Sunday, August 30, 2009

From BMD: Nebraska Supreme Court Affirms Tribal Rights

Cross-posted from my political blog, Blue Moose Democrat.

Great news from the Native American Rights Fund regrading tribal sovereignty and the Indian Child Welfare Act, one of the best pieces of legislation to come out of DC in recent decades. Gives me even more reason to look forward to next week's move to Omaha.

In a unanimous decision, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed and remanded a decision by a Nebraska county court which had refused to allow the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska to intervene in a child custody case involving two children that are members of the Tribe. The Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the absolute and unconditional right of an Indian tribe to intervene in a child custody proceeding under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)…

[NARF’s] amicus brief maintained that the Ponca Tribe has an absolute and unconditional federal right to intervene in the proceeding according the clear language of the ICWA and that the requirement that the Tribe be represented by a licensed attorney is preempted by the ICWA. Additionally, requiring a tribe to be represented by an attorney to intervene and participate in a state ICWA case would have a significant, detrimental effect on all tribes, including the infringement on tribal sovereignty… The Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with the Ponca Tribe and allowed the Tribe the right to intervene through its ICWA specialist, the Tribe’s designated representative.

[NARF] has published "A Practical Guide to the Indian Child Welfare Act." The Guide is intended to answer questions about the ICWA by people of all levels of familiarity with this important law, and to provide a comprehensive resource of information on the ICWA. The guide can be found on NARF’s website –

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dartmouth #1 in Undergraduate Teaching

I recently wrote a piece for Blue Moose Democrat and MyDD about the pointlessness of college rankings, never mind that Dartmouth College was #11 on one list. Still, one can't help but feel a little proud when one's alma mater or school is said to top a category of particular personal importance. And indeed, U.S. News says Dartmouth College is #1 in undergraduate teaching. This is no surprise - it is the only Ivy university that pretends to be a liberal arts college with a strict focus on undergrads - but it's still an achievement. So Professors Duthu, Turner, Lacy, Press, Fowler, Bafumi, Carey, Summers, and many more - here's to you.

Faculty: The professors at Dartmouth are among the leaders in their fields, yet they remain fully committed to teaching. Even the most senior professors teach first-year courses. Recipients of more than $160 million in annual research grants and consistently ranked among the most respected teachers in American higher education, Dartmouth professors are true exemplars of the phrase teacher-scholar. Through course-related discussions, research collaborations, and casual conversation, students get to know their professors as instructors, mentors, colleagues, and friends.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

New OGR/EPPN Staff Announcements

A belated post, but congratulations to Alex Baumgarten for his interim promotion at the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations/Episcopal Public Policy Network, where I intered last summer. Alex, the foreign policy analyst, will take over as Director of OGR until funds for a full-time new director can be found. Alex is a sharp guy with a very strong understanding of how Capitol Hill works and a great amount of patience for pesky interns, and while the temporary shrinking of the staff is not a good thing, I have full confidence that the church's policy office is still in good hands. Congratulations, Alex!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Religious Reaction to Kennedy's Death

The Boston Globe is collecting statements from religious leaders on the death of Ted Kennedy. So far they have Roman Catholic Boston Archbishop Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, and Unitarian Universalist Association President Rev. Peter Morales.

Ted Kennedy is Dead

The man who gave us SCHIP, who erased immigration quotas, who defined liberalism, who stood up to Reagan. A real American hero. From CNN:

(CNN) -- Sen. Edward Kennedy, the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics, died at Tuesday night in his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 77.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," a family statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice."

My hands are trembling as I type. I have weeped over three political stories in my short life - 9/11, Obama's election, and tonight. And I should add, my health insurance is through COBRA - I wouldn't have paid for my annual physical and semi-annual dental checkup this summer, and I would be subject to preconditions, if not for Ted Kennedy.

Health care reform must pass, and let that be his legacy more than any family relation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Katrina Recovery Update

This blog started out about three years ago as a Hurricane Katrina recovery blog. I've since shifted my focus (twice), but thought it might be nice to return to my roots for a day. Though it's a week old, here's an interview with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) discussing hearings in New Orleans on the slow pace of recovery and the problems with government programs like the infamous Road Home.

And here's this update from a e-mail:
On Thursday August 27, CNN's Anderson Cooper will anchor an Anniversary Special from New Orleans. The show will feature on what we learned on a Congressional Delegation visit to Holland. Stay tuned for exact time for the CNN show.

