Friday, July 31, 2009

And This Is Why...UPDATED

People are understandably wary about the government handling our health insurance. That would be the CLUNKER program. I trust you have heard about this? If not, here is a short review:

Okay. I can see some wisdom in that. It is great to get these old gas guzzlers off the road, recycle the vehicles, have people driving new, more efficient vehicles, and helping out the automobile industry. Not bad! Oh, but wait. Maybe it's bad for the taxpayers, and those who have been more energy conscious all along:

Well, there's a problem. Not to mention that many people will not be putting the money back into the AMERICAN automakers' pocket, but foreign automakers who are making affordable, fuel efficient vehicles. So there is that.

But here's a HUGE problem: The program is already broke. I am not kidding you. In FOUR days, the program has expended ALL of the money, $1 BILLION dollars, allocated to it. I guess that's a good news/bad news kind of thing. It worked, but now the funds have gone * poof *! There's hope, though:
A source told FOX News that senior Congressional leaders, the Obama administration and other lawmakers involved with the program are exploring potential options to either undertake administrative or possibly even Congressional action to infuse the program with cash.

Lawmakers were examining whether there was a possible avenue to provide much-needed reserves for the program as early as Friday.

Rep. Ed Markey, D.- Mass., co-author of the cash for clunkers provision, pledged to work with the Obama administration to ensure the program continues.

"Cash for Clunkers may have run out of cash, but America's consumers haven't run out of clunkers. We're going to work with the Obama administration to keep this wildly successful program going until it reaches its goal of helping consumers take 1 million gas guzzlers off the road," he said.

Like I said, glad the program was successful for the consumers for all of four days.

But wait - it wasn't TOTALLY successful:
A survey of 2,000 dealers by the National Automobile Dealers Association found about 25,000 deals had not yet been approved by NHTSA, or nearly 13 trades per store. It raised concerns that with about 23,000 dealers taking part in the program, auto dealers may already have surpassed the 250,000 vehicle sales funded by the $1 billion program.

"There's a significant backlog of 'cash for clunkers' deals that make us question how much funding is still available in the program," said Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the dealers association.

Alan Helfman, general manager of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep in Houston, said he was worried that the government wouldn't pay for some of the clunker deals his dealership has signed because they aren't far enough along in the process.

His dealership has done paperwork on about 20 sales under the clunker program, but in some cases the titles haven't been obtained yet or the vehicles aren't yet on his lot.

"There's no doubt I'm going to get hammered on a deal or two," Helfman said.

Oops. Sorry, dealers!

So the dealers are left holding the bag. They may get reimbursed, or they may not. Who knows?

But what does that say about how the government will manage HEALTH care?? That's just a tad more serious for many, many people - getting in to see their doctors, or having surgery - than trading in an old car. Nice program and all, but if they cannot handle that without huge complications in the very first week, running out of money, how in the world can we trust them to do right by us in terms of our HEALTH?? Sure gives one pause, doesn't it?

UPDATE: The House has just voted to give an additional $2 Billion to this program. Well, gosh - maybe it will last a whole week then, especially if you figure there are lots of dealers who haven't been paid for the first four days...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Maybe If We Leave It To The Women?

I got an email recently from an organization that has impressed me, As their name implies, they work hard on Behalf of our veterans. They work not just on behalf of our veterans, but all those currently serving in the military. The email was on the issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which wants repealed, and has been actively pursuing to achieve that end. You know I could not agree more.

So, I was reading the email, thinking, "hey, this is a really nice email. I wonder who wrote it?" And then I got to just who it was. Check it out:
The military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is an unjust, outdated, and harmful rule that violates the civil rights of some of our bravest, most heroic men and women.

That's why I have been working, along with my colleagues in the Senate and so many of you, to overturn this wasteful and destructive policy.

Today, I have great news: Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has agreed to hold the first Senate hearings on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this Fall.

We have to prepare for these hearings, so I'm launching a nationwide call to action and need the help of everyone at My goal is to get thousands of people to stand with me and show that this country is ready to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Click here to help end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I want to show my colleagues that America is ready to do the right thing.

Numerous military leaders are already telling us that this policy should be reversed. Having lost over 13,000 of our best and brightest to this policy, including over 800 in "mission critical" areas such as 10% of our Arabic and Farsi speakers, and wasting nearly $200 million in training and recruitment costs, the time for change is now.

We must all join together now and speak up on behalf of the brave men and women who only want to serve their country.

The announcement of hearings this fall is great news and a critical milestone on the road to repeal. But our work is not yet done.

Click here to help end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

I need your support right away, but moreover, I need you to share our call to action with your friends and colleagues who want to repeal this policy, too. Earning the broadest support possible is the only way to convey the message this Fall that the American people want to undo this harmful policy.

I want to thank for helping to lead the fight to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Together, I am sure that we can make America stronger and bring equality to our Armed Services.

Kirsten Gillibrand
U.S. Senator

Paid for by PAC and Authorized by Gillibrand for Senate

Dang, I know, right? She's following in Hillary Clinton's footsteps! I am not being sarcastic when I say that New Yorkers should be very proud that Gillibrand has followed Clinton's lead, and is taking up one of the issues important to Secretary Clinton. Good for her; good for US, good for the U.S.

And I received another email recently. This time about Secretary of State Clinton. It was a petition request to thank Secretary Clinton for all of her work on behalf of women and children, sponsored by the United Nations Foundation through Nice, right? And about damn time, too:
Thank Secretary Clinton for Protecting Women's Rights
Target: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Sponsored by: United Nations Foundation

A nation's economic health is directly impacted by the health, education and workforce opportunities of its women. Yet the current economic crisis is overshadowing critical discussions about women's rights, putting women and girls worldwide at greater risk.

Fortunately, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues to champion women's rights on an international stage, and has drawn much-needed attention and funding for family planning and reproductive health issues – both critical to women's long-term success and welfare.

Under Secretary Clinton's leadership, a new day is dawning for the world's women and girls. The Administration has requested a considerable increase over last year's assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs, overturned the Global Gag rule, and established the first Office for Women and Girls and an Office of Global Women's Issues in the White House and State Department.

Send a letter
thanking Secretary Clinton for her dedication to women's rights and empowerment – and for her work in improving women's lives around the world.

The letter they have written is quite nice, and you can add your own two cents worth to thank Secretary Clinton for her lifelong work toward women's equality.

Oh, and one last thing, and this has nothing to do with an email. It's more of a question, really. Why is it that Lucia Whalen, the woman who made the 911 call in Cambridge for another woman, who has been threatened, called a racist, and generally had her life turned upside down by being a good citizen, has not been invited to the Beer-Fest at the White House tonight? I'm just wondering - it seems to me that she at least deserves a damn beer after all she has gone through, including having to hire an attorney. I guess it's "Men Only" and she is, after all, just a woman. No need for HER to get an apology from anyone, apparently. So, while we now know the beer of choice for Obama, Gates, and Crowley, we know Whalen wasn't invited. Nope:
White House officials declined to respond to questions whether Whalen should be invited as well.

Uh, yeah, no - no more mention of Ms. Whalen attending.

Here's what I think should happen. I think Secretary of State Clinton should invite Ms. Whalen out for drinks (in whatever form that takes be it cappuccinos, wine, what-have-you). Then they can discuss the various and sundry ways in which the Old Boys' Club is alive and well. Oh, and what it feels like to be saddled with a horrible moniker like, "Racist," when one is nothing of the kind.

And I have one last question if that happens: Can I come?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MsPlacedDemocrat Will Be Missed UPDATED

Nancy Armstrong, aka, MsPlacedDemocrat, aka Navy Vetdied suddenly today. My heart goes out to her family and friends, which include many in the blogosphere. (H/T to my friend, Diamond Tiger, for passing along this news.)

My fellow NQ writer, American Girl in Italy, found this video of Nancy Armstrong on the Glenn Beck Show:

And I would like to offer this prayer (adapted) by A. Powell Davies, a Unitarian minister who served at All Souls Church in Washington, D.C. in the '40's and '50's, and dedicated to social justice:
The love we can no longer give to our beloved, may we give it to those who need it. May our compassion be deeper, our sympathy wider. Let our sorrow melt away our bitterness and teach us to be gentle. May we be saved from frozen-ness of heart. If so much that is precious can so soon be lost, let us cherish what remains; and let us be the nurture of things precious in the lives of others.

Whatever we have known and loved is ours while life shall last. May we see that what we love becomes a part of us, is interfused with our lives, blended with mind and memory and joined to our souls. May we resolve that the good we knew in those who have gone from ys shall live in us and be passed on from one generation to another.

When we do not know and cannot see, may we put our trust in things we cannot see. Even in this life, all about us and within us there is mystery/ Yet the mystery shines, and in its light we see the beautiful and good. May we have faith that it is not otherwise beyond the limit of our sight: that beauty endures, that goodness (and love) reign.

MsPlacedDemocrat will be missed...

Maxine Waters Threatens Blue Dogs

Just as a reminder of who Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is, here's this little clip of her speaking to the "Non-partisan" (HAHAHAHAHA) group, ACORN:

Just when were you thinking you weren't going to let Obama get away with anything, Rep. Waters?? Because, so far, if you ask me and will pardon the pun, you seem to be his water-carrier. Yep, you seem to be acting more like Rep. Jesse Jackson did, threatening people with retaliation and loss of their positions if they didn't toe the Obama line:

And honestly, while I was often frustrated by the Blue Dogs myself, considering the massive, humongous deficit under which we are currently staggering, perhaps a little fiscal conservancy might just be what the doctor ordered? (Sorry - I don't know what is wrong with me today with the pun thing...) But maybe they just want to READ the damn thing first before voting on it, Rep. Waters? I realize that is not a very popular idea among prominent Democratic Representatives, but the people kinda like the thought of our elected representatives knowing what the hell the bill says first before foisting it upon us.

