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... And he knows it.

     We sent Freedom of Information Act requests to every Red State governor or legislature who refused to Expand Medicaid. Thus far, eleven red state governors and one red state legislature have responded to our requests. Of the twelve total responses received, only one respondent admitted to having any documents, whatsoever, showing how many people he or she may be killing and bankrupting because that state refuses to Expand Medicaid.  

     That would be Texas.

     Every other state is positively incurious about the number of people they may be killing or bankrupting in their home state. So, in a perverted way, Texas Governor Greg Abbott is at least ahead of them. He has an idea how many people he may be killing. In response to our FOIA requests, which asked for any documents showing what he has done to find out how many people may be dying because he refuses Medicaid Expansion, he provided a 75-page document.


1.  More Dead Than We Expected.

     The document was shocking to us. We knew that there was no good reason to refuse to Expand Medicaid, and we knew that it was a decision that would either save or cost a lot of lives. We didn't realize how many. You see, we have used a Harvard Study which indicates that between 1,840 and 3,035 will needlessly die in Texas every year without Expanded Medicaid. That Harvard Study, in pertinent part, provides as follows:

"In Texas, the largest state opting out of Medicaid expansion, 2,013,025 people who would otherwise have been insured will remain uninsured due to the opt-out decision. We estimate that Medicaid expansion in that state would have resulted in 184,192 fewer depression diagnoses, 62,610 fewer individuals suffering catastrophic medical expenditures, and between 1,840 and 3,035 fewer deaths."
    This Harvard Study dealt with the entire nation; Greg Abbott had another study in his possession that dealt only with Texas, written by Texans, for Texans. The report, entitled Expanding Medicaid in Texas: Smart, Affordable and Fair, can be found in the files of the Governor of Texas and in its full PDF glory here. It provides as follows:
"Experience in other states indicates that failing to expand Medicaid would result in an estimated 8,400 premature deaths each year."
    That's a lot of dead Texans each year. A lot of people who have diabetes but cannot afford medication; who have diabetes and don't know it; who have undiagnosed but treatable heart conditions, high blood pressure or cancers. That's a lot of potential pap smears and mammograms that Texans will not receive. "The state leads the nation in the rate of people without health insurance — roughly one in four Texans." With approximately one million Texans in the "Medicaid Gap," it probably shouldn't have been a surprise to us that as many as 8,400 will die annually, and before their time, because of Governor Abbott's failure to Expand Medicaid. It's as if you wiped Liberty City, Texas right off the map. Then did it again every year:

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     Kind of an ironic name--Liberty City--as it represents the deadly repercussions from Texas state government thumbing its nose at the Federal Government for no good reason, while the casualties pile up each year.


2.  The Only Evidence of Death and Bankruptcy Abbott Has....

     The only document Governor Abbott, a former Attorney General, has to help him decide how many people will die in his state each year without Medicaid Expansion indicates the number to be 8,400. He doesn't even have another document from some Koch-funded think tank claiming that only three people will die. The only information he has to make an informed decision about how many people he is bankrupting each year is that there will be approximately 62,610 of those woebegone folks.

     The Governor has not afforded his people due diligence much less due process. A person accused of murder in Texas gets better treatment than the working poor.  

The Rights Afforded to a Murder Defendant in Texas Versus the Rights Afforded to the Working Poor



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    On a side note, please consider this: You would think that a person fighting ObamaCare tooth and nail would be the first to step up to the plate and protest against it. Not Greg Abbott. Here's his just-released Income Tax Return for 2014. As you can see from the screengrab below, Abbott put his money where his wallet is:

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3.  The Other Document.

     We also requested documents in the possession of Governor Greg Abbott that would show how many Texans without health insurance have received treatment in Texas hospitals during the last reporting period. The Governor provided an eight-page report from the Texas Department of Health and Human Services indicating that hospitals in the state lose billions of dollars annually because of the failure to Expand Medicaid.

     In 2012, Texas hospitals spent $22.538 billion on health care provided to the uninsured in that state.

     To give you some perspective on that, if Greg Abbott was going to pay for all those hospital charges with his own tax payments, and he paid $104 in taxes every year, it would take him two hundred and sixteen million, seven hundred and eleven thousand, five hundred and thirty-eight and one-half years to do it.

     According to the report, uncompensated hospital charges in Texas rose from $17.51 billion in 2010 to $18.312 billion in 2011. It then jumped more than five billion to $22.538 billion in 2012. The picture will soon turn even bleaker, as the Federal Government may not be helping Texas out with those deficits in the future.

 

4.  The Obama Administration Tightens the Pressure on Florida and Texas and Other Non-Medicaid Expanding Red States.

     Every year, the Federal Government provides what amounts to massive block grants to states, which the states can then use to pay to hospitals that provide services to the uninsured. This has been provided as part of the Medicaid program. In this way, hospitals would receive direct payments from Medicaid for covered individuals, and they would receive the Medicaid "subsidy" or block grant money for uncovered individuals.

     Those huge block grants--in the billions of dollars each year--will stop in 2015 and 2016 because of Medicaid Expansion.

     The theory was this: Once Medicaid was expanded, there would be no need for the additional block grant subsidies for hospitals, as people would either have private insurance or be covered under the Expanded Medicaid. The second document we received from Governor Abbott described the situation succinctly:

Health Care Reform Impact. One of the supplemental Medicaid payments that greatly contributes to the Medicaid surplus is the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment. The DSH program was created to compensate hospitals that give care to a disproportionate amount of low income and uninsured individuals with a lump sum payment. Health care reform will impact DSH payments starting in 2016. The assumption is that when the individual mandate takes effect, the need for supplemental payments to cover the uninsured is less. The ACA requires HHS to reduce DSH payments.

     Of course, nobody counted on Republican governors and state legislatures allowing their citizens to die or to go bankrupt for no earthly reason.

     Texas and Florida and other wanna-be new-confederate states like South Carolina want the Federal Government to continue paying their hospital buddies with these block grants; they don't want the Federal Government to help the people with Expanded Medicaid. The Obama Administration has said, "Not so fast!" It has let these states know that the money to reimburse hospitals for care to the poor and working poor is there to be had--as soon as the states Expand Medicaid. One source reported:

"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicated to Texas officials Thursday that whether the state expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would factor into the renewal of a multibillion-dollar Medicaid funding stream next year, according to state officials.

Federal officials requested a call with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, during which they outlined their position, Linda Edwards Gockel, a spokeswoman for the Texas health agency, said in an email to National Journal.

The call came the same day that Florida Gov. Rick Scott said he would sue the Obama administration, accusing CMS of pushing the state to expand Medicaid by leveraging $1 billion in federal Medicaid funding, which is up for renewal this summer and helps cover some uncompensated care.

CMS said in a letter to Florida this week that one of the three principles it would use to evaluate the program, known as the Low-Income Pool, was that 'uncompensated care pool funding should not pay for costs that would be covered in a Medicaid expansion.'

...

Texas's uncompensated-care funding pool, part of a broader Medicaid waiver, is coming up for renewal in September 2016. According to the Texas Hospital Association, the program provides more than $3 billion to Texas hospitals for uncompensated care."

 
     Hypocritical Governors like Scott and Abbott and Haley want Federal money to pay to their buddies at the hospitals, but not a penny to provide Medicaid for their poor and working poor constituents.


5.  Abbott's Growing a New Class of Citizen in Texas: The Health Care Bankrupt.

     The Harvard Study quoted and linked above indicates that, because Governor Abbott refuses to Expand Medicaid in Texas, there will be 62,610 new bankrupts in Texas every year. Sure, many of those folks will be dead prematurely--an estimated 8,400 of them--but that leaves 54,210 every year to either file for bankruptcy or be harassed by hospital attorneys for the next forty years of their lives. That's like a Texas city the size of Victoria dying or going bankrupt every year.

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     All because Greg Abbott wants to be pure. Or, because Greg Abbott and his fellow travelers don't want the American people to see the Federal Government working and helping people, while at the same time reducing the deficit, creating jobs and straightening the heretofore explosive health care cost curve. Or, perhaps Abbott is just an asshole. I don't know the answer. I do know that the evidence at his disposal--there being no contradictory proof--is that he will kill approximately 8,400 Texans every year and bankrupt 62,610.    