Other important news:

As reported by the Washingon DC office of the AP, Senator Landrieu has sent a letter to the Defense Department's Inspector General to investigate allegations that a group of individuals at the Corps New Orleans District waged an internet deception campaign to defend the agency after the 2005 levee failures. This is a significant development.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Greatest Sandwich Ever

OMG, I HAVE to have this! Now! A KFC sandwich with bacon and cheese in the middle, and for bread... CHICKEN!

Story here. H/T my friend Steve on Facebook.

Musical Monday: Zac Brown Band

Even if the third verse is a little misplaced, and even if he does mispronounce "pecan," I freakin' love this song with all my heart.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Christ wasn't anal-retentive

Loved Friday's e-mail from Out of Nowhere. The new ones don't seem to be posting on the website, but here's an excerpt from the e-mail:

A bishop ruled a child’s first communion invalid because the priest used bread made of rice flour. He made no exception even when he learned that the child is allergic to wheat.

I don’t remember any scriptural qualifiers about the bread at the Last Supper, whether Jesus said, I am the living sour dough or I am the living croissant. And I don't remember any such about the wine, either, tawny port or merlot. Of course, there are those who would swear on their death bed in their conviction that it was grape juice all along. I do remember the frenzied rapture a few decades ago when plain old homemade bread began to replace the fish food...

As if it made any difference, Jesus was apparently not recorded to say whether this new bread was wheat or rice or barley or whatever, just mostly of himself which was problem enough. Leave it to the church and to its bishops for getting into major theological decisions like that with the little girl.

As for some of the rest of us, we’ll keep compromising Jesus's memory by busying ourselves, thank you, with and about who can love whom and how and even whether.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

St. Luke's, Coeur d'Alene has a new website

For the past few months, people Googling the Episcopal Church in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho have found this blog. I am pleased to report that St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho now has a new webpage. (The previous page, which I have linked to before, was on the server of a family that has since moved.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Story of My Adoption

I had the privilege of speaking at Dartmouth's weekly ecumenical chapel service in April. My sermon is finally available online, and I thought I would share it here. The theme for the term was love, and I spoke about the first sign of God's love in my personal life - specifically, my adoption at birth. The sermon was titled "Never Unloved: An Adoption Story." You can read it all at the Dartmouth website. Here's an excerpt:

They say you have to be crazy to see a shrink, and since I have no problem admitting I'm crazy, I have no problem admitting that I saw a shrink all through high school. He once asked me if I ever felt abandoned because of my adoption. My answer was the complete opposite of what he expected to hear: Of course not! If anything, my adoption makes me feel more loved and more wanted. Adoptions, unlike births, don't happen by accident. This Houston couple-and my damn Yankee father would surely hate to be described as part of a Houston couple-went out of their way to find a child, and I was that child. My birthmother, who we'll call "Wendy," was no different. She didn't abandon me; she painfully yet purposefully chose to give me a better life. Everything I have ever experienced, from Cub Scouts to Dartmouth, is the result of these gifts from God: Wendy's wisdom and maturity, and the Empsalls' love and patience...

[My younger brother] Chris and I straddled a cultural line: I was born in 1987, when most adoptions were still closed, and he in 1990, when most were open. We actually traveled to Austin to meet his birthmom before he was even born.

This bothered my parents. They called Marywood to say, "This isn't fair. How come we get to meet Chris' birth mother, but not Nathan's?" And here it is again, God's love and guiding hand: Wendy called Marywood with an identical request that very same day.

In preparation for the meeting, my parents told me who it was we were going to meet. Shortly after that conversation, Marywood called again to say, "Wendy is really nervous. Could you perhaps tell Nathan she's someone else - an aunt, an old college friend, something like that?" It was too late for that, but Wendy's nervousness washed away the moment she walked into the room. I'm told I leaped up off the couch, ran over to her, and said, "I know who you are! You're my birth mommy! I was in your tummy, but not where the food goes!"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I've Joined Twitter

Now I've gone and done it. I have broken an oath I made to myself. I feel dirty. This is so wrong:

I've joined Twitter.

