The Pointless Abuse of a Travelling Mother By TSA

A few thoughts before we look at the event cited in this entry’s title…

Studies indicate that roughly 30% of people have what is called an “authoritarian personality,” signified by three correlative traits:

  1. Authoritarian submission — a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.
  2. Authoritarian aggression — a general aggressiveness directed against deviants, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.
  3. Conventionalism — a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms. (Source: The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer)

You can spot this syndrome easily enough, especially in these days when an entire “news” network is designed to cater to that personality. Lately I’ve been seeing it in some people’s comments regarding the TSA’s pointless and Draconian screening of American citizens in airports.

An author who’s one of my Facebook friends posted this as his status:

So tired of all of the body scanner bitching. Scan me. Pat me up and pat me down. I don’t care as long as I don’t get blown up. This is the world we’ve made for ourselves, and it’s not changing anytime soon. If you don’t like it, don’t fly.

That’s very much an authoritarian statement (though not evidence in itself of an authoritarian personality, I don’t know the guy well enough to pin that on him).

Someone else replied to his post:

I agree. I rather be safe. Unfortunately, this politically correct world is what it is.

Woven firmly through both statements is an assumption that what is being done is just fine because those in authority have decided it’s what must be done. Continue reading

A Tip On How To Avoid Spreading Lies (and how not to be taken in by them)

An old friend just posted this as their status on Facebook:

Dear Mr. President,

I hear you want to freeze pay rates for military
starting next year. Would you also consider cutting yours to save much
more money for our country? While you’re at it, lets cut down congress’
pay too. If the people who risk their lives don’t get a pay raise, why
…would we continue raising pay for those who send us “over there”? Copy paste if you agree

Thing is, it’s bogus. This is exactly the sort of non-factual knowledge I’ve written about here and there, lies spread passionately among millions of Americans too willing to accept any bad news about their political opponents, or just too lazy to do a few minutes’ fact-checking so they know they’re spreading truth not propaganda.

It’s tough for me to take time out of my day (or night, as it’s late, I’m tired, and I really ought to be in bed) to defend President Obama, because I’m not a huge fan myself. But if you’re going to criticise him, people, please make sure you know what the fuck you’re talking about. Otherwise you’re a pawn of liars, a liar yourself, or just a stupid sheep easily led where they want to take you.

I wasn’t previously aware of this particular lie. It took less than a minute for me to search Google (“Obama military pay freeze”), and find the truth, in detail. The first link was to a page at Snopes with everything laid out plainly for anyone to see. Snopes is a great site for checking the veracity of rumors, political and otherwise.

A Friendly Challenge to Conservative Voters

To my conservative friends and foes, first let me say, congratulations on your win. Unlike the Democrats, you managed to fill your heads with steam and ire and get out the vote. You also got a great deal of financial support from those good folks on Wall Street who really want to continue doing things the way they have been, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue than what I want to address now.

No, what I want to address now is your tendency to create your own reality, which just doesn’t jibe with anything actually like, you know, reality. You’re the most masterful wielders of confirmation bias I think anyone can see outside a psycho ward. In fact, over the past decade, your entire political and social SOP is what some, in the first half of the last century, termed the “Big Lie.”

(Which I’ve blogged on before, for the interested.)

Now, I realize I’m likely annoying you with my somewhat insulting, patronizing tone, but I humbly ask your forbearance. In my eyes, what happened Tuesday was almost uniformly a travesty for my beloved country and its people, and the bile hasn’t settled. Just think about how long it took yours to settle after Obama won. Oh right. It hasn’t yet.

I am, sincerely, interested in your thoughts on this stuff, though. Below is a clip from The Rachel Maddow show. Wait, wait, I know you’re programmed to stick your fingers in your ears and screech like an owl with its wing stuck in a car door when that hateful liberal dyke opens her trap, but for once, please, hear her out. I challenge you to actually watch this segment and respond to it with reason.

To me, she makes her case. And though I’m on the other side of the political divide from you, I’m not prone to simple acceptance of arguments which back up my side. As Rachel usually does, she provides actual evidence for her claims. And if she’s right, you’re living in a closed circuit echo chamber that creates its own “facts” and refuses to allow evidence into the loop that would disprove those “facts.”