NOTE:  This is a community diary, which could only be written because of the efforts and activism of a number of people who belong to the Support the Dream Defenders group at Daily Kos. Their contributions are always appreciated. I am proud that they let me work with them!
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    I requested and obtained permission from the author to present in its entirety this piece about labor and trans-workers collaborating on workplace issues. I thought the author was spot on with his analysis and reporting and devilishly handsome to boot. (Or, is that handsomely devilish?). If you have trouble reading the article in this format, here's a link to it in its natural setting. Please enjoy.  

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    The Support the Dream Defenders group at Daily Kos has an ongoing FOIA Project to put pressure on Red State governors who Refuse to Expand Medicaid. We think that the refusal is blithely murderous and makes zero economic sense.

1.  RECOGNIZING THE PROBLEM.

     The problem we want to correct is this: The national media has all but ignored the issue. This despite a Harvard Study indicating as many as 17,000 people will die annually because of the Refusal to Expand Medicaid. At the same time, we have witnessed colossal cacophonies raised because of the murders of four people in Benghazi, about 3,001 people during 9/11 and 9,840 deaths from Ebola during its latest outbreak.

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     As you can see, Republican Governors are quite a bit more destructive than the Ebola Virus, al Qaeda and Libyan Militias combined.
"It is clear by now that Republican Governors have decided that an excellent vantage point from which to thumb their noses at President Obama would be atop a pile of dead bodies."
2.  BUT THE PROBLEM'S EVEN BIGGER THAN THAT.

     As dire as that Harvard Study is about the deadly consequences to tens of thousands of the working poor who earn a little too much to qualify for Medicaid, but who don't earn enough to buy a Bronze Plan and feed their families, it still doesn't tell the whole story. The four million or so people who would be helped by Expanding Medicaid, many of whom have undiagnosed or untreated heart conditions, high blood pressures, diabetes, and cancers, also have to deal with the pain caused by those conditions and others--sometimes on a daily basis--as well as deal with the fear that the next cough or lump or tremor will land them in the emergency room and then in bankruptcy court or worse.  

3.  HOW TO HELP SOLVE THE PROBLEM.

     To put pressure on the media to put pressure on Republican Governors, we thought we would ask a few "Catch-22" questions of the governors. We decided to do this using Freedom of Information Act (or Public or sometimes "Open" Records, depending upon the state) requests. Here is what Snotty will get in the next couple of hours:


 1.  Any and all public records, as that term is described in the Wisconsin Open Records Law (§ 19.31 et seq.), reporting on or describing the Office of the Governor of Wisconsin's actions, specific initiatives, programs, orders, requests or pronouncements created or done in order to track the number of deaths caused, or potentially caused, by the Governor of Wisconsin's refusal to Expand Medicaid.

2.  Any and all public records, as that term is described in the Wisconsin Open Records Law (§ 19.31 et seq.), reporting on or describing the Office of the Governor of Wisconsin's actions, specific initiatives, programs, orders, requests or pronouncements created or done in order to track the number of personal bankruptcies in Wisconsin caused, or potentially caused, by the Governor of Wisconsin's refusal to Expand Medicaid.

3.  A summary maintained by the Office of the Governor, or maintained by other offices in the state government but available to you, as Governor, or other public officials in the Office of the Governor, showing the number of uninsured persons in the State of Wisconsin who were treated in emergency rooms or hospitals or clinics in the State of Wisconsin during the last fiscal or calendar year or twelve-month or other stated period, depending on how the record is maintained. For the purposes of this request, "uninsured" includes any person not covered by private health insurance or a form of Government sponsored care plan, which would include, but is not limited to, BadgerCare, Medicaid, VA, etc.    

   As you can see, the first two requests are basically "Catch-22" questions. However Governor Walker responds, he will be the bad guy. (Moreover, we expect that the Governor doesn't give a shit about how many people he is bankrupting and killing, so we expect that he will not have documents responsive to those two requests.). We are counting on the fact that murderers almost never seek out the evidence of their murders. We have already received responses from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and, as expected, she could not care less about the people dying in her state.

4.  THE NEXT STEP.

     What we want to do with these responses, once we have received them from all of the GOP governors is to hand them over to Rachel Maddow or Melissa Harris-Perry, or failing that, to al Jazeera America or the Associated Press. The stories, as they say, write themselves.

     Members of Support the Dream Defenders have already been on netroots radio, on the Justice and Wink After Show, and we hope to return there to publicize our findings. Additionally, JoanMar's group has done a lot via crowdsourcing. We know you have great ideas out there. Let's hear'em in the comments.

5.  ECONOMICS.

     Governor Walker thought he would play a sneaky shell game in Wisconsin with Medicaid Expansion. But, finally, even the local media has caught on. This is from an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

"Wisconsin would have saved $206 million over two years if the Walker administration had chosen to accept a full expansion of federal funding for BadgerCare, according to a new nonpartisan report. The state could have saved more than $500 million over 31/2 years, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates, and about 87,000 more adults a month would have been served under BadgerCare Plus.
    When you add that bit of economics with the following set of numbers from a more recent piece carried by USA Today, you can see that Wisconsin's situation is growing desperate:
"... Medicaid costs have skyrocketed. The state Department of Health Services has requested an additional $760 million just to maintain current coverage."
NOW FOR THE FUN: TRACK OUR FOIA REQUEST TO SNOTTY'S DOOR!

     The United States Postal Service has a tracking tool that lets you follow your package or certified letter as it gambols across the country. (Yes, I know that Pizza Hut has one as well.). Here's a screenshot of the USPS tracking of our FOIA request early Monday morning:

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    You, too, can track our certified mail request using a tool provided by the United States Postal Service at this link. There is a great deal of satisfaction in using the Government (Free Speech), the Government (Open Records Laws) and the Government (the United States Postal Service) to send a bloody nose half-way across the country to such a snotty anti-Government murdering little weasel.

     

Continue Reading

    Wherein the Support the Dream Defenders (or "StDD") discuss the who, what, where, how, and why of sending a FOIA demand to your governor to save lives in your state. We are organizing a lawful method to advance the dreams of MLK. Support the Dream Defenders successfully crowdsourced a law. Now, we're asking for your help in crowdsourcing a new initiative.

I.  SOME BACKGROUND

     Support the Dream Defenders is a Daily Kos group which was founded in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent acquittal of his murderer. The group has shone a spotlight on acts of criminal and social injustice, and it has used the law to seek advantage in the fight for equality and justice. Last year, the group crowdsourced the development of a new law because of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The proposed law is called The Michael Brown Over-Policed Rights Act, and it is intended to empower people to sue violent police departments. On the national level, the NAACP and the ACLU have reviewed the bill with approval. The ACLU has indicated it would "partner" with our group on the law, and the NAACP has indicated that it would forward the bill to members of Congress.

II.  WHAT WE WANT TO ACCOMPLISH

     So, what does the group hope to accomplish next? To strike a blow for social justice, again using the law as an ally in the fight. We want to send Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Republican Governors and agencies in Red States. We want to direct the klieg lights on the refusal of Tea Party governors to expand medicaid. Let me pose this question:


   Which will claim more lives in 2014 and 2015: Ebola in Africa or Republican governors in the United States who refuse to expand Medicaid?


    According to a Harvard study, there may be as many as 17,000 people dying annually in the United States because Republican governors refused to expand Medicaid for no humane or decent reason. Millions will be uncovered in the so-called Medicaid Gap because of the blithely murderous decision of these politicians to refuse to expand Medicaid. Many of their constituents could have used mammograms, biopsies, $10-for-a-three-month's-supply of high blood pressure medicine, insulin, routine physical examinations, as well as blood, urine, and stool assays that would have discovered these health issues and others.

     The latest reports involving Ebola put the number of cases at 21,161, with a total of 8,414 reported deaths. As cruel and evil and vicious as the Ebola virus is, it will have to up its game and make a strong comeback to hope to match the destructive power of a handful of Republican Governors.