I don't plan to use my Twitter account to post personal updates; that's what this blog and my Facebook status updates are for. I set up the account primarily to follow the accounts of friends, good journalists, and admired politicians, though I may also post interesting news items and links to my blog posts at MyDD, Blue Moose Democrat, and Wayward Episcopalian.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

White House holds health care conference call with progressive faith activists

Earlier today, the progressive organization Faith in Public Life organized and hosted a Blog Talk Radio conference call for thousands of faith activists and leaders to hear from President Obama and White House Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes. The call, named “40 Minutes for Health Reform,” aimed to create a centrally organized faith moment for health care reform over the next forty days at 32 different religious organizations and denominations are co-sponsoring the movement, including, full disclosure, two that I belong to (The Episcopal Church and Sojourners). The broadcast will eventually be available for repeat listening at both Faith for Health and Blog Talk Radio.

Listeners online and on the phone first heard emotional stories about health insurance and health care from members of faith communities around the country, moved to Barnes’ Q&A, heard from pastors and rabbis about what their congregations are doing to support reform, and concluded with Obama’s speech. Little actual news was created and the specific legislative process was not addressed, though Barnes did say the President continues to support a public option. Obama’s speech focused on correcting misinformation and rallying people around moral themes. He had some pretty good sound bites, including the suggestion that folks like Palin, Beck, and Grassley (not that he named names but you know who he meant) are breaking the Ten Commandments: “I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness.”

For a full description of Barnes' Q&A, Obama's speech, and tips on what your congregation can do to help the cause of reform, read my write-up at MyDD.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Episcopal Blogosphere Rising

Our friend Kirstin is back at Barefoot and Laughing! (Though the latest post says she's not sure if she's ending her blogging break, it sounds like she is on Facebook.) Hooray! Congratulations, Kirstin! May this help your health in many immense ways. Your posts certainly bring inspiration and thought to others.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Musical Monday: Brooks & Dunn

Given last week's sad news that Brooks & Dunn are breaking up, I figured it would be a crime to have today's musical Monday come from anyone else. (For the uninitiated: Brooks & Dunn are two of the biggest country music superstars out there. They've had fifty hits since 1991, including 20 number ones - and in 1996 and 2001, the most popular song of the year. They won the Country Musica Association's "Vocal Duo of the Year" award a record fourteen times in a row and were the "Entertainer of the Year" in 1996. And come 2010, they will be no more.)

Here's one of my favorite Brooks & Dunn songs, "Red Dirt Road." Unfortunately the official music video is not available for embedding so this is one of this slide show mashups YouTube people make.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One Last Word on the 2008 NH Primary (satire)

I'm a bit late in passing this January 2007 satire along, but it is hilarious, perhaps ranking among The Onion's finest: "Area Family's Trip To New Hampshire Sparks Rumors Of Presidential Bid."

MANCHESTER, NH—Rumors are swirling among Beltway insiders that the Patterson family vacation last weekend to New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary, was, in fact, an attempt by the Michigan family of four to test the waters for a 2008 presidential run. The Pattersons reportedly spent most of their three-day stay in the Granite State—known for its ability to make or break a candidate—interacting with locals, visiting key landmarks, and, according to political observers, using the outing to showcase their message of strong family values. They were seen taking a guided tour of a maple-sugar house in Barrington as well as stopping for countless photo opportunities outside government buildings in Concord and at other sites around the state...

Pundits said the family's slow drive through Bear Brook State Park signaled a deep concern for environmental issues, while their decision to attend Sunday services at the New Castle Congregational Church acted as a nod to the country's important bloc of religious voters...

Despite the growing buzz about their candidacy, some, such as CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, say the family's lack of political experience is a setback. Phil, 49, is a pediatrician; Janice, 47, a homemaker, graduated from the University of Connecticut with a history degree; and Wesley, 19, and Phil Jr., 17, have been widely criticized for their youth.

Much more here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hudson's Hamburgers

A six minute mini-documentary from the local PBS station about Hudson's Hamburgers, the 102-year-old landmark lunch counter in downtown Coeur d'Alene.


Indigenous Anglican Ministries in Canada

Here's an interesting article from Episcopal Life Online called "CANADA: Indigenous Anglicans urged to pursue their dream of self-determining ministry." An excerpt:

A native Hawaiian from the Episcopal Church has strongly encouraged indigenous Anglicans gathered in Port Elgin, Ontario to pursue their dream of building a self-determining indigenous Anglican church in Canada.

