Chaos Theory Edition: Goodbye Teddy, Pentagon Profiling, and a Bad Joke

Posted in General by TBartine on August 28, 2009 1 Comment

Yes, it’s Friday and time for our weekly, “Chaos Theory Edition” round-up of all the week’s strange and disturbing news items that we were unable to cover in previous posts.

Let’s get started…

GOODBYE, TEDDY:

  • It’s the end of an era…with the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, the last of the four Kennedy brothers leaves our world and immediately enters the pages of the history books.  He was many things: a staunch liberal, a man well liked by legislators on both sides of the aisle, a skilled negotiator, a survivor of numerous personal tragedies and scandals, and a man who generally favored the pursuit of equality and the betterment of the lives of less-fortunate Americans.  Want to know more of Ted Kennedy’s accomplishments?  Here’s a good write-up of the man often called the “Liberal Lion of the Senate.“  You’ve been affected by his work…and may not have even known it:  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the Family Opportunity Act of 2006…all of which are related to his lifelong goal of providing better health care opportunities to more Americans, especially children.
  • Both Democrats and Republicans have been quick to praise the late senator and his life’s work.  If you want to hear some remarkable praise from men and women of ALL political leanings…this is a good sourceSome examples: President George W. Bush said, “In a life filled with trials, Ted Kennedy never gave in to self-pity or despair.“  President George H.W. Bush said, While we didn’t see eye to eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service.“  Nancy Reagan had this to say: “Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research.“  President Obama praised Kennedy thusly: “His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives – in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education’s promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just – including myself.“  And Hillary Clinton said Kennedy was, “a legislator without peer” who “inspired generation after generation of young Americans to enter public service, to stand up for justice and to fight for progress,” while President Bill Clinton described Kennedy as having a “big heart, sharp mind and boundless energy…gifts he gave to make our democracy a more perfect union.
  • For other Republicans…the praise was much more disingenuous and often, opportunistically inaccurate.  Senators McCain, Hatch, and Gregg…used Kennedy’s passing as an excuse to attempt to drive a stake through health care reform, by intimating that compromise could not be reached without Kennedy’s help.  The three Republican senators have tried to paint the current failure to arrive at a bipartisan solution as the result of Kennedy’s lack of involvement, falling just short of saying that Kennedy…would have given up all the parts of the bill they wanted him to, in order to reach agreement.  Rachel Maddow does a good examination of this desire to make one of the most liberal members of the Senate look more “centrist.”  One…they are trying to shift the blame from the GOP and its unreasonable demands for concessions from the bill.  The truth is, if there is no bipartisanship on this bill, it has everything to do with them…and nothing to do with Kennedy.  Two…they are afraid.  Afraid that people will admire Kennedy.  Afraid that they will hear about his attempts to secure more equality for women, minorities, and gay citizens…that they will hear about his attempts to garner security and opportunity for America’s least powerful citizens…that the people will realize that these things are what liberalism is all about, and will come to the conclusion that it must, therefore, be a good thing.  And if there is one thing the GOP does not want…it is liberalism being seen as a good thing.
  • Ok…this is a little bit more bizarre than usual.  Here’s a list of the “8 Strangest Reactions to Kennedy’s Death.“  Some are real doozies…and Rush made the list.  Showing his usual lack of taste AND sense, Rush praised himself for predicting Senator Kennedy’s death.  Really?  Wow…who could have guessed that a 77-year-old man with a brain tumor, and who keeps having seizures, would die so soon…?
  • I Feel Like I’m Taking Crazy Pills: With the news of Edward Kennedy’s passing…the Conservatives for Patients Rights organization has declared that it will temporarily suspend its vicious, and often false, attacks on the health care reform bills, out of respect for the senator.  Of course…it has been pointed out that this “polite suspension of hostilities” will save the group millions of dollars in ad money, but…I’m sure that has nothing to do with it.

