Today’s Aberrant News In An Unhealthy World!
It is said one should not ask how sausage or laws are made. Are you concerned about a public option? Let me share with you some insight about health care legislation which may not be good for your health.
A lesson in politics. The Kucinich Prediction: Here's what's going to happen ...
- House will make a big deal about keeping/putting a public option in HR3200 because it competes with insurance companies and will keep insurance rates low.
- The White House will refer to the President's speech last week where he spoke favorably of the public option.
- The Senate will kill the competitive public option in favor of non-competitive "co-ops". Senate leaders like Kent Conrad have said the votes to pass a public option were never there in the Senate.
- The bill will come to a House-Senate Conference Committee without the public option.
- House Democrats will be told to support the conference report on the legislation to support the President.
- The bill will pass, not with a "public option" but with a private mandate requiring 30 million uninsured to buy private health insurance (if one doesn't already have it). If you are broke, you may get a subsidy. If you are not broke, you will get a fine if you do not purchase insurance.
This legislative sausage will be celebrated as a new breakthrough and will be packaged as health insurance reform. However, the bill may require a Surgeon General's warning label: Your Money or Your Life!
The bill that Congress passes may pale in comparison to the bill that millions of Americans will get every month/year for having or not having private health insurance.
It will take four years for the new legislation to go into effect. During that time we are going to build a constituency of millions in support of real health care, a constituency which will be recognized and a cause which is right and just: Health Care as a Civil Right.
Join our efforts. Sign the petition. Contribute. Insure a democratic future.
While the political process in Washington suffers through its grotesque pantomime on health care, let us prepare our neighborhoods, our communities, our states for the eventual triumph of single payer health care.
Please sign the petition for a single payer system.
Download, print and circulate the petition among friends and neighbors.
When South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson screamed "You lie!" at President Obama Wednesday night, he dragged the paranoia and anti-Obama contempt that marked so many August "town hells" into the chambers of Congress. Wilson's shriek also served as an exclamation point on an undeniable trend: Obama steadily lost support among white voters during this long, hot summer of hate, with his white approval rating dropping by almost one-third, from 63 percent to 43 percent between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Of course Obama never had the support of whites like Joe Wilson, a solid son of the South who served as an aide to segregationist Strom Thurmond and who publicly doubted and derided Thurmond's biracial daughter, Essie Mae, when she went public about her dad's identity. Obama lost South Carolina to John McCain handily, just as he lost most of the rest of the region. No one expected anything different. Outside of the South, though, the 2008 election was remarkable for the minor role race seemed to play as the nation chose its first African-American president.
Despite attempts to find a "Bradley effect" in primary states Obama lost -- there wasn't one -- and cries of racism against Hillary Clinton's campaign (which look damn silly now that we've seen real anti-Obama racism), in the end Obama got elected with a larger share of the white vote than John Kerry pulled in 2004, 43 percent to Kerry's 41 percent. And after his win, his white approval rating soared, to a high of 63 percent in Gallup's weekly tracking polls on Inauguration Day.
But that approval has been in free fall since the end of May, winding up at 43 percent just three months later, at the end of August. The racially tinged debates over Obama's appointing the first Latina to the Supreme Court and his politically unwise foray into the Henry Louis Gates flap, combined with organized GOP opposition, seem to have done what Obama's political foes could never manage in 2008: They've blackened Obama, in both senses of the word -- simultaneously diminishing his support and emphasizing his ethnicity. Simply by raising consciousness about the president's race and associating him with radical identity politics, they've diminishing his standing among a large swath of the public. (Gabe Winant has more of the statistical detail here.)
I started thinking opponents were blackening Obama back in July, after the racial drama of the Sotomayor hearings, when poor oppressed Caucasians like Sens. Jeff Sessions, Tom Coburn and Lindsey Graham made it sound like it was open season on white guys. Then came the racial morality play of the Gates arrest -- Did race or class matter most? Should Obama have stayed out of it? -- which gave way to the screaming of the Birthers, the angry gun-toting town-hall haters, the shrieking of Palinites over "death panels."
I wrote about the role race played in these ginned-up controversies at the time: Birthers and Deathers (who tended to be the same people) were focused on marginalizing Obama as scary, "the other." Race was central to their fears, from the Birthers' obsession with Obama's literal origins as the product of miscegenation; to the Deathers and the Town Hellers' insistence that healthcare reform was, in Glenn Beck's idiotic formulation, Obama's idea of "reparations" for slavery. The cries of "socialism" were just another way to mark him as "other," scary and foreign. Watching scenes of shrieking, sobbing people pleading to "take our country back," it was hard not to ask, From who? The president who got a larger share of the vote than Ronald Reagan in 1980 or George Bush in 2000? What exactly is it that makes this particular commander in chief an interloper?
