Monday, December 21, 2009

Health Care Reform Fantods

Remember when Holden Caulfield got the fantods? Or did he accuse others of having them? Anyway, I'm pretty sure I had a case yesterday morning when Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake sent me an e-mail urging me to phone Congress asking that they scuttle the Senate Health Care bill.

I admire Jane Hamsher. Writer, film producer, breast cancer survivor and burr under the status quo's saddle, she has ridden health care hard. Her blog Firedoglake is reliably smart and irreverent and often hilarious. She makes me want to do her bidding. This morning I couldn't, ergo the fantods.

Thank heaven for Twitter. Within half an hour a handful more smart people posted charts and links that calmed the roiling sea in my head. One of the few Twitter friends I have whom I've met in real life, Bumblebums, called Hamsher "a gadfly" and reminded me that less shrill voices are out there.

Some of those include Jon Cohn, senior editor at the National Review, and Dan Roam of fame. May the gods and goddesses of political discourse bless Chris Bowers, too. His consistently thoughtful voice over at is like kryptonite to politically engendered anxiety.

All of these writers kept me from fretting. They made my work for SEIU and Change That Works seem right minded and good, not the naive waste of time my lesser angels had begun to hiss in my ear.

So, we traded health care reform for health insurance reform. So, it's only a modicum of reform. Click on Jon Cohn's piece and look carefully at his chart. He makes it clear that this reform is significantly better than the scalpel in the eye we have been experiencing for decades.

Update, 0940 23.Dec.09: Apparently other lefty liberals are feeling the same about Hamsher.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lousy, Lazy Journalism: Mine

In fact, what I'm about to commit here can hardly be called journalism at all. I cannot tell this story properly because I do not have the witness's permission to use his name and I have not taken the time to do the necessary investigative reporting to make the story interesting or informative. Nevertheless, the story wants telling. Maine's forests depend on it.

Here is what I know.

A lifelong Maine logger has become so dejected and demoralized by the recent degradation of woodcutting practices in the state that he is moving to upstate New York to work in a more sustainable industry. This logger, about 50, had been living north of Orono for nearly 30 years. I met him this fall, a few weeks after he had sold his home and just before he and his wife set out for New York.

This Grizzly Adams of a man loomed over us. Even Stan, who at six foot three inches is a bit of a loomer himself, had to lift his chin a hair to meet the man's gaze. The logger's long blond curls hung in tendrils past his clean plaid flannel shirt collars. He told us his story in poignant tones. Though he did not appear to be a man accustomed to sharing emotion with strangers, more than once his voice caught and his hands opened as if invoking cosmic help for the sad state of Maine's north woods.

He told us that even before the state's fiscal situation deteriorated to its current abyss, standards and practices in Maine's woods had begun to drift. He said a huge investment company called GMO had recently purchased land formerly owned by paper companies and that since that exchange logging in Maine had changed dramatically.

The logger spoke of GMO in almost mystical terms. He alluded to the company's size and power without really explaining what kind of company it was. Only when I got home to Google did I see that it is a multi-national investment firm with investment interests running the gamut from forestry to algorithmic trading. The head of acquisitions for the forestry division is Bob Saul.

"We never left land looking like they do now," said the logger, as he described the new wood harvesting order. "They're just chewing it up." He said no one is watching anymore. Or if there is supervision it is of the least ethical kind. "GMO has power over them somehow," he surmised.

The sorrow and anxiety in this hard working man's face was clear. The prospects of moving his household at a time when most men begin to plan their retirement showed.

If anyone knows anything about GMO or Bob Saul, I'd appreciate the help. Because of laziness, disorganization and general distraction, I've given up illuminating this story beyond a man's heartbreak at having to leave the sweet home in the woods he had made. The story, if there is any truth to this sweet man's tale, deserves much more attention.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Military Effectively Bans Abortion for Female Soldiers

Unable to get an abortion during a tour of duty in Iraq a soldier is left with no option but to do it herself—a humiliating but not uncommon story. Women in the military are forced to obtain a leave to get the care they need; but if they’re honest about why, they put their military career in jeopardy. If they’re not, they put their career in jeopardy.

One woman's response devastated her career. The article's by Kathryn Joyce, who exposed the power of the Christian Right's influence on families in "Quiverful: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement."

I found this story thanks to reporter @sarahposner.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Facebook Moves Beyond the Pale

The expression "beyond the pale" has to do with boundaries, as in out of bounds, off the reservation, beyond our control, over the edge, et al. One of the reasons Facebook seemed fun and interesting initially is that it had boundaries. Users could relatively easily control what they saw and what others saw of their cyber-lives.

In a recent move, the powers that be at FB have made two grave errors in judgment.
What it will mean remains to be seen, but the changes have to be viewed as wrong and wrong by anyone who values boundaries of any kind. (Yes, for to some of my friends this seems an odd stance for me to take. Let's just say Facebook raised my boundary consciousness.)

First, they have decided to index all content for search engines in order to drive page view traffic. All content they have access to, that is. And they are working hard to make sure that is a great deal of content.

Second, in a supposed move to make privacy better, default settings have been changed so that unless one is careful, everything in a profile, album, listing or page is available to everyone in the world.

This does not even take into account the recent third party astroturfing, where health insurers' trade groups offered gaming cash, for games like Mafia Wars and FarmVille, in exchange for a few clicks. These clicks eventually led to the gamers unwittingly lending their names to anti-health care reform letters. This is not a way to warm the cockles of my heart.

I am deleting my long inactive account tonight.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dana Perino is No Ainsley Hayes

In late November former Bush Press Secretary Dana Perino made headlines with career moves, then a World's Worst Person nomination. First former Clinton administration PR guy Mark Penn hired her for his DC firm Burson-Marsteller where she joins the likes of Bush pal Karen Hughes and Clinton speechwriter Josh Gottheimer.

Within the week the Obama administration nominated Perino for the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors. According to the Hill the board:
...governs all government sponsored, non-military international broadcasting outlets, such as Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, and Alhurra. The BBG is a nine member, bipartisan panel.

Next thing we know, Perino, as part of a regular gig on Fox News describes the recent Fort Hood nightmare as a domestic terrorist attack and appears to forget Sept. 11, 2001 when she claims there were no such attacks during President George W. Bush's watch. This goof garnered her a World's Worst Person award from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.

Fresh off a wonderful West Wing jag with S, I cannot help but be struck by the stark difference between Perino and the fictional blonde Republican whom WW's President Bartlett hires as White House counsel because, as his Chief of Staff Leo McGarry says, "he likes smart people who disagree with him." Early in season two, Ainsley Hayes catches a vaguely smug smartypants Sam Seaborn flatfooted on a live television show and proceeds to demonstrate intelligence and charming nerdiness enough to fit in with the rest of the WW crew.

Here in real life, Dana Perino forgot who was president when the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001, so I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have known whether Gilbert and Sullivan's "He is an Englishman" was in Pinafore or Penzance. Both Hayes and Seaborn knew it was Pinafore.