Bartlets Urge Support For Health Care Reform Bill

Martin Sheen and Stockard Channing who played President Jed Bartlet and First Lady Abbey Bartlet on The West Wing urge support for passage of the health care reform bill tomorrow (video above).

Somehow I don’t think there’s much of a chance that Crazy Pete will change his vote if I call his office.

Update: Someone linking here from Craig’s List sums up how Americans should respond to the scare tactics from the right: “don’t react to fear. support freedom and health care!”

Friday Night Jazz

We Move Cover

Huffington Post gives a good review to Sachal Vasandani’s recent album which I previously  plugged here:

While Jones hints at jazz, Chicago native Sachal Vasandani is immersed in it. His 2007 debut, Eyes Wide Open, was a stunning effort by a young man obviously enthralled by the classic aura of the jazz singer: piano, bass, drums, and a man in the middle singing his soul out. The only comparable contemporary I could imagine is Kurt Elling, and it’s no surprise that Vasandani borrows from his playbook with “Don’t Worry About Me” on his new album, We Move (Mack Ave Records). The record is a continuation of his debut, although there is a fuller, more mature energy. Tackling “Monk’s Dream,” with lyrics written by Jon Hendricks, is one such example: the bass-led intro smoothes out into Jeb Patton’s lovely piano solo, all the while kept in the pocket by longtime drummer Quincy Davis. We Move, as the title may suggest, has a bit more gusto than Eyes Wide Open, yet expect that same sedating, brilliant voice surrounding the sounds.

Sachal is also appearing live in at Cafe Metropol in Los Angeles tonight and tomorrow night.

Embracing One’s Meandering Cat

I initially wasn’t going to bother responding to David Brooks‘ column today–until I read Pete Abel’s response. Brooks, perhaps thinking being a New York Times columnist gives him the authority,  presumes to understand the thoughts of all independents.  In the end he uses what he claims to be the views of independents to justify calling on the Democratic Party to do what he believes should be done.

One problem with the column is in discussing independents as a cohesive block of voters. I’ve already discussed the vast differences between independents in previous posts, such as here. There is no single position held by independents.

Abel cites a line from the column before proceeding to debunk Brooks’ premise. The line of interest, and the primary reason why I’m actually writing this post, is “Independents are herds of cats who find out what they think through a meandering process of discovery.” This leads to Pete Abel’s conclusion:

I shouldn’t tell Brooks how to write his column. Hell, he’s paid to write it, and I’m writing for nothing. Still … in floating test arguments for conservatives, Brooks’ seems to forget his meandering-cats metaphor and the import of that metaphor, namely: If in 12- to 18-months’ time, the cats can skew conservative, it’s entirely possible they’ll skew liberal in another 12- to 18-months, especially if the economy continues to heal and the masses get accustomed to new, more egalitarian health care rules.

See, that’s the problem with cats and independents, including this one. We’re sometimes forgetful, and very easily distracted.

Pete embraces Brooks’ characterization as a wandering cat while using it to show where Brooks is wrong. The more I think about it, the more I also like the description of  “a meandering process of discovery.” Of course stress the fact that for many of us there was a process, and there is discovery. If looked at in the right way, meandering is not necessarily bad. This is far preferable to the ideologues, both on the left and right, who are always certain that all the answers are contained in their ideology.

I certainly have meandered over the decades. During my meandering, I’ve looked at the conservative movement and the Republican Party. I read magazines such as National Review and Human Events. Even decades ago, well before Fox,  I saw many of the features of the conservative movement which we see today. Their use of the rhetoric supporting freedom was not matched by their policy positions. The conservative magazines created an imaginary world which contradicted what I read from more objective sources. Just as is the case now, conservatives would “explain” this by complaining of a biased press which was hiding the truth.

If Republicans supported freedom in their rhetoric alone, libertarians were more consistent here.  Philosophically I come closest to libertarianism in the respect that I remain strongly committed to civil liberties. I would like libertarianism to be correct that everything else is also better when the government stays out. Unfortunately for holding such philosophical beliefs, I found that this is often not true. I also meandered away from the libertarian movement as I saw how easily libertarians were able to cherry pick facts to support their economic beliefs while ignoring any contrary evidence.