"For some the vision of a Promised Land can be so overwhelming, but I believe for many of you gathered here ... God has not given you a spirit of fear and timidity but the power of love and self-discipline that you have revealed on your journey in the wilderness," said Malcolm Naea Chun, secretary general of the Anglican Indigenous Network, and chair of the Episcopal Church Council on Indigenous Ministries...

Chun's counsel came a day after First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit Anglicans expressed mixed views and emotions about proposals for possible changes to the Anglican Church of Canada's structures to enhance national indigenous ministry. While some expressed joy and optimism, others said they were fearful, uncertain and confused about what the changes meant.

Read it all here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

From BMD: The Limited Success of Indian Casinos

As previously mentioned, my political thoughts are now going onto a separate blog, Blue Moose Democrat. However, to ease in that transition, I will post some of the more substantive posts on both blogs for the first week or two.

The homepage article at on Monday was a travel piece called "An American Indian's Journey in the Land of Indian Casinos" by David Treuer. I was at first very interested to read this piece - I've given a little bit of thought to Indian casinos and studied the law that "created" them, and am quite familiar with Treuer's work. I did a paper on his first novel, "The Hiawatha", used his book of literary essays for another paper about Sherman Alexie, and have read about his work on language preservation (important stuff). I can't say I liked the novel very much, but all around, Treuer is an impressive guy. I recommend his 2008 interivew with public radio's "Speaking of Faith".

(Pictured: The blogger enjoying a George Strait concert at the Mohegan Sun casino in 2007.) So it was with eagerness that I began his article on Indian casinos, but alas, with disappointment that I finished it. My problem isn't so much with what Treuer says as it is with what he doesn't say. His points about the history of Indian casinos, their aesthetic, and his experiences visiting them are insightful and interesting, but don't paint a complete picture of Indian casinos. I'll get to all that in a moment, however. First, two excerpts of his concise-yet-informative history of federal Indian law and the history of casinos:

Historically, Indian reservations are a great place to be poor if you are Indian—and a fantastic place to get rich if you're not. It is only recently that this pattern is being reversed. For centuries, privateers, government officials, railroad barons, timber magnates, prospectors, and mining companies have made a mint exploiting Native land and resources while the Indians for whom reservations were created have gotten poorer and poorer... I felt the possibility that everything—our fortunes, our personalities, our prospects—might change at Morongo as soon as the doorman opened the door for us. This mad hope is what draws people to casinos and what has made a few Indians very wealthy...

The Supreme Court maintained that as sovereign nations, Indian tribes had always had the right to govern themselves (including civil and regulatory powers), just as all nations do, and that tribes should deal with the U.S. federal government, not with states. Kansas, for example, has no power to levy taxes in Luxemburg—and not only because Luxemburg is far away... So when you hear white people lament about how the government "gave Indians casinos" (like "life is a circle," this is a common refrain), you can say: The government did not give Indians casinos. Indian gaming is not some physical manifestation of the welfare state or a pity payment for wrongs done or injustices suffered. It is the outgrowth of a right that tribes have always had long before any other people lived in the New World: the right to govern ourselves and build institutions as we see fit. There are many other rights like that, which tribes have only begun to explore—banking, telecommunications, industrial development.

My problem with the rest of the article is that Treuer tried to celebrate casinos as having done wonders for Indian reservations, which is only half true and somewhat misleading. Take his final paragraph:

If casinos play in illusion, the illusion at Pechanga was enchanting—a beautiful casino in which one can find brotherhood, equality, and wealth. A place that rose from poverty and struck it rich and where you can, too. In short and ironically, inside a casino (that manages to suggest aristocracy, bordello, Indians and nature, the big top, and a theme park) on Indian land, I finally felt, well, American.

Treuer does have a point - casinos have done wonders for many tribes. As author Sherman Alexie says of the Spokane reservation near my own home in north Idaho, "On my reservation, there was about 90% unemployment before bingo halls and casinos; now it's about 10 percent." The problem with focusing on this positive fact is that it leaves many white people with the impression that Indian reservations are now wealthy or at least politically powerful and perhaps immoral because of their gaming. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There are three important points to make about the limitations of Indian casinos. First of all, of the 562 federally-recognized Indian tribes, just 224 - less than half - operate casinos. And since Indian tribes are actually separate nations, tribes in South Dakota or Utah don't seem a dime from the wildly successful Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut. Secondly, almost half of casino profits remain within the casinos and their operating companies rather than going to the tribes. And finally, quite a few of these casinos are operated by the smallest of tribes or by people who didn't even know they had Indian heritage until the gaming laws were passed - in other words, by white people with Indian heritage rather than by actual Indians with sovereign authority and in need of economic assistance.

