Talking to Conservatives: Tips on Reaching Across the Aisle

Tips on talking to political adversaries. Moving past politics, partisanship and labels, recognizing corporatism masquerading as progressivism or conservatism, and going straight to the issues. Read on...

Bloodshed in Arizona turns spotlight on political landscape of anger and hate

From the Restore Fairness blog-

As Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona battles for her life after an assassination attempt, the nation is trying to grapple with the violent tragedy that took the lives of 6 and wounded 14 people on Saturday morning, casting a dark shadow on the start of this year. On the morning of January 8th, while U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event at a local shopping center in Tuscon, a gunman opened fire on the gathering. Within seconds, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head at point blank range, along with 19 others including Christina Green, a 9-year old girl, Phyllis Schneck, a grandmother from New Jersey and 76-year old Dorwan Stoddard, who lived a mile from the grocery store.

A suspect was apprehended at the scene after two men pinned him to the ground and waited for the police to arrive. The suspect, 22-year old Jared Lee Loughner, has been charged with five federal counts on Sunday, including the attempted assassination of a Member of Congress, and the killing and attempted killings of four other government employees including John M. Roll, the chief federal judge in Arizona, who was killed, Gabriel Zimmerman, a Congressional aide, who was also killed, and Pamela Simon and Ron Barber, Congressional aides who were wounded. Mr. Loughner could face the death penalty if convicted.

Investigators found evidence at Jared Loughner’s residence in Southern Arizona to show that he had planned the attack on Gabrielle Giffords, including an envelope on which the words “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords” were written. In addition to a website linked to his name which contains anti-government writings, Mr. Loughner’s motives for committing the crime remain unclear. In spite of indications that Mr. Loughner is mentally ill, the tragic incident has quickly focused attention on the degree to which a political climate increasingly characterized by hate, fear and vitriolic rhetoric might be complicit in leading to a tragedy of this nature.

In a New York Times editorial written after the Arizona shootings, Paul Krugman refers to an internal report brought out by the Department of Homeland Security in April 2009 that warned of the violence that could accompany the growth of extremist rhetoric that was apparent in the political landscape. The last few years have also seen a growth in the numbers of threats against government officials. In 2010, following the health-care overhaul, Capitol Security officials had said that threats of violence against Congress officials, including death threats, harassment and vandalism, had tripled from the previous year. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a strong and vocal supporter of heath-care reform had her district office door smashed with a bullet following the health-care vote. Judge John Roll, who was killed on Saturday, had received thousands of threatening messages and phone calls after he had allowed undocumented immigrants to proceed with a case in which a rancher had assaulted 16 Mexicans who had crossed through his land.

While it would be misguided to directly attribute the Loughner’s violent actions to the surge of inflammatory language characterizing politics and media, it is important to understand that there are real consequences to framing political discourse through violent rhetoric. The extent to which hateful and angry rhetoric has made its way into mainstream politics was evident in 2010, during the debate around Arizona’s harsh anti-immigrant law, SB1070, and during the 2010 mid-term elections, where campaign ads openly promoted hate and divisive sentiments. In March 2010, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin announced a target list of Congressional candidates to be defeated in the 2010 midterm election. Launched through her personal profile on Facebook, Palin’s “Don’t get Demoralized. Get Organized. Take Back the 20” campaign was symbolized by a map of the country which had crosshairs over the districts represented by candidates that she wanted defeated. Ms. Giffords, who was among the candidates marked on this map, had expressed her concern about it at the time-

We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list. But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.

At a press conference about the shootings on Saturday, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik spoke about the “vitriol” that characterized political discourse. Saying that it was time for the country to do a little “soul-searching” he said-

The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.

There is never an explanation for senseless acts of violence such as this that take the lives of innocent people. While Saturday’s shooting can be seen as an isolated action of a mentally ill individual, it can also be seen as emblematic of a political landscape that is angry, divisive, intolerant and eliminationist. Can this tragic incident become the pivotal turning point towards a more humane and peaceful political discourse?

Photo courtesy of examiner.com

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Weekly Pulse: Insurance, Dispersants, and Teen Botox

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Is the IV Bag half-empty or half-full? Theda Skocpol, the author of a forthcoming book on President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, argues in the Nation that progressives are underrating reform.

Skocpal urges progressives to get over their disappointment over the lack of a public health insurance option and rally around the president to support health care reform in the midterm elections. Skocpol maintains that, for all its flaws and limitation, the Affordable Care Act will be a powerful antidote to rising inequality in American society:

[T]he White House certainly had to make choices about what to emphasize in the brief time it likely had to make headway. The administration chose comprehensive health care reform and a few other measures with profound economic import—and those will make an enduring difference for millions of ordinary Americans.