     Which of these grave and horrible health care stories received attention from the media? Which of those stories burned up the air and radio waves before the mid-term elections? Which story needs a helping hand to obtain the coverage it deserves? Our group would like to provide that helping hand. To do that, we will ask Republican Governors a Catch-22 question about their refusal to expand Medicaid. (Actually, when you have made an intentional decision to blithely allow the deaths of thousands of your constituents, any question is a Catch-22 question.).        

     Once we have responses to our requests, our group plans to publish them on Daily Kos and send them around the globe to news agencies, Rachel Maddow, social justice organizations and everyone with a microphone or a blog. Republican governors have made decisions that would shock Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. This War on the Working Poor and this murder must stop!

III.  WHAT WE'VE DONE: A NEW HOPE

     Members of the group Support the Dream Defenders have sent out Freedom of Information Act requests to a few of the Republican Governors in Red States. For a detailed "How-to" about the process of sending FOIA requests to state officials, please see this diary. For now, I will remind readers of what requests we've made of the Republican Governor and her Department of Health in South Carolina:


FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT / PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

Any and all public records, as that term is described in the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act--excluding any legal correspondence that would violate the attorney/client privilege--reporting on or describing the Office of the Governor of the State of South Carolina's specific programs or directives or orders or pronouncements or initiatives created to track the number of deaths caused, or potentially caused, by the Governor's Refusal to Expand Medicaid.

    That request was sent to Governor Nikki Haley. As you can see, it is basically a Catch-22 question, asking her what efforts she has made to document, or to at least discover, how many people she is letting die because she won't Expand Medicaid. The next requests were sent to the South Carolina Department of Health:



FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT / PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

(1) Any and all public records, as that term is described in the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act--excluding any legal correspondence that would violate the attorney-client privilege and excluding any information or data that might identify any patients, reporting on or describing any specific programs or directives or orders or pronouncements of the South Carolina Department of Health, or unit of same, to track the number of deaths caused, or potentially caused, by the Governor's Refusal to Expand Medicaid.

(2)  A summary maintained by the South Carolina Department of Health, or unit of same--but not showing any names, addresses, social security numbers or other identifying information of patients, and excluding any legal correspondence that would violate the attorney-client privilege--of the number of uninsured persons in the State of South Carolina who were treated in emergency rooms and/or hospitals and/or health clinics in the State of South Carolina during the last fiscal or calendar year or twelve-month or other stated period (depending on how the record is constructed).

    As you can see, the first request is similar to the one sent to Governor Haley. The second involves information that would be likely at hand to the Department of Health. Well, what happened next?      

IV.  RESPONSE FROM THE EMPEROR: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

     The Emperor refused to respond. Although the South Carolina FOIA law gives Governor Haley fifteen business days to respond, she has not done so in twenty-eight business days. More on that later. Here are the post offices return receipts showing that the Governor and the Department of Health received their respective requests:


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    The South Carolina Department of Health did respond. In a letter dated December 22, 2014, the SCDoH, through its Assistant General Counsel, provided a cover letter and one bit of spreedsheet. This is the cover letter:

 

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    In pertinent part, the letter provides as follows:
This is in response to your request for information from the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) pursuant to the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dated December 1, 2014 and received by DHHS on December 2, 2014. DHHS does not have any responsive documents to (1) of your request. In response to (2) please find enclosed an excel spreadsheet containing the information you requested.

Our expense for extracting this information is forty and 00/100 dollars ($40.00). Please make the check payable to the Department of Health and Human Services and send it to....

V.  THE NEXT MOVE: RETURN OF THE PESKY

     Just as we thought, Governor Nikki Haley has not asked the Department of Health to find out who, and how many people, she is killing by refusing to Expand Medicaid. Yet, we do not have a response from the Governor herself. This must be remedied. She might claim, at a later date, that she had a "private panel" look into the matter or some kind of a blue ribbon commission or whoknowswhatitsSouthCarolina.

     To begin to remedy this, we will send out another Certified Letter, Return Receipt requested to the Governor, noting that she is now in violation of the law, and indicating our willingness to have a Circuit Court decide the matter.

     We also need more information from the South Carolina Department of Health. Although they did acknowledge that the Governor is ignoring the Albatross around her neck, their spreadsheet came up a little light in other information. In just four sentences, we are told that 3,228 separate uninsured individuals made 15,813 visits to South Carolina emergency rooms within the last fiscal year (as of November 30, 2014).

     How many died? How many are dying now? Who paid for these emergency room visits? What followup does the Department of Health employ to find answers to these questions?

     Of note, the South Carolina Department of Health's response arrived in my mailbox in this envelope:
 


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     Notice anything sadistically ironic about that letter? Here, have a closer look at the upper left-hand corner:

 

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     That's right, at the very top of the South Carolina Department of Health's envelope and letter, which explained that the Governor apparently doesn't give a good damn about how many of her constituents are dying because she couldn't connect the dots between healthcare and health, there's the phrase, "Healthy Connections."


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Mon Jan 12, 2015 at 08:41 PM PST

the bible according to moe

by Tortmaster


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There is a disciple of Moe in this picture. Can you pick him out?



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There is a Fundamentalist disciple of Moe in this picture. Can you pick him out?





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Mon Jan 05, 2015 at 08:00 PM PST

Very Short Stories

by Tortmaster


     Here are some very short stories. By way of introduction, let me just say that they are stories, which are not only short, but very short. If I'm not mistaken, one is a very short poem disguised as a very short story. These, then, are the Very Short Stories:


YODELING FOR THE POPE

     I was a member of the Illinois Yodelers in high school. We were, at the time, one of the top three or four yodeler groups in South-Central Illinois. During those remarkable days, my head and my heart were filled with song! When called on during class, I would proudly yodel my answer. You see, back then yodeling was pretty gosh darn cool. My greatest memory was yodeling for the Pope. He came to Effingham, Illinois one day, and I happened to spot him. My friend told me that it was just Old Man Skolich in a bathrobe, but he looked exactly like the Pope, and after I had finished yodeling for him, a bird landed on my head.

The End


THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ASTONISHED DOCTOR

     Twenty years in the NCIS will change you. I began drinking. Hard. As soon as I could get Uncle Sam to foot the bill, I retired and set up a Private Detective agency in New York. My first client has just now walked through the door. She's a lovely bird who takes a seat in front of my desk. I smile confidently at her. "I deduce that you are Martha Croture, that you are a doctor, that you rode here on your bicycle, and that you have red hair," I say.

     Dr. Croture looks at me in amazement. Her jaw drops.

     "So, what do you think?" I inquire.

     "I think you might be a weirdo," she responds, "as I heard your secretary announce me by name over the intercom. You have my business card in your hand, which has my name and occupation on it. I'm carrying my bicycle helmet, and you are sitting right in front of me and can plainly see my hair."

     In mitigation, I begin, "Well--"

     "--And," she says, peering over the desk at me, apparently to confirm her suspicions, "you don't have any pants on! Creep!"

The End


HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER (PART ONE)

     There I was sitting in a gloomy bar in Chicago's South Side again, listening to Ben. It was New Year's Eve, and the ball game had finished three hours ago. And still he droned on, "Let me tell you a thing or two about Mathematics."

     "Okay," I said, unenthusiastically, "tell me about Mathematics."

     Ben jumped a little there, as this was the first time I had interrupted him in the last hour. He seemed to relish the attention and rushed to fill the silence. "Math, you see, is off by one."

     "What the Hell are you talking about?" I said, knowing this was a suspect move on my part.

     "Take countdowns for instance. Have you seen a space agency countdown? What am I saying, of course you have. Everyone's seen one of those! Well, they start way out and they'll say something like, 'two hours to liftoff,' and then 'an hour to liftoff' and all the way down to one minute to lift off. But, then they start ticking off the seconds. When they're going, 'Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four' ... guess how many seconds are left to launch when they say 'Four'"?

     "Um, four?" I say.

     "No, five. When they say four, there are actually five seconds left until the spaceship lifts off. Count it off on your fingers. And remember, you don't lift off on one, you lift off on zero. Math is off by one."

