Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Open Thread

This image, found on the nets, is titled Happy New Years 2000. Whether you think the decade ends tonight (technically not, but most people see decades that way if not centuries) or a year hence, it's been pretty crappy hasn't it? Filled with disasters. Bush. 9/11. Bush. Katrina. Bush. A tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands in Indonesia. Bush. Afghanistan. Bush. Iraq. Bush. Abu Ghraib. Bush. Gitmo. Bush. Economic meltdown, and did I mention Bush?

Then there was the biggest disaster of all, Cheney.

Anyway, I'll be glad to be shed of the era that the Brits call the Naughties. Although honestly I don't think that a change of the tens column digit is anything to hang our hopes on.

Try to avoid driving drunk tonight, and if you can't at least try to remember that the road is that thing between the two lines of telephone poles. And keep the shiny side up.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Olbermann Tells It Like It Is

"There Are Enough Villains to Go Around"

Transcript HERE

I don't think much commentary is necessary to embellish KO's commentary except on this one point:
"And Sen. Reid, put the public option back in, or the Medicare Buy-In, or both. Or single-payer. Let Lieberman and Ben Nelson and Baucus and the Republicans vote their lack-of-conscience and preclude 60 "ayes." Let them commit political suicide instead of you."
I don't think Leader Reid or any of the other 'centrist' Democrats or fucktard Republicans who wage legislative war against their own constitutents give a flying rat's ass about 'political consequences' anymore. They know the system, and they know that over 90% of them have their seats because they spent more on campaign advertising than their opponent. Voters don't matter, they haven't for a long time. Only contributors matter, which means only large corporations.

And what if they do get turfed out of office by some principled upstart, the next Al Franken or Alan Grayson? They'll be richly rewarded by the same corporations - a seven figure sinecure at some think tank, perhaps. Or maybe they'll turn around and join one of the lobbying firms - corrupting in turn their successors as they have been corrupted.

If this is the way that sausage is made these days in Washington, it's time to get a new butcher.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

It Looks Like That Time of the Year Again.

And well past time for a new thread, don't you think?

Drive safely. Unruliness is one thing, but even I obey the rules of the road.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amazing Artistry

Duo Siqueira Lima 'Tico Tico'

(click here for HQ version at YouTube)

Watch this once and be delighted and amazed. Watch it more closely a second time and you see that the performance really transcends even what you first saw and heard. Around the 52 seconds there is a distinct transition in the music (from arpeggio to picado, or so I'm told.) At that point the guitarists start playing 'cross-handed,' by which I mean she's picking (right hand) the treble strings that he's fretting (left hand) and vice versa on the bass strings. Watch again at 1:52 when he takes over fretting 5 strings and she frets the bottom E 'over the neck.' And I'm not sure, but I think there is a point where the strings are allocated other than top three/bottom three - she's picking the bottom string and top two while fretting the bottom three and he's picking the middle three while fretting the top three.

Never mind all of that. If there were no accompanying video at all -- if you were told (or assumed) that this was two guitarists playing two guitars -- wouldn't it still be delightful to listen to in its own right?

I give the piece two thumbs up, a Bravo, a Brava, and a standing ovation.

There's more on their website, which is offered in Portuguese, Spanish and English.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stewart Does Beck


Stewart parodies Beck's paranoid conspiracy charts, Nazi rhetoric

I'm so happy to be able to present this bit. Seeing as I'm in Canada I normally have trouble with videos from Comedy Central, which are geo-blocked. Big thanks to Media Matters for hosting this one on their own servers, and hat/tip to The Gun Toting Liberal, where I found it.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

What's Really Wrong With the Economy?

Adam Smith and the
Roots of Neo-Conservative Hypocrisy

You've doubtless seen recent headlines showing that unemployment in the US is above 10% officially, higher than it's been since 1983. But that's not the whole story.
New figures in Friday's jobs report from the Labor Department indicate that the broadest measure of unemployment—including those unemployed who have looked for work in the last four weeks, discouraged workers, and the "underemployed" (part-time workers looking for full-time work)—has hit its highest recorded rate. More than one in six, or 17.5 percent of workers, are unemployed or underemployed, and in some hard-hit states like California, Arizona, and Michigan, the figure can get as high as 20 percent. The current figure is almost a half-percent higher than the previously recorded high of 17.1 percent in December 1982, even though the official jobless rate remains lower than its peak in the 1980s.
(more details at The New York Times)
While all the Wall Street firms are flush with the money from the Bush bailout, Main street has yet to see full benefits from the Obama stimulus package. As always America's top-down priorities can be summed up as "comforting the comfortable." Station Agent's post today got me thinking about the whole 'too big to fail' meme, and this post is an expansion of my response there in comments.

Adam Smith is almost universally considered to be the father of economics. His book The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, and that coincidence in date leads conservatives to regard it as though it was one of America's founding documents, like the Declaration of Independence. Much in Wealth can be used as an argument for unbridled and unregulated capitalism, but like the Bible (Old Testament, New Testament, or any religious writings for that matter) cherry picking of certain passages while ignoring others can lead to a conclusion far from the original intent.

It's no accident that people with mental illness are often referred to as 'unbalanced.' If your every thought and consideration pulls you in one direction it's just a matter of time before you're dragged over the edge. I haven't actually read Wealth of Nations, but I can tell you with a high degree of confidence that it has been cherry-picked mercilessly to present only one side of Smith's philosophy. Smith himself was seemingly quite aware that his own thoughts ran a considerable gamut.
On the road from the City of Skepticism,
I had to pass through the Valley of Ambiguity.
-- Adam Smith --
One can certainly cherry-pick through Smith's writings and assemble quotes backing every core conservative argument. He is presumed to have been against regulation and the welfare state, for instance. Quotes can easily be found to bear that out.
"Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice,
is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way,
and to bring both his industry and capital into competition
with those of any other man or order of men."

"Every man is, no doubt, by nature,
first and principally recommended to his own care;
and as he is fitter to take care of himself than of any other person,
it is fit and right that it should be so."
An argument mitigating the laissez faire effect of that first quote would focus on the underlined phrase. Smith lived and died well before the emergence of the modern multinational corporation. How would he have reacted to the idea of corporate lobbying, especially when the intent is so often to alter the laws so they no longer even resemble justice? What would he have thought of a government that was blatantly for sale to the highest bidder?
"A government that robs Peter to pay Paul
can always depend on the support of Paul."
-- George Bernard Shaw --
Just because you bribe or coerce the Legislature into making something legal that was once criminal doesn't make it right. And one other question; would Smith have seen the monopolistic practices of giants like Microsoft as constituting a form of market regulation of their own?

