Jesurgislac’s Journal

November 15, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 10

Filed under: My Obama Wish List,Pets — jesurgislac @ 8:31 am
Tags: , , ,

What’s next?

10 Getting the First Puppy

Take more time to choose and vet the puppy for the First Daughters than McCain did when he chose Sarah Palin.

Okay, break’s over!

October 31, 2008

Open Letter: why I get angry about this

Dear You,

This is a letter that’s been waiting in my Drafts for some time, but I need to post it before next Tuesday: it’s definitely a pre-Election letter.

It’s not that I think electing Barack Obama will magically change the US for the better. The kind of bigotry we’re discussing is so much easier to start than stop. But if John McCain gets in, the media narrative will be that the racist, Islamophobic bigotry he stirred up in his supporters was electorally successful: things will certainly get worse, and from discussions we have had previously about whether it’s ever justified to harass Muslims for their religion, you will be bearing your part in taking the US towards perdition.

Can I discuss this with you? No, I can’t: partly this is my fault, because it makes me very angry, and I admit it’s not easy to argue with me when I’m angry.

This came to a head in the discussion about the six imams who were kicked off a plane for flying while Muslim. Part of what made me angry was the realisation, as the discussion continued, that you had nothing but your anti-Muslim bigotry to justify your belief that those six imams “deserved” to be kicked off the plane, that the frightened bigots who got them removed were justified in their fear because the imams had prayed together before the flight, and one of them had torn up papers and thrown them away, and they had openly spoken to each other in Arabic, had sat in separate seats on the plane, and at least one of them had asked for a seat-belt expander. All of these incidents were nothing in themselves, and added up to nothing – unless you are an anti-Islamic bigot.

I wanted you to come up with something – anything – that would actually mean you had some reason to be afraid of them – but you had nothing. You just kept repeating, as if to you this meant something sensible, that “it all added up” – and it did: it all added up that you are a bigot. Bigots do not question their own bigotry – in fact, if someone can be got to admit they have no rational reasons to support their bigoted belief, that is often the door that opens on the way out from being a bigot – the self-awareness that they believe this “just because”.

Being afraid of someone and believing that your fear justifies doing bad things to that person though they have themselves never done a thing to you, is not a small issue. It’s not something I can agree to disagree about. And it was the root of that disagreement about whether the airline crew were justified in having the six imams leave the plane instead of the scared passengers making complaints about the imams.

This is not a small thing – not something I can just shrug off and say myself “so, he’s X, it’s not as if he’s all the time going on about it”.

After September 11, thousands of Muslims in the US were rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, and often deported, because of their religion. (The justification given for rounding up the Muslims specifically was that they were illegal immigrants or had committed some crime against the immigration laws: but other illegal immigrants who were not Muslims were not targeted – the key reason for this action was not that they had offended against the immigration laws, but that their offense against the immigration laws gave an excuse to target Muslims.)

Foreign airline crew who are Muslim have been targeted for interrogation on landfall. A friend who works for British Airways said that by 2004, not one of the Muslims he knew at BA was willing to crew a flight to the US, because they knew that when the plane landed, they would be singled out from the rest of the crew and taken to a police station where they would be “interrogated”, for hours on end, at a time when they were supposed to be resting – when the rest of the crew, not Muslims, were being allowed their mandated rest time.

You spoke eloquently about how you felt when you saw the WTC fall, about your anger and your need to fight back and your willingness to support the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq because you believed that the war in Afghanistan and the new war in Iraq were part of the fight against the people who had attacked the US on September 11. Yet you were furious with the Iraqis who fought back against the US military – you claimed you could not understand how they could do it, why they wouldn’t accept US hegemony peacefully.

I thought this was obvious: you would understand the Iraqis who were fighting back against the US occupation, because you would realise that they felt like you – just as your reaction to the WTC falling was anger and rage and the wish to fight, so their reaction to the US bombing their country was anger, rage, the wish to fight. But you argued that, if you were an Iraqi, you wouldn’t feel this kind of anger – you would feel that the US had changed a bad government, and wouldn’t want to fight against them. Not even (as I recall I asked) if you had seen your neighbours or even your neighbour’s children killed, their homes destroyed. You could not imagine, it appeared, that an Iraqi man – a Muslim – had feelings just like yours.