It was at that exact moment--or that moment plus one--that I decided to get married.

The End

 

POOR, POOR CORPORATIONS

     The other day in the future, as I was paying my monthly cable-internet-phone mortgage, I got to thinking. I kind of feel sorry for corporations because they never get thanked for reducing prices or making longer-lasting products much in the same way my dog is never praised for doing my taxes or selling real estate. Poor doggie.

The End


BOARDGAME OF THE GODS©

     "They created us but didn't have much for us to do," Apollo said. "They already thought themselves pretty enlightened, and when people think they're pretty enlightened, they believe they've got a handle on everything and don't really need gods. So, we were created more or less as recruiting tools and conversation starters to be trotted out at cocktail parties. We were also useful at business meetings to cheer up and motivate the sales staff. What helps waning motivation more than the appearance of your god?"

     Nick had just arrived at the apartment only to find it infested with gods. Artificially-created gods who apparently played video games and ate puffed cheese snacks all day. He pushed aside a three-foot-high mound of puffed cheese snack bags from what he thought was a chair and sat down. Four of the gods were hooked up to an Xbox, ignoring him completely. Other gods, waiting their turn sat looking impatient. Nick was full of questions and began with, "The creator ... the ... your creators. What were they like?"

     "Well, they liked Scrabble."

     "What?"

     "It's a word game played on a board with little tiles."

     "I know what Scrabble is. That was an exclamation of surprise."

     "Scrabble is actually pretty fun. I'm surprised at your surprise."

     Nick ran both of his hands backwards and forwards, roughly, through his red hair. "No. I know what Scrabble is, and I'm not surprised that some people find Scrabble to be entertaining. I am, however, surprised that that was the first thing you mentioned when describing your creators."

     "Perhaps you don't realize just how entertaining Scrabble is?"

     Nick started tugging on his hair. He used both hands. "No, that's not...."

     "We like to play Scrabble, too."

     "Oh, stop it!" Nick shouted.

The End


THE NEVERENDING STRUGGLE STORY

     I walked into a corporation the other day, and the corpartist behind the counter asked, "Can I help you?"

     I said, "Sure, I need your help in bringing down this corporation."

     After some little more between the two of us, she called the police, and they turned out to be less helpful than expected. Boy, had she gotten that wrong!  

The End

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    I am not religious, though I enjoy Christmas. It allows me to give away things without looking crazy, which is a bit of sad commentary on America but nonetheless true. Whenever else can you have a "secret friend" and not be accused of untoward motives? At what other time do you hear about gold coins discovered at the bottom of a Salvation Army kettle? What is the best, and possibly only, season to touch the heart of a Scrooge?

     But Christmas wasn't always Christmas. The holiday got a major push with the publication of A Christmas Carol in 1843. About the same time, christmas cards were invented, and the royal family gathered around something called a "christmas tree." Christmas, as we know it, was a tradition built over time. Besides taking apart debtor's prisons, cruel orphanages, child labor and slavery, Charles Dickens was a builder. How many of the better parts to Christmas do we owe to what The Great Empathizer helped to construct?

     I don't know. I'm not a Dickens scholar, just a Dickens reader and lover. So, instead of pondering the imponderables and effing the ineffables, let's look at A Christmas Carol, shall we?

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I.  What Was Dickens Trying to Do?

     In the first ten sentences of a very short book about Christmas, Charles Dickens used the words "undertaker," "mourners," "burial," "coffin," "deadest" and "unhallowed." But it doesn't end there. In those same ten sentences, which were short sentences for Dickens--one consisted of a single word--he also managed to squeeze in the word "dead" four times! In the eleventh sentence, there's another "dead"! Who gets away with that in a story about Christmas? It's like a children's story about ducks and ponies and vampires.

     The twelvth sentence has a "dead" in it. The paragraph it shares has a "funeral," a "sad event," a "dreadfully" and another "mourner." Why? Dickens explains in the third paragraph with yet another "dead":


"There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate."

    Every time I think about those two sentences, I can feel the power of his words. When Charles Dickens wants you to comprehend something, Charles Dickens doesn't mumble or stutter. You don't have to decipher a subtle interplay between allusion and allegory to understand him. He is teaching us how to be moral in the same way we learn multiplication tables. You will be dead soon; you've one short chance to be a decent human being. Now repeat that to yourself again and again and again and again. If it still doesn't take, he'll send along four ghosts because nobody learns a thing from one ghost.  

II.  The Cast of Players

     One of the delicious secrets to A Christmas Carol is how Charles Dickens decided to tell it. You likely noticed it in the quotation we've already used:


"There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate."

a.  The Narrator

     This isn't your run-of-the-mill narrator, as Dickens chose to make his story cozy and personal and tell it in the first person. He said it was a story "I am going to relate." On that same first page of The Carol, a ghost story is hinted at, and the narrator assumes the air of a storyteller in a bar, around a campfire, or, in 1843 England, presumably about the fireplace with flames dancing in the background punctuated with unanticipated pops and crackles. In telling the story of Scrooge's late partner Jacob Marley:


"Scrooge and he were partners for I don't know how many years."

    What does that tell you about your host? The average narrator is a trivia savant and would know that Scrooge and Marley had been partners, by way of illustration, for precisely thirty-six and one-third years on Tuesday of next week, but Dickens wanted you to feel comfortable around his narrator, who was a regular guy or gal with no mind for details. He wanted this to be a story you might hear around a campfire or in a pub. The technique continues into chapter two, as Dickens' narrator describes a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past:



"The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face-to-face with the unearthly visitor who drew them; as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow."

    Not only do you have a friendly and down-to-earth narrator, but your friendly and down-to-earth narrator is a ghost! There's nothing for the Christmas Spirit like a Christmas spirit, said only Charles Dickens. Counting the narrator and the illustrations, that makes twelve ghosts Dickens has introduced to you in his Christmas story, and we've barely started chapter two.

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b. Ebenezer Scrooge

     The Scrooge of the first number of chapters is a bit of a bastard. The character raises in my mind critics of Dickens who have alleged that his players were too fantastic. I disagree. I see Dickensian characters, both for the good and for the worse, everywhere, in cities and on farms, in schools and universities and banks, in the Army and especially around courtrooms and post offices, and although many claim the author was engaged in mortal combat with the aphorism that truth is stranger than fiction, his characters and their characteristics are, in fact, universal.

     Take the Scrooge of the first two chapters and compare him to Mitt Romney. Both of them hate large swaths of the population; both squirrelled away large sums of money; Scrooge threatened the employment of one individual, whereas The Great Offshorer remuneratively relieved thousands from the burden of employment. They both whined about the Awful and Bloody War on Rich People:

"'This is the evenhanded dealing of the world?' he said. 'There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!'" -- Charles Dickens, Chapter 2, A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1843).
"[T]hey believe that they are victims ... who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it." -- Mitt Romney
    There are plenty of Ebenezer Scrooges in the world. The Dickens character--unlike many of the others--was simply more honest in his vices and resentments. One of the reasons The Carol became so popular is because these traits were and are universal.

c.  Tiny Tim

     As crippled as Scrooge was of spirit, Tim Cratchit dealt with the physical equivalent. He was the obvious mirror image of Ebenezer Scrooge, having so little to give, yet giving so much. After the rest of his family had provided thanks for their paltry Christmas feast, including nothing but praise for such "a small pudding for a large family," Tiny Tim uttered the immortal, "God bless us every one!"  

     The Ghost of Christmas Present let Scrooge witness the happy Cratchit family, and just before leaving, in response to a question from Scrooge about Tiny Tim's future, said,


"'I see a vacant seat,' replied the Ghost, 'in the poor chimney corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future the child will die.'"

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d.  Food and Drink

     Dickens made food and drink a player in his macabre Carol, and they danced and sang their parts like no time before or since--enough to make a Food Network producer blush. It is the season to feast and be merry, and Charles Dickens took full advantage, likely causing audiences throughout the British Empire and the New World to re-read, with appetite, descriptives like this over and over again:


"It was [Scrooge's] own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation.... Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense Twelfth cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam."