I wonder if Waters' thinks the recent polls among a number of organizations showing growing disapproval of Congress is because of these few people whose tenure she is threatening for 2010, or because of people like her, Hoyer, and Conyers, who are trying to ram a major, life-changing, proposal through Congress without giving it the proper attention it deserves? Just askin'.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"You Expect Us To READ This??"

That is, in essence, what Rep. John Conyers said as he mocked representatives on the floor insisting bills are actually read before they go up for a vote (H/T to NQ Reader tzada, for the alert). Don't take my word for it, though. Here Representative Conyers is saying so:

"What good is it?" What GOOD IS IT to read the bill???? Are you freakin' kidding me? Well, Rep. Conyers, I'll tell you: I have a bit of a problem with our Congresspeople not bothering to know just what the hell they are voting on when they rush bills through. I think we have seen how that has worked out in terms of the Stimulus Bill, haven't we? Cap and Trade? And now the Health Care Bill? "What good is it," indeed. I am sure you have made your constituents SO proud to have you represent them.

Apparently, other American citizens actually care about "what good is it to read the bill," too, as this piece by Philadelphia Inquirer Columnist Kevin Ferris, would indicate, "Back Channels: Imagine: Reading A Bill Before Passing It." See, to ME, this should go without saying. But apparently NOT to the people elected to do the people's business:
In 1776, the rallying cry was, "No taxation without representation."

Today, it could be, "No taxation without totally clueless representation."

That's what Americans got on June 26, when the House voted 219-212 for the "cap-and-tax" energy bill, as the Republicans refer to it. The bill ran more than 1,000 pages, and before members had time to digest that tome, 300 pages of amendments were added after midnight. When Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) started to read the additions, bill cosponsor Henry A. Waxman (D., Calif.) objected. He was rebuffed. There are no time limits for comments by House leaders.

"When you file a 300-page amendment at 3:09 a.m., the American people have a right to know what's in this bill," Boehner said.

Whether this bill will lessen greenhouse-gas emissions - as Democrats hope - or kill countless jobs - as Republicans predict - or ever pass the Senate, remains to be seen. But the House vote did raise a question that cuts across party and ideology:

How can lawmakers vote on something so important without a thorough understanding of what's in it?

Are you asking me? If so, my answer is, they should NOT be voting on ANYTHING they have not read thoroughly! Hell to the no, they should not laugh off the idea of READING it!

Of course, there are varying levels of bills. I understand that. So does Ferris:
Not the everyday "We hereby rename this post office in honor of so-and-so" or "We officially declare this Goldfish Month." The big things, like an almost $800 billion stimulus plan, or an energy package that Politico said "would transform the country's economy and industrial landscape."

Actually reading such legislation, as the founders might say, should be self-evident.

But apparently not. So a little nudge is in order, especially with health-care reform looming.

One nudger is Colin Hanna, a former Chester County commissioner and president of the conservative advocacy group Let Freedom Ring. He has begun a campaign ( that asks members of the House and Senate to promise the following:

"I . . . pledge to my constituents and to the American people that I will not vote to enact any health-care reform package that:

"1) I have not read, personally, in its entirety; and,

"2) Has not been available, in its entirety, to the American people on the Internet for at least 72 hours, so that they can read it too."

I know nothing about this organization, but still, how can you argue with reading the bill??? I might ad, this is FAR from a "conservatives only" issue:
Let Freedom Ring isn't alone. A consortium of liberal and good-government groups is backing, and a libertarian group,, essentially wants the two planks of Hanna's pledge enacted as federal law.

Having been a commissioner, Hanna understands that lawmakers can't read every line of every bill, but he argues that in some cases it's necessary.

"There are certain issues of scope and importance that demand an extra measure of due diligence, including reading the bill in full," he said in an interview. Health care, cap-and-trade, and the stimulus all rise to that level, he says, adding that legislators dismiss this sentiment at their peril.

"There is a rising public demand that bills be read," he says. "And there is a rising public outrage against politicians who dismissively suggest that's just the way Washington works."

I know - you probably think he means John Conyers here. Nope. Someone with even more power:
He is referring to a Politico story about the initial response by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D., Md.) when asked about a pledge: laughter. But then Hoyer backpedaled, saying that of course members, staff, or review boards read bills, or at least "substantial portions."

Hoyer's reaction shows that the priority is not to make informed judgments and improve legislation, Hanna suggests, but to rush through bad laws before anyone can object.

"They want to completely control the entire legislative process and ram it down not only Congress' throat but the American people's throat, and we think that's wrong," Hanna says.

So it would seem. I don't think that is solely a Democratic thing, but for a Party whose very name implies that it cares about DEMOCRACY, it is a bit of a problem, if you ask me. And ISN'T THIS FOR WHAT THESE PEOPLE ARE PAID??? Geezum crow already! I guess if they are willing to give up a good portion of their salaries, that might be more understandable. Or have the work become part-time. Obama is used to that concept - he might actually go for that. Ahem. Naturally, that won't happen anytime soon, so it is up to us:
If Congress hasn't the time or inclination to read the bills, let the public do it. And that's where Part 2 of the pledge comes in - allowing 72 hours for citizens to read legislation online before a vote.

"We have the technology to make complex legislation available for public and media inspection," Hanna says. "We're not being true to the ideals of democracy if we don't take advantage of that technology."

He has a point. Granted, a "read the bill" movement can come off as gimmicky, but given recent votes and the magnitude of the bills, how does one argue against citizen access to legislation? Candidate Obama had promised to post bills online before he signed them into law. He's broken the promise, so let Congress set an even higher standard.

We'll have a better idea tomorrow. On his Web site, Hanna has been tallying the number of pledge supporters. Tomorrow, he plans to reveal the names of those backers - as well as those who rejected or ignored the offer to sign the pledge.

At which time voters will be a little better informed, even if their senators and representatives refuse to be. (Contact Kevin Ferris at, or 215-854-5305.)

Seems to me there are a couple of options here. Either the lawmakers make the bills SHORTER, and only address the issue at hand - and not throw in everything including the kitchen sink. OR they take the time to READ THE DAMN THING. Frankly, I don't think that is too much to ask of them. Come to think of it, that is the very LEAST we can ask of them, don't you think?

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Harbinger Of Things To Come?

One can only hope. Oh, hahaha - "hope" - yes, it is a part of this story. "Hope and Change" - sound familiar? It should, not just for Barack Obama, but for his buddy for whom this strategy was tested: Deval Patrick. Oh yes, in case you didn't already know, Patrick and Obama share the same media consultant: David Axelrod. Patrick rehearsed all of Obama's lines for him just to see if they would work. They did, and he got elected.

But now, it seems things aren't looking so good for Patrick's re-election. It seems the folks in Massachusetts are finding that "Hope!" and "Change!" don't put food on the table, as this article details: Patrick Support Plummets, Poll Finds: Faulted on economy, reforms; tough reelection fight ahead. Oh, dear - that doesn't look good does it? And check out why:
Governor Deval Patrick, fresh off signing a major tax increase and still battling through a historic budget crisis, has seen a huge drop in his standing among Massachusetts voters and faces a tough road to a second term, according to a new Boston Globe poll.

The survey, taken 16 months before the election, shows that the public has lost faith in Patrick’s ability to handle the state’s fiscal problems or bring reform to Beacon Hill, as he had promised. He is either losing or running neck-and-neck in matchups with prospective rivals, according to the poll, conducted for the Globe by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Patrick’s favorability rating has dropped sharply over the past seven months, with just 36 percent of respondents holding a favorable opinion of him, and 52 percent viewing him unfavorably. As recently as December, 64 percent of voters viewed him favorably.

The governor’s job-approval rating, sampled after Patrick scored several major legislative victories but also approved $1 billion in new taxes, is even worse, with just 35 percent of respondents approving and 56 per cent disapproving of his performance. Just as ominously, 61 percent said the state is on the wrong track, compared with 31 percent who said it was headed in the right direction, down from 44 percent in December - numbers reminiscent of voters’ mood before Patrick captured the corner office from Republicans in 2006.

Even the state Legislature, traditionally held in low esteem by the public, won higher marks when voters were asked whom they trust more to manage the state budget crisis and faltering economy. Forty percent said they put more faith in state lawmakers to handle fiscal issues, compared with 23 percent for Patrick.

“These numbers indicate that Patrick is in a very difficult position regarding his reelection,’’ said Andrew E. Smith, director of the survey center. “Voters do not think he is up to the task of dealing with the state’s fiscal problems, and he has lost his mantle as a reformer.’’

The poll, conducted among 545 respondents statewide from July 15 to 21, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Well, yes, I would think so. In order to be a reformer, one has to be a reformer! I'm just sayin', you can't just CLAIM you do something without actually following through on it. Again, as noted a gazillion other times, "words, just words" just don't cut it in a real-world kind of way.

Well, it's not all Patrick's fault, I suppose:
Patrick, the poll numbers suggest, is being blamed in part for the fallout from a global recession largely beyond his control. But even as Massachusetts approved this year’s budget without the political acrimony that has crippled states such as New York and California, polls around the country indicate that Patrick appears to be one of the least popular governors in the nation.

The potential matchups for the 2010 election illustrate the perilous political position of Patrick, who has said he will not govern on the basis of poll numbers.

State Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who left the Democratic Party this month to plot a potential independent gubernatorial candidacy, runs even with the governor in a three-way race that includes a Republican candidate.

Cahill also has a much higher standing with the public: Forty-two percent of respondents say they view him favorably, compared with 17 percent who view him unfavorably; the rest said they did not know.

Without Cahill in the race, the poll indicates, Patrick runs behind or even with the two potential Republican contenders. The newest GOP entrant, former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care chief executive Charles D. Baker, tops Patrick 41 percent to 35 percent in a head-to-head matchup. Baker beats Patrick even though more than six in 10 respondents said they knew little about the Republican.

