Dreams of 9/11

This is just one of the sites around the web that collects stories about premonition dreams of 9/11. (I remember reading one about a illiterate tribal chieftain somewhere who saw the whole thing in his dream.) Many relatives of the people who died report that they seemed to know ahead of time.

And I had a dream about it, 18 months before it happened. When it happened, I didn’t even remember – a couple of my friends had to remind me. (I’d confided the details because it was so vivid, and so puzzling.)

In the dream, I was in downtown Manhattan. (I knew that’s where I was, because it’s the only place I’ve ever been where sunlight is blocked and the streets are like wind tunnels.) I was walking down the street and saw two long, skinny tornadoes hit the sides of two skyscrapers. As they hit, I saw papers everywhere. One of the strange things I remember is, large granite blocks were floating down as if they were filled with air.

In front of the canopy of a nearby hotel, Bill Clinton was holding a press conference, assuring everyone that the tornadoes were a fluke, everything would be fine. He was sort of smirky and creepy. He was laughing and talking with the reporters, and when he was done, turned to go back into the hotel and I was the only person who could see his face: He looked terrified. I said to myself, “Wow, the president of the United States is terrified, which means this has to do with nuclear or chemical weapons.”

And then I woke up.

I figure the election was still up in the air, so my psyche stuck Bill Clinton in as a placeholder, since he was the current president. I remember being shocked that I had such a negative reaction to him — and no wonder. I was responding with the same visceral revulsion I feel for George W. Bush.

Not all the details are correct, obviously, but the general gist was there. And so were the dreams of a lot of people.

Bible belters suspicious of Mitt

I am not all that surprised:

(Reuters) – Sheryl Harris, a voluble 52-year-old with a Virginia drawl, voted twice for George W. Bush. Raised Baptist, she is convinced — despite all evidence to the contrary — that President Barack Obama, a practicing Christian, is Muslim.


So in this year’s presidential election, will she support Mitt Romney? Not a chance.


“Romney’s going to help the upper class,” said Harris, who earns $28,000 a year as activities director of a Lynchburg senior center. “He doesn’t know everyday people, except maybe the person who cleans his house.”


She’ll vote for Obama, she said: “At least he wasn’t brought up filthy rich.”


White lower- and middle-income voters such as Harris are wild cards in this vituperative presidential campaign. With only a sliver of the electorate in play nationwide, they could be a deciding factor in two southern swing states, Virginia and North Carolina.


Reuters/Ipsos polling data compiled over the past several months shows that, across the Bible Belt, 38 percent of these voters said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who is “very wealthy” than one who isn’t. This is well above the 20 percent who said they would be less likely to vote for an African-American.


In Lynchburg, many haven’t forgotten Romney’s casual offer to bet Texas Governor Rick Perry $10,000 or his mention of his wife’s “couple of Cadillacs.” Virginia airwaves are saturated with Democratic ads hammering Romney’s Cayman Islands investments and his refusal to release more than two years of tax returns.

Stand against Rahm

Rick Perlstein in Salon:

Since Rahm Emanuel’s election in the spring of 2011, Chicago’s teachers have been asked to eat shit by a mayor obsessed with displaying to the universe his “toughness” — toughness with the working-class people that make the city tick; toughness with the protesters standing up to say “no”; but never, ever toughness with the vested interests, including anti-union charter school advocates, who poured $12 million into his coffers to elect him mayor (his closet competitor raised $2.5 million). The roots of the strike began when Emanuel announced his signature education initiative: extending Chicago’s school day. Overwhelmingly, Chicago’s teachers support lengthening the day, which is the shortest of any major district in the country. Just not the way Rahm wanted to ram it down their throats: 20 percent more work; 2 percent more pay.


He had already canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent cost-of-living raise, and accused teachers who balked of not caring about their students. The teachers’ response to this abuse is something all of us should be paying attention to. If Chapter 1 of the American people’s modern grass-roots fight against the plutocracy was the demonstrations at the Wisconsin State Capitol in the spring of 2011, and Chapter 2 was the Occupy encampments of that summer, the Chicago Teachers Union’s stand against Emanuel should go down as Chapter 3. It’s been inspiration to anyone frustrated that people have forgotten how good it feels to stand up to bullies — and how effective it can be.


The CTU lost the first skirmish last year when Emanuel trundled down to the state capitol in Springfield to wire a new statute sure to forestall accountability for his draconian plan: alone among Illinois municipal workers, teachers would need a 75 percent vote among their membership to authorize a strike. Then in June of this year, after a rally that overflowed a 3,929-capacity theater with red CTU T-shirts, almost 90 percent of members voted through that authorization, should their leaders choose to call a strike. Counting spoiled ballots, the number of teachers voting against the authorization amounted to little more than a handful.