Keeping insurers in line

In the American Prospect, Jon Cohn warns of a potential loophole in the health care reform legislation. In theory, health insurers are now required to do various things they find unpalatable (read: less profitable), like making sure that all plans cover a basic array of treatments and limiting out-of-pocket expenses.

However, Cohn notes, the law allows for “grandfathering” of existing health care plans that don’t meet the new standards. It’s up to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to interpret what the grandfathering clause means in practice.

In June, the Secretary issued an interim ruling that existing health insurance plans will only be subject to the new rules if employers make significant changes in the coverage—such as dramatically increasing deductibles. If employers try to slash benefits or hike rates on their existing plans, they will lose the privilege of the grandfather clause and become subject to the tougher new rules.

The federal government can only do so much. Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones wonders who will keep insurers in line at the state level, the front lines of health care reform. She notes that 13 states don’t have the legal authority to scrutinize excessive rate hikes, like the 39% jump in premiums that insurer Anthem proposed last year.

Some states are taking the new regulations and running with them, but others are still fighting health care reform in the courts. This state-level recalcitrance is a major potential stumbling block. As Jonathan Cohn argued in his Prospect piece, above, health care reform will only work if it changes the behavior of insurers nationwide. State-level foot-dragging could be a serious threat to the success of the initiative as a whole.

Untested dispersants in the Gulf

You can’t see most of the 4 million barrels of oil that BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Researchers at the University of Georgia estimate that 70%-79% of the oil is still in the Gulf, hidden in the water column or on the seabed. As Kate Sheppard explains in Mother Jones, the oil is invisible because of chemicals known as dispersants.

So far, BP has released over 1.8 million gallons of these chemicals into the Gulf. These substances have never been tested for safety. Sheppard explains that the public isn’t even legally entitled to know exactly what’s in Correxit and other dispersants because the formulas are protected by trade secrets. When pressed, the maker of Correxit admitted that the fluid contains 2-butoxyethanol, a chemical that can cause kidney damage.

Teen Botox

Julie Zellinger of the Ms. Magazine blog reacts to the news that 12,000 American teenagers received botox injections last year, a 2% increase from 2008. Botox is used to paralyze muscles—sometimes for medical reasons like neck spasms and twitchy eyelids, but also for cosmetic purposes, like erasing wrinkles.

Teens don’t usually have wrinkles, but that doesn’t stop enterprising cosmetic surgeons from figuring out how to sell them botox injections to relieve other body image anxieties. Some teens are using botox to make their faces look less round.

As Zellinger says, it’s not so much the procedure itself that’s cause for alarm, but rather the underlying lack of self-esteem that these doctors are capitalizing on. I don’t know if teens are more insecure about their looks today than they were a generation ago, but cosmetic surgeons are busily developing techniques to exploit that insecurity.

Weekly Pulse: Insurance, Dispersants, and Teen Botox

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Is the IV Bag half-empty or half-full? Theda Skocpol, the author of a forthcoming book on President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, argues in the Nation that progressives are underrating reform.

Skocpal urges progressives to get over their disappointment over the lack of a public health insurance option and rally around the president to support health care reform in the midterm elections. Skocpol maintains that, for all its flaws and limitation, the Affordable Care Act will be a powerful antidote to rising inequality in American society:

[T]he White House certainly had to make choices about what to emphasize in the brief time it likely had to make headway. The administration chose comprehensive health care reform and a few other measures with profound economic import—and those will make an enduring difference for millions of ordinary Americans.

Keeping insurers in line

In the American Prospect, Jon Cohn warns of a potential loophole in the health care reform legislation. In theory, health insurers are now required to do various things they find unpalatable (read: less profitable), like making sure that all plans cover a basic array of treatments and limiting out-of-pocket expenses.

However, Cohn notes, the law allows for “grandfathering” of existing health care plans that don’t meet the new standards. It’s up to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to interpret what the grandfathering clause means in practice.

In June, the Secretary issued an interim ruling that existing health insurance plans will only be subject to the new rules if employers make significant changes in the coverage—such as dramatically increasing deductibles. If employers try to slash benefits or hike rates on their existing plans, they will lose the privilege of the grandfather clause and become subject to the tougher new rules.

The federal government can only do so much. Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones wonders who will keep insurers in line at the state level, the front lines of health care reform. She notes that 13 states don’t have the legal authority to scrutinize excessive rate hikes, like the 39% jump in premiums that insurer Anthem proposed last year.

Some states are taking the new regulations and running with them, but others are still fighting health care reform in the courts. This state-level recalcitrance is a major potential stumbling block. As Jonathan Cohn argued in his Prospect piece, above, health care reform will only work if it changes the behavior of insurers nationwide. State-level foot-dragging could be a serious threat to the success of the initiative as a whole.

Untested dispersants in the Gulf

You can’t see most of the 4 million barrels of oil that BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Researchers at the University of Georgia estimate that 70%-79% of the oil is still in the Gulf, hidden in the water column or on the seabed. As Kate Sheppard explains in Mother Jones, the oil is invisible because of chemicals known as dispersants.