THE GREAT HEALTH CARE DEBATE:

  • We shouldn’t be surprised at reports that some doctors…are using their offices as “bully pulpits” to promote their own political agendas.  Here is a story of a woman who went to see a specialist, only to have him say, “Well, we’re in a box, because I can’t give you a cortisone shot, because of the valley fever [an illness the patient had recently suffered]…Your valley fever doctor would not be happy with me. But we’re lucky we’re not in the Obama box, because if we were, I couldn’t treat you because you’re over 70.“  This is, of course, a variation on the wildly inaccurate “death panel” theme espoused by opponents of reform, and it does not bear any resemblance to the truth…and it goes without saying that the patient was none to pleased to be confronted with partisan politics while seeking treatment for her ills.
  • You heard it here first: in a note similar to the item above, in both its nature and its inherent unprofessionalism…a Dean of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing, Colleen Conway Welch, saw fit to email ALL THE SCHOOL’S STUDENTS and faculty a copy of an extremely partisan, anti-reform document.  The document may be viewed here.  If you skip past the non-factual bullet items to the section containing the “sources” of the information, you will find that two bullet points came from the now-discredited Lewin Group (a research group exposed as being wholly owned by United Health Care), one point is attributed to the Heritage Foundation (a partisan, right-wing “think tank”), and another point is directly sourced to Representative John Boehner and Governor Tim Pawlenty (who are, of course, motivated by partisan politics).  Fortunately, another Dean saw fit to respond,  telling the students that health care is an important topic that they should research themselves (especially for the sake of the 45 million Americans without proper access to care)…and that they should certainly not be swayed by partisan, chain letter propaganda.
  • Representative Michele Bachmann thought it a good idea to start her town hall meeting with a long, pointless joke about President Obama playing golf with Tiger Woods…many attendees disagreed and heckled the legislator with chants of “Health care! Health care!“  Clips here.  She would later enchant the crowd with this particular piece of wisdom: “Sometimes we can sometimes get confused when we hear the terms – millions , billions, trillions.  What does that mean? Let’s just take an example: A million seconds is eleven and a half days. A second is 32 years. A trillion seconds is 32,000 years – there’s a big difference between billions and trillions.“   And thousands of miles away, Stephen Hawking threw up in his mouth a little bit, and didn’t know why…
  • Just yesterday, Senator Inhofe joined Senator McConnell in the “I-haven’t-read-the-bill-but-will-vote-against-it” club…today they are joined by Representative Jim Marshall (D-GA), who said that we have to do something or health care will bankrupt the economy…and even though he hasn’t read either of the bills, he JUST KNOWS that they don’t contain the right measures, so he will oppose them.

POLITICIANS BEHAVING BADLY:

  • Freshman Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins has now apologized:  at a recent press conference she stated that Republicans are looking for the “great white hope” to come and revitalize the party.  The choice of this phrase is, of course, exceedingly unwise, given it entered usage during the civil rights era, when white Americans were looking for the “great white hope“…a white boxer that could defeat the boxing champion, Jack Johnson, who was black.
  • In a recent interview with NPR, RNC Chairman Michael Steele showed us that it is not hard to for a man who has not thought through any of his positions to get forced into a corner. The short version: Steele says insurance should be regulated…the interviewer says “wait a minute you would trust the government to look into that?“…to which a flustered Steele says, “No, I’m talking about private. I’m talking about citizens..,” at which point the interviewer points out the government regulates insurance, not private citizens…Steele says, “And so what. Wait a minute. Hold up. You’re doing a wonderful little dance here and trying to be cute.“  You can hear the entire, highly entertaining clip here.
  • Sarah Palin…now doing most of her communications, rather bizarrely, through Facebook, recently posted the following: “FOX News’ Glenn Beck is doing an extraordinary job this week walking America behind the scenes of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and outlining who is actually running the White House.  Monday night he asked us to invite one friend to watch; tonight I invite all my friends to watch.“  That’s right…Beck is doing such an extraordinary job that over forty of his advertisers have left his show after he called the President a “racist” who has “a deep-seated hatred of white people.
  • Rex Rammell, an Idaho gubernatorial candidate, says he was only joking when he said he’d buy a license to hunt President Obama.  Not funny…and arguably not legal, Mr. Rammell.  Democratic Party Chairman Keith Roark was overly kind in saying: “Rex Rammell is pretty shrill, and I don’t think he represents the mainstream of the Republican Party by any means.“  Mr. Roark…I’m no longer certain that’s true.