Your reaction to this video could well prove her point further. I’m interested in that possibility. I’m also interested in knowing if, when faced with the possibility that the awe-inspiring righteous reportage of Fox News is actually misleading you all the time, you’re able to take a step back and see that perhaps they’re not so “fair and balanced” at all.

And don’t throw MSNBC’s partisanship at me, or rail about the liberal media, as deflections. Today we’re talking about this right wing echo chamber, and whether you can step outside it long enough to even see that it exists.

If it does exist, how can you continue to let it be your primary source of “fact?”

If it doesn’t, how do you explain Rachel’s individual points of evidence?

I hope you’ll watch the video and share your thoughts in the comments below.

MSNBC video: Echoing falsehoods still dont ring true.

Today is Religious Freedom Day

It’s January 16, Religious Freedom Day.

So act like a real American and mind your own damn business regarding other people’s faith or lack thereof.

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 15, 2010

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DAY, 2010

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA A PROCLAMATION

Long before our Nation’s independence, weary settlers sought refuge on our shores to escape religious persecution on other continents. Recognizing their strife and toil, it was the genius of America’s forefathers to protect our freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice none at all. Many faiths are now practiced in our Nation’s houses of worship, and that diversity is built upon a rich tradition of religious tolerance. On this day, we commemorate an early realization of our Nation’s founding ideals: Virginia’s 1786 Statute for Religious Freedom.

The Virginia Statute was more than a law. It was a statement of principle, declaring freedom of religion as the natural right of all humanity — not a privilege for any government to give or take away. Penned by Thomas Jefferson and championed in the Virginia legislature by James Madison, it barred compulsory support of any church and ensured the freedom of all people to profess their faith openly, without fear of persecution. Five years later, the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights followed the Virginia Statute’s model, stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”.

Our Nation’s enduring commitment to the universal human right of religious freedom extends beyond our borders as we advocate for all who are denied the ability to choose and live their faith. My Administration will continue to oppose growing trends in many parts of the world to restrict religious expression.

Faith can bring us closer to one another, and our freedom to practice our faith and follow our conscience is central to our ability to live in harmony. On Religious Freedom Day, let us pledge our constant support to all who struggle against religious oppression and rededicate ourselves to fostering peace with those whose beliefs differ from our own. In doing so, we reaffirm our common humanity and respect for all people with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do more hereby proclaim January 16, 2010, as Religious Freedom Day. I call on all Americans to commemorate this day with events and activities that teach us about this critical foundation of our Nation’s liberty, and show us how we can protect it for future generations here and around the world.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

BARACK OBAMA

Bumper Sticker Omens and The Lost Presidency

You’re not the president of me!

I had a custom bumper sticker of that statement printed during the first term of George W. Bush’s malodorous presidency, and the sentiment grew stronger day by day by day throughout his entire reign. That sticker, and my Re-elect Gore in 2008 sticker, decorated the back of my Trooper the whole time, and were joined by an Obama 2008 sticker only after Barack Obama sealed the deal as the Democratic candidate once and for all.

After Obama took office, I tried to remove the sticker, but the adhesive was too strong. I kept intending to take some sort of solvent to it, but didn’t get around to it. I did, however, take a black permanent marker to the word “not” as a temporary measure, making it read You’re the president of me. I didn’t want anyone seeing the sticker and thinking it was meant for Obama. He was not my first choice ( I still maintain that Gore should have run, and was the right man for the job), but I voted for him and hoped he’d do great things. He got automatic points for replacing the worst fucking president this country has ever had.

Obama’s been in office about a year now, so it’s worth appraising what he’s accomplished done so far.