The other Republican candidate, former Turnpike Authority board member Christy Mihos, runs about even, getting 41 percent to Patrick’s 40 percent, even though nearly two in five respondents said they viewed Mihos unfavorably.

Patrick’s best hope at this point appears to be that Cahill and Baker both run. The governor’s core constituency remains highly educated, liberal Democrats and voters in Western Massachusetts, which could help form a big enough base if Baker and Cahill split many conservative Democrats, independents, and Republicans. Baker has the potential to cut into Cahill’s support among independents the more he introduces himself to voters.

Patrick’s formerly strong appeal to independents - the state’s largest voting bloc - has dropped sharply, with only 17 percent viewing him favorably. Nearly two-thirds say they have an unfavorable opinion.

Seven months ago, a Globe poll showed that 52 percent of independents viewed the governor favorably.

“I just somehow expected him to be more ready and have more of a plan in place by now than he does,’’ said one poll respondent, Norma George, a 71-year-old retired nurse from Duxbury.

George, an independent who voted for Patrick in 2006, thinks the governor has been too indecisive.

“It may not even be his fault,’’ she said. “But I’m just disappointed with the way things are moving, or lack thereof.’’

And there you have it. Really - that is the crux of it all, isn't it? That even if things aren't his fault, he has not produced a VIABLE plan to help his state. That sure sounds like someone else we know, doesn't it?

Here's another one of the big reasons why Patrick is losing support, and while it is serious for those folks in the Commonwealth, it is serious for the rest of us who have a president based on this concept writ large:
One of the most damaging findings in the poll for Patrick was that most Massachusetts residents do not believe he has brought change to Beacon Hill, a core tenet of his 2006 gubernatorial race and a key aspect of his political persona.

Patrick’s political advisers have hoped he would get a big boost from his recent signing of major overhauls of state ethics, transportation, and pension laws - all changes he championed.

But just 25 percent said they felt that Patrick has brought reform to state government, while 62 percent said he had not - including nearly half of Democrats.

The governor must try to recover his political standing in an economic environment that some state officials believe could worsen next year.

On a variety of issues - from taxes to funding for Greater Boston’s zoos - voters either disagree with Patrick or do not trust him.

New increases in the sales and other taxes, which the Legislature initiated but Patrick signed, are deeply unpopular, despite being passed to prevent deeper cuts to state and local services. Sixty-one percent of respondents said they object to the increases - and Patrick appears to be getting most of the blame.

The buck does stop there, doesn't it? Surely he didn't think he would get all the glory and none of the blame, did he? (Hmmm - I just wonder if that is what Axelrod promised these guys? All the glory, none of the responsibility? Who knows, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that was the case...)

Poor Patrick, though - nothing he seems to do now appears to be working:
Nearly 60 percent of respondents opposed the governor’s veto of $4 million in funding for Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and the Stone Zoo in Stoneham. State lawmakers may vote this week to override Patrick’s veto, and zoo officials have threatened to close unless the funding is restored.

But even as residents object to Patrick’s funding cuts for the zoos, few actually visit them. Three-fourths of those polled said they had not been to either zoo within the past two years.

A majority of respondents - 57 percent - said they support Patrick’s plan for casino gambling in three locations in Massachusetts, a slight increase from previous Globe polls. The public overwhelmingly wants resort casinos, which Patrick has pushed, over slot machines at racetracks, which House Speaker Robert DeLeo strongly favors. Sixty percent of respondents favored resort-style casinos, compared with 12 percent preferring slots at racetracks.

And despite Baker’s background at Harvard Pilgrim, voters at this point see Patrick as the best candidate on healthcare, though by a small margin.

Overall, though, voter antipathy for Patrick is clear. Asked, in an open-ended question, to name the biggest problem facing the state, about a third of respondents listed jobs and the economy. Strikingly, nearly 7 percent volunteered Patrick by name.

OOPS - that is not good, is it? But wait, it gets worse:
Massachusetts residents also apparently believe that one-party rule on Beacon Hill has not worked. After 16 years of Republican governors, Patrick’s 2006 victory brought Democratic dominance to the State House. But a plurality of voters surveyed - 46 percent - prefer divided government; even 28 percent of Democrats said so.

I reckon that should be a lesson to us all, shouldn't it? Oh, wait - we are already learning that lesson, I think. I never thought I would be saying that, but there it is. As it turns out, we DO need checks and balances. I reckon those Founders knew just what the hell they were doing after all!

But it isn't ALL bad news:
Among other political figures, Senator Edward M. Kennedy is viewed favorably by the most people - 60 percent of respondents. Senator John F. Kerry fared worse, with 46 percent viewing him favorably and 44 percent saying they had an unfavorable opinion of him. Attorney General Martha Coakley remains popular, with 56 percent of respondents viewing her favorably and just 15 percent viewing her unfavorably. (Matt Viser can be reached at Frank Phillips can be reached at

So, there's that. But wait - it turns out, the comparisons continue, as the title of this article indicates, "Poll: Obama Reaches A New Low." In just six L-O-O-N-N-G-G months, people are starting to wake up from the "Hope!" and "Change!" hooeyfication. What took them so long?
President Obama's approval numbers reached a new low today, according to Rasmussen's tracking poll.

A total or 49% of likely voters now approve of Obama's job performance, compared to 50% who disapprove.

Only 29% "strongly approve," compared with 40% who "strongly disapprove." The 11% gap between those numbers is the largest since Obama took office.

The percentage of respondents who strongly disapprove of Obama's performance has jumped 5% since the President's prime time press conference on Wednesday.

Gee, I'm no statistician or anything, but that doesn't look too good to me (click HERE to read the rest of the article, if you wish)...

Axelrod, if my prayers are answered, will be known as the master of the One-Term Wonders. Fingers crossed!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Krauthammer And The CBO Take On Obama's Healthcare Plan

I have developed a grudging respect for Charles Krauthammer, as many of you know. And on this issue, he, along with the Congressional Budget Office, have a whole lot to say in this article
Why Obamacare Is Sinking
, which highlights some of the glaring issues with Obama's plan:
What happened to Obamacare? Rhetoric met reality. As both candidate and president, the master rhetorician could conjure a world in which he bestows upon you health-care nirvana: more coverage, less cost.

But you can't fake it in legislation. Once you commit your fantasies to words and numbers, the Congressional Budget Office comes along and declares that the emperor has no clothes.

President Obama premised the need for reform on the claim that medical costs are destroying the economy. True. But now we learn -- surprise! -- that universal coverage increases costs. The congressional Democrats' health-care plans, says the CBO, increase costs on the order of $1 trillion plus.

In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue-neutral. But that's classic misdirection: If the fierce urgency of health-care reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing budget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.

Obama engage in "misdirection"?? Oh, c'mon, no way!!! Ahem. Anyone who has paid attention knows that Obama is all about misdirection, as is the rest of his party:
The Democratic proposals are worse still. Because they do increase costs, revenue neutrality means countervailing tax increases. It's not just that it is crazily anti-stimulatory to saddle a deeply depressed economy with an income tax surcharge that falls squarely on small business and the investor class. It's that health-care reform ends up diverting for its own purposes a source of revenue that might otherwise be used to close the yawning structural budget deficit that is such a threat to the economy and to the dollar.

These blindingly obvious contradictions are why the Democratic health plans are collapsing under their own weight -- at the hands of Democrats. It's Max Baucus, Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who called Obama unhelpful for ruling out taxing employer-provided health insurance as a way to pay for expanded coverage. It's the Blue Dog Democrats in the House who wince at skyrocketing health-reform costs just weeks after having swallowed hemlock for Obama on a ruinous cap-and-trade carbon tax.

The president is therefore understandably eager to make this a contest between progressive Democrats and reactionary Republicans. He seized on Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's comment that stopping Obama on health care would break his presidency to protest, with perfect disingenuousness, that "this isn't about me. This isn't about politics."

Ah, yes, my senator seemed to have gotten under Obama's skin, didn't he?? Teehee! I don't care for DeMint all that much, but that was a bit funny. Especially because DeMint highlighted this point:
It's all about him. Health care is his signature reform. And he knows that if he produces nothing, he forfeits the mystique that both propelled him to the presidency and has sustained him through a difficult first six months. Which is why Obama's red lines are constantly shifting. Universal coverage? Maybe not. No middle-class tax hit? Well, perhaps, but only if they don't "primarily" bear the burden. Because it's about him, Obama is quite prepared to sign anything as long as it is titled "health-care reform."

This is not about politics? Then why is it, to take but the most egregious example, that in this grand health-care debate we hear not a word about one of the worst sources of waste in American medicine: the insane cost and arbitrary rewards of our malpractice system?

When a neurosurgeon pays $200,000 a year for malpractice insurance before he even turns on the light in his office or hires his first nurse, who do you think pays? Patients, in higher doctor fees to cover the insurance.

And with jackpot justice that awards one claimant zillions while others get nothing -- and one-third of everything goes to the lawyers -- where do you think that money comes from? The insurance companies, which then pass it on to you in higher premiums.

As a psychiatrist, I am sure Krauthammer knows whereof he speaks. I have to say, that is an insane cost, and of course it gets passed on to the patient (not just for neurosurgeons, but all doctors). And there is another unseen cost:
But the greatest waste is the hidden cost of defensive medicine: tests and procedures that doctors order for no good reason other than to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every doctor knows, as I did when I practiced years ago, how much unnecessary medical cost is incurred with an eye not on medicine but on the law.

Tort reform would yield tens of billions in savings. Yet you cannot find it in the Democratic bills. And Obama breathed not a word about it in the full hour of his health-care news conference. Why? No mystery. The Democrats are parasitically dependent on huge donations from trial lawyers.

Didn't Obama promise a new politics that puts people over special interests? Sure. And now he promises expanded, portable, secure, higher-quality medical care -- at lower cost! The only thing he hasn't promised is to extirpate evil from the human heart. That legislation will be introduced next

I should say, while there are lots of frivolous lawsuits, there are also suits that need to be filed. But I would not be surprised if Krauthammer's claim is entirely accurate - inflated costs from doctors trying to cover their, um, assets, from unnecessary lawsuits.