I don't mean to diminish the important role casinos play in Indian country. By some accounts, they may have created as many as 530,000 jobs, and that matters. But when thinking about these casinos, we can't make the same mistake that Treuer made - their limitations must be discussed alongside their successes, lest we forget that the average Indian family's income is 25% lower than the national median, that the poverty rate in Indian country is twice the national rate, that disease rates are higher and life expectancies shorter, or that Indian women are twice as likely to be raped as are white women (and almost always by strangers). There is still much work to be done. Recognizing that tribes have the right to operate their own gaming facilities was an important step, but far more tribal empowerment and federal recognition of sovereignty and jurisdiction must occur.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From BMD: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

As previously mentioned, my political thoughts are now going onto a separate blog, Blue Moose Democrat. However, to ease in that transition, I will post some of the more substantive posts on both blogs for the first week or two.

Now here's an interesting theory that may help explain not just the town hall disruptions but the birther movement and the anti-science crowd too.

At least three more disturbing town hall meetings yesterday. Arlen Specter's has gotten a lot of play, so I won't bother embedding the link here. There were threats of violence outside Obama's New Hampshire meeting, as well, although fortunately everything inside went smoothly. The one meeting that hasn't gotten quite so much attention is that of Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who I thought did a pretty good job of handling things - if not for the crowd there, at least for the posterity of the record. Take a look.

There's another video of how McCaskill handled things after the police had to escort a protestor out of the room, but I think the money quote is from the video embedded above: "I don't understand this rudeness... Do you all think that you're persuading people when you shout out like that?" That's a good question, and one I asked a few weeks ago about abortion protestors. How can anyone possibly think that shouting is more intellectual or effective than reasoning? "I'm sorry, you almost won the vote, but you were two decibels shy!" A relative of mine showed me a science blog that suggests the answer is the Dunning-Kruger effect, defined by Wikipedia as

an example of cognitive bias in which "...people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it". They therefore suffer an illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average. This leads to a perverse result where people with less competence will rate their ability more highly than people with relatively more competence. It also explains why competence may weaken the projection of confidence because competent individuals falsely assume others are of equivalent understanding. "Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others." [Emphasis added.]

In other words, people who can't get it think they actually get it better than everone else and people who do get it think everyone else can too. It is the affliction of those whose arguments have been completely destroyed and are left with no evidence, and yet think they won the debate anyway - like the birthers. If this theory sounds overly simplistic or arrogant, it's worth pointing out that it's based on a study by two Cornell professors called "Unskilled and Unaware of it." This theory certainly explains a lot about our national discourse!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I have a new blog!

I am launching a second blog! Wayward will remain my personal and religious blog, but Blue Moose Democrat is now my political depot. For the next week or two, I will probably make political posts on both, but after that don't expect much in the way of politics here at Wayward. I will certainly blog about the theology I learn in Nebraska and my experiences at my various ESC internships there, so hopefully this will remain an active and relevant Episcopal blog and blog for friends of Nathan! But, for politics, Blue Moose Democrat is the new way to go.

Thank you, Bob Inglis!!!!

Well, well, well! At long last, a national Republican with the guts to stand up to fear-mongering, disinformation, and hatred - in other words, to Glen Beck!

Read all about it and watch a video here, but the long and short of it is this. At a town hall meeting last week in South Carolina, Republican Rep. Bob Inglis (who I'd never heard of before) told a rowdy crowd, "The suggestion was [watch] Glen Beck. Here's what I suggest: Turn that television off when he comes on." The crowd let out an instant loud and unanimous boo and began to leave. After the meeting, Inglis, who opposes the Democrats on health care reform, told a local blogger,

When fear takes over and people start thinking the Constitution is not strong enough to meet the challenge of a president they don’t like, you end up with some fairly hysterical reactions... The America that Glenn Beck seems to see is a place where we all should be fearful, thinking that our best days are behind us. It sure does sell soap, but it sure does a disservice to America.