Those who might cite Smith in defense of the free market could in no way rely on him in the case of the crony capitalism that now dominates the global economy. He quite clearly abhorred monopolies, trusts, and price fixing.
People of the same trade seldom meet together,
even for merriment and diversion,
but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public,
or in some contrivance to raise prices.
The whole justification for free-market capitalism can be summed up in a sentence; "it creates a free market environment where competition spurs excellence." That's fine in theory, but where the rubber hits the road you always see capitalists trying to merge into entities that are not just too big to fail, but too big to compete with. Whether they buy out anyone who challenges them, as for example Microsoft has always done, or collude with them and form a cartel, as you see in the oil and health insurance industries, the result is the same. No competition. No free market. Prices are fixed at artificially inflated values, and the public is screwed.

As the saying goes; "in theory, theory and practice are the same thing. In practice they are quite different." This is true in spades in the field of economics.

The sad truth about free market capitalism is that it inevitably leads to concentration of wealth in so few hands that the free market vanishes. You're left with crony capitalism. Which as I've already stated, is a kind of regulation unto itself. I'm absolutely certain that Smith would have considered the no-bid, cost-plus model that Cheney used to dole out cash to Halliburton and Blackwater as nothing less than criminal. I certainly do.

Happily my search for Adam Smith quotes led me to this brilliant post that contains the conclusion to the first book of Wealth of Nations. You should, indeed MUST read this post in its entirety.
It is my contention that much of today's discourse is seriously distorted by the near universal acceptance of some points which are, in fact, completely false. One of these is the idea that modern Conservative/Republican philosophy is strongly tied to the principals of free market capitalism as espoused by the like of Adam Smith.
The author then shows that Smith considered the investor class to be parasitic on the rest of the economy, and their interests contrary to general prosperity.
The plans and projects of the employers of stock regulate and direct all the most important operations of labour, and profit is the end proposed by all those plans and projects. But the rate of profit does not, like rent and wages, rise with the prosperity, and fall with the declension, of the society. On the contrary, it is naturally low in rich, and high in poor countries, and it is always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin. The interest of this third order, therefore, has not the same connexion with the general interest of the society as that of the other two.
The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.
By taking the top-down investors-first approach to the economy Barack Obama's financial advisers (all members of the investor class and most alumni of the Goldman Sachs boardroom) ignore the lessons of history and all credible economic theory. Listening to those , "who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it," would seem to constitute Obama's biggest mistake to date.

That mistake, to be blunt, has been to pick the wrong side in what is really a class struggle. Or, put another way, it's like investing in new draperies for a house whose foundation is crumbling. Even Republicans once recognized that prosperity is based in the working class. Anyone who looks at it honestly agrees to that, regardless of ideology. Even John McCain, caught in the absurd statement that the economy was strong while the banks were failing, tried to rescue himself by equating the American worker with the 'fundamentals.' For once he was right.
"Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital.
Capital is only the fruit of labor,
and could never have existed if Labor had not first existed.
Labor is superior to capital,
and deserves much the higher consideration."
-- Abraham Lincoln --

“Labour was the first price, the original purchase -
money that was paid for all things.
It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour,
that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. ”
-- Adam Smith --

"Capital is dead labor,
which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor,
and lives the more, the more labor it sucks."
-- Karl Marx--
By this yardstick there is only one thing that could be more dangerous than the gloomy unemployment statistics at the head of this post. And that danger is that the blood-sucking investor class can continue to shop for fancy draperies (paid for by the taxpayer) while the nation's foundation crumbles beneath them. Conservative philosophy revealed itself to be unsustainable practically speaking with the banking crisis last year. Hopefully this post shows that it is and always has been a sham on the theoretical side as well.

UPDATES: There are a couple of pertinent links to add to this, which have just appeared on the web since I posted on Friday.

Ellen Brown has a new post up at Truthout: "Shifting the Burden from Main Street to Wall Street: Why We Need a Tobin Tax"

The BBC has released the results of a new poll: "Free market flawed, says survey"
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new BBC poll has found widespread dissatisfaction with free-market capitalism.In the global poll for the BBC World Service, only 11% of those questioned across 27 countries said that it was working well. Most thought regulation and reform of the capitalist system were necessary. There were also sharp divisions around the world on whether the end of the Soviet Union was a good thing.
So, as some celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall (which was after all a good thing) others regret the collapse of communism that brought it about.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Italy Convicts Kidnappers

Court Sentences 22 CIA Agents, 1 USAF Colonel

From The BBC:
An Italian judge has convicted 23 Americans - all but one of them CIA agents - and two Italian secret agents for the 2003 kidnap of a Muslim cleric.

The agents were accused of abducting Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, from Milan and sending him to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured.

The trial, which began in June 2007, is the first involving the CIA's so-called "extraordinary rendition" programme.

The Obama administration has expressed its disappointment at the convictions. "We are disappointed by the verdicts," state department spokesman Ian Kelly said in Washington. He declined to comment further pending a written opinion from the judge, but said an appeal was likely.

Three Americans and five Italians were acquitted by the court in Milan.
The CIA's Milan station chief at the time, Robert Lady, was given an eight-year term, while the other 22 Americans convicted - one of them a US air force colonel - were sentenced to five years in prison.
A little more information that the BBC omits is available from this article at Al-Jazeera. For one thing the three Americans who were acquitted actually got a pass for having diplomatic immunity. For another the five Italians were acquitted because they were "protected by State Secrecy rules." Which leads one to wonder why the 2 convicted Italian agents were not covered by that umbrella. Hmmm...

The US State Department may be disappointed by the verdict, but I'm quite frankly delighted. And I'll tell you why. For more than three years now, over several posts, I've been saying that the weasel-word 'rendition' really means kidnapping, and should not be given any distinction any higher than that of an extreme criminal act. It's nice that a judge and jury agree. And as to the disappointment expressed by the US government, I already covered that in that post from Sept. 19, 2006.
In America we see a government that continues to deny their own criminal activity. Then when it becomes undeniable, they deny that there is anything illegal about it. Then, when THAT becomes undeniable, they try to retroactively make legal the most egregiously despicable actions. Sickening. As Glenn Greenwald asks, "How can you be an American citizen and not be completely outraged, embarrassed, and disgusted by this conduct?"
What they're disappointed with, frankly, is that their depraved indifference to the rule of law cannot be forcibly extended to other jurisdictions.