But the last part is the funniest - especially since Obama seems to have no real ethical center. I guess for him to introduce legislation that would "extirpate evil from the human heart" would be a case of "Physician, heal thyself," wouldn't it?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Productive Women" and "Saving The Planet"

I was taking a look at the news, how the House is trying to ram through Obama's Health Care Initiatives before the recess, even if it means running over a bunch of Democrats to do it, much less people actually reading the damn thing, and all I could do was shake my head. I thought about writing it up, but figured that might just make my head explode. And frankly, who the hell knows what tomorrow will bring with the Health Care thingamabob? There's just no telling. It could make whatever I write obsolete in a matter of minutes.

Then there's the whole Obama v. Officer Crowley v. Gates kerfluffle. What the hell, already? Is this what they mean by a "bully pulpit"?? Because that sure seems to be the way Obama sees it. What a ridiculous, stupid, issue for Obama to engage in, especially when he doesn't even know the facts of the case before opening mouth, inserting foot. American Girl in Italy pointed that out beautifully in her piece, "Obama: I don't Know Anything About It Except The Cop Acted Stupidly." Uh, yeah. Way to show some real decorum befitting your office there, Obama.

Are we all back in junior high school now or something? Holy smokes. The name calling, the cliques, the back-stabbing, stealing people's lunch money (as in our pensions, jobs, and companies), and on it goes, like a pep rally for school spirit. Grow up already. Learn a little decorum, for crying out loud.

Obama is just wearing me out. And while the following Onion video could be all too true (both in terms of treatment of women and how we are all going to need to learn Chinese). for the moment at least, it is funny as hell:

Police Still Searching For Missing Productive, Obedient Woman

Oh, my. Can't you just see that day coming upon us, especially after the sexism and misogyny of the past Primary/Election? I sure can...

And since the issue of Climate Change has been big in the news of late, there is this planet-saving initiative from Taco Bell (via The Onion):

Taco Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature

Now that should make a difference, shouldn't it?? Oh, yeah...

Damn, those Onion folks are FUNNY!

I'm off to enjoy my last full day with my awesome cousin who is here visiting until tomorrow morning (early). I hope you're able to enjoy your day, too. At least now I don't feel like my head's gonna explode, and that's saying something. Hope the same is true for you!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pitcher Perfect

For a bit of a departure from politics, I get to write about my other two loves, baseball, and soccer (aka, football). First to baseball:

This doesn't happen very often. In fact, it has only happened EIGHTEEN TIMES EVER, including this game. A perfect game. Wow. It is not the same as a no-hitter, bear in mind, which Mark Buehrle of the White Sox has also thrown. A perfect game means that no one reaches base, through either a walk or a batter who has been hit by a pitch (MLB took down the really good video of this game):

Only eighteen times EVER - wowie zowie...That is simply staggering. Congratulations, Mr. Buehrle, on this outstanding accomplishment!

For another first, which also involves the number eighteen, at the soccer match we saw Wednesday night (7/22), the US Women v. Canada Women (national teams), the lone goal was scored by Christine Nairn, who is eighteen years old, in the last minute of the match. This was her first international goal in only her second international match. Get this - she hasn't even played on the collegiate level yet (she's going to Penn State). To put this in perspective, there are only a few of women who have accomplished this feat. You may have heard of one of them, Mia Hamm. Another woman who accomplished this feat was Kristine Lilly, a personal favorite of mine as well, is the most capped person (most international appearances) of any soccer player, male or female (click here to see some highlights). For reasons I don't understand, Nairn's goal didn't make it to the Top 10 on ESPN. Oh, wait, that's right - because they are sexist. Oh, they had plenty of goals from the men on their Top 10, just not the women. Ahem. Christine Nairn sure made it to my Top Ten list, and my congratulations go out to her. What a great match to watch, and a great win.

And for some not so-great football news, Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was accused of rape by a casino employee in Lake Tahoe, who also claimed the Harrah's Casino people covered up the rape. Roethlisberger has denied the claim.

Holy smokes. Well, he can join the long line of professional athletes who have been accused of mistreating women. Many of those accusations have proven to be true, I might add. Though in the case of people like Mike Tyson, he can be accused of battery, and rape, serve time for rape, have help getting out early so he can return to boxing, and is now in a movie. Huh - what happened to the woman he raped? Just wondering...

Blech. Well, I can't let this end on such a downer note. Let's go back to Mark Buehrle in acknowledgment of his incredible achievement. Apparently, he is also a really great guy, which makes his accomplishment that much sweeter. Good for Buehrle! Good for Nairn! And good for us to have some fun news for a change!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Only Way To Bear It?

As you probably know by now, Obama had his face on national television - AGAIN - for what, the 174,318 time since he took over the White House? How ever many times it has been, this time was continuing to push his version of a Universal Health Care plan. You know the one - where we wants old people to die off sooner, and oh, so much more fun and games. Yippee!! Anyhoo, not only was I not at home when Obama was on, thank heavens (I was at a US Women v. Canada women in soccer - US won, 1 -0, in case you're wondering), but I couldn't watch it anyway. At least not sober, and since I don't drink (haven't for years), I'm not about to start now just to watch Obama blather on and on and on.

Thankfully, I don't have to touch a drop - turns out Stephen Green of Pajamas Media is willing to do it for me, and thus you, in this post, Drunkblogging ObamaCare. He's a giver, that Mr. Green. So, here is his take on Obama's Health Care Plan Press Conference #174,318:
4:48PM I’m watching Fox News tonight, instead of the usual CNN. Why? Because DirecTV makes it easy to remember FNC (Channel 360, get it?), but CNN (Channel 2…something) not so much. We’re 12 minutes out, and I’m in desperate need of a second martini. Back momentarily.

4:48PM Oh, and all times Pacific, it seems.

4:49PM Also liveblogging, [1] Dr. Melissa Clouthier. She tells me she might be drinking. Or wishes she was. Or something.

4:53PM Yes, you can already read the bulk of the President’s remarks online. But that’s cheating, and I won’t do it. But I will go pour that second martini now.

4:58PM Juan Williams says President Obama won’t “focus on the nitty gritty.” In other news, I won’t be focusing on club soda with a twist of lemon.

5:01PM OK, here’s one tiny little early preview for you: “It’s all Bush’s the Republicans’ Blue Dog Democrats’ Oops, can’t say that the Republicans’ fault.”

5:02PM The President is on.

5:03PM “We’ve saved jobs! We can’t count them, but trust us!”

5:04PM The US isn’t prepared to compete in the 21st Century? How many more industries do we need to nationalize before we’re ready to compete in the 19th?

5:05PM I still don’t get where this guy has the nerve to say that he’s going to save money on anything, and reduce the deficit by one thin dime. Has he not seen his own waste, fraud, and red ink?

5:05PM “How does my family benefit?” We’re working on it. Now sit down and shut up.

5:06PM Now as I understand it, the “public option” will dictate what the private options must offer, and how much they must charge. So how do I keep my existing coverage again?

5:06PM “Primarily for the richest Americans.” The word “primarily” is new, yes?

5:07PM Oh, so I benefit because I’ll get a crappy plan, but my neighbor up the hill in the better neighborhood will pay for it.

5:08PM Eliminate Medicare waste! That’s fine. So why not start there?

5:08PM When you hear a politician bemoaning the horse race aspect of politics, it’s because he’s losing the argument.

Well, that's a good point, drunk OR sober, if you ask me:
5:09PM “I have great coverage.” Fine, Mr. President. Then either YOU take OUR public option, or give US your coverage. Mmmkay?

5:10PM “We will pass reform that does four contradictory things.” Or at least that’s what I heard him say.

5:10PM Now, the press gets its turn.

5:11PM First question boiled down to: Where’s the leadership?

And then there was talk about premiums.

5:11PM Other advanced countries don’t eat quite so many Chee-Tohs, Mr. President.

5:12PM First impression: He’s talking details and numbers. This is lousy salesmanship. Health care ain’t double-pane windows, Mr. President.

5:14PM And, he’s still selling this as a tax-the-rich scheme. But the numbers don’t add up, even according to the CBO.

5:15PM “Waste in the system?” Dude, in government programs, that’s a feature, not a bug.

5:16PM “If we don’t change, we can’t expect a different result.” OK, fine. Since government has been driving up prices, let’s have less of that instead of more. Just sayin’.

Right there with you, Stephen:
5:17PM More bad salesmanship: Telling folks they won’t get “five different tests.” Most people want the damn tests.

5:18PM From Reuters: “Why the rush?… Will support collapse?”

5:18PM He’s rushed because he gets letters. Is anyone buying this?

5:19PM “The default position is inertia.” It’s Newtonian politics! Only without the math!

5:20PM “I’m not going to sign a bill that adds to the deficit.” Well, that would be a really nice change from the last six months.

5:22PM He keeps talking about “health care inflation.” But inflation is when the same dollars buy you less, or more dollars buy you the same stuff. Isn’t health care improving every year? If we dial back prices, won’t we be dialing back care?

5:23PM From someone: “Is this going to cover all 47 million uninsured?” Answer: “I want to cover everybody. The truth is…” And then Obama bemoans the fact that some people won’t want to pay. Why not just tax the bastards, eh? Oh, wait…

5:24PM Just think: Mountain and Western time zones are watching this pre-primetime, because NBC finds Susan Boyle more attractive than Barack Obama.

And can you blame them? Nope, me, either:
5:25PM Follow-up: “Isn’t this a fight inside the Democratic party?”

5:26PM Answer: Dude, Republicans, suck, right? Entire Press Corps: [Nodding enthusiastically.]

5:28PM Jake Tapper: “Experts say… there is going to have to be some sacrifice…”

5:29PM Answer: “They’re going to have to give up paying for things that don’t make them healthier.” Just like with public schools, EVERY FREAKING GODDAMN DOLLAR goes to education. Or, you know, maybe not so much.