    Just a couple of pages later, the ghost took Scrooge to witness this:


"There were great, round, potbellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed...."

    Remember that there were no Costcos, Krogers, Piggly Wigglys, Food Lions, A&Ps, or non-union (and certainly no union) WalMarts in 1843 England, and unless you lived in a major city like London, this kind of cornucopia of delights was rare if not unknown. For the Victorian Age, what Dickens described was like making love on a bed of hundred-dollar bills. Of course, the crowning glory was the turkey so big that it equaled in size the boy Scrooge dispatched to buy it for the Cratchits. This king of all poultry was so large it needed to be moved about by horse and cab. But just as Dickens used the infirmity of Tiny Tim to balance out the crippled Scrooge, he needed something to balance out the effects of festive food and drink. Those players were Ignorance and Want.  

e.  Ignorance and Want

     Two of the most memorable players in this fantasy were children who appeared from the folds of the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Present to terrify Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens described them as follows:


"They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

...

'Spirit! are they yours?' Scrooge could say no more.

'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.'"

f.  The Rest of the Cast &tc.

     I am not going to describe the rest of the cast, the plot, the mood, or anything else, with a couple of modest exceptions. [SPOILER ALERT] I have always been too young or too old to countenance an unhappy ending. In that respect, A Christmas Carol will never disappoint. Not only did Tiny Tim not die, but Dickens wrote:


"Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father."

    It is impossible not to laugh at the thought of literary critics experiencing a throbbing embolism of rage and impotence at the pure and simple joy in those words, especially the use of capital letters! Tiny Tim is ALIVE!  

     My other exception is to mention Scrooge's little sister, Fan. Early in the narrative, our main protagonist is led by the Ghost of Christmas Past to a time when he was a student, when young Scrooge was still a "dear Brother," and when he enjoyed a tiny but lovely sibling. Scrooge wasn't always abusive, he had to strain to reach that mark. Like Ignorance and Want, but only in reverse, he gradually became fearsome and yet so pitiful. But during this earlier time of his life, Ebenezer Scrooge loved his sister and recognized her worth. He was good enough, especially for his age, to realize that little sisters are one of Earth's great blessings.

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III.  Conclusion

     My gift to you in this season of Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanzaa is a whetting of the appetite for not just the traditional movie, in full here, which is great and classic cinema, but to tantalize you with the prospect of a ghost narrator telling you the story the way Dickens intended it be told. You can find it here on the internet for free. So, with that, let me finish by saying, "BEST OF THE SEASON TO YOU MY DEAR FRIENDS!"

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    Wherein we discuss the who, what, where, how, and why of sending a FOIA demand to your governor to save lives in your state. We are organizing a lawful method to advance the dreams of MLK. If you help us, you could find yourself cleansing your state of germs your Republican Governor. We (Support the Dream Defenders) crowdsourced a law. Will you please help us crowdsource expanding Medicaid to cover more people and contribute to the downfall of 19 Republican Governors?

I.  WHAT WE WANT TO ACCOMPLISH

     Support the Dream Defenders is a Daily Kos group which was founded by JoanMar after the murder of Trayvon Martin. The group has shown a spotlight on acts of criminal and social injustice, and it has used the law to seek advantage in the fight for equality and justice. Earlier this year, the group crowdsourced the development of a new law because of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The proposed law is called The Michael Brown Over-Policed Rights Act, and it is intended to empower people to sue violent police departments. On the national level, the NAACP and the ACLU have reviewed the bill with approval. The ACLU has indicated it would "partner" with our group on the law, and the NAACP has indicated that it would forward the bill to members of Congress.

     So, what does the group hope to accomplish next? To strike a blow for social justice, again using the law as an ally in the fight. We want to send Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Republican Governors and agencies in Red States. We want to shine sunlight on the refusal of Tea Party governors to expand medicaid. Let me pose this question:


   Which will claim more lives in 2014 and 2015: Ebola in Africa or Republican governors in the United States who refuse to expand Medicaid?


    According to a Harvard study, there may be as many as 17,000 people dying annually in the United States because Republican governors refused to expand Medicaid for no humane or decent reason. Millions will be uncovered in the so-called Medicaid Gap because of the blithely murderous decision of these politicians to refuse to expand Medicaid. Many of their constituents could have used mammograms, biopsies, $10-for-a-three-month's-supply of high blood pressure medicine, insulin, routine physical examinations, as well as blood, urine, and stool assays that would have discovered these health issues and others.

     The latest reports involving Ebola put the morbidly serendipitous number of cases at just over 17,000, with a total of 6,055 reported deaths. As cruel and evil and vicious as the Ebola virus is, it will have to up its game and make a strong comeback to hope to match the destructive power of a handful of Republican Governors.

     Which of these grave and horrible health care stories received attention from the media? Which of those stories burned up the air and radio waves before the mid-term elections? Which story needs a helping hand to obtain the coverage it deserves? Our group would like to provide that helping hand. To do that, we will ask Republican Governors a Catch-22 question about their refusal to expand Medicaid. (Actually, when you have made an intentional decision to blithely allow the deaths of thousands of your constituents, any question is a Catch-22 question.).        

     Once we have responses to our requests, our group plans to publish them on Daily Kos and send them around the globe to news agencies, Rachel Maddow, social justice organizations and everyone with a microphone or a blog. Republican governors have made decisions that would shock Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. This War on the Working Poor and this murder must stop!

II.  HOW WE PLAN TO DO IT

     The group is asking for volunteers to write FOIA requests to Republican Governors in their states. I volunteered for South Carolina. I have already mailed my FOIA requests, and, let me tell you, there are few activist highs as high and then as mellow as attaching the certified mail, return-receipt-requested stickers to a big manila envelope containing impossible requests, addressed to a murdering Republican Governor.

     Here is what my requests to Governor Nikki Haley and the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services looked like:


November 26, 2014

Custodian of Records
The Honorable Nikki R. Haley
Office of the Governor
1205 Pendleton Street
Columbia, SC 29201

Dear Custodian of Records:

Pursuant to the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting copies of public records that are described on the attached page. If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me if the cost will exceed $500.00.  However, I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the Health Care situation in the State of South Carolina.

This information is not being sought for commercial purposes.

The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act requires a response time within 15 business days. If access to the records I am requesting will take longer than this amount of time, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies. If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.

Thank you for considering my request.

Sincerely,

XXXXX XXXXXXXXX
(XXX) XXX-XXXX
XXXXXXXXXXXX@XXXXXXX.com

    A couple of notes about this letter. First of all, it is important to look at your state's Freedom of Information or Public Records statute. In the South Carolina instructions, I found that residents can request free copies if the records involve a matter of public interest. You will find links for resources for each state below.

     Also, I put in the amount of $500 because I want them to know that I am serious. I don't expect it to cost me a thing. Either they will grant my request without charge because of the public issue involved, or, more likely, they will not have the records I am seeking.

NOTE:  States will generally charge copy costs for reproducing the documents. This can run from 10¢ to 25¢ per page. Keep that in mind as you draft your state FOIA requests. Additionally, each state will have their own exemptions from their particular Freedom of Information Act. For example, most states will not provide personal information that may include social security numbers. There may be exemptions for legal correspondence that involves the attorney-client privilege, and so on.
    Finally, if the Governor denies my request or cites an exemption, I am fully aware of my right to file suit in circuit court to obtain the records. Still, I would rather get a "clean" response to my answer. Here is the specific request I made of the Governor of South Carolina:


FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT / PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

Any and all public records, as that term is described in the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act--excluding any legal correspondence that would violate the attorney/client privilege--reporting on or describing the Office of the Governor of the State of South Carolina's specific programs or directives or orders or pronouncements or initiatives created to track the number of deaths caused, or potentially caused, by the Governor's Refusal to Expand Medicaid.

    A few notes about this request: It is unlikely that the Governor of South Carolina has created an initiative to find out how many people she may be killing. I don't think these records exist. It would be like an accused murderer helping the prosecutor to track down evidence. That's the Catch-22 aspect of the request.