In an e-mail about this story Len Hart expressed the fervent hope, "Perhaps the CIA will --at last --be held accountable for its TERRORIST activities." I wouldn't advise him to hold his breath. Not with the kind of MSM reporting on the story that is exemplified by this exchange on CNN's The Situation Room.

Sorry, I have no transcript so this is paraphrased from memory (I wrote this in comments of the last post just minutes after hearing it however. It's pretty accurate as to the intent of what was said.) Wolf Blitzer is interviewing Jeffery Toobin, whose legal expertise puts him in a class with John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Orly Taitz.
Toobin: "the bad thing about this is that because of Interpol the [convicted criminals] have to avoid travel not only in Italy but most of the rest of Europe as well.

Blitzer: It's part of the job description of the CIA that they go into other countries, and break the law. They break and enter. They engage in bribery, and so forth. Italy is an ally. They're supposed to have an agreement with the US about things like this. The system failed somehow."
The only agreement that any foreign country might have with the US (at least so far as international law is concerned) about spies is this -- if a spy has an official embassy cover, when caught spying they are not charged, but simply declared Persona Non Grata and expelled from the country. As noted above this is what happened to the three CIA criminals who had diplomatic immunity. The others had to have been what is known as NOC's (meaning non-official cover,) and should have known that they were vulnerable to charges if they broke Italian law.

Any argument to the contrary can be boiled down to two words; American Exceptionalism. Which, you may be surprised to find out (assuming you're an American) has no foundation whatsoever in international law. None. And 'legal expert' Toobin had to have known that. So he's either an incredibly incompetent attorney or he's a liar. Or both.

There are other elements to this story that I'll just touch on here. First, what an incredibly ill-conceived and counter-productive operation this was. Kidnapping and torturing a Muslim cleric?! What the FUCK were they thinking?

The thought that comes to my mind is that infamous 9/12/01 quote from the Shrub, "If you're not with us you're with the terrorists." This adds the qualifier, "and if you're not with the terrorists YET, just wait til you see what we're planning."

Second, while I generally agree with the outcome of the case I'm a bit disconcerted about the relative weight of sentencing. It was my understanding that this kidnapping was carried out over the strenuous objections of Robert Seldon Lady, the Milan CIA station chief -- who rightly "saw it as ill-conceived and counter-productive." He was over-ruled by some political authority that one must assume extended right up to the White House, probably the OVP. Why then should he have gotten eight years when the doofuses who actually committed the crime got five? For that matter, if you're trying leaders in absentia anyway, why were Bush the Lesser and Shooter Dick not charged? This was nicely covered at Crooks and Liars last April.

It’s not easy for me to generate a lot of sympathy for a CIA man involved in a kidnapping, but I feel sorry for Bob Lady.
He and his wife loved Italy so much they bought a house in the foothills of the Alps and retired there in 2004. Months later an urgent call came, warning Lady to get out of Dodge — don’t even pack. The cops were on their way.

Tipped off, the Ladys successfully fled the country. But they left behind a bonanza of evidence in their dream home, not the least of which was a CIA surveillance photo of the kidnap victim, Osama Mustafa Hasan Nasr, known as Abu Omar...
The little guy stuck carrying out the operation (that he objected to) had to flee his home to avoid imprisonment, not to mention lost his wife, and all their property in Italy may go to Omar as restitution for his rendition...And the CIA abandoned Lady, disowning him as an employee and refusing to assist him in any way.

So, as with Abu Ghraib, the accountability begins and ends with the least powerful and never makes it up to the top decision makers.
As with everything the administration of Bush the Lesser touched, in this case loyalty only ever worked in one direction. Some days it just sucks to be Mr. Phelps.

"Good morning, Mr. Phelps. We have a mission for you.
As always, if you're caught or killed the secretary will disavow all knowledge of your actions."
With any post that involves torture one feels compelled to remind readers that it is not only despicably inhuman, but is totally ineffective as an intelligence tool. Here's a quote on point from Nineteen Eighty-Four:
He became simply a mouth that uttered, a hand that signed, whatever was demanded of him. His sole concern was to find out what they wanted him to confess, and then confess it quickly, before the bullying started anew. He confessed to the assassination of eminent Party members, the distribution of seditious pamphlets, embezzlement of public funds, sale of military secrets, sabotage of every kind. He confessed that he had been a spy in the pay of the Eastasian government as far back as 1968. He confessed that he was a religious believer, an admirer of capitalism, and a sexual pervert. He confessed that he had murdered his wife, although he knew, and his questioners must have known, that his wife was still alive...It was easier to confess everything and implicate everybody.
Clarification: One other small point just to be accurate. For anyone hoping that the US government, Justice Department, Obama administration or any combination of the above will eventually step up, do the right thing, and extradite the guilty parties to Italy - fuggedaboudit. The fact is that extradition requests were made long ago, and were refused. Duh-uh, that's why they were all tried in absentia.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Some Good News Amongst the Bad

There are just a couple items of good news that remind us of what politics would look like if the Democrats would give it half a try. Amongst all the bad stuff, like the recent appointment of a 29-year old Goldman Sachs exec to the investigative branch of the SEC.

The first is the loveable Al Franken's amendment to deny defense contracts to companies that ask employees to sign away the right to sue over things like the gang rape of Jamie Leigh Jones. This has totally exposed the 30 Repuke senators who voted against the amendment as the corporate puppets they are. Here's hoping this is used in future campaigns to unseat the hypocrites.

(Canadians, click here)

In a very similar vein is a bill introduced by Patrick Leahy to remove the exemption to the Anti-trust Act that health care providers have had since just after WWII. Again, this is a perfect opportunity for Republicans and Blue Dogs alike to show their true colors to the nation. After all the whining and posturing they've been doing about letting the market (and the oh-so-trustworthy corporations) take care of every possible problem under the sun in an open competitive market, I can't see how they can credibly argue for a measure that shields the health-care parasites from that very competitive environment. Again, a good move from Democrats both intrinsically for the good of the American people and politically in the fact that it shows something more than the razor-thin space between the parties that we've been seeing lately.

OK, that second bit of good news isn't really that new - the Leahy website announced the intention on September 17. So I'm a month behind. I'm also about a month behind in announcing this other good news - Station Agent is back to blogging at Ice Station Tango. I only found out when I opened up the Blogger editor and saw a recent post had been made there. Pay him a visit, he's always got good topical stuff.



UPDATE: From The Rachel Maddow Show, we have this clip demonstrating that a vote against the Franken Amendment may well have been a career-ender for at least some of the 30 Repugnicant Senators who voted against it. Again, this is going to make future campaigns against these asshats a slam-dunk for the Democrats when they come up for re-election. If the Democrats can only put somebody in their places who is actually better is another question.