5:30PM Blue pill? Red pill? Is this The Matrix or Dr. Suess?

5:33PM “The American people are understandably queasy about the deficit… trillions here, trillions there…” and then more talk about the Republicans. You know what? Last weekend, Obama explicitly said “give it to me” on responsibility for the economy. I know his promises have an expiration date, but couldn’t that one have made it until, I don’t know, Friday?

5:34PM I saved almost two billion dollars on defense yesterday! So gimme 300 billion for health care, mmmkay?

That's some interesting math Obama's got going there. Another thing he learned from Bush, apparently, though he sure blames him enough:
5:35PM “We inherited…” Please see my 5:33 comment.

5:36PM Dude Who Looks Like a Younger, Soberer Chris Hitchens: “What kind of pain… are you calling on beneficiaries to make?”

5:38PM Clever. On the sacrifice question, Obama started talking about Republican-approved reforms. The buck stops… to the right.

5:39PM Blonde Lady: “Are you fulfilling your promised on transparency?”

5:39PM Answer: “We have a lot of meetings.”

5:41PM Brunette Lady with the Brady Bunch Part: “Would you support a fee on risky activities?”

5:42PM Answer: We’re going to enact a 4.6% surcharge on the incomes of people who get drunk and have unprotected sex with strangers. Or with cloven-hooved animals.

5:43PM There’s a chance I’m drunk, but I swear I just heard Obama say he was going to tax stuff until the economy starts to grow again.

5:45PM Oh, my — Obama just said that the solution to government-created moral hazards is to impose more government. I need another drink, stat.

5:46PM The Stapler Guy from Office Space: “Can you promise… the government will not deny any coverage… and will you and Congress abide by the public option?”

5:47PM Answer: The Dude will “largely abide.”

5:48PM “With regulation, there will be improvement.” Sometimes, all I have to do is quote.

I know, right? That's what makes all of this just so much, um, well, fun? Hahahaha. If only people's lives, jobs, and money weren't at stake. Ahem. Here's more:
5:49PM Government is going to “make sure there’s some competition out there” by homogenizing coverage and prices.

5:50PM Oh my god. He’s still talking. He’s supposed to be nudging nervous Democrats back into the Reform camp. Instead, he’s… hearing himself talk. I can’t wait to see what Mickey Kaus has to say about this later.

5:52PM That Jewish Dude from “The West Wing” Shaved Off His Beard: “[Mumbles incoherently about some clinic]”

Answer: Hold the Mayo.

5:53PM “Getting the politics out of health care” by having politicians take over health care. The mind — and the liver — boggles.

5:53PM I missed the last question, because there was this lady old enough to think that wearing a bright red dress would get President Reagan to call on her, said something, and then there was joking about where Obama lives.

5:55PM I have a couple of very nicely-marbled strips to grill, and a great big Cab Sauv to open. Is this thing over yet? Please? Pretty please?

5:56PM Our black president is telling me that “race haunts us.” Dude, it’s not your race, it’s your ideology. Mmmkay?

5:57PM Final thought: In high school, I once spent an entire weekend trying to get this girl to unsnap the button fly on my 501s. That was less frustrating than tonight’s press conference.

5:59PM Juan Williams calls it “a lost opportunity” and doesn’t expect the August deadline to be met.

Or as we say on the internets: EPIC FAIL.

Whew, thank heavens. I haven't had enough cappuccinos yet to deal with any more of Obama's ramblings, even if they are filtered through Green's "Drunkblogging"!! But I appreciate his efforts for the rest of us. For those of us who can't stomach this man sober, you have done us a great service. Thanks, Mr. Green - you're a prince!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More On Hillary Clinton In India

Oh, you just gotta love that Hillary Clinton. Here is more of her trip in India. Here, she is speaking to 700 university students:

If you don't have time to watch the video, click on it anyway, and the transcript is available underneath it.

I have company from out of state, so this will be brief. Suffice it to say, for someone Obama claimed to be a Foreign Policy lightweight, she sure makes him out to be a liar, doesn't she?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Clinton In India

Dang, I am so glad this woman is representing our country:

Admit it - her cracking up laughing made you smile, didn't it? Sure did me...And then the way she engaged with External Affairs Minister Krishna afterward, so warm and engaging. He seemed to be pretty happy, too.

Interesting about the whole nuclear power issue, isn't it? About us building nuclear power plants in India? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that, especially if you read THIS article in Newsweek, or THIS one from US News. So, what do you think?

Gotta go run pick up my favorite cousin, who is also one of my favorite people (you know, blood family who is also chosen family), at the airport. But you know I'll check in later...

Consider this an Open Thread.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I'm A Bit Tardy

Today, but I have a good excuse. Let me set the stage just a bit. This is about Jordan, the horse. Now, Jordan is a pretty laid back horse, easy-going, generally a very calm gelding. He has his favorites at the stable, all of the small ones, actually - the mini horses, and the pony. As a reminder, here's my handsome boy a couple of weeks ago:

There is one small mare who had been there for months, left for a while, and came back about a month ago. Since then, he has become obsessed with her. I am not kidding, and I am not anthropomorphizing here. He really is obsessed with her. She has a bit of a problem sweating, which is a BIG problem down here in the LowCountry, so she doesn't go out until later in the evening. Well, Jordan, once he finishes his hay and grain - he DOES have his priorities, after all, starts pacing the fence line, calling to her, and getting all worked up. It got so bad that the woman who cares for him was giving him his hay in front of the little mare's stall door to try and get him to chill out.

And then she went and did it. She said, "I hope he doesn't colic because he is getting so worked up. The other day, he completely white lathered..." So, guess what happened Sunday afternoon? You got it. Sigh. Now, some of you may remember that he did this back in February. Only this time, he got really dehydrated, and had to go to the Equine Clinic. Double sigh. So, he went on fluids last night, and is coming off of them tonight(the fluid bags for horses are 5 liters - they are HUGE). Oh, and this is all complicated by the fact that he has ulcers, too, so the usual regimen for horses who have colic don't work for him. Whee!! So he also gets some liquid gold. Well, not really, it just COSTS as much as gold. It's ulcer medication that he has to drink. And he has to be able to graze for just a little bit every few hours so he has something in his stomach, as opposed to regular colics who start off with a hay "tea" then work up to getting some mash, then hay soaked in water, and on and on. I'm sure you get the idea.

And get this - when Jordan gets to the Clinic, they put him in a stall next to a little mare that looks JUST like the one back at the stables. ARGH!!!! He was calling, and calling for the longest time. She didn't help any when she called back, but eventually, all of that settled down. She left today, thank heavens, so THAT problem is solved. But still - what are the chances??? Apparently, 1-for-1.

The good news is that Jordan should be able to go back home on Wednesday. His gums have finally pinked up and are no longer tacky (he was really dehydrated), and his bloodwork looks good. The little mare is going to be moving on to her next home, hopefully before Jordan gets home so he can get over his teenage crush (even though he's in his mid-20's).

The other good news is that since I have been so focused on Jordan, I have barely noticed Obama pushing his unpopular health plan, so in that regard, it's a plus! Ahem.

Oh, and Happy Fortieth Anniversary to Neil Armstrong for his walk on the moon!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

161st Aniversary "Celebration"

Sunday is the 161st Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first Women's Rights Convention. As a refresher, here is a bit of history on that auspicious occasion:
The seed for the first Woman's Rights Convention was planted in 1840, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Lucretia Mott at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, the conference that refused to seat Mott and other women delegates from America because of their sex. Stanton, the young bride of an antislavery agent, and Mott, a Quaker preacher and veteran of reform, talked then of calling a convention to address the condition of women. Eight years later, it came about as a spontaneous event.

In July 1848, Mott was visiting her sister, Martha C. Wright, in Waterloo, New York. Stanton, now the restless mother of three small sons, was living in nearby Seneca Falls. A social visit brought together Mott, Stanton, Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt. All except Stanton were Quakers, a sect that afforded women some measure of equality, and all five were well acquainted with antislavery and temperance meetings. Lucretia Mott Fresh in their minds was the April passage of the long-deliberated New York Married Woman's Property Rights Act, a significant but far from comprehensive piece of legislation. The time had come, Stanton argued, for women's wrongs to be laid before the public, and women themselves must shoulder the responsibility. Before the afternoon was out, the women decided on a call for a convention "to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of woman."

To Stanton fell the task of drawing up the Declaration of Sentiments that would define the meeting. Taking the Declaration of Independence as her guide, Stanton submitted that "all men and women had been created equal" and went on to list eighteen "injuries and usurpations" -the same number of charges leveled against the King of England-"on the part of man toward woman."

You have to love the symmetry with which Stanton crafted the "Declaration of Sentiments." And what an interesting choice of words for the Declaration, isn't it? Stanton didn't stop there:
Stanton also drafted eleven resolutions, making the argument that women had a natural right to equality in all spheres. The ninth resolution held forth the radical assertion that it was the duty of women to secure for themselves the right to vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton afterwards recalled that a shocked Lucretia Mott exclaimed, "Why, Lizzie, thee will make us ridiculous." Stanton stood firm. "But I persisted, for I saw clearly that the power to make the laws was the right through which all other rights could be secured."

The convention, to take place in five days' time, on July 19 and 20 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, was publicized only by a small, unsigned notice placed in the Seneca County Courier. "The convention will not be so large as it otherwise might be, owing to the busy time with the farmers," Mott told Stanton, "but it will be a beginning."