I want to believe that for you this is just being John De Stogumber – that if you were really faced with the horrors you shrug off as minor, as nothing like what you saw from a distance when the WTC fell, you would feel differently.

DE STOGUMBER. No. Oh no: not at all. I had seen them in pictures, and read of them in books, and been greatly moved by them, as I thought. But it was no use: it was not our Lord that redeemed me, but a young woman whom I saw actually burned to death. It was dreadful: oh, most dreadful. But it saved me. I have been a different man ever since, though a little astray in my wits sometimes.
CAUCHON. Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination? (Saint Joan)

But I no longer believe that. You don’t see Muslims as people with the same rights, the same feelings, the same faults and needs and blood as you – if you did, you could not argue that it was right that people who are afraid of Muslims ought to have the right to expel the imams from a plane: if you did, you could not argue that a man like you who had lived through the US attack on Baghdad would not feel the same rage as you felt. If you felt the same common humanity, you would not make these arguments: and if you were not a bigot about this anti-Islamic feeling, you would understand why this makes me angry. Even your presumption that I shared your Islamophobic bigotry still enrages me.

I know, Internet time is not like RL time. That discussion about the six imams was nearly a year ago. Oughtn’t I to have just forgotten it, not keep bringing it up? But it’s not as if I think you’ve changed in any way – not as if you’ve indicated that you regret what you said and now think you were wrong.

I was going to write “so I feel quite comfortable saying you are an unrepentent bigot” – but the truth is, I feel no comfort at all. I am deeply uncomfortable about this, because yes – aside from your sporadic outbursts of Islamophobia, you come across as a very nice guy.

When a country begins to target people because of their religion, to harass and bully them, imprison them without trial, torture them, kill them – this is a serious issue: this is not something that can be shrugged off.

While Lieutenant-General William G Boykin was serving as deputy under-secretary of defence for intelligence (2003-2007) he claimed that Muslims worshipped an “idol”, that the enemy in the US’s war against terrorism was “Satan”, and that the reason that terrorists attacked the US was because it was a “Christian nation”. He wasn’t sacked. Rumsfeld shrugged off his deputy under-secretary’s comments as “personal”.
After that approval of anti-Islamic feeling at the highest levels of government, the use of “Obama is a Muslim” as if this was an accusation did not surprise me.

People have to pick their sides when this begins to happen – and while anyone can understand how it happens that a person is too afraid to stand up, to speak out, it is a creeping horror how many people are simply unable to see anything particularly wrong with how these people are being treated – don’t notice and don’t care.

They’re only Muslims. They’re only Jews. They’re only Mormons. They’re only Christians. You come across as a very nice guy: but still I feel that creeping horror when I think of you.

Je Surgis Lac

Can someone explain why…

…someone regurgitating this Republican crap about Barack Obama makes a point of claiming to be a Democrat?

I mean seriously. The guy evidently intends to vote for John McCain and Sarah Palin next Tuesday: he supported George W. Bush consistently and loyally: he opposed John Kerry: he seems to have opposed Al Gore: on what basis does he still think of himself as a “Democrat”?

October 29, 2008

The Next Rove Presidency: “Keep him at least three paces distant”

“Keep him at least three paces distant who hates bread, music, and the laugh of a child.” – Johann Kaspar Lavater, Aphorisms on Man, 1788

Here’s Bill Clinton versus George W. Bush/Karl Rove, from the perspective of one of Bill Clinton’s worst enemies:

“For all the years he was president,” Armey told me, “Bill Clinton and I had a little thing we’d do where every time I went to the White House, I would take the little name tag they give you and pass it to the president, who, without saying a word, would sign and date it. Bill Clinton and I didn’t like each other. He said I was his least-favorite member of Congress. But he knew that when I left his office, the first schoolkid I came across would be given that card, and some kid who had come to Washington with his mama would go home with the president’s autograph. I think Clinton thought it was a nice thing to do for some kid, and he was happy to do it.” Armey said that when he went to his first meeting in the White House with President Bush, he explained the tradition with Clinton and asked the president if he would care to continue it. “Bush refused to sign the card. Rove, who was sitting across the table, said, ‘It would probably wind up on eBay,’” Armey continued. “Do I give a damn? No. But can you imagine refusing a simple request like that with an insult? It’s stupid. From the point of view of your own self-interest, it’s stupid. I was from Texas, and I was the majority leader. If my expectations of civility and collegiality were disappointed, what do you think it was like for the rest of the congressmen they dealt with? The Bush White House was tone-deaf to the normal courtesies of the office.”