Those are just two of his great quotes; read the full interview for several more. And remember, the interview is only half of it. Inglis's truthful anti-Beck comments weren't just made on the phone in a one-on-one call; he said them in public right to a yelling pro-Beck mob. I called his DC office to thank him last night, and even though it was only a couple hours after the close of business, their mailbox was already full. I hope it was mostly positive, and even though Inglis is a Republican who opposes Obama, I may well send a small check to him to help in his primary fight. We need more Republican leaders willing to put their career on the line and stand up to their base's hate the way he so courageously did.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What should I name my new blog?

At some point this week, I will start a second personal blog. Wayward will continue to include personal updates and religious (Episcopal) items, while the new blog will contain my political thoughts. I'm going to do this for several reasons - one, I will be less hesitant to throw up short posts or unoriginal things like links and videos for fear of knocking real substance off the frontpage too soon; two, perhaps some people leery of linking to a religious blog will be more willing to include a political page on their blogrolls; and three, "Wayward" is way far down on alphabetical lists.

That's where you come in, dear readers. Any suggestions as to what I should name my new blog, preferably something starting a bit higher than "W"? I wanted to go with "Green Dog Democrat," but alas, that's taken. Other thoughts I've had include "Blue Moose Democrat," "Lamp Shade Politics," "From the Bayous to the Mountains," and "Bayous, Pines, and Prairies." Please give one of those names a thumbs up or suggest a new one!

Musical Monday: Alison Krauss, Yo-Yo Ma, Mark O'Connor, and Edgar Meyer

There are few things I love more than Alison Krauss' voice. I was lucky enough to see her live with Union Station the summer of 2007. The essence of life, I think, is found in music such as this song - not in the words, but in the music itself, in the timbre.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Where National Security Meets Climate Change

An extremely important article in the New York Times today called "Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security" documents a number of the non-environmental threats posed by inaction on climate change. The article quotes not just liberals like John Kerry but also military experts and sources like Tony Zinni, the National Intelligence Council, the DoD's National Defense University, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amanda Dory. An excerpt:

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change....

“We will pay for this one way or another,” Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine and the former head of the Central Command, wrote recently in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory board on energy and climate at CNA, a private group that does research for the Navy. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind.

“Or we will pay the price later in military terms,” he warned. “And that will involve human lives.”

Saturday, August 08, 2009

We Distort, You Decide

Here are two more great articles about health care reform, one from The Nation and one from Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, each dealing with all the disinformation that's out there.

The first piece is from The Nation and is about the negative effect television is having on the health care debate in this country:

Ezra Klein links to some interesting polling today that shows a (slim) plurality saying Obama's health care reform proposals are a "bad idea," but a strong majority supporting the actual content of the bill when "when the interviewer read an accurate, neutrally phrased description of the main features of the plan."

The reason for the difference, of course, is the tremendous amount of lies, distortions and misinformation being thrown up by opponents of reform, the most extreme of which would be funny if they weren't so macabre: the government is going kill off the elderly! They'll mandate you give up your organs when you turn 67! You'll have to pay for gay married couples' abortions!

The article's author, Christopher Hayes, goes on to describe a joint-interview he did with a conservative who shared faulty statistics. While this particular conservative later realized his error and apologized, Hayes argues that the incident shows just how easy it is to purposefully spread bad information.

The second piece is from New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who decries the disinformation and tactics used by ring-wing reactionaries at recent Congressional town hall meetings and suggests that these protesters may have a lot in common with the birthers:

People who don’t know that Medicare is a government program probably aren’t reacting to what President Obama is actually proposing. They may believe some of the disinformation opponents of health care reform are spreading, like the claim that the Obama plan will lead to euthanasia for the elderly. (That particular claim is coming straight from House Republican leaders.) But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.

That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Are Taxes Too High?

It's easy to complain about taxes - I have one uninformed relative who even insists the current economic slump is due to high taxes, not the Wall Street collapse - and this is why the Republican answer to virtually every problem is "tax cuts." And yet, for the first time in decades, a Gallup poll this week shows that more Americans say their taxes are "about right" than are "too high." Just 46% said "too high," the lowest number since 1961. Story and historical poll data from NPR here. This should come as no surprise, given that federal income tax burdens haven't been this low since the Eisenhower administration.