A crowd of about three hundred people, including forty men, came from five miles round. No woman felt capable of presiding; the task was undertaken by Lucretia's husband, James Mott. All of the resolutions were passed unanimously except for woman suffrage, a strange idea and scarcely a concept designed to appeal to the predominantly Quaker audience, whose male contingent commonly declined to vote. The eloquent Frederick Douglass, a former slave and now editor of the Rochester North Star, however, swayed the gathering into agreeing to the resolution. At the closing session, Lucretia Mott won approval of a final resolve "for the overthrowing of the monopoly of the pulpit, and for the securing to woman equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce." One hundred women and men signed the Seneca Falls Declaration-although subsequent criticism caused some of them to remove their names.

How telling is that, that no woman felt "capable of presiding" at their own Rights Convention? Holy smokes. At least there were some supportive men there, including Lucretia Mott's husband, to step up. But not everyone was supportive:
The proceedings in Seneca Falls, followed a few days later by a meeting in Rochester, brought forth a torrent of sarcasm and ridicule from the press and pulpit. Noted Frederick Douglass in the North Star: "A discussion of the rights of animals would be regarded with far more complacency by many of what are called the wise and the good of our land, than would be a discussion of the rights of woman."

But Elizabeth Cady Stanton, although somewhat discomforted by the widespread misrepresentation, understood the value of attention in the press. "Just what I wanted," Stanton exclaimed when she saw that James Gordon Bennett, motivated by derision, printed the entire Declaration of Sentiments in the New York Herald. "Imagine the publicity given to our ideas by thus appearing in a widely circulated sheet like the Herald. It will start women thinking, and men too; and when men and women think about a new question, the first step in progress is taken."

Stanton, thirty-two years old at the time of the Seneca Falls Convention, grew gray in the cause. In 1851 she met temperance worker Susan B. Anthony, and shortly the two would be joined in the long struggle to secure the vote for women. When national victory came in 1920, seventy-two years after the first organized demand in 1848, only one signer of the Seneca Falls Declaration-Charlotte Woodward, a young worker in a glove manufactory -had lived long enough to cast her ballot.

What a day that must have been for Charlotte Woodward, but how sad it took 72 years for women to get the right to vote after Seneca Falls, and that she was the only remaining one able to cast her vote. Still, what a joy that must have been for her. Can you imagine it?? WOw.

Let's just see how far we have come in the past 161 years:

We have come nowhere near far enough. I can only imagine what Mott, Stanton, and the others, would have thought of this past primary season. On the one hand, no doubt, they would be thrilled that a woman would win the popular vote, would win almost all of the big states, many by a landslide. On the other, they most likely would have seen the treatment of that woman (and Sarah Palin, too), as more of the same. Forced by the powers-that-be to give up delegates she won fair and square for the inexperienced, younger man, forced to play by a different set of rules at the Convention than anyone else EVER, a different kind of convention from Seneca Falls, that's for sure. It was one that failed to live by its OWN rules in order to put this woman firmly in her place. No doubt, what happened this past year would feel all too familiar to them. And to too many of us.

My deepest appreciation to these women who began this process. We have come a ways from that Convention 161 years ago, but we have far, far to go to achieve real equality in this country. One thing I do know - no one is going to hand it to us. We must keep fighting, like Hillary Clinton kept fighting in the face of the naysayers. And maybe next time, the best person, who happens to be a woman, will actually win...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Episcopal Church Embraces Inclusivity - FINALLY

Some of you may already know that the Episcopal Church voted the other day to open up all ordination orders to GLBT people (h/t to Linda Anselmi. This is no small thing - I know, I used to be an Episcopalian, high church to boot (all the "smells and bells" - incense, and all, that is to say). In fact, I was in the process for ordination in the Episcopal Church while I was in seminary.

While I was in seminary, once again, the Episcopal Church voted again NOT to ordain LGBT people. Since I was already VERY out, and since they flat out ask you (or did), "Are you now, or have you ever been, involved in a homosexual relationship?" I knew I could not stay. I was not willing to lie to go into the priesthood - that just seemed so, so wrong to be - sinful, if you will.

Concurrently, while acknowledging that I could not be fully myself in the Episcopal Church at that time, I also had to acknowledge that my theology had begun to shift away from the traditional Christian paradigm. A bit of a double bind, if you will - I had grown up Episcopalian, and had wanted to serve the Church for as long as I could remember. But I could not do so under false pretenses, either, in terms of my sexual orientation, or my shifting theology. Consequently, I left the Church, and the ordination process.

A number of priests did hide who they were, though, sad to say. Imagine living your life hiding who you truly are, even going to far as to get married and have children to provide cover for yourself. Now, imagine being in a "helping" profession, a job that includes a LOT of counseling. You are hiding who YOU are, yet counseling people to be open to who they are, so that the Spirit can work through them, or what have you. HOW can anyone do that while masking who they are? It's a soul killer, if you ask me. And believe you me, it happened (happens?) a lot.

So, at long last, the Episcopal Church has voted to be more inclusive, as this PBS report details (and there is a video, there, too):
BOB ABERNETHY, Anchor: After decades of debate and division, the U.S. Episcopal Church this week said, overwhelmingly, that gays and lesbians are eligible to become bishops, or serve in any other ordained ministry of the church. At their General Convention, Episcopal leaders also moved toward developing an official rite for blessing same sex unions. These decisions are likely to widen the divide between Episcopalians and the worldwide, 77-million-member Anglican Communion of which they are a part. Kim Lawton has our special report from Anaheim, California.

KIM LAWTON: At their meeting in Anaheim this week, Episcopal bishops, clergy and lay representatives tackled a host of social issues, from global poverty to justice for Disneyland hotel workers. But the most divisive topic, once again, was homosexuality.

REV. IAN DOUGLAS (Episcopal Divinity School): It wouldn’t be a meeting of the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion if we didn’t somehow engage matters of human sexuality.

LAWTON: Despite concerns from many global Anglican partners, convention delegates overwhelmingly voted to move ahead on two of the most contentious questions: whether to ordain gay bishops and whether to bless same-sex unions. On the issue of gay bishops, the delegates asserted that “God has called and may call” gays and lesbians” to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church.” The vote effectively ends a de facto moratorium that was approved three years ago, although it does not guarantee that more gay bishops will be consecrated.

Separately, the delegates also voted to move forward in developing liturgies for blessing same-sex relationships. The issue will be taken up again at the next general convention in 2012. In the meantime, the measure allows local clergy leeway in blessing same-gender relationships, especially in states where gay marriage is legal.

Reverend Susan Russell is the outgoing president of Integrity, a group that works for the full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans-gendered people in the Episcopal Church.

REV. SUSAN RUSSELL (Integrity): I think the overwhelming message coming out of this convention, not only for LGBT people but for all who are looking for a community that that embraces peace justice tolerance compassion and the Good News of God in Christ Jesus, is that the Episcopal Church welcomes you.

Not everyone is happy with this decision, however:
LAWTON: The measures passed in part because many conservative Episcopalians have left the denomination. Those remaining feel increasingly isolated.

BISHOP WILLIAM LOVE (Diocese of Albany, AT PRESS CONFERENCE): It is very sad for me because I am a lifelong Episcopalian, I’m a lifelong Anglican, but first and foremost I am a life-long Christian. And it is breaking my heart to see the church destroying itself in the manner in which we seem to be doing.

LAWTON: Many delegates here said they voted for the direction they believe God is calling their church to go in. But those votes pose new challenges for a global communion that has already been strained close to a breaking point. There’s a lot riding on how what happened here gets interpreted around the world.

Many Anglicans, especially in Africa, Asia and South America, were outraged in 2003 when the Episcopal Church approved the consecration of New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the church’s first openly gay bishop. An emergency communion report called on the US to ban on any future consecrations of gay bishops until an international consensus emerges.

The Communion’s spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams attended this meeting before the controversial votes took place.

ARCHBISHOP ROWAN WILLIAMS: Along with many in the communion, I hope and pray that there won’t be decisions in the coming days that could push us further apart.

So not all is well, and not all welcome this move to full inclusion of the (many) LGBT members of the church. I wish I could say I am surprised by that, but I am not. Members of my family are still Episcopalian, and some of those have struggled with this issue, particularly around the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson. That is to say, not everyone is embracing this change:
LAWTON: Much of this week’s debate centered on balancing Communion concerns with a desire to move forward.

BISHOP GENE ROBINSON: I believe with my whole heart that we all know where this is going to wind up. It is going to wind up with the full inclusion of all of God’s children in God’s church.

BISHOP PETER BECKWITH: I would concede that if indeed that it is the right thing to do, we should do it now. But I do not believe it is the right thing to do.

BISHOP NATHAN BAXTER: While I am very, very much concerned about our covenant with the communion and our mission, I am also concerned about our covenant with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

BISHOP SHANNON JOHNSTON: The Communion, for me, is too much to lose. There is too much at stake, with mission, and our ability to apprehend, larger wider truths that go way beyond our own small church and setting in the western world.

LAWTON: Shannon Johnston, coadjutor bishop in the Diocese of Virginia, said he personally supported the gay ordination resolution, but voted against it because he didn’t want to further divide the communion.

JOHNSTON (Diocese of Virginia): It was quite wrenching because it took two of the core values of the church and juxtaposed them against each other. Mission and inclusivity on the one hand and then the unity of the church on the other, which is no less a core value of the gospel.

LAWTON: Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said her church is not fomenting division.

BISHOP KATHARINE JEFFERTS SCHORI: Schism is not a Christian act.

LAWTON: The approved resolutions reasserted the Episcopal Church’s desire to remain an active member of the Anglican Communion. But Bishop Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles says that doesn’t mean total agreement with overseas churches about homosexuality.

BISHOP JON BRUNO (Diocese of Los Angeles): I think I would explain it to them that the context that we live in is totally different. And that they have to be tolerant of our context as well as we are tolerant of their context. I still want to be in relationship with them fully.

LAWTON: Reverend Ian Douglas, a representative from Massachusetts, described the votes as being honest with the rest of the world about what the Episcopal Church stands for.

DOUGLAS: There’s no communion without genuine relationship. And there’s no genuine relationship without truth-telling. So I see commitments to being in Communion and telling the truth about who we are as being of a whole.

