Archive | May, 2012

Breaking news

I’m long past the point where I vote for politicians on the basis of their “character,” because I know that we don’t actually know anything about their characters. All we see is a carefully-designed presentation, and if you think you really know any of them (or their wives), you’re deluded. You’re projecting, and they’d like to keep it that way.

How you can tell something about a politician is where he places his focus. And John Edwards was the only person in the 2007 primary campaign who was talking about the poor. That’s why I supported him.

I always thought the case against Edwards was not only weak, but heavily politicized. (Notice that no one indicted John Ensign. He got his wealthy parents to pay off his mistress and her husband, and the payments were structured to avoid public disclosure. See “IOIYAR”.)

Instead, we had an ambitious Republican prosecutor, a holdover from the Bush administration, who made unprecedented charges against Edwards and pretty much destroyed him. That prosecutor resigned to run for Congress. That heavily-publicized gossip spectacle just ended in Edwards being found innocent on one count, and a mistrial on the rest of the charges.

I still like John Edwards. I don’t especially care that he had an affair (as Amanda notes in this article, you’d empty out every cocktail party in D.C. if you started indicting people for that), because people make mistakes. And I don’t care that he had a couple of $400 haircuts, either. What happened between him and his wife was their business, not mine. But the inspiring words he spoke about lifting up the poorest, about the two Americas? That was our business, and we’re worse off for the silencing of his voice.

It’s become customary in politically obsessed circles for observers to preen about how they knew that Edwards was bad news all along. His lawyerly ways! His sentimental stories about growing up working class! His hair! How could his silly supporters not see him for the philandering phony he so clearly was?

Of course, a quick perusal of the John Edwards of 2007 demonstrates that this sort of hindsight owes more to revisionist wishful thinking than a correct assessment of the evidence at the time. Back then, the other potential Democratic nominees, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were widely and correctly perceived as timid centrists who had a knee-jerk tendency to run from conflict the second conservatives ruffled their feathers. Edwards, on the other hand, spoke convincingly of how change couldn’t come from “negotiation and compromise,” arguing that the idea that corporate interests would voluntarily give away their power is “a fantasy.” Long before the economic crash and Occupy Wall Street forced major Democratic politicians to address the question of growing inequality, Edwards’s famous “two Americas” rhetoric helped force the issue onto the table. Occupy boiled it down to the 1 Percent vs. the 99 Percent, but back in 2007, Edwards was taking cracks at “the very rich vs. everyone else.”

In the rush of headlines about Edwards’s despicable sexual behavior, what’s forgotten is how much his campaign haunted the primary contest between Clinton and Obama long after he dropped out. An early push in the campaign season from Edwards on healthcare reform set the tone for the rest of the election season on this issue. Edwards put out a plan for healthcare reform before the other candidates, forcing the other candidates to release competing plans that were likelier farther to the left than they were comfortable promising. It’s arguable that without the primary season pressure from the Edwards campaign, the initial gambit of the Democrats in the healthcare reform battle — one that included a public option — wouldn’t have been as strong, which would have meant an even weaker bill than the one that eventually was pushed past conservative Democratic opposition.

More fun with health care

Couldn’t sleep again last night, it was just awful. Even with the air conditioning cranked, I was still really hot, tossing, turning, and sweating like a fiend. So I made an executive decision and cut my medication in half today. I told the endocrinologist I’m extremely sensitive to medication (“Whatever you usually give people, cut it in half”), and it turns out I’m getting double the usual starter dose. So hopefully this will help.

Also, I’m absolutely thrilled to find out that the tear in my rotator cuff is minor, and won’t require surgery.

“What were you doing that you hurt this?” the physiatrist said, twisting my arm this way and that.

“Well,” I said, “I had my gall bladder out and I developed shingles right after. The only way I could get out of bed was to prop myself up with my left arm. I think that did it.”

Yeah, that would do it, he said. So he gave me a cortisone shot (he said he could do prolotherapy, but he’d recommend cortisone because I was in so much pain), told me not to work out for a few days, and then we had a nice chat about Vitamin D deficiencies. (He said just about everyone he tests now has really low levels.) I always enjoy going to see him because he’s one of those doctors who actually listens instead of trying to rush you out the door.

