Michael Gerson started his Friday Post column, "Banish the Cyber-Bigots," this way:
The transformation of Germany in the 1920s and '30s from the nation of Goethe to the nation of Goebbels is a specter that haunts, or should haunt, every nation.
The triumph of Nazi propaganda in this period is the subject of a remarkable exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (where I serve on the governing board). ...
The adaptive use of new technology was central to this achievement. The Nazis pioneered voice amplification at rallies, the distribution of recorded speeches and the sophisticated targeting of poster art toward groups and regions.
Gerson then pivots to the dangers of the Internet, aka "belligerent brutopia," specifically of the anti-Semites and other racists in comments sections. He notes the use of "CAPITAL LETTERS" and the "absolute freedom of the medium." He quotes an ethicist on the "option of anonymity" that leads to the particular brutality of the online sphere.
Well here's the thing. A few weeks ago, I visited the very Holocaust Museum exhibit on Nazi propaganda cited by Gerson. At the end of a remarkable tour through grotesquely anti-Semitic posters, films, and audio is a guest book. The book asks visitors: "Do you think propaganda is a problem in our own society?"
In that book, on page after page, are comments calling Obama a Nazi.
The one pictured above reads, all in caps: "OBAMA -- THE NEW HITLER / WAKE UP!! AMEN!"
The entry here reads: "'YES WE CAN' HERE WE GO AGAIN" with a swastika next to it. Yet another compares Obama's putative plans for death panels to Hitler's policies, and ends with "Sound Familiar -- Wake Up America."
None of which disproves Gerson's thesis, exactly. But it's worth remembering, if nothing else, that the Internet certainly has no monopoly on racism and bigotry.
I'm not making this up but I wish I were.If you really want to see some horrifying developments in the Pentagon's War On All That Is Decent, just google DARPA sometime and see what they're up to. One of the things they're working on is creating[...]
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2009 Federal Employee of the YearThis medal recognizes a federal employee whose professional contributions exemplify the highest attributes of public service. Janet KempPosition: National Director, Suicide Prevention ProgramAgency: Department of[...]
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This morning's NYTimes breaks the news that we already suspected: Harry Reid will let President Snowe be the decider on healthcare reform.
To appeal to Ms. Snowe, as well as to centrist Democrats like Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, the combined bill would not include a proposal for a government-run insurance plan, or public option, despite the clamoring of liberals who support it, senior Democratic Senate aides said.
Not so fast, though, says Reid spokesman Rodell Mollinaue, when pressed by Greg Sargent:
Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau strongly disputed the story, saying there had been no decision and indeed that the process wouldn’t permit for a decision to have been made already.
"It would be wildly speculative of me to say that has been predetermined," Mollineau told me in an interview.
Reid pointed out that Senators Chuck Schumer and Jay Rockefeller will introduce a public option amendment to the Finance Committee version of the bill tomorrow. While Senate insiders don’t expect it to pass, Mollineau points out that deciding in advance that the final version won’t have a public option would needlessly prejudice Senators against tomorrow’s amendment.
Mollineau also reiterated that it would be foolish to declare in advance that the public option is dead in advance of negotiations over the final bill.
Yes, it would be wildly speculative, and deciding in advance that the final version won't have the public option would prejudice Senators against Rockefeller's and Schumer's amendments, which will be voted on tomorrow. Of course, they've already accomplished that because the story already ran. And now they can pretend that they never floated it.
Meanwhile, when asked for confirmation of the initial New York Times story by BarbinMD, Sen. Reid's Deputy Director of New Media, Erin Skinner Cochran, told us that Sen. Rockefeller's statement from last week that "I think we have a good shot of getting it out of the Finance Committee," does not reflect "reality."
Yep, I recognize that he said that, but I think most folks sitting here observing this process would tell you that that quote doesn’t match the reality of what the Finance Committee will support in the end.
So that being said, our best bet is to get through the Finance mark-up this week and have a PO amendment added while in conference committee and get it through that way.
Senator Rockefeller declined to respond to the stories at this time. Sen. Schumer is unavailable for a response until later today. Meanwhile, I think the big question is whether it's a foregone conclusion on the part of Senator Reid that President Snowe gets to decide whether or not we have a public option, at least on the Senate side.
Over the weekend, thousands of Texans attended what is being called the “largest free clinic ever held in the United States” to get health care they otherwise could not afford. ABC-13, a local Houston station, reported that the event showed that there is an “epidemic” of people without proper health coverage in Texas:
It’s an epidemic here in Texas and Harris County — people without health insurance. On Saturday, the uninsured lined up to get their needs met.
More than 2,000 people came to Reliant Center to see doctors for free. Many of the people we talked to can’t afford health insurance, especially in the rough economy. Some say it shows the need for health care reform.
Numerous patients described their experience with the broken U.S. health care system to ABC-13:
“My foot was turned upside down,” said patient Lillian Beverly. Beverly has had trouble walking since she took a bad fall three months ago. “I really don’t have the money to keep going to doctors and doctors,” she said.
Kevin Braggs is worried about his diabetes. “I’ve been without insurance for six months,” said Braggs.