THE MEDIA – HACKS, PUNDITS, AND OTHER INVETERATE LIARS:

  • Remember Mark J. Penn…the devious mastermind behind most of the more vicious attacks to emanate from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign?  Well, Penn is now president and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest public relations firms.  Penn ALSO writes as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal The problem arose with Penn recently wrote a column for WSJ, about “luxury camping” and the impact it could have on the hotel/sporting good/travel industries.  After posting this column…Penn’s company sends an internal email…suggesting they should use Penn’s article as an excuse to contact hotel/sporting good/travel industries for their business.  While to you and I this appears to be a fairly clear example of a legal conflict of interest, but “not so” says the Wall Street Journal: “the reality is that freelancers do use their columns as ways of marketing themselves.“  Ummm…”marketing themselves” is perfectly fine…marketing their companies’ products and/or services…not so much.
  • A guest on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, compares the Obama administration to the Nazis: “National Socialism is very much what we see today in this administration, it’s a policy almost line for line. It’s the same economic policy, it’s the same political policy. And so if they want to talk about Nazis, they better be careful about that conversation because they might find that the swastika is on their own arm.“  Hannity’s response to this:  “Ok.”  Sean Hannity, folks…continuing to lower the bar of “responsible journalism,” one notch at a time.

GHOSTS OF OUR PAST:

  • The Pentagon…is profiling journalists.  Newly released files prove that, despite the Pentagon’s claims that reporters were not “graded” on their coverage of military events, the Pentagon has been assessing members of the media as “positive,” “neutral,” or “negative.”  So-called “neutral” reporters were seen as malleable:  a potentially negative story could be “softened” just by spoonfeeding them some positive quotes.  Meanwhile, if an action occurred that was a success and the Pentagon wanted to get maximum “mileage” out of it…they just had to present it to one of the reporters they knew to be “positive” and “subjective.”
  • Earlier this week, we covered the disturbing number of Bush-era policies that President Obama has kept in place…or even expanded.  Well, add another to the list:  the Obama administration has chosen to preserve the controversial policy that allows the government to search your laptop computer, cellphone, or any other electronic media…without probable cause or warrant while you are travelling.  Elizabeth Goitein, of the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice says, “Under the policy begun by Bush and now continued by Obama, the government can open your laptop and read your medical records, financial records, e-mails, work product and personal correspondence – all without any suspicion of illegal activity.“  The ACLU and other civil liberties groups have responded as would be expected.
  • The release of the Inspector General’s report on American interrogation practices during the Bush administration, has caused many conservatives and conservative media outlets to proclaim that “torture works,” simply because the report shows that the torture produced “information.”  Well, Frances Fragos Townsend, Homeland Security adviser and close, personal adviser to President Bush states otherwise.  Townsend responds, “It’s very difficult to draw a cause and effect, because it’s not clear when techniques were applied vs. when that information was received. It’s implicit. It seems, when you read the report, that we got the – the – the most critical information after techniques had been applied. But the report doesn’t say that.“  Oh yeah…and lest we forget:  it wouldn’t even matter if it DID work…it would still be ILLEGAL according to federal and international law.
  • Remember months ago, when former Vice President Cheney said that releasing the CIA documents would show that torture had been very effective?  Well, they did not show that to be true at all…and they also showed him to be a liar when he said, “The professionals involved in that program were very, very cautious, very careful – wouldn’t do anything without making certain it was authorized and that it was legal…and any suggestion to the contrary is just wrong. Did it produce the desired results? I think it did.“  The report clearly shows just the opposite:  these “professionals” were not cautious, not careful, and did quite a bit that was unauthorized…and it DID NOT produce the desired results.  You’re batting .000, Dick.

That wraps up another week.  A special thanks to The Library Atheist blog, who linked to yesterday’s post…be sure to check them out!