  • Abandoned a leadership role in health care reform, except when he has worked to cripple it (as in taking single payer off the table before the debate even began, making secret deals with the very corporate powers we need to de-power, stating support for a public option while actually working against one behind the scenes, and allowing Joe Lieberman and a handful of other congressfolk to seize control of the issue from the elected majority).
  • Refused to allow proper investigation into probable criminal acts perpetrated by the Bush administration, obstructed release of incriminating information about same, and an embrace of  the same sort of misuse of executive power that Bush specialized in.
  • Treated the progressive constituency that elected him with condescension and disdain while seeking over and over to court right-wing cooperation in “bipartisanship” that never gets anywhere, and has netted him only unflinching and uncompromising obstruction from those he’s trying to reach, as well as a widespread personal demonization from the conservative rabble that often walks the line of encouraging violence.
  • Scuttled from making any changes to help his LGBT constituency in any ways at all, contrary to what he’d promised.
  • Failed to follow through on his promise to close Guantanamo Bay (and when it does happen, shows every sign of continuing similar policies toward prisoners wherever they happen to be held instead).
  • Poured untold billions of taxpayer dollars into bailouts of the corrupt entities that (unregulated during the Bush years) destroyed our economy, without bothering to make them accountable for the money or what they did with it, while millions of Americans lose their jobs, homes, and financial security without help.
  • Unceasingly favored corporate/financial interests over the interests of the American people at large.
  • Increased our commitment to pointless, expensive wars rather than beginning an intelligent process of withdrawing our troops.
  • Buckled over and over in the face of partisan opposition, failing to stand strong as a president elected by a strong majority.

God, I could go on and on, but it’s wearing me out just looking back at this man’s record thus far. There’s still time for him to step up and do some good things, but at the moment, I couldn’t vote for him again regardless of who he may be running against, because he’s taking my vote for granted in a way I just will not support. He and his staff obviously figure they can count on progressive votes because, after all, who else can we vote for?

The answer, as far as I’m concerned, is (a) anyone who gives him a primary challenge. or (b) no one. My best case scenario at the moment is a strong Democratic challenger bumping him from office next time around, and keeping Democratic majorities in Congress that that person would hopefully actually use for the good of our country. Second best, and this is something I never would have thought I’d say, would be a Republican defeating him while Congress stays Democratic enough to hopefully prevent the Republican from doing too much damage. No politician should hold themselves above accountability for their actions.

And that bumper sticker?

Well, unlike my Obama sticker, it’s still on my truck. Over the months the black ink over the word “not” has gradually washed away. Now I figure maybe I couldn’t remove it because I wasn’t meant to just yet. Listen up, Barack:

You’re not the president of me!

And you won’t be until you start doing the goddamned job you promised you were going to do.

Health Care Facts For The Actually Interested

Who decides if YOU get health care?

While our esteemed young POTUS gets all sincereish for the cameras about this wonderful Senate bill, let’s take a pause and look at what other countries are really doing with their national health care, as opposed to the scary stories woven throughout our shoddy national debate.

One of the essential arguments conservatives use against “socialized” care is that they shouldn’t be forced to pay for someone else. This principle trumps all, even down to the welfare of poor children. After all, they’re their parents’ responsibility. I guess if they die, that just gets lazy, unproductive genes out of the genetic pool.

Socialized systems vs. free market systems is a valid debate, though, well worth having. It all depends on what you think government is “for,” and how much duty American citizens owe their “greatest country on earth,” and how Darwinian you are in your concern about the welfare of other human beings.

Do Americans have a right to a good education?

Do Americans have a right to expect bridges they drive on to be well-built and maintained?

Do Americans have a right to emergency services maintained by their communities such as the fire department?

Some argue that we shouldn’t have those things, or that they should be part of the free market. That way, Paris Hilton gets the best schooling in private schools (lord knows she seems to need it), she can use a private helicopter to just fly over unsafe infrastructure, and she can use the money she would save on taxes to hire and manage her own fire department. Or maybe her condo association would handle that or something.

Meanwhile, poor people wind up with no or poor education, sometimes die in bridge collapses, and grab a bucket if their house catches on fire and they can afford a bucket.

The American way? Continue reading

Conan the Mighty (O’Brien on Healthcare)

Sounds about right…

“President Obama says that Congress is very close to getting a new healthcare plan, but due to compromises it ‘won’t include everything that everybody wants.’ For instance, it covers everything except trips to the doctor or the hospital.”
—Conan O’Brien

American Rabble: The Pathetic State of Today’s GOP

It amazes me that anyone can still proudly claim to be a Republican these days. And, indeed, a record low number of Americans make that claim, which is a good thing, because those who still do have lost all semblance of a grip on patriotism, sound policy, rational thought, or statesmanship.