Teachers trust their leadership. They don’t trust the mayor — who the union’s feisty president, Karen Lewis, claims told her at a social outing at the ballet shortly after his election “that 25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them.” The exchange points to a key hinge in the story: Who in the dispute, the teachers’ union or the mayor, most earnestly has the interests of “the children” at heart?

Medicare is not going bankrupt

Trudy Lieberman at the Columbia Journalism Review points out that CNN actually did the fact-checking that no other news org is doing on Medicare:

Hooray for CNN.com, for fact checking the often-heard claim of Medicare’s “impending” bankruptcy. CNN’s contribution sets a high bar, and the network also distinguishes itself from the over-the-top fact checking that has cropped up lately, as pointed out recently by my colleague Brendan Nyhan.


The “bankruptcy” language comes up a lot. In his convention speech last week, for example, former president Bill Clinton declared that Mitt Romney’s goal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), presumably along with its provisions that prolong the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund, would make “Medicare go broke in 2016.” And on Thursday, vice president Joe Biden said that Romney’s plan “would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016.”


The word “bankrupt” is high on Romney’s list of talking points, too. A Romney spokesperson told CNN, when it asked for a response to Clinton’s charges, “Medicare will go bankrupt in 2024.” That’s when Medicare trustees now say the hospital trust fund will have a money shortfall.

But is Medicare really going bankrupt? Definitely not, says CNN. The network is correct, and the point is crucial.


How did CNN pull away from the fact-checking pack on this one? It did some old-fashioned reporting, read some financial reports, and found sources that could really give the financial skinny on Medicare. And it didn’t go for that “mostly true” or “partly misleading” stuff that some other fact checking pieces resort to, which can confuse readers more than it enlightens them.


First, CNN reported, as CJR has urged news outlets to do, that only one part of Medicare is in potential trouble—the Hospital Trust Fund, which is financed by payroll taxes. The other parts of Medicare, including Part B, which finances doctor visits, lab tests, and outpatient services, “are adequately financed for now,” Medicare trustees have said. CNN made that clear to readers.


CNN pushed further and asked a logical question that most reporters writing about Medicare have missed. When the magic date for “bankruptcy” arrives—2024 according to the Dems, or 2016 if the ACA disappears in a Romney presidency—would Medicare really disappear? Jonathan Oberlander, a health policy expert at the University of North Carolina, told CNN that repealing the health reform law “would in fact worsen Medicare’s financial condition,” but even so, he added, “Medicare is not going bankrupt. Medicare would still have most of the necessary funds to pay those expenses and other parts of the program would be unaffected. Medicare won’t go bankrupt in the literal sense in 2016 or 2024 or 2064—or ever.” The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the Medicare program, said this year that even in 2024 the Medicare hospital trust fund could still pay 87 percent of its estimated expenditures, and noted that, “in practice, Congress has never allowed a Medicare trust fund to exhaust its assets.”


Historical context is often lacking in fact-checking attempts, though the past may be prologue. CNN reached back to some Medicare history, and others should, too. The Congressional Research Service, a neutral source, and the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a group that skews left of center on some issues, both have reports that place the bankruptcy claim in historical context. For four decades, both reports note, Medicare trustees have warned of insolvency, and it has never happened.

That’s not to say that Medicare’s cost explosion is not a problem. How to control cost—not just for Medicare but for al the rest of the healthcare system, too—is a central issuethat the press needs to clarify. It’s the elephant in the room.


So should voters be worried? Not about bankruptcy, as CNN so ably pointed out. But they need to understand what changes have already been made to Medicare, and what changes could occur if Romney were elected and Medicare were transformed from social insurance into a privatized system.

There’s an app for that

This is great, because you can tell all your wingnut relatives they don’t have to take your word for it, they can see for themselves who’s behind the nastiest political ads this season. And of course, it goes without saying that every journalist should be using Ad Hawk:

As an ad slamming President Obama’s tax policies prompts a YouTube video, local software developer Bob Lannon takes out his iPhone. He opens up an app, holds it to the speaker and puts his thumb to a big button in the middle of the screen. Within 25 seconds, the app returns information on the source: a conservative super PAC titled Crossroads Generation. A splash page shows information on its spending for and against candidates of either party, a history of its ad buys and a link to information on its donors.


Following campaign money has never been easier—or more important. This year has seen an unprecedented flood of negative campaign ads in swing states like Pennsylvania. In the super PAC era of politics, voters may wonder about the veracity of mean-spirited advertisements sponsored by Orwellian-sounding entities. But courtesy of a group of activist Philadelphia software developers and their collaborators at a nonprofit government watchdog: There’s an app for that.


A free app released Aug. 22 by the Sunlight Foundation—an organization that seeks to ensure government transparency—Ad Hawk works like popular music identification apps Shazam and Soundhound. You hold your iPhone or Android-based phone to an audio source, and the app links you to information about that source. It’s just one of many citizen-empowerment apps that have cropped up as election season gets under way.

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