UPDATE II: Somebody has done a very good thing, starting a website called Republicans For Rape, specifically to target this issue. Check out the page listing those senators who voted against the Franken Amendment - complete with pictures of each. Nothing like a proper rogues' gallery, I always say.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Fercryingoutloud, This Blog Needs a COCKTAIL!

How about this lovely, and very blue, cocktail?

Because nothing says UNRULY more than a blue cocktail.

Cocktails not your thing?

Then get your UNRULY on however you like!

While looking around for a video to embed, I stumbled upon "Pricasso" (absolutely not mis-spelled) and believe me, while I'd love to embed it, I'll just give you the link; it is SO not safe for work, but it's truly unruly art in action - totally pant free!

Still looking for something unruly, blue, and somewhat wasted. This oughta work:


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Friday, September 11, 2009

Axis of Friendship

(These are my comments I will make this morning at the interfaith observance of the eighth anniversary of 9/11 at the Peace Bell in Newport, Kentucky.)

Since that first September 11th, we have lived in the shadow of an axis of evil. That’s what former President George W. Bush called it. An axis of evil: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. All accused of helping terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruct-ion. All used to justify his War on Terror.

But while President Bush was plotting his axis of evil, the September 11th tragedy brought an outpouring of sympathy from all over the world. Throughout Europe, churches on September 12th rang their bells as people held a minute of silence at noon. The world’s sympathy came from places as far off as Tehran, where thousands of Iranians lit candles and stood in silence in the streets of the city in solidarity with the people of the United States.

Friends, we need to remember this. Before the bombs and the torture, there was a unified response by the global community. Prayers of every faith circled the earth…for the healing of the nations.

And I am the one who is just naïve enough to say to you this day – eight years later – that the healing potential of that moment has not been lost. That spontaneous outpouring of goodwill still holds the potential for a new way forward…a spark of the divine still flickers…lighting the point of a new axis: an axis of friendship.

An axis of friendship. Now that may sound all warm and fuzzy to you…kum ba ya, my Lord, and all that jazz. But as a Christian, I know Jesus had some pretty serious things to say about friendship. Like we are to love God and our neighbor. And just to be clear, Jesus added, we are to love our enemies, too. Because when we love our enemies, we create the possibility of their becoming our friends. And Jesus said we are to risk everything for our friends.

Yes, scripture teaches that we are to live peaceably with everyone. And not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. This means that in the face of dangerous situations and hostile governments, we are called to find solutions that respect human rights and life, that generate mutual respect and accountability, and lead to genuine peace.

An axis of friendship. Is not such a friendship a better and more lasting basis for both international cooperation against terrorism and diplomatic means for solving international conflicts than the exploitation of national tragedies as governments are so want to do? Is not such a friendship a better pathway towards nonviolent solutions than predator drones and video game style wars?

Friends, there are so many hurting places in the world today who desperately need our friendship. Places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where almost six million people have died in the past decade. Places like the Philippines and Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe where governments heap hardship and suffering on the people. And, yes, places like Iran where just this summer we saw people die for the sake of free elections, and North Korea where their nuclear development continues to raise a serious obstacle to peace.

So let us declare at this place – the Peace Bell in Newport, Ky, an axis of friendship. Let us affirm here at this place our commitment to diplomacy for resolving conflicts. And let our pathways home from this place be ways of nonviolence.

And, you know, with our interfaith commission going into hibernation for awhile, the imperative lies with us. We have to take the initiative now. We have to be the ones to extend the hand of friendship. To find ways to celebrate our diversity and to promote understanding. And it starts with us - in our churches, mosques and synagogues.

So let us stand together here today – an axis of friendship – let us affirm our commitment to peace. And let it begin with me, Lord, let peace begin with me. Amen.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Talking to Wingnutz

You Tell 'em, Senator Franks!
This is how it should be done. If there were a Talking To Wingnutz Prize, Barney Frank would win it hands down for the line, "on what planet do you spend most of your time?" He would also be runner-up in the same category for the comparison of the questioner to a dining room table.

Honorable mention would go to Rep. Rick Larsen (D - WA) for his now-famous line, "I've got the facts on my side, you've got Glenn Beck."

The Democrats WON the last two elections handily. They should use their position of power to marginalize the wingnutz at every opportunity.
Frankly, I love this stuff!L.M.F.A.O.

This woman probably came away from this meeting complaining that Senator Frank didn't take her seriously. Not so. If someone is talking out of their ass, this is HOW you treat them seriously. I mean really, the woman is carrying a sign depicting Barack Obama as Hitler, and she starts her question off with "Why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?" To acknowledge such an approach as being anything but straight out of the loony bin is to hand the conversation over to those who came straight out of the loony bin.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Rachel Maddow Has Already Taken Down, but there's one more little nugget...

Rachel Maddow has already exposed's affiliation to Jack Abramoff. But there's a motive and some connections of, that I wanted to explore, so I did some more digging.

The Ad: In case you haven't seen it. Clearly senior scare mongering -

Rachel Maddow's Take Down and Tie to Abramoff:

The website: would like to be known as "the conservative alternative to AARP." It's president is Jim Martin which you wouldn't know from the website itself; you'd need to do an advanced google search to dig up this bio-page:

Now Mr. Martin serves as the President of the 60 Plus Association, which has been called an "increasingly influential lobbying group for the elderly--often viewed as the conservative alternative to the American Association of Retired Persons."

60 Plus is a hard hitting organization dedicated to protecting the tax rights of seniors, and to repealing the most confiscatory of all taxes--the inheritance or estate (death) tax. Jim Martin has been quoted as saying that while there are two certainties in life, taxes and death, now, thanks to the death tax, Jim adds a third certainty--taxes after death. 60 Plus presents a Benjamin Franklin Award to Members of Congress in both parties who sponsor legislation to abolish the third certainty, taxes after death. Original sponsors are Rep. Chris Cox (R-CA) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

Pretty classy, hiding the leadership bio page, yes? So who would do that? Well, the firm that provides the technology and registered the domain names, and appears to host's email servers might do it. And who would that be? Generation X Strategies, And who is

Why it's none other than the recently former head of the VA Republican Party, Jeff Frederick!