That story was published in The Atlantic in September 2007, in an article on The Rove Presidency. I’ve remembered it quite a few times since, because Dick Armey was not someone I liked or respected or would have thought I shared any values with at all. But it turned out that we did share just one value, a tiny one: because I liked him for doing this, and I liked Clinton for giving him the means to do it – and if I could have disrespected Karl Rove and George W. Bush any more than I already did, I would have, for refusing a colleague something that would have meant much to him and cost them nothing at all.

I have no idea how John McCain would behave, with Karl Rove at his elbow, if requested to do something like this. (And if McCain’s in the White House, Karl Rove will be at his elbow.)

But if Barack Obama’s in the Oval Office next year, and his least-favourite member of Congress asks him to autograph and date a name badge so he can give it to the next kid he sees… I’m absolutely certain that President Obama would grin, sign, and hand the badge over.

from Yes We Can (Hold Babies)

from Yes We Can (Hold Babies)

I was reminded of this story again by Elle’s post on What the Election Means to her son. Check out the photos there… and even more on Yes We Can (Hold Babies).

October 18, 2008

“I should have a choice about this”

Transcript below the fold.

October 12, 2008

How can you elect a President when the electoral system is broken?

…and how come this kind of brokenness isn’t headline news across America.

…a Board of Electors cites “status as an expert on Sequoia voting machines” as a reason why Andrew Appel can’t be allowed to be present when poll workers are counting the votes supplied by the Sequoia voting machines.

…a Board of Electors say this election is “too important” to permit extra people in the polling place. (cite)

…this refusal is not headline news all over the nation everywhere Sequoia voting machines are in use by the next day. (In fact, discussion of how the 2008 election can be rigged is happening on the national news… in the UK.)

Here is how to hack a Sequoia voting machine.

Now tell me why electoral officials wouldn’t want an expert in that hacking present to observe the poll workers on election night?

Still think you’re going to have Obama in the White House next year, just because he looks like a cert to win the election? Well, you might: if instead of shifting the election from Obama to McCain, the focus on election-rigging, like the RNC money, has switched to getting a majority in the Senate. (If all Democratic Senators currently running for election this year lose, and all Republican Senators keep their seats, then I think – I’m open to correction – the Republicans have a majority by which they can impeach Obama just as soon as they make some reason up for it.) So if rigging can’t do more than make Obama’s victory narrow instead of landslide, rigging could ensure Obama spends his first and perhaps his only term fighting a supermajority Republican Senate.

Morat asked, in August last year: “What causes Rove, of all people, to bail on Bush now? He can’t be expecting a place on a GOP candidate’s payroll (well, maybe he can, but I doubt it).”

I answered, unhappily prescient: “Rove is leaving because he can see Bush/Cheney are heading for disaster, and he wants out of there. If this is the answer, Rove’s name will show up attached to your next President’s name in the 2008 campaigns.”

October 6, 2008

It’s as clear a difference as black and white

This is a Republican on the prospect of a black man becoming President of the United States: Ugh, “President Obama” makes me vomit.

This is Barack Obama, standing behind a white woman in a check-in line in Miami airport, a newly-wed in tears because she doesn’t have the $103 surcharge to take both her suitcases to Norway on her journey to her husband: “That’s OK, I’ll pay for her.”

I try to stay away from the first blog I linked to, because Sharon makes me depressed (she comes over here sometimes and then blogs about me: it’s sort of like she’s a stalker, but not really in a scary way, just sort of sad): she’s one of the 29%ers, who still believes Bush did a good job. She’s stupid, she’s bigoted, she’s a classic case of what Glenn Greenwald aptly describes as the religion of rage and self-pity.