And Vicki Robinson wants to keep her son’s asthma under control, but she says it’s difficult. “My husband’s lost his job. We’ve gone through our savings,” said Robinson.
And nine-year-old Kempton knows it. “We can’t afford medicine,” he said.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, one of the physicians who worked at the clinic this weekend, compared what he saw there to the post-Katrina crisis:
DR. OZ: We had no idea the overwhelming response we would have, the cries for help from the city of Houston and the state of Texas. … This is the largest health mobilization in Houston since Katrina. So a national disaster which brought out this kind of response is now paralleled by a national disaster, because this is just an average day in Houston, and there are thousands of people who need help.
Although this free clinic was especially needed in Texas, which currently has the largest uninsured population in the country, there have been similar events all over the country.
Last month, more than 1,300 patients showed up during a single weekend at a free dental clinic held in Parkersburg, West Virginia. A few days later, nearly 1500 people attended every day of an eight-day free clinic Remote Area Medical set up in Los Angeles. Former Cigna insurance executive and industry whistleblower Wendell Potter credits his 2007 visit to a Remote Area Medical clinic as opening his eyes to the health care crisis in the United States, and says it was instrumental in causing him to leave the industry and join the fight for universal health care.
I wasn't planning to write about this today, but reading this really got to me. Despite the fact that this country was founded on the idea of freedom of religion, there's a substantial bloc of citizens who seem to believe their religious beliefs trump everyone else's, even to the inclusion of institutionalized terror tactics.
I wonder when our constitutional-law president is going to use the extensive anti-terror powers at his command to protect women's legal rights?
For a nation that claims to cherish its freedoms, America is pretty damned complacent about the harassment that goes on outside abortion clinics. Imagine this circus outside of dentist's offices instead. Imagine what it would feel like, having to endure being called a whore and a killer on your way in to have a bad tooth pulled. Maybe they'd throw little plastic teeth at you; maybe they'd even take your photograph on the way in. People wouldn't stand for it: I have the right to choose my own dental care, they'd say. Who do these people think they are? And even if I were the smallest bit unsure about the choice I'd made, even if some part of me wanted to be talked into a filling and not an extraction--why in god's name would some hostile, red-faced, screaming stranger get a vote?
Maybe there's an element of trolling to that analogy. I could write the outraged top-text for an email forward of this blog myself. "Can you believe it! A LIVING, ALMOST-BREATHING CHILD who will PROBABLY CURE CANCER SOMDAY is nothing more than a ROTTED MOLAR to this BARREN GODLESS WHORE!!!"
Feel free to copy/paste--but if you do, you're missing the point. Bullying never won any hearts or minds, and harassment or intimidation of private citizens going about their private lives is never, never, never a tool for good. There is no place for such tactics of fear in civil discourse, and no one who employs them can be truly called a warrior for good, no matter what they tell themselves while they're packing their bullhorn and their gore posters into the car every morning.
I can't make the protesters who camp out in front of my clinic in the mornings go away. I can't even make them behave like rational, responsible citizens. But I can make sure that the women (and men, and children) who walk into my clinic don't have to run that obstacle course alone, and I believe I can assuage some of their fear. I can shield them physically from shouts and eyes and cameras. I can assure by my presence as a witness that the protesters don't "forget" where the property line is. And I can be one voice of supportive reason, quiet but strong, in opposition to the shouting about the blastocyst deep conditioning cabal:
"I'm a volunteer with the clinic. We have some protesters out front who will try to shout at you. They don't know why you're here, but they're going to shout at you anyway. You don't have to listen to them. I can just walk alongside and keep myself between them and you. I'm sorry you have to deal with this today."
Their fear is why I escort. Their gratitude is why I keep coming back.
Of course I voted for him; he was running against some reactionary fossil whose only reason to live is to start a war. And the symbolism inherent in either an Obama or a Clinton win was so overwhelming that it was absolutely predetermined that I would rush to the polls and vote for either of them. But I was never under any illusions than Obama was a progressive. I once was under such an illusion, though. I met him twice when he was an Illinois state senator. I co-hosted fund-raisers for him twice when he was looking to make the jump from state Senator in Springfield renowned for playing poker with cigar chomping state pols to member of the American version of the House of Lords in Washington. He took me in completely. After one speech I tore up a $500 check I had written and doubled down. But that was the last time that happened.
As soon as Obama got to the Senate, I knew something was wrong. It went beyond picking Joe Lieberman as his mentor-- bad enough-- and beyond the fact that he was never-- not ever-- nearly as progressive a voter as Hillary Clinton, something I warned Obamabots about all during the campaign. The fact of the matter is, he was always down near the bottom of the barrel with the putrid likes of said Lieberman, as well as Max Baucus, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Tom Carper, Mary Landrieu, Kent Conrad... all the quasi-Democratic dreck seemingly sabotaging his agenda.