Finally, when Republicans began objecting to Obama's speaking to schoolkids last week, you couldn't ignore the racism: Listening to some parents' expressing actual fear of having Obama beamed into their kids' classrooms, it was hard to imagine such hysteria being inspired by a white president. It would never happen.
But even I was surprised at the extent and the precise timing of the drop in Obama's white support when I took the time to look closely at Gallup's weekly tracking polls recently. Here's what I saw: Between January and the end of May, Obama's white support went up and down a point or two, but stayed close to the 60 percent mark. The week that ended May 10, Obama had a 60 percent approval rating. Then in late May it began to sink steadily. Of course, the end of May marked the first racially charged controversy of Obama's presidency, the nomination of Sotomayor and the furor over her "wise Latina" remarks.
Obama's white support trended slowly downward throughout the summer in the weekly Gallup poll, but took another relatively large (4 point) drop between July 19 and July 26, a fiery week that saw the arrest of Skip Gates, Obama's comment that Cambridge police acted "stupidly" in that incident, followed by Obama's "recalibration" of those words. I said at the time that Obama's commenting on the Gates mess was a mistake, even if it was a completely understandable one. Replying reflexively, as a victim of racial profiling, Obama was sincere -- but in that moment, there's no denying, he got blacker to a segment of the white population.
That same crazy week also featured the rise of Birtherism as represented by a screaming woman interrupting moderate GOP Rep. Mike Castle's town hall claiming Obama wasn't born in the U.S. It was a harbinger: August brought a wave of frenzied anti-Obama organizing at raucous meetings -- what a Republican fundraising group proudly labeled "town hells" -- where Birthers and Deathers and gun-toting loons accused Obama of ignoring the Constitution, imposing socialism and generally destroying the country. Obama's support among whites continued to drop, to a low of 43 percent at the end of the month.
A few cautionary words. The timeline is intriguing, but correlation isn't cause, and we can't prove these events directly led to the decline in Obama's white support. Ever the optimist, I'd even argue that racism is probably not the main cause. For one thing, the surge in white approval around Inauguration Day was lovely, but predictably ephemeral; it reflected people's pride in the country's having elected a black president more than their belief in him. (His current 43 percent white approval rating could be cited as proof that Obama has simply come back down to earth after more than seven months in office, since that's the exact share of white support he got on Election Day.)
And while I think race, and racism, have played a role in the angry yelling of the Birthers and Deathers, and in the despicable contempt Wilson showed the president in Congress last week, I think most of the president's troubles with white voters have to do with political doubt his enemies have sown about his programs -- after Obama, in my opinion, was too slow to push his own clear proposals, especially for healthcare.
There may still be some subliminal racial discomfort in that growing white voter doubt, because all of the extreme right-wing questions about Obama -- Is he an outsider? Does he care about people like us? Is he competent to run the country? Can he be trusted? ("You lie!") Is he dangerous (we can't trust him with our children!)? -- echo the most crippling stereotypes that afflict black men in America. (As I write I'm listening to a woman at the Washington tea party on Saturday screaming, "We will not let Obama ram socialism down our throats!" Where to start?) It's a cruel irony that this conciliatory, courteous, accommodating black man still faces claims that he's a scary menace to America.
But while we have to call out racism when we see it (I hope that doesn't make me sound Snoop Doggesque), we have to remember that Obama's problem with whites is shared by white Democrats generally. Glenn Greenwald and Bob Somerby are right to remind us that the organized right wing used many of the same shrill character-assassination techniques against Bill Clinton, tarring him as a drug dealer, a rapist and a murderer, charges that have yet to be hurled at Obama. Obama has two-bit crackpot ministers praying for his death, which is appalling, but Clinton had one of the nation's most famous ministers, Jerry Falwell, peddling claims of drug crimes and worse about him.
I see one big difference, though, between Clinton's plight and Obama's: Anti-Clinton extremism never really touched off organized opposition to Clinton among American voters. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember, and can't find evidence, that tens of thousands, or even hundreds, of opponents rallied against Clinton, toting, say, cigars or blue dresses to mock the Lewinsky mess, or placards labeling him a murderer or rapist. (In fact the president's approval rating rose during and after the farce of impeachment.) This time the Republican attack is resonating with a small but extremely vocal and paranoid segment of its base, and I think racism has everything to do with that.
