Friday, October 8, 2010

Bullying & Society

I've seen this video clip from the Ellen show make the rounds of Facebook and the web in the last few weeks. It is sad that it takes events like these or of Columbine for people to recognize the harmful effects of bullying. In school I was often called a faggot (I'm not) and worse and was bullied in other ways. The advice I got from adults was "ignore it, it will go away, it's just part of growing up" while it may be true for those who have a good face for playing poker but it never did for me. Of course being gay is not the only reason to be bullied. At least some parts of society are starting to recognize this age old problem, but are they ready to ask the deeper questions?

Much of what goes on in our schools is merely a reflection of the society as a whole. In schools it all occurs in a closed space. In our society you have the jocks like LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Ben Roethlisberger, the brains (nerds is my N word) like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking, burnouts like Lindsey Lohan, beautiful people (you can think of examples), and everyone else just like in every school. There is often jockeying for position in society and schools which sometimes leads to conflict.

Bullying is about establishing a social hierarchy. It can be subtle by as cold stare or not. I am not a total saint in this myself. Sometimes to take the pressure off of me, I would pick on other kids.

Those in authority can set the tone for how those under them behave. For example, when our leaders engage in gay bashing, such as Sen. Jim DeMint R-SC saying that gays & lesbians should not be allowed to teach school, those who follow them will imitate and sometimes escalate. In another more telling example NY gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino has said inflammatory things about gays right after eight men were arraigned for torturing three gay men.

Eight Arraigned In Anti-Gay Bronx Attacks; One Suspect Still At Large

Another example of indirect incitement of bullying is Byron Williams who tried to kill people at the progressive Tides foundation but was stopped by the police. He confessed to being inspired by Glenn Beck, calling him a "school teacher." Richard Poplawski, who killed three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pa (less than a mile from my home), was also a follower of Beck's who was paranoid about Obama and guns. The journalist from Media Matters who interviewed Williams and has been following Beck's verbal bullying for years discusses it on Democracy Now!

Bullying is a symptom of larger forces in society. Kids are often better than adults at sensing which individuals do not fit the mold that society defines as "normal". It is the leaders who define who is and is not normal. Just blaming bullying on a few messed up kids with low self esteem (a myth that helps keep the problem going) or on violent video games (it does make the problem worse) with self esteem problems will not solve it entirely. It is necessary to recognize everyone's role in the problem.

The National Center for Bullying Prevention has resources for dealing with bullying at least on the school level. Research will have to be done to see how effective it is.

Final commentary which I cannot disagree with more. John Fugelsang says calling it bullying trivializes what it puts kids through. I argue that the International Monetary Fund saddling poor countries with debt is the same as bullies stealing unpopular kids lunch money. In the end, the name you give it matters less than correctly recognizing it when you see it.

Joel Burns' story telling teens that "it gets better" (echoed by President Obama) is moving but judging by his reaction the scars from his own bullying are still there and always will be. In some ways it does get better just as it has for African Americans in some ways since slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching ended, but is it as good as it would have been for them if those terrible things had never happened in the first place?

It "got better" for me when I was a freshman in college. Some guys in the dormitory were harassing me by jamming my door shut with pennies because I wouldn't be their patsy. The resident assistants were in their back pockets so I called the police on them. I have no regrets about it. The struggle for me was how does one handle not being bullied?

Dan Savage has picked up on the it gets better theme but only for LGBT's and has created an organization for victims of that type of bullying called the It Gets Better Project. He discussed the it on the Colbert Report. I still feel it doesn't address the core of the problem.

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New research by Media Matters shows how Beck and Fox News has been bullying the public about Obama's anti bullying efforts.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal - (But Doesn't Ask Why)

Here is yet another example of the media showing THAT the health care law is unpopular but fails to look at WHY this is the case.

POLL: Dislike of healthcare law crosses party lines, 1 in 4 Dems want repeal -

How the question is worded has a big influence on the results of the poll. Here is one of the few polls which asks better questions.

AP Poll: Many think health overhaul should do more

This poll indicates that those who wanted the bill to do more (about 20 million will still be left uninsured), sooner (the bill won't take full effect until 2014) outnumber those who want it repealed by 2-1. Before the law was passed several polls were published showing that support for single payer and the robust public option was popular but the drug, insurance, and hospital industries hated it.

CBS News/New York Times Survey Shows Most Americans Approve Of Government Intervention In Health Care Coverage

Tom Daschle has admitted that the Obama administration was too eager to please these industries but then backtracked his statement.

Daschle: Public Option ‘Taken Off The Table’ In July (2009) Due To ‘Understanding People Had With Hospitals'

This is one of the factors in the "enthusiasm gap" that the democrats are experiencing now this election cycle. Obama & co. just tell the rank & file to buck up and go to the polls anyway. It has taken 45 years since Medicare and Medicaid has passed for any kind of health care reform to pass. How much longer will it take for real reform to happen?

Another AP poll shows those who want bill expanded at least equal to those who want it repealed with gender gaps in both parties.

AP-GfK Poll: Americans split on health care repeal

A new study released in the journal Health Affairs shows that the US has slipped from 24th in the world in life expectancy to 49th since 1999 even after controlling for things like smoking, diet and other lifestyle factors. Those who want the bill and any other move toward universal sane coverage repealed will not want to hear believe this. You can read the original article at:

What Changes In Survival Rates Tell Us About US Health Care

Yet another poll comes out showing the same thing (those who want the law improved or kept are 51% while those who want it weakened or repealed are 44% of the population) as above only this time the lamestream and the Democrats are media is starting to notice. Here is the link to the original article.