Amongst the list of GXS clients which I'd like to highlight are Media Research Center (Bozell's outfit) as well as the RNC and the Texas Christian Coalition. And what else is supercool is that GXS has procured some Federal and State government contracts, as well as a Minority Owned Business status by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Jeff Frederick was ousted as the VA Republican Party Chair in April of this year, but prior to that, since July 8 1996, and up to today runs GXS services
for, and then therefore powers the contribution technology at's website, which is what this is all about. Money.

Abramoff (Shill-ius Maximus), Martin (Astroturfius Nastius), Frederick (Republicanus, Head of VA Party), PhRMA (Tauzin, probably hired because he has a drug sounding name) - probably all legal relationships, but they seem way too cozy to me. And the poor saps who are scared by this fearmongering ad have no idea that PhARMA doesn't need their help to keep their drug prices high, but Jim Martin and Jeff Frederick are really happy to facilitate the money exchange for them.

The icing on the cake?'s National Spokesman is Pat Boone. Yep, No More Mr. Nice Guy Pat Boone - and when you think about it, none of them in this tale are nice guys at all if you ask me.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Maddow Uses Racial Slur Against AstroTurfers

Here's an interesting angle on the disruptive Town Hall Protesters.

Is Rachel Maddow Accusing
Conservatives of Being Mafiosi ?!?

In this clip about the Astro-turfing of opposition to, well everything liberal but mostly public health care, Rachel speaks of "an organization that promotes itself as non-parmesan but appears to be anything but." Just listen.

Who's Behind Health Care Disinformation?

(Complete clip is HERE)
Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Now we all know what the Right Wing Wind Machine is going to say about this; that Rachel was cryptically accusing the town hall disruptors of being Italian, which is of course code for Sicilian*, which is code for (cue dramatic riff on pipe organ) THE MOB!!

Obviously the Republican Party and all affiliates mentioned in Rachel's bit will be suing Rachel for defamation of character. Rumor has it that they've already retained the same attorney who's representing Kenneth Gladney, the man who was allegedly beaten by SEIU thugs at a town hall meeting in St. Louis. Good luck with that, Ken; it passes neither the laugh test nor the smell test.

In other news the Italian Anti-Defamation League have announced that they too will be suing Rachel for having associated them with Republicans. I personally think they've got a much stronger case going forward.. These days you ask most people and the Mafia seem downright benign next to the Repugnicants.

In other other news, there has been no response from the Pastafarians as to whether they plan to sue anybody. Most of them seem to be keeping their yearly vigil in keen anticipation of the Second Helping prophesied in their holiest of holy books, known only as the Dinner Menu. Unlike other religions that fast during such times, the Pastafarians keep vigil while eating basket upon delicious basket of fresh garlic bread.

* - Sicilian: (footnote) I realize that the town of Parma, from whence Parmighiani, is in the Italian province of Tuscany, not in Sicily. However, that is what is referred to as a "well-known fact," and as such has no place in any conservative or Republican argument.

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Sunday Morning Deep Thought

FOX "news" really is
(Who'd a thunk?)

My first internet stops every morning are to Crooks and Liars and Glenn Greenwald. As it happens, both sites were being rather critical of what Station Agent has dubbed the Lamestream Media (abbreviated LaMe) and I would like to call the Lamestream Mediocre, except that most of the time they don't even rise to the level of mediocrity.

Somehow my morning mind (sometimes a little foggy until at least the second cup of strong coffee) had a moment of the utmost clarity. I guess I was thinking, "how does FOX "news" get away with calling themselves fair and balanced, anyway?"

I came up with an answer almost immediately. Got a dictionary handy? Never mind, we can use Merriam Webster's online. Here's the relevant portions of their main entry for the word FAIR (adj.):
1: pleasing to the eye or mind especially because of fresh, charming, or flawless quality

2: superficially pleasing : specious (she trusted his fair promises)

6a: marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism (a very fair person to do business with)

6b (1): conforming with the established rules : allowed (2): consonant with merit or importance : due (a fair share)

6c: open to legitimate pursuit, attack, or ridicule (fair game)

9: not dark (fair skin)
So, quite obviously FOX is implying that they conform to definition 6, but really they mean that they're fair in the sense of definitions 1, 2 and 9. I would say with an emphasis on 2 (and you should really click on the definition of specious if you don't already know it) and 9. And thank Gawd for 6c, though I don't think FOX wanted to imply that definition.

In short, fair and balanced can be taken to mean, "we present you with good-looking, mostly blond newsmodels who at least have the capacity to not fall off of their chairs."

Nor has this escaped those who watch FOX with a rather more critical eye than their target audience do. Media Matters' Simon Malloy did an article on Alternet about the rampant sexism on FOX back in 2006.

A person idly watching Fox News all day, for example, has an excellent chance of glancing at the screen and seeing some partial nudity or a male Fox News personality hitting on a female colleague on the air. Scantily clad women and on-air sexual harassment are the orders of the day over at Fox News Channel.

Take, for instance, Fox News' premier business news program, Your World with Neil Cavuto. Cavuto, Fox News' vice president of business news and the worst James Bond since Timothy Dalton, regularly shows footage of Victoria's Secret runway models and Playboy bunnies -- presumably in the name of business.

Cavuto also has a special obsession with a certain football game played every year in early February: the Lingerie Bowl. Last February, Cavuto interviewed two Lingerie Bowl contenders in their -- ahem -- uniforms. As the News Hounds blog pointed out at the time, this interview was preceded by a one-on-one with Focus on the Family's James C. Dobson, who said that parents must monitor what their children are "looking at because pornography is everywhere, as you [Cavuto] know."

The hypocrisy is phenomenal. Not surprising though when you consider that the greatest consumption of pornography is in the Red States that FOX targets. And they don't really care if a few people in that audience pick up on it either. This little gem appeared in the New York Post (to whom I shall not link) back in 2007. Note the reaction.
CHRISTIAN "media watchdog group" The Resistance is all worked up over the ultra-femme anchors of Fox News. The group's leader, Mark Dice, rants in an e-mail, "I see shorter skirts on the women of Fox News than I do on the prostitutes being arrested on cop shows." Fox responded, "We're always flattered to have everyone talking about us in one form or another."
It may flatter FOX, but I wonder how the objectified newsmodels themselve feel about it? No matter, they're probably grateful for the high paying jobs they hold more for the Clairol™-enhanced outside of their pretty little heads than whatever's on the inside. How grateful? Just go to YouTube and do a search for Megyn Kelly legs" (47 videos!) "Megyn Kelly upskirt" (28) "Gretchen Carlson upskirt" or "Gretchen Carlson legs" (29 videos each.) Or just type "Hot Fox" in the search window and see how it auto-fills. "Hot Fox News Women" has a whopping 314 hits, so don't tell me their viewers aren't obsessing. Thanks to William Mark for this nice paste-up of the T&A FOX shows daily.