Still, I think the best thing Obama can do for his presidency and the nation is pursue his goals, and pursue them vigorously. (Let's remember that Clinton compromised with the right, and they still impeached him.) There's not a lot of information in the Gallup polls about which whites are abandoning Obama, but looking at a recent Pew poll, which tracked the decline in white support from April to August, Obama's largest declines came among women (12 percent), whites making under $30,000 a year (down 15 percent), and Northeasterners (down 16 percent). Polls in crucial swing states like Ohio show that Obama is losing the support of the Rust Belt voters he only barely won in November (after losing them to Hillary Clinton in the primary).
I wasn't a huge fan of the cries of racism that attempted to explain Clinton's edge over Obama in those Rust Belt and Appalachian primaries. Sure, there was racism, but it was also true that Clinton's fighting populist message seemed to resonate more than Obama's cerebral appeals to change -- and when Obama adopted more of Clinton's fire, his standing with those voters improved. I'd like to see the old fighting Obama from the end of the 2008 campaign, and I wonder whether he'd have the same polling problems with white voters that this sometimes uncertain-seeming new president, who got hit with a couple of poorly timed racial flaps, has had this summer.
It's worth noting that Obama's standing with white voters jumped 2 points last week, after he began to fight back and define his healthcare plan. It jumped again, with all voters (I couldn't find data for whites alone), after his feisty speech to Congress on Wednesday.
Rather than wring his hands over racism, Obama seems to be getting tough on his real opponents -- the corporate interests who want to see him fail -- telling CBS's Steve Kroft Sunday night that he won't sign a bad healthcare reform bill, because when it doesn't keep costs down, he'll be blamed for it. Maybe Obama has realized that genteel GOP "statesmen" like Sen. Chuck Grassley are bigger enemies to him than the small but vocal segment of frightened, uninformed voters whose racism is once again letting them be tricked into ignoring their own interests by leaders like Grassley.
Finally, Obama may never get a larger share of the white vote than he got last November (which was good enough, after all, for a comfortable win). But if he compromises with the Republicans who are out to get him, he risks losing the support of the multiracial base that put him in the White House. Sticking to his (metaphorical) guns is both good policy, and good politics. Besides, despite their stumbles, I still trust Obama and the folks around him to do the right thing. And that means making tough, progressive policy decisions that will make a lot of white Birthers, Deathers, Grassleys and Wilsons red in the face.
Monday 14 September 2009
Boston - Most U.S. doctors favor having both public and private options in a reformed healthcare system, a survey published on Monday said.
The possible inclusion of a public option - a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers - is one of the most divisive parts of the reform that is President Barack Obama's top domestic legislative priority.
When given a three-way choice among private plans that use tax credits or subsidies to help the poor buy private insurance; a new public health insurance plan such as Medicare; or a mix of the two; 63 percent of doctors supported a mix, 27 percent said they only wanted private options, and just 10 percent said they exclusively wanted public options.
To continue reading about the survey click here.
BOSTON (Reuters) - Most U.S. doctors favor having both public and private options in a reformed healthcare system, a survey published on Monday said.
The possible inclusion of a public option -- a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers -- is one of the most divisive parts of the reform that is President Barack Obama's top domestic legislative priority.
When given a three-way choice among private plans that use tax credits or subsidies to help the poor buy private insurance; a new public health insurance plan such as Medicare; or a mix of the two; 63 percent of doctors supported a mix, 27 percent said they only wanted private options, and just 10 percent said they exclusively wanted public options.
The survey of 2,130 U.S. doctors, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found that more 55 percent, regardless of their medical specialty, would favor expanding Medicare so it covered people aged 55 and older.
Medicare is the federal health insurance plan for people aged over 65 and some disabled people.
"The result shows that physicians see this system is broken and needs to be fixed," Dr. John Lumpkin, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which sponsored the survey, said in a telephone interview.
About half of doctors supported trying to save money by restricting care to treatments proven to be cost-effective, a separate survey of 991 doctors in the same journal said.
The polls have been published less than a week after Obama addressed Congress to outline the plan he says will overhaul the $2.5 trillion industry to cut costs, improve care and expand coverage to many of the 46 million Americans without any healthcare insurance.
The concept of a public option has drawn much controversy and the American Medical Association, which represents about 250,000 U.S. doctors, has opposed it.
Drs. Salomeh Keyhani and Alex Federman of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, authors of the larger study, found broad physician support for a combination of private and public insurance, regardless of their region, medical specialty, how they earned their income, or how many hours they spent treating patients.