Ironically, Sharon herself (and her children, and her husband) will benefit if Obama wins: Obama intends to make sure that Sharon and her family can get health insurance, which the current US system denies them: while if McCain gets into the White House, he intends to set in place policies that will throw even more Americans on the present system of uninsured people going to the emergency room because they have nowhere else to go.

And the odd thing is? Reading that story – via – I’m fairly convinced Obama would be gracious even in the face of Sharon’s neurotic, vomiting racism: would be glad his policies help someone who needs them so much, even if she’s stupid and bigoted enough to want him to lose.

Leisha’s Random Thoughts:

Mary Menth Andersen was 31 years old at the time and had just married Norwegian Dag Andersen. She was looking forward to starting a new life in Åsgårdstrand in Vestfold with him. But first she had to get all of her belongings across to Norway. The date was November 2nd, 1988.
At the airport in Miami things were hectic as usual, with long lines at the check-in counters. When it was finally Mary’s turn and she had placed her luggage on the baggage line, she got the message that would crush her bubbling feeling of happiness.
-You’ll have to pay a 103 dollar surcharge if you want to bring both those suitcases to Norway, the man behind the counter said.
Mary had no money. Her new husband had travelled ahead of her to Norway, and she had no one else to call.
-I was completely desperate and tried to think which of my things I could manage without. But I had already made such a careful selection of my most prized possessions, says Mary.
Although she explained the situation to the man behind the counter, he showed no signs of mercy.
-I started to cry, tears were pouring down my face and I had no idea what to do. Then I heard a gentle and friendly voice behind me saying, That’s OK, I’ll pay for her.
Mary turned around to see a tall man whom she had never seen before.
-He had a gentle and kind voice that was still firm and decisive. The first thing I thought was, Who is this man?
Although this happened 20 years ago, Mary still remembers the authority that radiated from the man.
-He was nicely dressed, fashionably dressed with brown leather shoes, a cotton shirt open at the throat and khaki pants, says Mary.
She was thrilled to be able to bring both her suitcases to Norway and assured the stranger that he would get his money back. The man wrote his name and address on a piece of paper that he gave to Mary. She thanked him repeatedly. When she finally walked off towards the security checkpoint, he waved goodbye to her.
The piece of paper said ‘Barack Obama’ and his address in Kansas, which is the state where his mother comes from. Mary carried the slip of paper around in her wallet for years, before it was thrown out.
-He was my knight in shining armor, says Mary, smiling.
She paid the 103 dollars back to Obama the day after she arrived in Norway. At that time he had just finished his job as a poorly paid community worker* in Chicago, and had started his law studies at prestigious Harvard university.
In the spring of 2006 Mary’s parents had heard that Obama was considering a run for president, but that he had still not decided. They chose to write a letter in which they told him that he would receive their votes. At the same time, they thanked Obama for helping their daughter 18 years earlier.
In a letter to Mary’s parents dated May 4th, 2006 and stamped ‘United States Senate, Washington DC’, Barack Obama writes**:
‘I want to thank you for the lovely things you wrote about me and for reminding me of what happened at Miami airport. I’m happy I could help back then, and I’m delighted to hear that your daughter is happy in Norway. Please send her my best wishes. Sincerely, Barack Obama, United States senator’.

*Not at all sure about this part of the translation. The Norwegian word used is ‘miljøarbeider’, I don’t know what the exact English word for that is or even if there is one, and I don’t know enough about Obama to say what job of his they’re talking about.
**This is my translation of the reporter’s translation of the letter. From English to Norwegian and back to English. So obviously it is not correct word for word.

October 5, 2008

Lies About Health Care

Back in April 2004, I wrote (on Political Animal, comments now lost, but preserved on Respectful of Otters):

Practically speaking… at the moment the health system in the US, insofar as it exists, it set up on the basis that your employer will pay for your health insurance. If every employer in the US simply decided that from now on the money they paid to subsidize employee health insurance was to go to their shareholders instead, and people would only have health insurance if they could afford to buy an individual plan, then the US would suddenly face a health care crisis the like of which it’s never seen: not just 45 million people without health insurance, but probably more like 250 million. The whole health “system” would crumble into bankruptcy.
Wal Mart’s moral obligation to provide health insurance for all its employees arises from the fact that it makes its profits from a system which assumes that all major employers do so. If all major employees imitated its business model, the system would collapse and kill hundreds of thousands.