Practicing medicine and running a business made it clear that all the libertarian and conservative beliefs about health care which supported their opposition to “socialized medicine” were simply not grounded in reality. Libertarianism is unable to respond to the big problems which do require government action, such as the health care crisis and climate change. In response to such problems, libertarians and conservatives hide from reality and pretend the problems do not even exist.

Unfortunately I also found that libertarianism was often contaminated by its relationship to the conservative movement with libertarian beliefs often being twisted to lead to a decrease in personal freedom. This was especially apparent with Ron Paul’s presidential run. Many self-described libertarians justified his social conservatism, along with his view of states’ rights which would permit tyranny as long as done under the auspices of a state as opposed to the federal government.  At least Paul was consistent in his opposition to the Iraq War, with people calling themselves libertarian even finding ways to justify the war and the Patriot Act.

Well before the 2008 election I had meandered closer to the Democrats. If I would have ever considered voting Republican, the Bush years made that impossible. At least the Democrats offered an alternative to neoconservative foreign policy and to the social views of the religious right. Meandering to hang out with the Democrats, I also found that their views were far different from how they were characterized by the right. That is primarily because of their views being mischaracterized, but to some degree as Democrats had also meandered a bit over the years.

I might not agree with Democrats on all matters but at least, in contrast to Republicans, their views tend to be reality based, especially if you exclude the extremes on the fringes. In the case of Republicans, the extremists have taken control. Even when I disagree with a Democrat or someone on the left, it often comes down to a difference of opinion based upon the actual facts, as opposed to the fantasy-based arguments which have become even more common from conservatives.

I’ve meandered quite a bit in this post, (far more than I initially intended) but I guess this is appropriate considering the title. Getting back to Brooks, Pete has it right. Independents are scared right now, but can easily meander back to the Democrats if they see signs that we are on the right track next year. Republicans might have picked up a couple of wins this week, but they mean very little when looking back at previous off-year elections. Independents might meander, and a few will meander back to the Republicans, but many of us will not. Back in 1992 I initially thought it might be a good thing to have a Republican Congress to counter Bill and Hillary Clinton. After seeing what they did, I won’t make that mistake again. On this point at least, I hope Pete is wrong about independents being forgetful.

Swift Boat Liar Claims Fort Hood Shooter Was Obama Advisor

Some conservatives are sure searching for a way to turn yesterday’s shooting at Fort Hood into yet another way to attack Barack Obama, failing to realize how disrespectful to the troops their sick attempts to play politics with this really are. I’ve already noted how some conservatives are whining about Obama’s response, with one conservative blog even going as far as to claim that his response shows that Obama hates the military and sides with a Jihadist. Jerome Corsi, well known for publishing lies about about both John Kerry and Barack Obama, now has invented yet another claim. Jason Linkins writes:

Well, if you were wondering what paranoiac smear artist would be the first to step out and attempt to name President Barack Obama as the man who guided Nidal Malik Hasan to his murderous rampage at Fort Hood yesterday, the answer — naturally! — is Jerome Corsi. Corsi has a long history of lunatic, fact-averse ravings and he fails to disappoint on that regard on the pages of World Net Daily, today, in a piece entitled “Shooter advised Obama transition.” Except, of course, he didn’t do any such thing.

See Linkins’ full post for an explanation of how this attack was fabricated. There’s more from Media Matters and from The Washington Independent. Apparently Corsi’s smear campaign against a war hero such as John Kerry wasn’t enough so now he goes and demonstrates how insincere the claims of support for the military coming from many segments of the right wing really are.

Bizarre Attacks On Obama’s Response To Fort Hood Shootings


Lacking much of substance to attack Obama on, opponents have been desperate to grab at anything. Several conservative sites have latched onto this criticism of Obama’s response to yesterday’s tragic shooting at Fort Hood. The article complains about not seeing “a  somber chief executive offering reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion.”