Similar results were seen when doctors were asked about extending Medicare to those aged 55 and above. Fifty-eight percent supported the idea, 23 percent were opposed and 19 percent were unsure.
In the smaller survey, 73 percent said every doctor ought to care for the uninsured and underinsured and 67 percent said they were willing to accept limits on payments for expensive drugs and procedures as a way to save money and make basic care available to more people.
"By contrast, physicians were divided almost equally about cost-effectiveness analysis; just over half (54 percent) reported having a moral objection to using such data 'to determine which treatments will be offered to patients,'" said the survey team, led by Ryan Antiel of the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minnesota.
Family doctors were more likely to favor reform than surgeons and other specialists.
(Editing by Maggie Fox and Alison Williams)
To read the survey itself, click here.
Posted by NEJM • September 14th, 2009
Ryan M. Antiel, M.A., Farr A. Curlin, M.D., Katherine M. James, M.P.H., and Jon C. Tilburt, M.D., M.P.H.
In an address to the American Medical Association on June 15, 2009, President Barack Obama acknowledged that he needed physicians’ support on health care reform and offered to work with physicians to achieve the reform he believes is essential. In recent months, commentators have called on physicians to be “our most credible and effective leaders of progress toward a new world of coordinated, sensible, outcome-oriented care” and to “find a brave voice” for changing health care’s funding structures in a way that“puts quality of care before financial gain.”1 Are U.S. physicians prepared to play such a part?2
Previous research suggests that physicians endorse a public role for the profession and believe they have an obligation to care for people with limited resources. But it remains unclear whether physicians in 2009 see participation in the formation of health policy as part of their professional responsibility or accept the potential consequences of reform. Furthermore, individual physicians may have strong financial incentives to downplay their responsibility for caring for the uninsured and underinsured. Although physicians tend to agree in the abstract that health care resources should be distributed fairly, they may be unwilling to endorse concrete policies that expand coverage for basic health care by limiting reimbursement for costly interventions. And despite widespread discussions about using cost-effectiveness data or comparative-effectiveness research to guide clinical decisions, physicians may remain skeptical about such practices.3,4 Thus, physicians may not be willing to take on the role that the President and health policy advocates want them to play.
In May 2009, we mailed a confidential questionnaire to 2000 practicing U.S. physicians, 65 years of age or younger, from all specialties in order to explore these issues. (Detailed information about our methods appears in the Supplementary Appendix, available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.) As part of an eight-page, self-administered survey on moral and ethical beliefs in medical practice, physicians completed four items that bear directly on broad themes in the current health care reform debate, though the questions were not tied to any specific proposal or position. Respondents were asked to indicate their degree of agreement or disagreement with the following statements: “Addressing societal health policy issues, as important as that may be, falls outside the scope of my professional obligations as a physician,” “Every physician is professionally obligated to care for the uninsured and underinsured,” and “I would favor limiting reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures if that would help expand access to basic health care for those currently lacking such care.” Then, as part of a longer list of potentially controversial medical practices, we asked physicians to indicate whether they had no moral objection, a moderate moral objection, or a strong moral objection to “using cost-effectiveness data to determine which treatments will be offered to patients.”
The key predictor measures that we considered were physicians’ self-characterization as “conservative,” “moderate,” or “liberal” on “social issues”; their demographic characteristics (age, sex, race, and region); and their clinical specialty, subsequently categorized as primary care, surgery, procedural specialty (e.g.,cardiology and gastroenterology), nonprocedural specialty (e.g., psychiatry and medical genetics), nonclinical specialty, and other.
Of the 2000 potential respondents, 61 (3%) could not be contacted. Of the remaining 1939 participants, 991 returned completed surveys, for a response rate of 51%. The characteristics of the respondents are shown in Table 1. Response rates varied somewhat according to region (South, 50%; Midwest, 58%; Northeast, 50%; West, 47%; Other, 50%; P=0.03) and according to age category (<50> 48%;50 years, 56%; P<0.001)> specialty. The results we present here are from unweighted analyses. (1)
As Table 2 shows, a large majority of respondents (78%) agreed that physicians have a professional obligation to address societal health policy issues. Majorities also agreed that every physician is professionally obligated to care for the uninsured or underinsured (73%), and most were willing to accept limits on reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures for the sake of expanding access to basic health care (67%). By contrast, physicians were divided almost equally about cost-effectiveness analysis; justover half (54%) reported having a moral objection to using such data “to determine which treatments will be offered to patients.” (2)
In multivariable logistic-regression models, age, race, and region were not significantly associated with responses to any of the four relevant items. Female physicians were more likely than male physicians to object to using cost-effectiveness data to guide treatment decisions (odds ratio, 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0 to 2.0) but did not differ from male physicians on other questions.