New poll undercuts GOP claims of a midterm mandate

zra Klein of the Washington Post has a column on how at least some Democrats are retaking the offensive on health care. Better late than never.

Three ways Democrats are going back on the offense over health-care reform

Even in the Pennsylvania Senate Race, where free market radical Pat Toomey(R) defeated Joe Sestak(D) 51%-49%, the exit poll showed the same pattern 52%-45% but Sestak hardly mentioned it and those who wanted it expanded were more likely to stay home. Those who wanted it kept the same broke 30% for Toomey. D'Oh. If they hadn't been so timid in the first place they would be in a better bargaining position now. You can see the breakdown in the Senate race in the related post below.


A Federal Judge in Virginia has struck down part of the Obama Health Care Law. He sided with the Virginia Attorney General on the Constitutionality of the part requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance. Polls show that this is the least popular part of the bill. This case will be headed to the US Supreme Court. The link is below. The public option would make the bill more popular but single payer would be the most constitutional as Medicare is.

Judge in Va. strikes down federal health care law

Stephen Colbert has a good review of the disconnect from reality of the healthcare debate earlier this year and last.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Morality as a Mathematical Equation

Sam Harris, co-founder of Project Reason, has written a book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. On The Daily Show last night he argued that science can provide a clearer picture of moral right and wrong than religion can.

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His argument is compelling. Scientific inquiry can shed light on the moral impact that actions have on people's well being. I have some criticisms about an example of Harris' own moral reasoning that he presents.

He talks about how the Taliban in Afghanistan's treatment of women is wrong but does not consider what role foreign powers have had in perpetuating this oppression. Before the Soviets invaded there in 1979, conditions there were better for men and women. Radicals were armed by the United States in the name of defeating communism without consideration of who they were arming. One of these radicals was Osama bin Laden.

We should remember that it was only 90 years ago that in the United States women won the right to vote. In the 19th century it was considered obscene for a women to expose her ankles. They did not gain liberation through violence and, although frustrating at times, generally worked out better than it would have through violence.

Dr. Harris does seem to have a compelling argument for a new moral reasoning but he shows that no one individual, not even me, has a perfect scientific perspective.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why does the right demonize Nancy Pelosi?

In campaign ads by Republicans running this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D, CA) image appears the most as an object of fear even more than Barack Hussein Obama or any other, Democratic Leader. In right wing blogs more grotesque images of her appear such as the one reproduced here. Why?

Does she go around saying nutty things like Christine O'Donnell or Cynthia McKinney? Did she run away from her public service duties like Sarah Palin? Could she be she any more power hungry or sleazy than Newt (gives his first wife divorce papers while she was in the hospital with cancer) Gingrich, Tom (currently under indictment) Delay or Charlie (Dominican Republic Tax Shelter) Rangle? Is she any more of an aggressive power broker than Harry Reid (who may lose his job to another nutty ditz like Sharron Angle) or Rahm ("Obama's most loyal supporters are f_ing retarded") Emanuel?
The answers to these questions are no. If anything she disappointed some on the left when she immediately ruled out impeaching George W. Bush and Dick Cheyney after becoming speaker for their war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, torture memos, outing of Valerie Plame etc. and this is how they repay her?

Could it be because she represents the city of San Francisco in the House of Representatives? Hmm with what is this city often associated? The 49ers? The Golden Gate Bridge? Tony Bennett? Alcatraz? Not to the right wing in this country. For them it is homosexuals and the summer of love. Outright gay bashing is not is not as acceptable as it used to be so she has become a code word for it. has an analysis of how House member's voting in unison with Pelosi is exaggerated by Republicans in ads (and by Democrats who want to distance themselves from her).

NRCC Overstates Dems’ Voting Record with Pelosi
And Democrats spin the voting data, too

Democrat Jim Marshall uses hippie imagery of San Francisco to dissociate himself from Pelosi (he lost).

Pelosi gives an interview to Politics Daily where she answers the attacks on her and talks about other election issues. I've received many reactions on Facebook and here about my argument that the attacks on her are really coded gay/hippie bashing. She says the attacks on her are because she's effective which I don't really agree with either. I believe that she was more of a go with the flow politician who caved in when it mattered most on issues the health care Public Option. Judge for yourself whether the attacks on her are warranted.

Video: Melinda Henneberger Interviews Speaker Nancy Pelosi

The demonizing may have worked she will no longer be speaker in January but she ran for House Minority Leader. She won 150-43 against Heath Shuler because the House Progressive Caucus only lost one member on Tuesday while the moderate Blue Dog Caucus who demonized her too in their ads lost half of their members. In the one ad above, Jim Marshall D-GA lost 53%-47%.One Pittsburgh Congressman, Mike Doyle, has announced support for her. If that is the case look for more demonizing in 2012.

'Pelosi is not (Dems') problem,' Doyle says

**Check out**
Pelosi Easily Retains Leadership Post; Now She Must Lead | The Nation
Now that Speaker Pelosi will soon be Minority Leader Pelosi the focus should now be put on the Senate Democratic leadership