This was in response to a story Rivka had published earlier about Wal-Mart’s paying many of its employees so little they cannot afford Wal-Mart’s health insurance plan:

So imagine my surprise when someone came into my office today who has a full-time job. She works 40 hours a week at Wal-Mart. Like many of their employees, she can’t afford their health insurance plan. Even if she could, they wouldn’t cover her HIV care because it’s a pre-existing condition. It isn’t even about paying for the drugs, which are expensive – she qualifies for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which picks up all of her prescriptions for her. Wal-Mart won’t pay for office visits to an HIV specialist, and they won’t pay for the blood tests she needs to monitor her condition.

So you, the federal taxpayer, will be paying for her medical care. Today you also gave her $40 worth of food vouchers, because after she pays her rent (which eats more than half her wages, and she lives in a slum) there’s not a lot left over to buy food. I’m sure you’re glad to do it, right? You don’t want her to die.

And you don’t want Walmart’s $8 billion profits and 21.6% return on shareholder’s equity to drop, the way it probably would if the public weren’t picking up the cost of keeping Wal-Mart associates and their children alive. You wouldn’t want any members of the Walton family to drop off the list of the richest people in the world. (Imagine if only four of them were in the top ten.)

Now, four years on, McCain wants to use the Wal-Mart model of health care for all the 71% of Americans with health insurance () who are insured via their employers. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, chief policy adviser for McCain, calculates that over 10 years, the US government will get $3.6 trillion increased revenue from taxing employer-provided health insurance (cite).

To understand this, I use the UK model of national health insurance (figures in US dollars): Supposing you earn $2400 a month, and your employee contributions to health insurance are 11%. (That’s the UK’s national insurance rate, covering health and other benefits.) So you pay $264 a month for your health insurance.

Under the current US system, that $264 is not taxed: it gets taken off your pay before tax, and goes to the employer’s health insurance company whole and entire, along with whatever contribution your employer makes, which contribution is also not taxed: so assuming that your employer matches your contributions to your health insurance (also the rule in the UK system) your health insurance company gets $528 per month to cover you.

Under the system McCain proposes, that $264 will be taxed: $39.6 (federal tax at 15%, at least) will be deducted from it. Furthermore, your employer’s contribution to your health insurance will be also taxed. So unless your employer is willing to increase what they pay, you will need to find about $80 more each month to get the same level of health insurance as before, which is in theory going to be paid for by a tax credit at the end of the year. That’s fine if you have the kind of cash flow that can easily compensate for $80 less each month with a tax credit that will hopefully equate to everything you paid out before: $2500 tax credit voucher if you’re an individual, $5000 if you’ve got family. (And issues about which families will be recognised as entitled to the double tax credit voucher, in states that don’t recognise same-sex couples and their children as “family”?)

Joe Biden described this healthcare plan in the VP debate:

Now, with regard to the — to the health care plan, you know, it’s with one hand you giveth, the other you take it. You know how Barack Obama — excuse me, do you know how John McCain pays for his $5,000 tax credit you’re going to get, a family will get?

He taxes as income every one of you out there, every one of you listening who has a health care plan through your employer. That’s how he raises $3.6 trillion, on your — taxing your health care benefit to give you a $5,000 plan, which his Web site points out will go straight to the insurance company.

And then you’re going to have to replace a $12,000 — that’s the average cost of the plan you get through your employer — it costs $12,000. You’re going to have to pay — replace a $12,000 plan, because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of you will be dropped.

So you’re going to have to place — replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.

(I see I wildly underestimated the cost of US health insurance. In the UK we pay far less and get better health care, but that’s just how it is.)

Ace of Spaces reports this as (via): “Biden falsely said McCain will raise taxes on people’s health insurance coverage — they get a tax credit to offset any tax hike. Independent fact checkers have confirmed this attack is false.” (This is number 7 in a list of “14 Biden lies”.)