LAWTON: Conservative Anglicans already don’t like what they’re hearing.

BISHOP DAVID ANDERSON (American Anglican Council): I think it signals to the rest of the Communion, the Anglican Communion, that the Episcopal Church wants to be a member only on its own terms. And that if terms are applied to it, then they will go their own way and have things the way they wish. And others can be with them or not.

LAWTON: David Anderson is among the Episcopalians who left the denomination over theological issues. He was ordained a bishop in the Anglican Church of Kenya.

Disaffected Episcopalians, including four breakaway dioceses, have formed a rival jurisdiction called the Anglican Church in North America. They’re seeking recognition from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

ANDERSON: I see that as The Episcopal Church continues to go through these earthquakes of adopting things there is going to be a constant stream of both people and churches, perhaps more dioceses, that wind up leaving and coming over into the rest of the Anglican Communion.

LAWTON: But at the same time, many Episcopalians believe their actions here will help bring in other people who may have felt alienated in the past. Both sides say they’re anxious to focus on mission rather than division. I’m Kim Lawton in Anaheim, California.

Bishop Jefferts Schori is the first woman Presiding Bishop in the US. Yet another big move for the Episcopal Church. I remember well when women were not even ordained to the priesthood, and was friends with a woman who was one of the first illegally ordained women. Of course, had she, and the others with her not done what they did, who knows how long it would have taken for women to be ordained as priests? And that was just back in the '70's, so it has only taken 40-something years for GLBT people to have the keys to the kingdom. But clearly, not everyone is happy with that decision. I reckon that is just how it goes, though. There are always going to be people who are not open to change, or unwilling to see that ALL people deserve to be treated equally. They can use whatever reason they want to justify it, in this case, God, but that is the bottom line, isn't it?

I should add, my adopted denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Association, has ordained LGBT people for years, and was the first denomination to do so. I remember my minister telling me the story of when the resolution came up in General Assembly in 1980. She said the president at the time spoke on stage, reiterated one of the Principles and Purposes of the UUA, that is, that "we affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person." The vote was then called. All those in favor were to say, "aye." My minister said the "Ayes!" rang loud. All those who were opposed were to say, "nay." The vote was called. She said you could have heard a pin drop. Nary a nay was heard. Then the place erupted into wild cheers and applause. Since then, the UUA has also been supportive of same sex unions, passing a resolution in 1997 on that issue as well (though same sex unions have been performed for decades).

Of course, the UUA is not perfect - any organization run by people is, by its very nature, imperfect. But in this area, they have sure gotten it right, and for a long time, I might add. Glad to know the Episcopal Church is finally doing the same. I hope they will be an inspiration to other mainstream denominations as well.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Well That's ONE Way To Deal With Those Bonuses

By now, surely you have heard by now that Goldman Sachs, which has gotten a ton of your hard earned dollars, is now rolling in the dough. Oh, yeah, baby - they are handing out some major big bucks to, well, themselves. I am sure MANY of you will appreciate this:
The average Goldman worker could end up taking home more than 10 times the typical American family's income.

Woohoo - aren't you SO proud that your money has helped to buoy up this company? Let's just make clear what that means with the whole salary thing:
Were the firm to set aside bonuses at the same rate in the second half, the compensation pool would hit a record $22.8 billion -- and the average Goldman worker would stand to make $773,000 for 2009, more than doubling their 2008 take.

That would eclipse the $662,000 Goldman spent on its average worker in 2007, according to the firm's regulatory filings. Median household income was $50,233 in 2007, according to the most recent Census Bureau data, while mean income -- the apples-to-apples comparison -- was $67,608.

And there ya have it. Doesn't it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?? The AVERAGE worker made close to $700,000!!!! Gee - I wonder how that compares to MOST people in this country? And how many of US got bailouts??

Hmmm, I wonder just what they are going to do with all of that money? One of my favorite satirists, Andy Borowitz, had an idea in this post:

Goldman Sachs in Talks to Acquire Treasury Department
: Sister Entities to Share Employees, Money

In what some on Wall Street are calling the biggest blockbuster deal in the history of the financial sector, Goldman Sachs confirmed today that it was in talks to acquire the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

According to Goldman spokesperson Jonathan Hestron, the merger between Goldman and the Treasury Department is "a good fit" because "they're in the business of printing money and so are we."

The Goldman spokesman said that the merger would create efficiencies for both entities: "We already have so many employees and so much money flowing back and forth, this would just streamline things."

Mr. Hestron said the only challenge facing Goldman in completing the merger "is trying to figure out which parts of the Treasury Dept. we don't already own."

Goldman recently celebrated record earnings by roasting a suckling pig over a bonfire of hundred-dollar bills.

Well, that's a bit mixed - on the one hand, they cannot do a worse job than Timmy Geithner, right? So yeah - taking over the Treasury Department might not be all that bad.

On the other hand, well, just more of our tax dollars going to roast those suckling pigs, and I don't even EAT pork! Sheesh.

Oh, Borowitz finishes out his column with these two tidbits:
Elsewhere, conspiracy theorists celebrated the 40th anniversary of NASA faking the moon landing.

And in South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford gave his wife a new diamond ring, while his wife gave him an electronic ankle bracelet.

Now, I can SURE see that happening with Mark and Jenny, can't you?? Uh, yeah...Too bad she didn't think of that before! Live and learn, I reckon...

Don't you just LOVE our new government?? It hands out money like candy to all the wrong people, and then wants more sacrifices from US. It's gonna be a long 3 1/2 years, isn't it?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More Disrespect For The Dead

Though you are not going to believe where else it is happening - not grave robbing this time, but general disrespect, and callous disregard. Ready? Arlington Cemetery. Yep, sad to say, but true. Thanks to CG, a faithful No Quarter reader, for this article, "Grave Offenses At Arlington National Cemetery."

This is an odd tale of poor record keeping, tossing away personal items left for soldiers killed, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, whistle-blowing, and the firing of the whistle-blower. It ends with an investigation of the Director of the Cemetery, but I'll save the results of that for later. I am just shaking my head in disbelief that this is going on at the National Cemetery. It boggles the mind:
An elegant white sign at Arlington National Cemetery informs visitors they are inside "our nation's most sacred shrine." Run under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army, Arlington is the final resting place of John and Robert Kennedy, Supreme Court justices Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Earl Warren, and the nation's military royalty from the Civil War to the Iraq war. More than 4 million people visit Arlington every year to tour the legendary grave sites, which include those of "Maltese Falcon" author Dashiell Hammett and big-band leader Glenn Miller, and watch a specially trained U.S. infantry soldier march silently in guard of the Tomb of the Unknowns. Arlington shelters the remains of more than 320,000 service members and holds nearly 30 new funerals a day. As visitors head out into the sacred grounds, the cemetery asks, "Please conduct yourselves with dignity and respect at all times."

Behind the pristine lawns, the dignity of, and respect for, Arlington National Cemetery are tattered. An Army investigation this year found that the de facto boss of the cemetery, Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, made false statements to Army investigators as they probed what they later classified as wire fraud at Arlington — a female employee's computer had been tapped into without authorization, and she had been impersonated online. An internal Army memo and an interview with a former Army employee also suggest that high-level Army officials knew for months about problems at Arlington but failed to act. Three former public affairs officers have recently testified under oath about a hostile work environment at Arlington. One was fired after speaking out. The other two quit in disgust.

Sadly, Arlington's internal problems have materialized on the grounds themselves. Despite nearly 10 years and countless dollars spent on computerizing its operations, the cemetery still relies mostly on paper burial records that in some cases do not match the headstones. "There are numerous examples of discrepancies that exist between burial maps, the physical location of headstones, and the burial records/grave cards," the cemetery admitted in a 2008 report to Congress.

And in a relatively remote area of the cemetery, where 600 service members from Iraq and Afghanistan are laid to rest, personal mementos placed on graves are left out to rot in the rain for days, ruined by workers with power washers, or thrown into a trash bin.

Are you as surprised as I am by this level of intrigue at Arlington? Who in the world knew this was going on at the final resting place of presidents, SCOTUS Justices, and thousands of men and women who served their country in uniform? This sounds more like a novel than reality, but as they say, truth is stranger than fiction. And it gets stranger:
"The aesthetics of the cemetery are deceptive," says Gina Gray, an Army veteran of eight years who served in Iraq and who was the cemetery's public affairs officer in early 2008, before she was fired over a clash with her boss. "To the naked eye, it is a place of sacred beauty and a tribute to our nation's heroes," says Gray, who has been rehired as an Army contractor at Fort Belvoir, in Virginia. "But if you scratch below the surface, you will find that it's really just window dressing. They've put these pretty curtains up to hide the ugliness on the inside."

At the center of the chaos is Higginbotham, Gray's former superior and a focus of the Army investigation. While cemetery Superintendent John Metzler is the titular head at Arlington, Higginbotham runs the show, say current and former employees. A tall and imposing man, Higginbotham has worked at the cemetery since 1965. He started as a security guard and worked his way up to deputy supervisor in 1990. In his current position, he has earned a reputation for running the cemetery with an iron fist. (Higginbotham declined to talk to Salon.)

One of Higginbotham's failures, say employees, has been his inability to rectify disturbing discrepancies between burial records and information on headstones. For years, Arlington has struggled to replace paper-and-pen burial records with a satellite-aided system of tracking grave locations. "My goal is to have all the gravesites available online to the public, so people can look up a grave from home and print out a map that will show exactly where the gravesite is," Higginbotham told Government Computer News in April 2006. Such systems are standard at other cemeteries, like the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, nearly identical to Arlington in age and size. Yet an effort begun in 2000 to set up a similar system at Arlington remains unrealized.