     If the Governor says that no such initiative exists, we ask "Why not?" If it does exist, then we get the records. If the Governor claims an exemption or otherwise denies responding, then we go to court.

     As a by-product of these FOIA requests, we hope to put pressure on Republican governors to cave and accept the Medicaid expansion. They won't do it unless there is some media and other pressures exerted upon them.  


FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT / PUBLIC RECORDS REQUEST

(1) Any and all public records, as that term is described in the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act--excluding any legal correspondence that would violate the attorney-client privilege and excluding any information or data that might identify any patients, reporting on or describing any specific programs or directives or orders or pronouncements of the South Carolina Department of Health, or unit of same, to track the number of deaths caused, or potentially caused, by the Governor's Refusal to Expand Medicaid.

(2)  A summary maintained by the South Carolina Department of Health, or unit of same--but not showing any names, addresses, social security numbers or other identifying information of patients, and excluding any legal correspondence that would violate the attorney-client privilege--of the number of uninsured persons in the State of South Carolina who were treated in emergency rooms and/or hospitals and/or health clinics in the State of South Carolina during the last fiscal or calendar year or twelve-month or other stated period (depending on how the record is constructed).

    These are the requests I made of the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services under separate cover. I don't expect them to be able to answer #1 above, for the same reasons as the Governor could not answer it. On the other hand, I do expect to get something back regarding request #2. If so, that opens up a can of Whoops! for them. If not, it opens up a different can of Whoops!
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    Charles Dickens was the first popular progressive known throughout the world and may be the most popular progressive who ever lived. It is well known that Dickens affected change in debtor's prisons and orphanages, but his voice was heard on a wide variety of issues. How much influence did he have on the debate over Slavery in the United States? It was likely more than you think. He saw everything and missed nothing.

     But what would Charles Dickens say about current political positions, popular culture and greedy capitalism? The Tea Party? "Walking while Black"? Libertarians? We caught up with the author today just as he was sitting down to tea. He was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions about progressivism and his critics. Before we get to the Progressive issues, let's see how he felt about literary criticisms he has faced since THE PICKWICK PAPERS were first published in 1837. Our interview started like this:    





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Charles Dickens, you have been accused of being "wordy," of having been paid by the word. What say you?

"To critics who complain that I was 'paid by the word,' I reply that Charles Dickens was underpaid by the word! Six thousand copies sold of what you call A Christmas Carol netted me £230, which you might say was rather a lot for the time; but what about ice sculptures? "Ice sculptures?", you ask. Yes, ice sculptures. The artisan who designs one for your corporate fundraisers and banquet halls of today is paid more money than I was, and their work of art takes a week to erect and lasts forty or fifty minutes; whereas the Carol took a year to create and will be forever!"

Some book snobs claim your endings are too happy. Are they?

"To those malefactors who suggest that my endings are too happy; I suggest to them that Charles Dickens knew when to end a book! Do you think David Copperfield is still alive? Do you believe that Mr. Pickwick continues to sport about Kent? That Martin Chuzzlewit (the younger) is still designing buildings in his study with happy Mary by his side? I say to you, sir, that they are dead, and they probably died horrible deaths without pain medication and with leeches on their faces and extremities, but I was savvy enough not to end my books then."

Do your books contain too many coincidences?

Yes, there are those who claim that there are too many coincidences in my novels. Perhaps they should be the greatest writer of all time instead? Well, let me tell you this, things that coincide are interesting. Do you know what's not interesting? People who don't meet by chance. Why are those people uninteresting? Because they don't meet! Moreover, by my count, there were 473 people who lived and worked in London in 1838; so there was a good chance they'd run into one another.

Are your books too simple?

What those Pecksniffian Quilpsters don't understand is that every gentle emotion in pure form is simple. Every act of kindness is not always an attempt to get over, to build one's self up, or done to avoid looking like a humbug; some acts of kindness are acts of kindness. This is beyond the ken of the person who has never shown up on the doorstep of a friend with a heartfelt and hard-earned gift and honest good cheer; but, instead, arrives with that particularized bottle of wine exactly fashionable, no more and no less, for the host's station in society; given, not out of the goodness of heart, but out of vain motive."

     The Great Master has exerted himself much. He is, after all, 202 years old this year. So, from here on forward, he simply provided quotations from his library of works (and sometimes from the works of his critics) on matters of keen topical and progressive interest.  If you have a question for him, please write it below in a comment. Thank you.  

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SUMMARY


     In a twenty-eight-day period in June 2013, Glenn Greenwald manipulated a terrified public with stories that were untrue in their most important assertion or were wild-eyed conspiracy theories. He withheld information that was important for his readership to know, and when he made huge mistakes, he failed to retract or correct them. During that short time frame, Greenwald managed to imply that intelligence agencies were intercepting the content of American communications in a willy-nilly manner while concealing their actions from Congress. That would be terrifying if it had been true.

     Greenwald, the lawyer, ignored well-settled law in the area, including the Roe v. Wade of telephone metadata decisions. Greenwald, the journalist, speculated wildly about what was contained in NSA slides, then reported his erroneous conjectures as fact. Greenwald, the Civil Libertarian, attempted the public hanging of an innocent man. Even if you believe all of this was simply sloppy journalism, Greenwald has maintained many of these false premises, making them, by now, intentional fabrications. And those are a few of the lowest lights.


CHAPTER ONE: TO BEGIN THE BEGIN  



     It is instructive to see how this story was reported from the beginning, as Greenwald and other journalists disclosed the Snowden leaks to the public. In June of 2013, these reporters began providing what sounded like incredible reports about surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency and its contractors.

     Greenwald also began, almost immediately, to use terms like "Security State" and "Stasi" to describe America, even as he became evidence against his own hyperbolic descriptions. Only in America can a journalist call the country a "Security State" while lying about it, then sign a movie deal. This critical study looks at how Glenn Greenwald began to report the Snowden saga in the pages of The Guardian, a British newspaper.

     Before we do that, though, we have to start at the beginning, which began much earlier.


A.  Young Greenwald Begins in the Bush Leagues

     In a 2006 post on his personal blog "Unclaimed Territory," lawyer and blogger Glenn Greenwald responded to the first time the NSA telephone metadata collection program was exposed. The NSA metadata program was initially outed in a USA Today exclusive in 2006, seven years before the world had heard of Edward Snowden. It was a big story at the time, but a story that the public seemingly forgot.  

     Greenwald was skeptical of the metadata collection program in 2006, researched the law, sought out the opinion of a Constitutional expert, reviewed arguments made on behalf of the Government, and suggested that the program was illegal or questionable for a few reasons. From 2006 to 2013, the Government, especially Congress and the Obama Administration, made changes to the NSA metadata program suggested by critics.

 

B.  The NSA Did Not Get a Court Order in 2006

     Specifically, Greenwald noted that the Bush Administration, in 2006, did not obtain any kind of order from a court to collect telephone metadata. The Obama Administration, on the other hand, did obtain court orders every time it sought to collect telephone metadata. Why is that important? In 2006, Greenwald chastised the Government for not obtaining a court order for the NSA telephone metadata program. In 2013, Greenwald chastised the Government for obtaining a court order for the NSA telephone metadata program.  

     Here's what Greenwald wrote in 2006: "Everyone seems to agree that even with the changes effectuated to FISA by the Patriot Act, the Government is still required to obtain approval from the FISA court...." That "approval from the FISA court" would be a court order. He goes on, sarcastically, to note that "... it is perfectly legal for the Government to obtain ... information for everyone's phone in the country without bothering to obtain a court order of any kind." Obviously, Glenn Greenwald had a problem with the Bush Administration failing to procure a court order before obtaining the telephone metadata of all Americans.

     Fast forward to 2013. We find Greenwald's first headline in The Guardian, "breaking" the story about the NSA telephone metadata program, carried the following scare headline,  "NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily;  Exclusive: Top Secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama." (emphasis added).

     As you can see, Greenwald's story in 2006 was that the Government didn't get a court order for the NSA telephone metadata program, but in 2013, his story was that the Government was getting a court order for the very same program. That's the most obvious contradiction in his reporting of the metadata program from his 2006 blog to his 2013 articles in The Guardian, but it was by no means the only instance of goal-post shifting.