So far, BP has released over 1.8 million gallons of these chemicals into the Gulf. These substances have never been tested for safety. Sheppard explains that the public isn’t even legally entitled to know exactly what’s in Correxit and other dispersants because the formulas are protected by trade secrets. When pressed, the maker of Correxit admitted that the fluid contains 2-butoxyethanol, a chemical that can cause kidney damage.

Teen Botox

Julie Zellinger of the Ms. Magazine blog reacts to the news that 12,000 American teenagers received botox injections last year, a 2% increase from 2008. Botox is used to paralyze muscles—sometimes for medical reasons like neck spasms and twitchy eyelids, but also for cosmetic purposes, like erasing wrinkles.

Teens don’t usually have wrinkles, but that doesn’t stop enterprising cosmetic surgeons from figuring out how to sell them botox injections to relieve other body image anxieties. Some teens are using botox to make their faces look less round.

As Zellinger says, it’s not so much the procedure itself that’s cause for alarm, but rather the underlying lack of self-esteem that these doctors are capitalizing on. I don’t know if teens are more insecure about their looks today than they were a generation ago, but cosmetic surgeons are busily developing techniques to exploit that insecurity.

Weekly Pulse: Insurance, Dispersants, and Teen Botox

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Is the IV Bag half-empty or half-full? Theda Skocpol, the author of a forthcoming book on President Barack Obama’s health care reforms, argues in the Nation that progressives are underrating reform.

Skocpal urges progressives to get over their disappointment over the lack of a public health insurance option and rally around the president to support health care reform in the midterm elections. Skocpol maintains that, for all its flaws and limitation, the Affordable Care Act will be a powerful antidote to rising inequality in American society:

[T]he White House certainly had to make choices about what to emphasize in the brief time it likely had to make headway. The administration chose comprehensive health care reform and a few other measures with profound economic import—and those will make an enduring difference for millions of ordinary Americans.

Keeping insurers in line

In the American Prospect, Jon Cohn warns of a potential loophole in the health care reform legislation. In theory, health insurers are now required to do various things they find unpalatable (read: less profitable), like making sure that all plans cover a basic array of treatments and limiting out-of-pocket expenses.

However, Cohn notes, the law allows for “grandfathering” of existing health care plans that don’t meet the new standards. It’s up to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, to interpret what the grandfathering clause means in practice.

In June, the Secretary issued an interim ruling that existing health insurance plans will only be subject to the new rules if employers make significant changes in the coverage—such as dramatically increasing deductibles. If employers try to slash benefits or hike rates on their existing plans, they will lose the privilege of the grandfather clause and become subject to the tougher new rules.

The federal government can only do so much. Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones wonders who will keep insurers in line at the state level, the front lines of health care reform. She notes that 13 states don’t have the legal authority to scrutinize excessive rate hikes, like the 39% jump in premiums that insurer Anthem proposed last year.

Some states are taking the new regulations and running with them, but others are still fighting health care reform in the courts. This state-level recalcitrance is a major potential stumbling block. As Jonathan Cohn argued in his Prospect piece, above, health care reform will only work if it changes the behavior of insurers nationwide. State-level foot-dragging could be a serious threat to the success of the initiative as a whole.

Untested dispersants in the Gulf

You can’t see most of the 4 million barrels of oil that BP spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Researchers at the University of Georgia estimate that 70%-79% of the oil is still in the Gulf, hidden in the water column or on the seabed. As Kate Sheppard explains in Mother Jones, the oil is invisible because of chemicals known as dispersants.

So far, BP has released over 1.8 million gallons of these chemicals into the Gulf. These substances have never been tested for safety. Sheppard explains that the public isn’t even legally entitled to know exactly what’s in Correxit and other dispersants because the formulas are protected by trade secrets. When pressed, the maker of Correxit admitted that the fluid contains 2-butoxyethanol, a chemical that can cause kidney damage.

Teen Botox

Julie Zellinger of the Ms. Magazine blog reacts to the news that 12,000 American teenagers received botox injections last year, a 2% increase from 2008. Botox is used to paralyze muscles—sometimes for medical reasons like neck spasms and twitchy eyelids, but also for cosmetic purposes, like erasing wrinkles.

Teens don’t usually have wrinkles, but that doesn’t stop enterprising cosmetic surgeons from figuring out how to sell them botox injections to relieve other body image anxieties. Some teens are using botox to make their faces look less round.

As Zellinger says, it’s not so much the procedure itself that’s cause for alarm, but rather the underlying lack of self-esteem that these doctors are capitalizing on. I don’t know if teens are more insecure about their looks today than they were a generation ago, but cosmetic surgeons are busily developing techniques to exploit that insecurity.

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