FOX News Exploits Sexuality
to Sell Lousy News Programming

But then, I don't really know. FOX isn't even a part of my satellite package.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

OFF With Their Our PANTS

Canadian Protesters to Moon US Spy Balloon

Woo Hoo! This one's a gem. From Raw Story:
A Canadian man is planning what local press called a "moon mission" in protest of a U.S. spy balloon being tested for the Department of Homeland Security. In other words, when the balloon flies, he and other Canadians (he hopes) will give its operators a glimpse at how they feel about the aerial spying.

The Vancouver Sun kept score:

A Sarnia resident is organizing a protest to express his displeasure over a balloon equipped with a surveillance camera that was hoisted last week just across the St. Clair River in Port Huron, Mich., with its eyes set on the border.

Eli Martin said Thursday he hopes protesters at "moon the balloon" will simultaneously drop their trousers to send a signal that Sarnia "doesn't like being watched."

The 15-metre long balloon has a high-tech camera capable of identifying the name on a ship 12-15 kilometres out in Lake Huron, according to the American company operating it. The Sierra Nevada Corp., is testing the technology that could eventually be used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, according to the report, called it the "Port Huron Hindenburg" and demanded the Canadian prime minister stand up for citizens' privacy.
Let's hope there are lots of sunny days in Sarnia so that the patriotic residents there don't catch a chill when they drop trou for freedom. And even though I see a contradiction in someone exposing themselves over the issue of privacy, I say go for it boys and girls. You're all inducted into the Unruly Mob as far as I'm concerned.

Ella Fitzgerald: "Blue Moon"

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beyond Race: On "Contempt of Cop" Regarding The Crowley/Gates Affair

In my opinion, there was undoubtedly some racial profiling going on in the Crowley/Gates affair. I'll leave the racial component to others, as what I wish to draw out are some underlying points as regards the relationship between all of us citizens, our rights and the police.

First, bmaz articulates the basis of the legal argument better than I can:
Instead, the officer seems to have become angered and bellegerent [sic] that Gates would be so forward as to demand his identification. At this point, little old Professor Gates, who walks with a cane, was in what is known in the criminal justice field as "contempt of cop".

The salient problem for the Cambridge Police Department is contempt of cop is simply not a crime, even if profanity is directed at the officer, a situation escalator not even present in Gates' case. In fact, there is a case I have argued with success many times, Duran v. City of Douglas, 904 F.2d 1372 (9th Cir. 1990) which, in an opinion written by now 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kosinski, provides:

Duran's conduct is not totally irrelevant, however, as it suggests a possible motive for his detention, one upon which law enforcement officers may not legitimately rely. The Durans contend, and the district court held, that Aguilar stopped their car at least partly in retaliation for the insult he received from Duran. If true, this would constitute a serious First Amendment violation. "[T]he First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers." Hill, 482 U.S. at 461, 107 S.Ct. at 2509. The freedom of individuals to oppose or challenge police action verbally without thereby risking arrest is one important characteristic by which we distinguish ourselves from a police state. Id. at 462-63, 107 S.Ct. at 2510. Thus, while police, no less than anyone else, may resent having obscene words and gestures directed at them, they may not exercise the awesome power at their disposal to punish individuals for conduct that is not merely lawful, but protected by the First Amendment.
No less well established is the principle that government officials in general, and police officers in particular, may not exercise their authority for personal motives, particularly in response to real or perceived slights to their dignity. Surely anyone who takes an oath of office knows--or should know--that much. See Hill, 482 U.S. at 462, 107 S.Ct. at 2510. Whether or not officer Aguilar was aware of the fine points of First Amendment law, to the extent he is found to have detained Duran as punishment for the latter's insults, we hold that he ought to have known that he was exercising his authority in violation of well-established constitutional rights.

Sounds pretty much on point doesn't it? It is. The City of Cambridge, Sergeant Crowley, and the other individual officers actively participating in the wrongful arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates are in a world of hurt legally. They may want to rethink the company line of no official apology.

Pretty much lays out the legal side, no? So let's move on to the society and relationship pieces, which are woven together by who else, the traditional media.

While most of the chattering class is interested in beer today, there were a few "poker tells" thrown in about the underlying issue; Do What Cops Say Or Else. From the years ago, formerly vaunted, but now pretty much noise machine NPR today there was anthe following article on All Things Considered.

Doing the usual, mush-mouthed, split-the-baby vis-a-vis Colbert "Bad Stenographers" type of reporting Tovia Smith offered this:

Adams is calling for a federal investigation into whether local police make unjustifiable or illegal arrests.

"We're going to have to compel them to examine what needs to be done. And to look at [whether they are] misusing the disorderly conduct statute to teach people a lesson who talk back to police officers," Adams says.

To others, Gates' arrest shows that the public needs educating as much as the police do.

"That learning curve should be on both sides," says Dr. Joe Thomas Jr., police chief in Southfield, Mich. He says citizens need to know not to cross the line with police. It's not so much about protecting police egos as it is about public safety.

"There's a certain amount of respect. There are certain things you don't say to ministers; there are certain things you shouldn't say to your mom, your dad, or the clergy," Thomas says. "It's how you talk to people that got responsibility and authority for controlling people, because if you disrespect them, you take away that authority and it hurts everybody." [emphasis added]

You can listen to the audio here, and you tell me if Joe Thomas' tone of voice is irrelevant.

This was not Joe Thomas' only appearance on a PBS network about this issue. He was also on Newshour, in a segment with Ray Suaresz and Professor Antwi Akom:

JOSEPH THOMAS, JR., Chief, Southfield Police Department: I think that there are some studies out there that this does happen in some areas, in some communities, but let`s not get too far away from this incident, because this is what we`re talking about. This is why we`re here. If not, we`re talking about a larger study.

This incident, as a law enforcement executive, when I saw this, first thing that went through my mind is a lack of training. That incident that occurred to that professor could and should have been handled differently.

Now, that does not mean that this officer did something that was against the law. I`m not going to go that far, because I don`t know the totality of the circumstances.

But I do know, from my personal standpoint, my law enforcement career standpoint, based upon my working with students and colleges and university settings, and I also own my own consulting company, G.I. Consulting (ph), that case or that incident should have been handled differently.

There`s no doubt about it; there`s a lack of training there.