     It is interesting that in 2006, when there was no court order for the collection of telephone metadata, Greenwald referred to analysis of the program as "fascinating and academic statutory debates." In 2013 and 2014, when court orders were obtained before collecting any telephone metadata, Greenwald has been apoplectic. That's more goal-post shifting, but it can also be explained by Greenwald's penchant to be a salesman and an advocate rather than a reporter.


C.  President Bush's Reliance on Article II

     In 2006, Greenwald had a problem with how the Bush Administration was using Article II of the Constitution as a basis for maintaining that its telephone metadata program was legal. In 2013, the Obama Administration did not rely on Article II to claim its program was legal. Quoting Law Professor Orin Kerr, Greenwald wrote the following in 2006:

greenwald lies 1

     Article II of the Constitution simply provides the following: "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States...." That was the authority that President Bush's defenders used, in part, for his telephone metadata collection program. As will be discussed later, the Obama Administration has based its Section 215 telephone metadata collection on a Supreme Court case and statutes enacted and amended by Congress.


D.  The 2006 Metadata Program Would Be Constitutional With a Court Order  

     Another manifestation of Greenwald's goal-post shifting from his 2006 blogging to his 2013 reporting is contained in the very first paragraph of his 2006 blog. In it, Greenwald basically concedes that the NSA metadata program circa 2006 was constitutional and that there were no Fourth Amendment issues as long as the Government first obtained a court order (which is the practice now).

     He did claim that there were statutory problems, but he basically conceded any argument that the program was unconstitutional. Again, referring to and quoting Professor Orin Kerr:

greenwald lies 2



E. Limited "Minimization Procedures" in 2006

     Also, in 2006, Greenwald argued that the metadata obtained by the Bush Administration  provided "identification" information about the people making and receiving the telephone calls, which meant that the metadata program could possibly violate the FISA law. That, in turn, could make the program illegal by statute. The problem for Greenwald is that, between then and 2013, those defects in the NSA procedures were changed and the law was modified by Congress. Additionally, the procedures required to maintain the privacy of Americans were made stronger by the DOJ and the FISA court in the interim.

     This culminated in new regulations drafted by the Department of Justice in 2011 that contained strict "minimization procedures." Minimization procedures are rules that govern how the intelligence agencies handle data that might involve Americans. Basically, the NSA must do everything reasonable to protect the privacy rights of Americans under the Constitution.

     Additionally, the FISA court became intrinsically involved in the process of data collection, and the court demanded new minimization procedures. This is additional goal-post shifting by Greenwald from his 2006 blogger.com post to his 2013 "breaking" story in The Guardian.  


F.  The Smith v. Maryland Case

     The final shocking contradiction between Greenwald's reporting in 2006 and his reporting in 2013 involves the United States Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979). The shocker is this: He mentions it! Why that is so shocking will be explained below, but first, let's learn about the Smith v. Maryland case, as that will prove helpful in understanding this criticism.  

     Smith v. Maryland is the seminal decision on the topic of the Government acquiring telephone metadata. The United States Supreme Court rendered its decision in the Smith case thirty-four years before Edward Snowden stole Top Secret documents. It is still what lawyers call "good law" because it has never been overturned in those thirty-four, now thirty-five, years.

     In Smith, the Government wanted to find out who a suspected criminal, alleged purse-snatcher Michael Lee Smith, was calling. The police suspected that Smith was calling a purse-snatching victim using information that he had obtained from inside the victim's purse. To do that, the Government obtained a court order which allowed it to access Smith's telephone metadata as it was transmitted to the telephone company. Telephone metadata is what you might find on your old-fashioned telephone bills, including the number calling, the numbers called, the time of the calls and their duration.

     With the information provided by the telephone company, law enforcement was able to determine that Smith was the person calling the purse-snatching victim. He was arrested and convicted. Smith appealed the decision, claiming that the metadata search was unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. The Fourth Amendment basically provides that Americans are to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures by the Government.

     The Supreme Court held that the Government could obtain that information as long as they provided the telephone company with a court order. Now, a court order is the warrant's little brother. You need probable cause that a crime was committed and that the person you are searching probably committed it to obtain a warrant. The hurdle is not nearly so high for a court order.

     The Supreme Court reasoned that the public does not have a "reasonable expectation of privacy" to telephone metadata because we voluntarily hand the information over to the telephone company (by dialing the number), and, on top of that, this type of billing data belonged to the telephone company and not to the telephone user.


G.  Smith v. Maryland Is the Law of the Land

     Every time the NSA telephone collection program has been argued in court--approximately forty-one times by this date--each court has had to consider the Smith v. Maryland decision because it is the landmark case dealing with telephone metadata. It is precedent. In those cases, the Government is 40-0-1, with forty wins and a draw. (The draw was a 2013 court indicating that the program was probably unconstitutional but refusing to enjoin or otherwise stop it pending a full trial.).

     The reasoning of the forty-one or so courts that have found the NSA program constitutional is pretty simple: Metadata hasn't changed since the Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Maryland. It is still the the telephone number calling, the numbers called, the times of the calls and the durations. Moreover, the test has remained the same: Do we have a reasonable expectation of privacy to data we voluntarily give away to a stranger (the telephone company), and which data belongs to a stranger (the telephone company). The answer is no, and it applies no matter if it is the metadata of one person or three hundred million people.

greenwald lies 3

     Most significantly, the lower courts have held the collection of telephone metadata to be constitutional because of the Supreme Court decision saying that it is. That's how precedent works.

     Moreover, in the Smith case, the Government knew to whom the metadata related. It related to Michael Lee Smith. They were investigating him, and this was a tool in their investigation. With the procedures used by the NSA, everyone remains anonymous, and nobody can be identified unless the United States first obtains a warrant.

     In this respect, the Smith case was much more invasive of privacy rights, as it allowed the Government to obtain the telephone metadata of even known, specified individuals. With this anonymity requirement, it becomes easier to fathom why so many courts have found the NSA metadata program constitutional as the metadata collection program deals with anonymous individuals.      

     As a former attorney, Glenn Greenwald knew the importance of the Smith v. Maryland case. In his first substantial blog post on the subject in 2006, he cited the case. (In fact, he seemed to imply that the NSA metadata program was constitutional under the Smith analysis as long as the Government first obtained a court order.) The problem for Greenwald is that, although he felt the Smith case was important enough to cite in his first substantive 2006 blog post on the subject, he has been running away from it since June 2013 when Edward Snowden landed in his lap.


H. If Greenwald Met the Smith v. Maryland Case on the Street, He Would Duck Quickly into an Alley

      An exhaustive review of every Greenwald-authored or co-authored article at The Guardian since June 2013, as well as every Greenwald-authored or co-authored post on The Intercept blog, his new media outlet after he left the newspaper, finds zero mentions by him of that seminal case. This is the Roe v. Wade of  metadata cases so his obvious evasion of the issue is more than a little strange.

     The fact that Greenwald has not reported about how he vetted the NSA metadata program in 2006, pointed out the program's legal defects, and then saw those defects remedied in the intervening years is radical goal-post shifting. How has more than a year passed without journalists asking hard questions of Greenwald about his shifted goal posts? Why haven't journalists asked him about what he told Snowden regarding his prior vetting of the NSA metadata program? About his avoidance of the Smith v. Maryland case?

     Finally, Greenwald cannot argue that his opinions and analyses were hastily done in 2006. The reason for that is because of Greenwald himself. In an earlier posting at the same blog, Greenwald chastised other lawyers for providing opinions on the constitutionality and legality of the program before having had the time effectively to research the law. This is what he wrote:

greenwald lies 4

(emphasis deleted; highlighting added). It would be hard to argue that somebody who places such an emphasis on doing proper research before stating an opinion would not have, himself, properly researched the topic before stating his opinion.