Well, it’s true, while John McCain’s advisor says explicitly that the tax hike on health care insurance payments will raise $3.6 trillion, John McCain’s website makes no mention of tax hikes, the McCain campaign has made clear in media interviews that the plan is to raise trillions by making what your employer pays for your health care a taxable benefit, not an untaxed benefit. I don’t know how Ace’s “independent fact checkers” could have missed the news stories about this back in April and May and June (via): I’d suggest Ace fire them and hire ones who actually know how to use google, but I gathered by googling that this list of “Biden lies” is not even original to Ace, though the funnysite I was looking at for current Republican lies linked to Ace as the originator.

The current American health care system is the worst in the developed world (WHO ranks it at 37*): it’s even worse than health care systems in some developing countries. And it’s more expensive than any other health care system in the world.

McCain’s plan is to make American health care worse than it already is – to throw more and more Americans out of the pool of people who receive health care via their employer’s insurance plans, while giving them a tax break for choosing their own personal insurance plan. Ezra Klein explains why this is not revenue neutral, while Publius at Obsidian Wings points out that this plan just assumes individuals have exactly the same bargaining power as corporations do.

It appears, judging by this much-memed list of “lies”, that the only way Republican wonks can now think of campaigning for McCain is to flatly lie about about what his policies actually are.

*International stats on health care systems below the cut

October 1, 2008

Palin and the McCain: are you pondering what I’m pondering?

Pinky & The Brain = Palin & McCain

Pinky & The Brain = Palin & McCain by Val Web

(This post could not have been created without Richard Watanabe’s fabulously wonderful Complete List.)

“Egad. You astound me, John.”
-“That’s a simple task, Sarah.”

“Are there any questions?”
-“Oh, Oh, pick me, John.”
“President McCain!”
-“Yes, um, what is the password?
“I can’t tell you. If you were to be a PRISONER OF WAR you might give it away.”
-“What, me? Never, no, Narf, never.”
“And if you were tortured?”
-“Oh, well that’s different then, isn’t it?”

September 30, 2008

What kind of person still wants to vote for McCain?

McCain and Palin had a bad week, and it was entirely of their own making. (“I’m going to suspend my campaign and fly to Washington to fix the crisis!” said McCain. “Well, I think so -POIT- but where do you stick the feather and call it macaroni?” said Palin.)

The US is in the middle of a financial crisis. This guy (via) has Palin-level solutions (and shares Jerry Falwell’s notion of Christianity).

He thinks the problem is that the State of Maine isn’t sufficiently pro forced pregnancy: that taxpayers support family planning: that marriage isn’t defined in the state constitution and ought to be: that in Maine same-sex couples have some of the civil rights of marriage and ought to have none: and that Maine sets certain standards for education that discriminate against Christian parents who want their children taught only that God created the world in six days a little over six thousand years ago. Oh, and he thinks that “unleashing the private sector” would make Maine “energy independent”. Goodness knows how. Treadmills?

It seems, you see, that what this McCain voter objects to is Governor John E. Baldacci’s work to make Maine more energy-independent, less oil-dependent:

“From my earlier experiences and frustrations, we set up this Office of Energy Independence and Security when oil was $20 a barrel. At that time I knew the public wasn’t going to understand that this was an important measure, because there wasn’t anything dramatic going on with energy then, but I hoped it would give us an opportunity to become a laboratory for energy saving ideas. We started buying hybrid Priuses, and doing car and van pooling. We now use 100 percent renewable energy for state government’s electrical needs. By using biodiesel for State buildings, we save about 13,000 gallons of Number 2 heating oil every year. We started conservation methods in all departments. We’re doing things smarter by using the resources we had.”

So, in summary: a typical McCain voter believes that the country can be saved (and God will “crack a smile”) if more women are forced through pregnancy against their will, same-sex couples are denied basic civil rights, scientific education is rolled back to the 19th century, and there’s none of this nonsense about the state government offering programs that help people become more energy efficient.

“Right now, there is not a single voting system on the market or in use anywhere in the country that meets current federal voting standards, and very few people realize it.” – Douglas Kellner, co-chair of New York State’s election board

But I’m sure John McCain is among those few.

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