Anyone else getting shades of Burr Oaks Cemetery in Chicago?? Seems like a difference of degrees to me:
In 2004 and 2005, Arlington conducted a pilot project to check burial records against headstone information on 300 graves. "The accuracy of interment records and maps that track reserved, obstructed, and occupied graves were proven to have errors," the project found, according to Arlington National Cemetery budget documents. "For example, gravesites that were marked as obstructed were actually available and information listed on grave cards and burial records were not consistent with the information on the actual headstone."

The problems continue today. In 2008, Arlington National Cemetery issued a progress report to Congress on the computerization project. "The current way of doing business is mostly manual, complex, redundant and inefficient," cemetery officials noted, acknowledging continuing discrepancies among burial maps, headstones and burial records.

Gray says her conversations with groundskeepers suggest the discrepancies and confusion might not stop at the grave's edge. "They told me they've got people buried there that they don't know who they are, and then they've got the wrong headstones over the graves." She adds: "I told several Army officials — in one instance, a two-star general — but nothing was ever followed up on." Salon heard the same claims from current and former cemetery employees, who asked to remain anonymous.

Arlington officials insist that there are no cases at Arlington where headstones do not match the remains beneath. "We are not aware of any situation like that," says cemetery spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst.

Hmmm - who is more believable here, the people who actually TEND the graves, or some bureaucrat? I'm going with the groundskeepers myself, and Ms. Gray:
Gray, who was fired, has a gripe against the cemetery, to be sure. But her complaints against Higginbotham triggered an investigation that exposed criminal acts that question the Army's oversight of Arlington.

Higginbotham fell under the eye of the Army's Criminal Investigation Command in October 2008, when Gray reported to investigators that somebody had tapped into her e-mail account. But the trouble between Gray and Higginbotham began months earlier, in April 2008, just a few days after Gray landed her job as public affairs officer. During the high-profile funeral of a decorated officer killed in Iraq, the deputy superintendent tried to move the media 100 yards from the funeral, making coverage all but impossible. Gray pushed back, stating that Army regulations did not bar the media from a funeral when families agreed to the coverage.

Gray's insistence on fair access for the media turned into an embarrassment for the cemetery — and for the Army — when the Washington Post wrote about the tussle. Journalists trying to cover the funeral were "separated from the mourning party by six or seven rows of graves, and staring into the sun and penned in by a yellow rope," the Post wrote. Gray, the paper added, "pushed vigorously to allow the journalists more access to the service yesterday — but she was apparently shot down by other cemetery officials."

Gray locked horns with Higginbotham in the following weeks. In June, she pursued an equal employment opportunity complaint against the cemetery. She claimed discrimination based on "race, sex, age and reprisal" (Gray is white and Higginbotham is an African-American) and a hostile work environment. The cemetery fired Gray a few weeks later — a story that again made its way into the Post. "Putting her foot down and getting the boot," read the headline.

The cemetery blames Gray for poor job performance. Its termination memorandum claims she failed to follow instructions, communicated poorly with superiors, and behaved disrespectfully to those superiors. Cemetery officials cited e-mail traffic prior to Memorial Day in 2008, in which Gray seemed intent on the use of Army public affairs specialists to interact with the media on Memorial Day, rather than the cemetery staff preferred by Gray's bosses.

In her sworn testimony in the fall, as part of her equal opportunity complaint, which is still pending, Gray stressed "an elitist mentality among cemetery officials.'' Kara McCarthy, who held Gray’s job at the cemetery from early 2007 until March 2008, also testified. She said Higginbotham and other top officials at Arlington "could do whatever the hell they wanted, and they did, because they had been getting away with it for years." McCarthy said she also left the cemetery after a year because of the "hostile work environment."

Gosh - don't you just hate it when people mince words? Ahem. Well, it sure sounds like Ms. Gray is not alone in her assessment of Mr. Higginbotham. Let's see what he has to say for himself:
In his testimony, Higginbotham describes himself as in charge. "The day-to-day operation of Arlington National Cemetery is my responsibility," he said. He stated he had little interaction with Gray and less to do with her termination. "I had no direct involvement with her on a day-to-day basis," Higginbotham said under oath. "I was not involved in this." He added that Gray was "not subjected to a hostile work environment."

As it turned out, Higginbotham had been worried about Gray, fretting in an e-mail that he could be the victim of a "conspiracy." He was apparently determined to learn what he could about her.

In October, a friend of Gray's who had worked at Arlington e-mailed Gray's Army account to say hello. An hour later, the friend received an e-mail with Gina Gray's name on it. "I see you've moved on," the e-mail read. "A lot of drama going on at ANC." The note was signed, "GG." Yet Gray had been locked out of that e-mail account since the day she was fired in June. She had not sent it.

"I felt sick," Gray says, when she heard about the e-mail impersonating her. "I felt like somebody had broken into my house and gone through my things." Gray alerted the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

And the plot thickens:
Army agents first questioned Higginbotham on Oct. 16. The Army did authorize a search of Gray's computer, but before that, Higginbotham said, "no one used her computer until they received authorization." Higginbotham added that access without permission would have been impossible, as a special card and password were needed to get into Gray's computer. "No one used her computer until after they received authorization," he reiterated, according to the Army report.

But the Army soon found reason to doubt that Higginbotham was telling the truth. It discovered an e-mail written to the deputy superintendent dated June 27, 2008 — the day Gray was fired and before the Army authorized access to Gray's computer. It was from Bobbie Garrett, who worked for a contractor favored by Higginbotham, called Alpha Technology Group. The e-mail sent to Higginbotham, and one of Higginbotham's subordinates, read: "I was able to access Ms. Gray's computer. I changed her domain account to be able to log in with the username and password. To login to this PC, use the following: Username: gina.gray. Password: PublicAffairs11**."

Army agents learned Higginbotham had also ordered Garrett, the contractor, to remove Gray's hard drive and send it out to a private company to mine for information. But an Army official involved in authorizing access to Gray's e-mail said he "never authorized anyone at ANC [Arlington National Cemetery] to pull the hard drive from Ms. Gray's work computer." When Army investigators attempted to interview Garrett, Alpha Technology Group told them Garrett had resigned, adding, "Mr. Garrett was supposedly in Ohio visiting his sick mother" and was unavailable. Alpha Technology Group did not return Salon's phone call or e-mail to the company's director of public relations.

Oopsie daisy, dontcha hate it when your bald-faced lies come back to bite ya? That is to say, "liar, liar, pants on fire":
Army investigators uncovered further evidence that Gray's computer had been broken into without authorization. They found an e-mail from Higginbotham discussing Gray with an Army official, in which Higginbotham had attached "the list of persons that she bcc'd." That list, investigators noted, must have come "from someone logged into Ms. Gray's email account."

Lori Calvillo, who also worked as a public affairs officer at Arlington and quit under "hostile" circumstances, testified in Gray's employment hearing that Arlington officials had also hacked her computer. "They did the exact same thing to me," she said. (The computer analysis conducted by the Army states that it was "possible Mr. Higginbotham routinely reviews employee's email when he deems necessary.")

Oh, yeah - I am SURE that was it - Higginbotham was just "reviewing" employee emails. Uh huh. Or maybe it was something more egregious:
Why didn't Army officials in Higginbotham's e-mail chain — including Col. Jerry Blixt, the garrison commander at Fort Belvoir, and William Koon, an attorney at the Military District of Washington, which oversees the cemetery — recognize that Gray's computer had been breached? In fact, the Army had been aware of complaints about a "pattern of workplace … hostility" at Arlington, as a July 2008 Army memo states, months before it launched its Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) investigation. In June, Gray had met with Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, then the commanding general of the Military District of Washington, to explain the problems. So why did the Army wait months to investigate? "The Army viewed the allegations associated with the cemetery very seriously, as we do any such allegation," Gary Tallman, an Army spokesman said. "Allegations of a criminal nature were referred to, and investigated by, CID."

In the conclusion of their report, Army investigators declared Higginbotham "made false and misleading statements to agents from this office, regarding access to Ms. Gray's email account and government computer." The report said agents could not determine precisely who impersonated Gray online but called the act "wire fraud."

Higginbotham has had a share of personal challenges. He came out of Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings in 2002. In the case, a judge did not excuse Higginbotham for a debt associated with "a death or personal injury caused by the debtor's unlawful operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated" in 1990. Today he is also the chief financial officer of Roads Inc., an organization of African-American funeral professionals, where he lists himself as "Dr. Thurman Higginbotham," although he doesn't hold a university Ph.D. or medical degree.

Currently no legal action against Higginbotham is expected. On April 23, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia declined prosecution based on the Army's findings. The report adds, however, that "civilian report of disciplinary action is pending." Superintendent John Metzler would not say whether Higginbotham faced any disciplinary action. "The privacy act prevents me from discussing actions on individual employees here at the cemetery," Metzler says. Higginbotham declined a request for an interview.

And why the hell is there no legal action facing Mr. Higginbotham? Just wondering. At the very least, I would hope there would be SOME disciplinary action, wouldn't you? The man is a liar at the very least, and has forced two women out of their positions because of the "hostile work environment" he has crafted. SOMETHING better happen to him, and I don't mean a promotion, either.

And that is not the end of it. This should affect all of us, because this could happen to anyone of us:
During the Higginbotham investigation, a different kind of crime arose at Arlington. But this one had little to do with the law. In her sworn testimony, Gray criticized the cemetery for disposing of artifacts left in Section 60, where soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. "They throw away things that are left at the gravesites — cards, letters," Gray said. "They don't save anything."

As we say down South, that ain't right. In fact, that is SO wrong. I remember asking my partner one time after watching a show in which someone left their medals on the headstone of someone they knew in Arlington National if that really happened, and if no one messed with them. She assured me that was the case (her dad is a retired 3-star). How sad, how upsetting, to find out that may not be the case after all. How downright disrespectful. They should be ashamed of themselves...

This is a first in a series about Arlington National Cemetery, so if you are interested in learning more about how the cemetery maintains the graves, and treats the artifacts left behind as Ms. Gray stated above, please go back to tomorrow to read more.