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Tue Nov 04, 2014 at 10:28 PM PST

On Optimism and Reform

by Tortmaster



This from a pretty bright fellow:

"The optimist is a better reformer than the pessimist; and the man who believes life to be excellent is the man who alters it most. It seems a paradox, yet the reason of it is very plain. The pessimist can be enraged at evil. But only the optimist can be surprised at it. From the reformer is required a simplicity of surprise. He must have the faculty of a violent and virgin astonishment. It is not enough that he should think injustice distressing; he must think injustice absurd, an anomaly in existence, a matter less for tears than for a shattering laughter. On the other hand, the pessimists at the end of the century could hardly curse even the blackest thing; for they could hardly see it against its black and eternal background. Nothing was bad, because everything was bad. Life in prison was infamous — like life anywhere else. The fires of persecution were vile — like the stars. We perpetually find this paradox of a contented discontent. Dr. Johnson takes too sad a view of humanity, but he is also too satisfied a Conservative. Rousseau takes too rosy a view of humanity, but he causes a revolution. Swift is angry, but a Tory. Shelley is happy, and a rebel. Dickens, the optimist, satirizes the Fleet, and the Fleet is gone. Gissing, the pessimist, satirizes Suburbia, and Suburbia remains."

G.K. Chesterton, CHARLES DICKENS: A CRITICAL STUDY, at 6-7 (Note that "the Fleet" above was England's debtor's prison; Rousseau, a philosphic instigator of the French Revolution; Dr. Johnson is Samuel Johnson, a celebrated 18th Century English writer, George Gissing another English writer.). Makes sense. The optimist thinks he or she can accomplish something; the pessimist not only believes that he or she cannot accomplish something, but believes that nobody can. Pessimism can motivate you to think, but only optimism can motivate you to do.


Leave it to G.K. Chesterton to explain something so obvious and simple that I had missed it for fifty years. The true pessimist never offers an option, as no option will ever work or is good enough. A clever pessimist may offer something like, for example, the Public Option, which was never really an option. The disingenuous Republican pessimist might suggest that, yes, there's a problem with health care, and once we dismantle ObamaCare, we'll get right on it. What startles me is how illogical a pessimist can be.

comedyanddrama1

The pessimist can shine his or her dark light on ObamaCare but the same light never shines on his or her so-called reasonable alternative. That's if they have one. How would a pessimist really feel about the likelihood that Republicans get something passed that would adequately take the place of ObamaCare? How would a pessimist really feel, back in 2009, about the likelihood of enacting the Public Option in that House and Senate?  


ObamaCare -- How many times did you hear from the top of the pincer movement: It will never pass? It will be repealed? It's unconstitutional? How many times from the bottom jaws of the pincer movement did you hear that it was an abomination and not single payer? Instead, President Obama covered millions with insurance or Medicaid. It was Republican Governors, the real pessimists, who refused to expand Medicaid and therefore sentenced thousands of their constituents to die. Doesn't that startle you? The sheer despicability?

obama33


I would also add that pessimism is the worldview of a sleep-deprived two-year old. What is their favorite word? They use it because they fear change. They use it to get attention. They use it because it is a small word that provides explosive results. (The earnings-to-investment ratio of that word is unparalleled.) They use it because it is past their bedtime. They use it because they only know a binary response (Yes/No) and have not learned about negotiation. They use it because they fear something new (which is slightly different than fear of change). They never use it to produce a result other than the status quo.


That doesn't mean optimists never use the word "no." On the contrary, they would need use it almost as much as the pessimist; but their use would be along these lines: "No, I think that's wrong. Wouldn't it be better to do it this way...."

What Chesterton said reminds me of what another interesting (though more pessimistic) author wrote: "[W]hat are called advanced ideas are really in great part but the latest fashion in definition--a more accurate expression, by words in logy and ism, of sensations which men and women have vaguely grasped for centuries." -- Thomas Hardy, Tess of the D'Urbervilles We call it obstructionism today, but it was pessimism then. Its practioners are obstructionists and haters and conservatives and Tories today, and they were obstructionists and haters and conservatives and Tories back then. Still, we have somehow managed to keep making progress.

comedyanddrama

We learn from our mistakes and take up from there. I learned a valuable GOTV lesson about registration. When somebody told me they were not likely to vote--or they hedged in that way that made me feel they were unlikely to vote--it was most frequently a voter registration issue. These are folks who need to vote! A tough lesson for me, but one I plan to put to good use in the future. For, you see, I am an optimist. My eyes are filled with tears, but my lips with laughter and my heart with hope.

Discuss



Why?  


Libya -- Genocide about to happen. Warhawks want war (Yeah, Bloodshed!). The opposite end of the spectrum demands complete neutrality (Yeah, Genocide!). Obama uses the least amount of power to depose a dictator and stop the imminent Genocide.  International terrorist BFF and snappy dresser Gaddafi no longer abides. (Estimated Lives Saved: Tens of Thousands to Hundreds of Thousands)
obama31



Iran -- Nuclear weapons grade material in 3-2-1. Israel threatening to bomb any fucking minute. Warhawks call for immediate acts of war directed at Iran. The other end of the teeter-totter prophesy full-scale war with Iran. Obama brokers deal that still has everyone saying, "OhShutTheFuckUpNoWay." (Estimated Lives Saved: 1,000 to Millions)
obama26



American Automotive Industry -- Face it. We were unloading crap-ugly bad steel for decades. Romney derides President Obama's assistance plan! Others say we're bailing out corpsters again. Obama sticks his neck out. American automakers and parts manufacturers get their shit together after tough-love intervention from Mr. Change. American cars now suck at or below the level of their European and Asian counterparts for the first time in like forever. Romney claims it was his idea! (Estimated Lives Saved: Zero to Hundreds)
obama32



Somalia -- Kidnappers kidnapping. Pirates pirating. Somali pirate and kidnapper investment-to-earnings ratio is mind-bogglingly awesome. (I consider getting in the game.) Then they hijack an American ship and kidnap Americans. Oops! (Estimated Lives Saved: Two to Hundreds)
obama27



ObamaCare -- How many times did you hear from the top of the pincer movement: It will never pass? It will be repealed? It's unconstitutional? How many times from the bottom jaws of the pincer movement did you hear that it was an abomination and not single payer? Instead, President Obama covered millions with insurance or Medicaid. By the way, if my analysis on a subject that fucking important was that fucking wrong, I would never show my face on TV or the internet again. (Estimated Lives Saved: Minimum of 25,000 in first year)
obama33



Syria -- Use of chemical weapons. Genocide. The End Times: US v. Russia. No-win situation like a Star Trek game scenario. Ying wants war but won't vote on it. Yang again claims it's all a ruse to get us into full-scale war. Obama 11th-dimensionally-chesses Assad out of his chemical weapons. (Estimated Lives Saved: Thousands to Millions)  
obama22



Osama bin Laden -- Dude cannot be found for a decade! No wonder, Osama's in a secret house in the middle of bum-fuck Nebraskastan and won't even come out in disguise during the day. Not even for the Taliban's annual Kill-A-Woman-Who's-Learning Day Feast and Cake Walk. Bush gives up. President Barack Obama doesn't. World's most sophisticated game of  hide-and-seek ends with clear winner.  (Estimated Lives Saved: Zero to Thousands)
obama24



al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- You know, the guys who actually did 9/11? Beaten down badly. More Taste ignores it. Less Filling: Dronez! (Estimated Lives Saved: Thousands to Tens of Thousands)
obama25



The Economy -- "We're in a double-dip!" "This economy will never turn around!" Tweedle-dee complains about too many regulations and too much bail out money. Tweedle-dum complains about too little of both. An economy that was as radioactive as the crater left by a nuclear bomb is now almost safe for humans. (Estimated Lives Saved: Zero to Thousands)
obama29



Unemployment -- What? Did you say something? Never heard of it. That was never a thing. There's an opposite of employment? (Estimated Lives Saved: Zero to Thousands)
obama30



ISIS -- Poised to slaughter thousands of civilians. Obama uses a couple of aeroplanes and hobby kit whirly-gigs to stop them. Warhawks angry! Droners angry! LOL @ both of them. And thank fucking Allah for President Obama. (Estimated Lives Saved: 10,000 to 50,000)
obama28


*All estimates based on What God Said to Me in a Vision Last Night.  

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