We have gun-toting buffoons showing up at presidential appearances, a congressman heckling the elected president in a joint session of Congress, legions of ignorant sheep letting Beck and Hannity and Limbaugh lead them toward the Apocalypse that many of them actually desire, a set of political values that can be summed up as (a) keep anything good from happening under Democratic rule so they can’t get credit, (b) cripple Obama’s power, and (c) do anything we can to regain our dominance so we can better serve our corporate masters.

Want to see a great example of the sort of healthy debate Republicans are bringing to policy issues now? Just watch this video, in all its glory, and see how it looks when unchivalrous, dishonorable rabble with nothing to offer get into government.

Me, I get a kick out of the “What is your objection?” “I object” exchange. With debate like that, who needs morons?


Hell Is For Children

From NBC Philadelphia:

Little_Soldier_Girl___Paige_in_Formation

Four-year-old Paige Bennethum really, really didn’t want her daddy to go to Iraq.

So much so, that when Army Reservist Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum lined up in formation at his deployment this July, she couldn’t let go.

No one had the heart to pull her away.

I don’t believe in hell. But I sometimes find myself hoping it exists so that George W. Bush can fucking roast for all the children in the world who are growing up without their parents because of him.

child1

O those tea baggers and their lil white lies!

Desperate to paint their cause in epic colors, the tea baggers released this image of their protest over the weekend. Pretty impressive. Look how they swamp the national mall, like neurons in the pathways of a brain. Well, a brain possessed by someone other than a tea bagger, anyway.

crowdWell.

PolitiFact.com (“a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in American politics. Reporters and editors from the Times fact-check statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups and rate them on our Truth-O-Meter…”) ran down the facts about this photo, and about the baggers’ claims of multitude:

We spoke with Pete Piringer, public affairs officer for the D.C. Fire and Emergency Department, who said that the local government no longer provides official crowd estimates because they can become politicized. That said, on the morning of Sept. 12, Piringer unofficially told one reporter that he thought between 60,000 and 75,000 people had shown up.

So, not quite a couple of million. And the photo?

“It was an impressive crowd,” he said. But after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol the crowd “only filled the Capitol grounds, maybe up to Third Street,” he said.

Yet the photo showed the crowd sprawling far beyond that to the Washington Monument, which is bordered by 15th and and 17th Streets.

There’s another big problem with the photograph: it doesn’t include the National Museum of the American Indian, a building located at the corner of Fourth St. and Independence Ave. that opened on Sept. 14, 2004. (Looking at the photograph, the building should be in the upper right hand corner of the National Mall, next to the Air and Space Museum.) That means the picture was taken before the museum opened exactly five years ago. So clearly the photo doesn’t show the “tea party” crowd from the Sept. 12 protest.

Also worth noting are the cranes in front of the Natural History Museum (the second building from the lower left of the National Mall). According to Randall Kremer, the museum’s director of public affairs, “The last time cranes were in front was in the 1990s when the IMAX theater was being built.”

That makes the picture at least a decade old.

That means the trumpeted count, and the picture, are about as accurate as most information offered up by these people. And lying is apparently very much a right-wing value. Like greed and intolerance.

The Simple Health-Care Solution

In an editorial for the Washington Post, Sen. George S. McGovern (1972 presidential candidate who lost to Nixon, and boy that worked out, didn’t it?) offers up a simple, smart, elegant solution to our national health-care nightmare:

If we want comprehensive health care for all our citizens, we can achieve it with a single sentence: Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans. Those of us over 65 have been enjoying this program for years. I go to the doctor or hospital of my choice, and my taxes pay all the bills. It’s wonderful. But I would have appreciated it even more if my wife and children and I had had such health-care coverage when we were younger. I want every American, from birth to death, to get the kind of health care I now receive. Removing the payments now going to the insurance corporations would considerably offset the tax increase necessary to cover all Americans.

Medicare exists. It works. It’s beloved by its beneficiaries, who are such a large voting block that it’s beloved even by most conservative politicians, who ought to despise it as the dread “socialism” they fear so much. Why not just expand it?