He also taped my shoulder with a bunch of black Kinesio tape to hold my shoulder in place. I look like an NFL linebacker.

The most interesting thing I’ve learned from him is how dumb it is to rely solely on blood tests and MRIs. “Everybody’s different,” he says. “I’ve had people in here who could barely walk, but nothing showed up on the MRIs. I’ve had other patients who have horrible MRIs and no symptoms at all. So it makes a lot more sense to just treat the patient’s symptoms.”

‘Sesame Street’ theme used to torture?

Maybe the guards at Gitmo played it over and over again by itself. That would be enough to drive me mad. Or maybe they alternated it with Megadeth, or played it simultaneously with Megadeth. All we really know for sure is that the dirty dogs who authorized torture of detainees were never held accountable for their crimes.

From The Raw Story:

Christopher Cerf, creator of the children’s program The Electric Company and an award-winning composer who produced the theme song to Sesame Street, told a reporter recently that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “perverted” his music “to serve evil” by using his most famous composition to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Documents made public in 2010 revealed that ten specific torture techniques were recommended by Bush administration attorneys, although the CIA had proposed 12. Among those rejected were mock burials and prolonged diapering, but among the legal tactics, loud music, threatening prisoners with power drills or guns, physical abuse, simulated drowning and sensory deprivation were all commonly deployed.

In a documentary aired Wednesday, Al Jazeera World captures Cerf on camera as he learns for the first time that his music was used by U.S. interrogators.

“[The] idea that my music had a role in that is kind of outrageous,” he’s quoted as saying. “This is fascinating to me both because of the horror of music being perverted to serve evil purposes if you like, but I’m also interested in how that’s done. What is it about music that would make it work for that purpose?”

The film depicts a meeting between Cerf and a soldier, former Guantanamo Bay guard Chris Arendt, who spoke publicly about his experiences during a 2008 Iraq Veterans Against the War event called “Winter Soldier…”

Comparing employment collapses


…For all its woes, Japan has never experienced the kind of employment collapse we’ve suffered. That’s the sense in which we’re doing far worse than the Japanese ever did.

So as I said, in a way Japan is no longer a cautionary tale; it’s still a lousy story, but compared to us it almost looks like a role model…

Who’s more ‘austere,’ Obama or Romney?

From TPM:

… Across the spectrum, experts are imploring political leaders not to be myopic and unyielding: delay the budget cuts until the economic recovery really takes hold, but be ready with a more considered course of deficit reduction when that moment arrives.

Yet Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and their surrogates on Capitol Hill, are locked in a fight over which candidate and which party will more quickly and effectively reduce the deficit — the opposite of what economists say we need …

Chris Hayes, heroes, and ‘Catch-22’

Erik Kain at Mother Jones, defending MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who was bombarded with insults after questioning the wisdom of automatically referring to Americans soldiers who fall in battle as heroes:

In transforming our soldiers or police automatically into “heroes” we ignore the atrocities our own side commits. In doing so we also ignore the real moments of heroism. We give a free pass to anyone with a uniform and a gun regardless of their individual merit, and lend unwitting support to every war, from Iraq and Afghanistan to the War on Drugs, in the process.

I’m with Kain. What we need these days are more anti-heroes — people who rebel against the “my country right or wrong mentality” that allows us to be manipulated by lying politicians who all too often take the country into unnecessary wars to enrich “defense” contractors while dodging serious domestic problems.

We need more people like Yossarian, in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. More here.

GOP fights to keep military fossil-fueled

How will members of Congress who are owned by Big Oil respond to calls for a “greener” military? This one’s a no-brainer, as they say on sports-talk radio:

… The House GOP included a measure in the defense authorization bill this month prohibiting the Defense Department from buying alternative fuels if they cost more than “traditional fossil fuel.” And the Senate Armed Services Committee last week followed suit with an “even tougher” provision mirroring the House version but also exempts DOD from clean energy standards…

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