Three Thoughts on Socialized Medicine

Dear Opponents of Socialized Medicine,

CONGRATULATIONS, YOU'VE WON! This is good news, it means you can stop screaming now! Neither the Senate nor the House is giving serious consideration to government-run health care. What they are doing, with limited leadership from the President of the United States, is trying to reform the private health care system that currently leaves 1/6 of the country in the cold, provides shoddy care to another 1/6, and is on track to consume 31% of the our GDP. What Congress is NOT doing is trying to make it a public system, so please, stop distorting debate over the issue! I would suggest that you pay attention to what is really being considered rather than screaming about a non-issue. Nevertheless, since opposing socialized medicine is all the rage these days, I have three observations that I would like to offer.

1) It seems hypocritical to me to say that the government-run programs are socialist when you don't like them but are democratic when you do. If government-run health care is "socialized medicine," how come the far-right isn't whining about "socialized freeways" or "socialized defense"? My point is this: if the security provided to you and me by the United States Armed Forces is not socialism, then neither is universal access to quality health care.

2) The most common talking point from the status quo crowd is that the government is too incompetent to run something as large as health care. This came up at an Arlen Specter event and has been pushed by organizations like Fox News and the American Spectator. This makes me wonder: does the right-wing also opposes Medicare, or thinks we should take away the government-run health care given to American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan? (On a related note: Weekly Standard founder Bill Kristol said three things on The Daily Show last week: the government cannot provide quality health care, it does provide quality care to soldiers, and normal citizens don't deserve the best health care they can get. Watch the interview here.)

3) Points one and two aren't really that important anyway because no one who matters is proposing government-run health care. President Obama has said that he wants a "public option" but his position carries little weight since he refuses to introduce his own plan to Congress. The House bill's public option was all but dropped following negotiations between Henry Waxman and the Blue Dog Democrats. Finally, the Senate bill will probably be based on the work of a bipartisan Senate Finance Committee working group, a group that will not include a public option in its bill. At least four of the group's six members, Democrats Max Baucus (my former boss) and Kent Conrad and Republicans Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi, have said so.

Let me be very clear: NEITHER THE HOUSE NOR THE SENATE HEALTH CARE BILLS WILL CONTAIN A PUBLIC OPTION, AND THE PRESIDENT HAS NOT INTRODUCED A BILL OF HIS OWN. So please, PLEASE stop distorting the debate. Stop acting like thugs at respectful town hall meetings. Stop surpressing discourse and squelching voices you don't like. Stop protesting what no one is doing; stop acting like anti-Bush liberals afraid of a draft. For the love of God, stop spreading false information and baseless fear!!! (And while you're at it, stop getting false information in the first place and turn off Glen Beck!)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Two Excellent Articles about Health Care Reform

I saw two excellent articles about health care reform today. The first and more important comes from and debunks several common myths about health care reform. The second comes from Politics Daily and is called "Why a Doctor in Congress Has No Health Insurance."

The Salon article, "Obama wants to kill your grandma," explains five right-wing myths about Democratic proposals for health care reform, and then debunks them. Spread the word! The debunked myths are:

1) Democrats want to kill your grandmother
2) The government -- i.e., you -- will have to pay for abortions
3) Obama will ban all private health insurance
4) The government can't possibly run a healthcare program
5) Unlike private insurance, government bureaucrats will ration care

The second article, Politics Daily's "Why a Doctor in Congress Has No Health Insurance, is the story of Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI), MD. According to Kagen's website, he "is triple Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and Diagnostic Laboratory Immunology." During his freshman orientation as a new Congressman after the 2006 midterms, Kagen was presented with a wide array of health insurance options from which to choose. "If you can make that same offer to everybody I'm representing, then I'll accept it," he said. Alas, the thugs that are plaguing town hall meetings screamings across the country refused to let even this principled, qualified professional speak at a recent event, screaming and thundering as if they were the only Americans with the right to speak and forcing many elderly constituents to cover their ears, denying them the chance to ask questions about just what is in the proposed bills and how it will affect them.

(On another note, this post is number 666 here at the Wayward Episcopalian. Oh noes!!!)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

North Idaho and Walt Minnick on CNN

Here's a video CNN aired yesterday about the most conservative Democrat in Congress - my Congressman, Walt Minnick. The town featured in the piece, St. Maries, is about an hour and a half south of my house. (Though the reporter, John King, refers to the region as west Idaho, around here we call it north Idaho.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"The Truth About Health Care Insurance Reform"

I can't vouch for every fact given in this video - it is White House spin - but propaganda or not, it's certainly got more truth to it than a lot of the garbage coming from the other side.