RAY SUAREZ: So, Chief, just so I understand you, you`re saying by definition, if a mistaken call of a crime in progress occurs and it`s understood by both parties in an encounter that there is not a crime in progress, if somebody ends up getting arrested and led away in handcuffs, this wasn`t handled properly?

JOSEPH THOMAS, JR.: It could have been handled differently. I don`t use the word improperly. With the proper training, it could have been handled differently.

This is why I made the statement in the copy of today`s USA Today that, when you began to react and interact with a police officer in a negative manner, then the humanistic sides take place and you can -- sometimes I talk to my people of color about police demeanor and police training.

And you can talk your way into a ticket. I`ve seen people talk their way in jail by saying things to antagonize the police on the scene. And that could have been what happened here.

So we`ve got to be extremely careful and look at this case by itself, and then we voice our opinion. If not, we`re going to start talking about what happened in the `50s, the `40s, the `30s and `60s, and you won`t solve this problem.

I`ve seen a lot of cases, cases throughout this country, where we saw emotions and we saw personal frame of reference and we don`t solve the problem. If we don`t look at this from a training standpoint and take a look at what those officers are being taught in the academy and their enrichment training and what they`re taught to do, this incident will reoccur, if you don`t change the policy and training, rituals, beliefs and values of people that are in the law enforcement industry. That`s what I`m saying about this incident.

RAY SUAREZ: Let me turn to Professor Akom at this point. Professor Akom, does a black man have to handle an encounter with the police different from any other American?

ANTWI AKOM, San Francisco State University: No, I think that we should all be handling encounters with the police by following exactly what the police say. At the same time, I think that racial profiling is a rampant problem and that we need to very much be focused on making sure that racial profiling -- i.e., the criminal suspicion of people based on race -- there`s a psychological impact that I think that we need to be concerned about and that that this is actually broader than a law enforcement problem.

This is actually a problem that is also a public health problem. But in terms of reaction, I think that, yes, black Americans are no different than any other American, and we need to respond in the same way.
And voila! Yes, I said this post was beyond race, but behold; PBS put on two men of color who said basically "Do What The Police Say - Don't Get Uppity." Because the big message here was to anybody who would watch or listen to either of these PBS articles, much less any other trad med that might have pushed into this confrontation piece; Don't Any Citizens Talk Back To Authority. Have Respect Or Else You Get What You Deserve.

What is particularly bothering me, is that living in Denver, I have very recent memories of the Police State occupying town last year.

Nonetheless, I say:

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Real Public Option?

We still have a long way to go, but Congress looks like they have no problem handing the president a piece of trash and call it heal care reform.

If they do Mr. President, you have to throw that bill away.

You put a couple of big tin garbage cans out on the White House lawn. Take the garbage legislation Congress is about to give you, and drop it in there. Then tell the country that between now and November 2010, you'll be campaigning for members of and candidates for Congress that will pass a public option or single payer health care reform. Starting with Max Baucus, you show up in the districts and states of every Democrat and Republican that would not allow Americans the right of health insurance. We would rather wait two MORE years than allow the lobbyists to pass a "bi-partisan" piece of turd that does nothing but make this country even more unhealthy and even more economically unjust.

And if that doesn't work, roll out the trash can again and try to pass proper reform in 2012 and keep on pushing until it gets done right.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein has an opposing view.

UPDATE 2: Jane Hamsher says that Ohio's Sherrod Brown and the progressives in the Senate will not give up on the public option so easily.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Mission Accomplished

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal,
before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon
and returning him safely to the Earth.

-- John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961 --"

I didn't want to give short shrift to this, technically the most difficult task of this or any moon mission, and the one that really meant the most to the astronauts and their families. The splashdown occurred at 16:50:35 UTC on July 24, 1969 @ 13°19′N 169°9′W.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo 11 and the Triumph of Liberalism

The Launch: July 16, 1969, 8:32 AM EDT

Some memories will always be with you, and for anyone who is "of an age" Apollo 11 has just GOT to be one of those memories. One thing that always bugged me about it though; Inspired by a speech given by John F. Kennedy and financed through the Lyndon Johnson administration, America's space program was as liberal as anything in America's history; tax and spend on a scale as massive as the Saturn V rocket itself. But it would be hard to argue that that spending didn't benefit US businesses, who responded with innovations as widespread as the microchip and Velcro™. Still, it's not Kennedy's signature or LBJ's that graces the commemorative plaque at Tranquility Base that will mark the event uncorroded for centuries, even millenia. No, it's Richard Nixon's. Nixon also took advantage of the event for his own political ends by staging a live telephone call to the moon which was broadcast live on all networks at the time -- this in spite of his government having slashed funding for space exploration and the Apollo program in particular. So yes, the Nixon plaque sticks in my craw.

Those Nixon cut-backs were done in such a ham-fisted manner that three flights already scheduled were cancelled. The Saturn booster rockets already built had to be abandoned. Today all three are on display in various locations. "One is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Texas while another is at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A third Saturn V is on display at the United States Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville near the Marshall Space Flight Center." How ignominious that these machines destined to put Apollos 18, 19 and 20 on the moon ended up as giant rusting hulks where generations of birds now nest! How shameful for America that the reason that those flights were cancelled was so that Nixon could expand the bloody and useless Vietnam War and make secret incursions into Cambodia.

I didn't watch either the launch, nor the landing, nor the first moonwalk live on TV - my family was at the cottage that week. I listened live on the radio. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the DJ who spun the first platter of music after the news bulletin chose this song, the #2 hit of 1969:

CCR: Bad Moon Rising
There's another Nixon connection here.
[writer John] Fogerty claims it was written on the day Richard Nixon was elected to power in the States, and it reflects the sense of unease in the air and the portents of what was to follow.”
Triumph of liberalism? Maybe not, but for one glorious shining moment we showed what Big Government can do.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Call It "Medicare for Everyone" And Just Get Over It Already

If you take this whole health care legislation thing seriously these days like I do, you should take 35 minutes and watch this piece from Bill Moyers.

BILL MOYERS: So why are you speaking out now?

WENDELL POTTER: I didn't intend to, until it became really clear to me that the industry is resorting to the same tactics they've used over the years, and particularly back in the early '90s, when they were leading the effort to kill the Clinton plan.

BILL MOYERS: But during this 15 years you were there, did you go to them and say, "You know, I think we're on the wrong side. I think we're fighting the wrong people here."

WENDELL POTTER: You know, I didn't, because for most of the time I was there, I felt that what we were doing was the right thing. And that I was playing on a team that was honorable. I just didn't really get it all that much until toward the end of my tenure at Cigna.