During the campaign, Obama said quite a few things that didn't thrill me, not the least of which was his tragic perspective on the occupation of Afghanistan. But there was something that came up during the campaign that clinched it for me-- that made me realize he might be great symbolically but he would likely be another in a long, long line of abysmal political hacks who have gotten into the White House. Hope and Change? Not. A. Chance. During the campaign, the FISA bill came up, along with the issue of retroactive immunity. Thanks to Glenn Greenwald it became an important and much-discussed issue. One thing led to another and Obama vowed to vote against any bill that included retroactive immunity. I guess the polling didn't work because when the bill came up for a vote he broke his pledge and voted for it. I never did ask Glenn if he voted for Obama in November. I did... but knowing full well what to expect.
The Blue America PAC never endorsed Obama and never raised any money for him. Instead we concentrated our efforts on progressives running for the House and Senate. One of our favorite candidates-- favorite in terms of proven commitment to progressive principles was Oregon House Speaker-- now U.S. Senator-- Jeff Merkley. And Senator Merkley has lived up to the promise of his candidacy as he's fought on the right side of every battle since being elected-- from Employee Free Choice to health care reform. So it came as no surprise today when his office sent out a release that he has co-authored legislation with Chris Dodd, Pat Leahy, and Russ Feingold to repeal the retroactive immunity provisions of the FISA Amendments Act. The new legislation seeks to repeal a provision that shields telecommunications companies from legal repercussions if they violate the law; clean and straightforward-- and all-American. Or is it only 76 year old Roman Polanski who has to go to jail for breaking the law?
?During the previous administration, telecommunications companies were granted retroactive immunity for violating the rights and privacy of millions of Americans,? said Merkley. ?I am proud to join Senator Dodd and co-sponsor the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act to help restore accountability and increase oversight to protect the privacy rights that have been central to our nation since its inception.?
The Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act would amend the FISA Amendments Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2008. The controversial legislation included a provision to shield companies from liability for illegally violating their customers? privacy during the Bush Administration.
Last week, Senator Merkley also signed on as an original co-sponsor of the Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act, introduced by Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). The JUSTICE Act would reform the USA Patriot Act, the FISA Amendments Act, and other surveillance authorities to help restore judicial oversight. The legislation would protect the Constitutional rights of American citizens while making sure intelligence and law enforcement agencies still have the tools they need to fight terrorism.
?We must reverse the decisions that allowed our government to intrude into the lives of American citizens. The JUSTICE Act will restore judicial oversight of surveillance activities in order to keep Americans safe while preserving our rights,? said Merkley.
After NYTimes story reported that anonymous Senate aides said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was going to kill the public option when he merged the BaucusCare bill with the Senate HELP bill, Reid's office pushed back, via Greg Sargent:
A spokesman for Harry Reid is aggressively shooting down this mornings Times report that Reid has decided not to include a public option in the bill that will ultimately be voted on by the full Senate. The Times quoted senior Senate aides though not necessarily from Reids office claiming that the health care bill he creates by merging the bills created by two key committees wont ultimately have a public option in it.
But Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau strongly disputed the story, saying there had been no decision and indeed that the process wouldnt permit for a decision to have been made already. It would be wildly speculative of me to say that has been predetermined, Mollineau told me in an interview.
Is it ok to have doubts about Reid on this? Or should we be applauding Reid's "formlessness?"
Speaking for me only
BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
Anyone who has spent any time in Chicago this summer knows what Mayor Richard M. Daley wants for an early Christmas present. Chicago 2016 posters are plastered all over the city, urging residents to "let friendship shine." Public school students were recently roped into the act with a full week of Olympic bid boosterism.
Over the past few weeks, riders on the city's buses have been subjected to pre-recorded messages playing over the vehicles' speakers from six former Olympians expressing their unmitigated enthusiasm for Chicago as 2016's host city.
The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has been flooded with calls from annoyed riders and has had its fair share of negative press over their unannounced decision to air the messages at no charge. The CTA insists that they are not advertising, and says the spots were produced by Chicago 2016, the nonprofit group organizing the bid.
So with the hard sell Chicagoans have gotten of late, Monday's news that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen Thursday to give a final pitch for Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic games to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) surprised few here in Obama's (and BuzzFlash's) home town. Seeing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in the White House two weeks ago prompted locals to guess that a "surprise announcement" of a last-minute appearance by Obama in Copenhagen was to be expected and had been planned for months.
When Census worker Bill Sparkman was found dead earlier this month, he was naked and gagged, with duct tape over his eyes. Duct tape also bound Sparkman's hands and feet.
That's according to the man who found him, Jerry Weaver, who spoke to the AP over the weekend. Weaver, who lives in Ohio, was in Clay County, Kentucky for a family reunion, and was visiting some family graves with his wife and daughter when he found Sparkman's body on September 12th.
Sparkman's death has still not been officially classified a homicide, but Weaver has no doubts. "He was murdered," he told the AP.
Sources also told the AP that Sparkman's Census Bureau ID was found taped to his head and shoulder area -- a detail which may add to that speculation.
And as was reported last week, Sparkman also had a rope around his neck which was attached to a tree, though his feet were touching the ground.
According to Weaver, a 2003 Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck, containing Sparkman's clothes, was about 50 yards from the body.
Weaver called the whole thing "a bad, bad scene."
There has been no official word as to when the investigation into Sparkman's death will be completed.