpartum complication.

Read the rest, here.

When doctors are tempted or pressured into covering more patients than a reasonable person should, and nurses are spread as thin as cheap margarine you can bet that people die because there is no time to ask the right questions. The human connection can’t be replaced by all the computers and paperwork in the world. Cutting expenses– that is, wages– is good for the bottom line, but understaffing and overloading burns out workers and cheats patients.

China-Based Solar Company to Build in Arizona

In concert with Obama’s meeting with Chinese leader Hu and talk of more global cooperation between China and the US (see WSJ Article), comes news that Chinese Solar Power giant Suntech Power (STP) is going to build a manufacturing plant in Arizona. This is good news indeed. We here in America need the confidence of foreign businesses willing to locate on our soil. From the article:

From the U.S. China Green Tech Summit today, Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (NYSE: STP), announced that its first U.S. manufacturing plant for the growing North American market would be located in the Greater Phoenix, Arizona area. The plant will have an initial production capacity of 30 megawatts (MW) and is expected to begin production in the third quarter of 2010.

The announcement makes Suntech the first Chinese cleantech leader to bring manufacturing jobs to America. Suntech selected the Greater Phoenix area for its plant because of Arizona’s leadership in research through Arizona State University, and statewide renewable energy policies, particularly its Renewable Energy Standard and distributed generation set-aside, as well as a supportive local business climate represented by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. The Suntech U.S. plant will employ over 75 full-time employees at launch and may double its staff within the year as the North American market develops.

In the interest of full disclosure, we own 100 shares of STP although we’re still waiting to be back in the green for the price we paid. Every time it has dipped back to 13 over the past couple of months, I have considered buying more, but never worked up the nerve. BTW, none of this should be construed as financial advice or direction in any way — as a mere clinical social worker, I live in mortal terror of someone suggesting that I am capable of giving real financial advice. I am excited about the collaborative possibilities for China and the US, however, and want to share my first-hand knowledge of a new instance of such collaboration.

Applying the ACORN Standard to Republicans

I’ve been kind of scared off this topic, because when the Tea Party folks talk about ACORN, they pronounce it AAACORRRNN, as if their head is going to spin around backwards like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. So you don’t dare ask what is really so awful about ACORN.

My general impression of them locally was that they were annoying. A few years ago they collected funds by having kids stand out on traffic islands begging for change. I hate that. They haven’t done that for a long time, and now the traffic islands are owned by Teen Challenge, which helps troubled youth by putting them out on the streets to beg.

I never thought of ACORN as particularly well-organized, but they seem to have done an effective job nationally with voter registration. I think this is why they drew fire from the right. They have their own internal problems, serious embezzlement and nepotism. It may be that after a full investigation it will be found that they should not receive any more federal funds. But they have a right to an investigation. Conviction without a trial is not a good standard to apply to anyone. What if we applied the ACORN standard to the Republican National Committee? We’d be claiming that they were wasting their donor’s money on inept mailings that only put the GOP up for ridicule, like in today’s ProJo…

State Democratic Party Chairman William J. Lynch was a bit surprised when [Republican National Committee Chairman Michael] Steele’s letter arrived at his Pawtucket home last month.

“Mr. Lynch, to win in 2010, the Republican Party must be better organized than the Democrats every step of the way. Today, I am counting on your help to ensure we meet that goal. Please don’t let us down,” read the letter, which also asked for donations of between $25 and $500. “Your registered census is one of a select few being mailed into Rhode Island’s Congressional District. Because of your high level of political involvement and steadfast commitment to the Republican Party, your personal input on the questions presented in your Census Document is critical to our Party’s future.”

And those College Republicans who videotaped some ACORN workers apparently giving advice to a pimp and a prostitute, having been scammed by the same wearing clever disguises. I think that bears some examination. And if it turns out that those ACORN workers were not smart enough to at least call their supervisor, and they are deemed to have promoted immorality, what do you say about Republican superstar, Newt Gingrich? His people sent affectionate letters offering intimate time with the great man himself, for a small fee, to a pornographic film maker.

Newt Gingrich’s 527 group sent a letter to porn exec Allison Vivas Wednesday telling her she’d won their “Entrepreneur of the Year” award and inviting her to an “intimate event” with Gingrich.

“You’ll dine privately with Newt,” it reads. A handwritten addendum reads, “Newt is looking forward to finally meeting you face to face — and get your thoughts on cap and trade and Obama’s tax policy.”

And then again, to a strip club owner…

Dawn Rizos didn’t need any formal recognition that The Lodge, one of the best-known gentlemen’s clubs in Dallas, was a successful small business.

But when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s conservative group named her an “Entrepreneur of the Year,” she was thrilled by the opportunity to accept the award in Washington and speak about ways to help small businesses.

That all changed, however, when Gingrich realized that The Lodge was a topless bar, not some other business in Virginia. He rescinded Rizos’ invitation to a private dinner and returned the $5,000 donation she made to his group, American Solutions for Winning the Future.

Not that Rizos probably met many in the ‘gentleman’s club’, but a real gentleman doesn’t invite, then dis-invite anyone.

So if we apply the ACORN standard to the Republican Party– is it guilty of sloppy oversight and full of politicians who keep approaching the sex industry with hat in hand begging for money? (Newt prides himself on having a valuable family, and believes in marriage so much that he’s married three women so far, so it was probably not his fault. Some hapless underling is to blame.)

Should we assume that every large organization will have some incompetent employees, make some errors, and suffer some public embarrassment? And that the organization should be judged on the whole record, the good as well as the bad? I think we better, because no one can stand up to the AAACORRNNN treatment.


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