One conservative blog even writes, after a ridiculous claim that Obama hates the military and sides with a Jihadist: “That he would call yesterday’s horrific act of violence an ‘outburst of violence’ validates that he deserves no respect. It is times like this that I REALLY miss President Bush.”

Beyond the absurdity of the earlier charges and objection to Obama’s objection to an “outburst of violence,” it is rather inane to use this to bring back the memory of George Bush. As most will recall, upon being informed of  the the worst terrorist attack on this country, George Bush continued to read a about a pet goat. He was then virtually absent for a couple of days after a tragedy far more serious than the one yesterday.

Following is Barack Obama’s actual response to the shooting:

This morning, when the President gave his opening remarks at the Tribal Nations Conference, the day looked very different.  By 5:02 EST when he was scheduled to give closing remarks, it was clear that all Americans were rightly concerned with the tragedy in Texas, and the President took his time to give his thoughts and prayers:

Now, I have to say, though, that beyond that, I plan to make some broader remarks about the challenges that lay ahead for Native Americans, as well as collaboration with our administration, but as some of you might have heard, there has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas.  We don’t yet know all the details at this moment; we will share them as we get them.  What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.

My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood.  These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis.  It’s difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas.  It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.

I’ve spoken to Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in.  We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure, and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.

In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers.  We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident.  And I want all of you to know that as Commander-in-Chief, there’s no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they are at home is provided for.

So we are going to stay on this.  But I hope in the meantime that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy, and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers.

It sure sounds like Obama changed his planned statements to provide “reassuring words and expressions of sympathy and compassion” in response to the immediate situation. That is far more than what George Bush did after 9/11.

Update: Some conservatives are sure searching for a way to turn yesterday’s shooting at Fort Hood into yet another way to attack Barack Obama, failing to realize how disrespectful to the troops their sick attempts to play politics with this really are. Now even one of the Swift Boat Liars has gotten into the act. There’s yet another bizarre charge raised against Obama related to the shootings here.

Update II: Steve M. has more on the absurd attack from the right on Obama for calling the attack an “‘outburst of violence” while praising George Bush:

George W. Bush, responding to the conflict between Hamas and Israel last winter, in his weekly radio address, January 2, 2009 (emphasis added):

This recent outburst of violence was instigated by Hamas — a Palestinian terrorist group supported by Iran and Syria that calls for Israel’s destruction.

These people will grasp at any straw, won’t they?

Hey, at least they aren’t still blaming Bill Clinton for everything.

Update III: Some conservatives have linked here with attacks claiming I brought up a comparison to George Bush. If they had the ability to actually comprehend this post they would see that the post was written in response to argument from the right that George Bush handled such situations better. Bush’s inability to respond meaningfully to 9/11 during the first forty-eight hours after 9/11 was far more significant. Obama’s response is nothing like Bush’s flippant comment to “now watch this drive” immediately after discussing terrorist killings:

This was a breaking news event on a day when Obama had a scheduled event. It made perfect sense for his staff to work to get the information on the shootings and write a statement to make at the conclusion of his scheduled appearance. Obama’s statement on the shootings should be judged by what he said about the shootings–not what he said in an unrelated scheduled event.

Obama did not make “shout-outs” during his actual statement on the shootings. Considering the nature of the breaking news there was nothing wrong adding a statement on at the time of his current engagement. If Reagan or Bush had done this conservatives would have said nothing.

Even if one really felt that it would have been significantly better if he had canceled his planned appearance at the last minute to make a statement solely on the shootings this is hardly a major point. Only those who already hate him, and his attempts to preserve our American values from the onslaught from the right wing, would use this as an excuse to show the degree of disrespect for the dead soldiers that we are now seeing from the right wing. This hardly justifies the claims from the right I cited that Obama hates the troops or sides with a Jihadist. This is purely a case of hating Obama and then working backwards from that point to make an attack which makes absolutely no sense to anyone outside of the right wing’s echo chamber.

Update IV: Video and transcript of Barack Obama’s statement at the Fort Hood memorial on November 10 are posted here.

Jon Stewart’s Parody of Glenn Beck