We know that Medicare has worked well for half a century for those of us over 65. Why does it become “socialized medicine” when we extend it to younger Americans?

…We recently bailed out the finance houses and banks to the tune of $700 billion. A country that can afford such an outlay while paying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can afford to do what every other advanced democracy has done: underwrite quality health care for all its citizens.

If Medicare needs a few modifications in order to serve all Americans, we can make such adjustments now or later. But let’s make sure Congress has an up or down vote on Medicare for all before it adjourns this year. Let’s not waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. We all know what Medicare is. Do we want health care for all, or only for those over 65?

Those of us who care about our fellow citizens, rather than mostly ill-educated ideals of selfishness and short-sightedness, certainly do.

The whole piece is here. Thanks go to Betsy Burnam for making me aware of it.

Wrong Way Wilson and The Big Lie

After months of Republican rabble-rousing and misinformation, Congressman Joe Wilson (R-Crazytown) stepped up to the plate (with the usual batting accuracy of your modern GOP politico) during President Obama’s speech to both houses of Congress the other night and shouted “YOU LIE!!!” at the president.

Like most of the misinformation and realpolitik offered up by the Right these days, the specific information he was calling a lie (that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for free health care) is demonstrably true. It’s typed into the language of the health care bill in plain English, and should be easy to understand even for an obvious buffoon like Wilson.

In this video, Keith Olberman shows the evidence (the actual text from the bill), and points out that Wilson’s greatest sin wasn’t the awesome breach of traditional protocol that besmirched both him and his party, it was the fact that he, himself, was simply screeching a Republican lie.

Bush’s Third Term? You’re Soaking In It.

There’s an unfinished entry on my blog’s dashboard page called “Obama Lies!!!” in which I, a devoted progressive who despises Bush and Cheney with every fiber of my being, and who happily voted for Obama, was taking him to task for his spots of disingenuousness and his failure to stand up to the Right and do the things he said he would do and needs to do.

I wrote quite a bit, but burned out on the piece and never completed it. Now, happily, I have something to share that is much better than what I was crafting.

At TomDispatch.com, David Swanson (founder of AfterDowningStreet.org) has an essay that in great detail compares the Obama presidency thus far to what we might have expected had Bush been granted a third term. It’s sobering stuff.

It sounds like the plot for the latest summer horror movie. Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been allowed a third term as president, had run and had won or stolen it, and that we were all now living (and dying) through it. With the Democrats in control of Congress but Bush still in the Oval Office, the media would certainly be talking endlessly about a mandate for bipartisanship and the importance of taking into account the concerns of Republicans. Can’t you just picture it?…

The full piece is here. There is a short introduction by the site’s founder, Tom Engelhardt, and the actual essay by Swanson is a bit down the page.

Now don’t get me wrong. While I’m troubled (in some cases quite troubled) by much of what Swanson covers, I’m still glad to have a smart, sort-of liberal guy in office now instead of the war-mongering corporatist dullard we had. Obama may fuck up, but we’ll still be better off than we would have been with a literal continuation of Bush’s policies.

I Hear From Real America

And now “David Allen C.E.O.” will give the Republican response to my earlier political rant:

Your [sic] just another sanctimonius [sic] leftist asshole thats [sic] out there painting Real Americans with a broad brush. Trouble is you [sic] paint has been proved transparent. Forgive me for painting back.

We are out there working hard to keep your type from tossing whats [sic] left of our country off the bridge.

What can I say, really, that I haven’t already in the rant? I certainly can’t argue with his logic.

“Livin’ the Lie” (aka “The Republicans’ Pants Are On Fire”)

A Rant. I say mean things about Republicans. If you’re a Republican friend of mine, rest assured I’m not talking about you. Or at least I hope not.

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (Ron Suskind, NY Times, quoting a senior Bush administration official in summer 2002)

We all know that politicians lie. Left, right, up, down, didn’t have sex with that woman, Iraq was involved in 9/11, God hates the gays (except, maybe, the ones getting head from self-righteous congressmen)…liars. All of ‘em, to some extent. Continue reading