I met the woman in this video once, Linda Douglass. It was July 2004. At the time, she was ABC's Chief Capitol Hill correspondent. I was a know-it-all high school punk and she was defending the status quo of network journalism, so as you may imagine, that particular Q&A did not go well...

What is bipartisanship? Is Obama partisan?

On CNN’s “State of the Union” this past Sunday, John McCain said that Barack Obama has failed to be bipartisan:
King asked McCain if Obama has “failed the test he laid out at [an inaugural] dinner, to be truly bipartisan.”

“I'm afraid they have,” McCain replied. “And, look, they've got the votes. We understand that. They had the votes in the stimulus package, in the budget, in the omnibus, in the SCHIP, all this legislation. And they have picked off, sometimes, two or three Republicans.

"But that's not changing the climate in Washington. What that is, is exercising a significant majority. And so I respect their successes, but please don't call it changing the climate in Washington.”

This leads me to ask: What is partisanship? What is bipartisanship?

According to, “partisan” as a noun is “an adherent or supporter of a person, group, party, or cause, esp. a person who shows a biased, emotional allegiance.” “Partisan” as an adjective is “of, pertaining to, or characteristic of partisans; partial to a specific party, person, etc.: partisan politics.” “Bipartisan” is an adjective “representing, characterized by, or including members from two parties or factions.”

I would argue that by this definition, much of the current President’s behavior and much of his legislation has been bipartisan, despite what Congressional Republican leaders might say. The classic example of this is the stimulus, which McCain cited. Not a single House Republican and only three Republican Senators (one of whom is now a Democrat) voted for the bill. Does this mean it is a partisan bill? I don’t think so. The administration tried very hard to include Republican voices, inviting many over to the White House for detailed discussions. The President even visited each Congressional Republican caucus, something I can’t recall his predecessor ever doing for the Democrats. In the end, Republican leadership whipped their caucus hard to make sure they stood in lock-step against the measure. Leader John Boehner and Whip Eric Cantor didn’t care what was actually in the bill; they just knew it was Barack Obama’s bill and they wanted their party to oppose it. Can the President really be accused of being “partial to a specific party” or showing “biased, emotional allegiance” after all that outreach? Can he really be held accountable for the results of the tactics of Boehner and Cantor?

This is why the current Republican Congressional caucuses have earned the label “the party of no.” No matter what the President does, their leadership will oppose it. Under these conditions, I don’t think you can criticize Obama for not being bipartisan enough. You can only hold out an un-shook hand for so long before your muscles get tired and you have to pull back. To find out if a politician is bipartisan, you can’t look at the results, but at the behavior that produced those results. Obama has tried very hard to work with Republicans, but by and large they have refused to work with him – especially in the House. Maybe you think that’s just how the House Republicans should be behaving, and I won’t argue with you right now – just don’t call Obama “partisan” for it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Musical Monday: Ferrets

This is twisted. Seriously, seriously twisted. It is filled with apple pie, frosted window panes, meadows, blood, and Holocaust denials. You've been warned.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Birther Controversy Tanks Dobbs's Ratings

It would seem that in the two weeks since he began claiming lying that Barack Obama may not be a U.S. citizen, Lou Dobbs' ratings at CNN have plunged over 15%. From the New York Observer:

Mr. Dobbs' first began reporting on Obama birth certificate conspiracy theories on the night of Wednesday, July 15. In the roughly two weeks since then, from July 15 through July 28, Mr. Dobbs' 7 p.m. show on CNN has averaged 653,000 total viewers and 157,000 in the 25-54 demo.

By contrast, during the first two weeks of the month (July 1 to July 14) Mr. Dobbs averaged 771,000 total viewers and 218,000 in the 25-54 demo. In other words, Mr. Dobbs' audience has decreased 15 percent in total viewers and 27 percent in the demo since the start of the controversy.

Arguably, interest in cable news has slumped across the board since early July when attention over Michael Jackson's death was still at a fever pitch.

But, that said, Mr. Dobbs' ratings over the past two weeks, during the height of the "birthers" controversy, are also down significantly compared to his overall numbers during the second quarter of 2009 when he averaged 769,000 total viewers and 222,000 in the 25-54 demo.

So there. I leave you, then, with this Daily Show clip from July 22.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Born Identity
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

H/T yesterday's Think Progress newsletter.