BILL MOYERS: What did you see?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, I was beginning to question what I was doing as the industry shifted from selling primarily managed care plans, to what they refer to as consumer-driven plans. And they're really plans that have very high deductibles, meaning that they're shifting a lot of the cost off health care from employers and insurers, insurance companies, to individuals. And a lot of people can't even afford to make their co-payments when they go get care, as a result of this. But it really took a trip back home to Tennessee for me to see exactly what is happening to so many Americans. I--

BILL MOYERS: When was this?

WENDELL POTTER: This was in July of 2007.

BILL MOYERS: You were still working for Cigna?

WENDELL POTTER: I was. I went home, to visit relatives. And I picked up the local newspaper and I saw that a health care expedition was being held a few miles up the road, in Wise, Virginia. And I was intrigued.

BILL MOYERS: So you drove there?

WENDELL POTTER: I did. I borrowed my dad's car and drove up 50 miles up the road to Wise, Virginia. It was being held at a Wise County Fairground. I took my camera. I took some pictures. It was a very cloudy, misty day, it was raining that day, and I walked through the fairground gates. And I didn't know what to expect. I just assumed that it would be, you know, like a health-- booths set up and people just getting their blood pressure checked and things like that.

But what I saw were doctors who were set up to provide care in animal stalls. Or they'd erected tents, to care for people. I mean, there was no privacy. In some cases-- and I've got some pictures of people being treated on gurneys, on rain-soaked pavement.

And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care. People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee-- all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth.

There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.

BILL MOYERS: What did you think?

WENDELL POTTER: It was absolutely stunning. It was like being hit by lightning. It was almost-- what country am I in? I just it just didn't seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.

BILL MOYERS: People are going to say, "How can Wendell Potter sit here and say he was just finding out that there were a lot of Americans who didn't have adequate insurance and needed health care? He'd been in the industry for over 15 years."

WENDELL POTTER: And that was my problem. I had been in the industry and I'd risen up in the ranks. And I had a great job. And I had a terrific office in a high-rise building in Philadelphia. I was insulated. I didn't really see what was going on. I saw the data. I knew that 47 million people were uninsured, but I didn't put faces with that number.

Just a few weeks later though, I was back in Philadelphia and I would often fly on a corporate aircraft to go to meetings.

And I just thought that was a great way to travel. It is a great way to travel. You're sitting in a luxurious corporate jet, leather seats, very spacious. And I was served my lunch by a flight attendant who brought my lunch on a gold-rimmed plate. And she handed me gold-plated silverware to eat it with. And then I remembered the people that I had seen in Wise County. Undoubtedly, they had no idea that this went on, at the corporate levels of health insurance companies.

BILL MOYERS: But you had, all these years, seen premiums rising. People purged from the rolls, people who couldn't afford the health care that Cigna and other companies were offering. This is the first time you came face to face with it?

WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, it was. You know, certainly, I knew people, and I talked to people who were uninsured. But when you're in the executive offices, when you're getting prepared for a call with an analyst, in the financial medium, what you think about are the numbers. You don't think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you're going to meet Wall Street's expectations. That's what you think about, at that level. And it helps to think that way. That's why you-- that enables you to stay there, if you don't really think that you're talking about and dealing with real human beings.

BILL MOYERS: Did you go back to corporate headquarters and tell them what you had seen?

WENDELL POTTER: I went back to corporate headquarters. I was trying to process all this, and trying to figure out what I should do. I did tell many of them about the experience I had. And the trip. I showed them some pictures I took while I was down there. But I didn't know exactly what I should do.

You know, I had bills of my own. And it was hard to just figure out. How do I step away from this? What do I do? And this was one of those things that made me decide, "Okay, I can't do this. I can't keep-- I can't." One of the books I read as I was trying to make up my mind here was President Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage."

And in the forward, Robert Kennedy said that one of the president's, one of his favorite quotes was a Dante quote that, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain a neutrality." And when I read that, I said, "Oh, jeez, I-- you know. I'm headed for that hottest place in hell, unless I say something."

BILL MOYERS: Your own resume says, and I'm quoting. "With the chief medical officer and his staff, Potter developed rapid response mechanisms for handling media inquiries pertaining to complaints." Direct quote. "This was highly successful in keeping most such inquiries from becoming news stories, at a time when managed care horror stories abounded." I mean, you knew there were horror stories out there.


BILL MOYERS: You put these techniques to work, representing Cigna doing the Nataline Sarkisyan case, right?

WENDELL POTTER: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: And that was a public relations nightmare, you called it. Right?

WENDELL POTTER: It was. It was just the most difficult. We call them high profile cases, when you have a case like that — a family or a patient goes to the news media and complains about having some coverage denied that a doctor had recommended. In this case, Nataline Sarkisyan's doctors at UCLA had recommended that she have a liver transplant. But when the coverage request was reviewed at Cigna, the decision was made to deny it.

It was around that time, also, that the family had gone to the media, had sought out help from the California Nurses Association and some others to really bring pressure to bear on Cigna. And they were very successful in getting a lot of media attention, and nothing like I had ever seen before.

[PROTESTERS: Shame on Cigna! Shame on Cigna!]

WENDELL POTTER: It got everyone's attention. Everyone was focused on that in the corporate offices.

BILL MOYERS: You were also involved in the campaign by the industry to discredit Michael Moore and his film "Sicko" in 2007. In that film Moore went to several countries around the world, and reported that their health care system was better than our health care system, in particular, Canada and England. Take a look at this.


MICHAEL MOORE: Even with insurance, there's bound to be a bill somewhere. So where's the billing department?

BRITISH WOMAN #1: There isn't really a billing department.

BRITISH WOMAN #2: There's no such thing as a billing department.

MICHAEL MOORE: What did they charge you for that baby?


MICHAEL MOORE: You've got to pay before you can get out of here, right?


BRITISH MAN #1: No, no, no. Everything's on NHS.


BRITISH MAN #1: You know, it's not America.

BILL MOYERS: So what did you think when you saw that film?

WENDELL POTTER: I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned.

BILL MOYERS: What were they afraid of?

WENDELL POTTER: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.

BILL MOYERS: We obtained a copy of the game plan that was adopted by the industry's trade association, AHIP. And it spells out the industry strategies in gold letters. It says, "Highlight horror stories of government-run systems." What was that about?

WENDELL POTTER: The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you're heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.

So let's do this:

Call it "Medicare for Everyone", which every American will understand instantly and not connect it with some dumb fuck idea of socialism, and let the HealthCareProvider CEOs pee their fucking pants.

Interview, Part One

Interview, Part Two