Both specialty and political self-characterization were associated with physicians’ beliefs related to health care reform. As shown in Table 3, surgeons, procedural specialists, and those in nonclinical specialties were all significantly less likely than primary care providers to favor reform that expands access to basic health care by reducing reimbursement for expensive drugs and procedures (odds ratio for surgeons, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.4 to 0.8;for procedural specialists, 0.6; 95% CI, 0.4 to 1.0; and for nonclinical specialists, 0.3; 95% CI, 0.1 to 0.9). There were also consistent differences between self-described liberals and conservatives.(3)
These data offer several messages. First, the President, lawmakers, and reform advocates can vigorously engage physicians in deliberations on health care reform, cognizant that most physicians see it as part of their professional responsibility. However, more controversial elements of reform, such as limiting reimbursement under Medicare (i.e., expanding the ranks of the underinsured), using cost-effectiveness data in treatment decisions, and limiting reimbursements for expensive drugs and procedures — all of which are elements of current reform proposals — may face serious opposition from segments of the medical profession.
Why would a majority of U.S. physicians object to using cost-effectiveness analysis in clinical decision making? Both a lack of familiarity and principled objections may be involved. The current health care system reimburses providers primarily on the basis of the quantity of services provided, which favors a higher volumeof care and a greater number of procedures rather than care management. Under the current system, which has been fashioned in large part by long-standing Medicare legislation, there is little incentive to use evidence-based information such as cost-effectiveness data to guide treatment decisions.4 Only recently has the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services attempted to use evidence to guide determinations about whether services should be provided.5 Thus, a lack of familiarity with such reimbursement practices or fear of change may influence physicians’ acceptance of cost-effectiveness data. But many physicians may also have more principled grounds for their objections, viewing the use of cost-effectiveness data as implicit rationing or unwelcome intrusion on both their professional autonomy and the physician–patient relationship. To gain widespread support from the physician community, advocates of such reform initiatives will need to address such concerns.
Since surgeons and procedural specialists were less willing than other physicians to accept policies that would limit reimbursement for expensive medications and procedures, reformers can expect opposition to reimbursement reform from such groups unless proposed reforms create incentives that benefit those who currently get paid for providing these goods and services. We did not inquire about physicians’ views of policies that might result in lower payment for their own services more generally.
Finally, the 28% of physicians who consider themselves conservative were consistently less enthusiastic about professional responsibilities pertaining to health care reform. These physicians must be engaged if reform is to be successful.
Of course, associations that have been identified in a cross-sectional study cannot establish causal relationships. Moreover, it is possible that the attitudes of physicians who did not respond to the survey differ from those who did respond, and physicians’ responses to the survey questions do not necessarily reflecttheir likely responses to specific proposals before Congress. Nevertheless, our data suggest that efforts to mobilize physicians can build on their sense of professional responsibility — but also that such efforts may encounter considerable opposition from some quarters of the profession, particularly to elements of reform that impinge on physicians’ decision-making autonomy or threaten to reduce reimbursement for the costly interventions they provide. Politicians and policymakers should work directly with these groups of physicians to achieve the consensus necessary for comprehensive and sustainable reform.
No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.
This article (10.1056/NEJMp0907876) was published on September 14, 2009, at NEJM.org.
- Fisher ES, Berwick DM, Davis K. Achieving health care reform — how physicians can help. N Engl J Med 2009;360:2495-2497. [Free Full Text]
- Cortese DA, Smoldt RK. Healing America’s ailing health care system. Mayo Clin Proc 2006;81:492-496.[Free Full Text]
- Avorn J. Debate about funding comparative-effectiveness research. N Engl J Med 2009;360:1927-1929.[Free Full Text]
- Neumann PJ, Rosen AB, Weinstein MC. Medicare and cost-effectiveness analysis. N Engl J Med 2005;353:1516-1522. [Free Full Text]
- Tunis SR. Why Medicare has not established criteria for coverage decisions. N Engl J Med 2004;350:2196-2198.[Free Full Text]
Posted in Anti-Immigrant by Heidi Beirich on September 14, 2009
Despite John Tanton’s long, documented history of racism, Dan Stein, the president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), called the founder of his organization a “Renaissance man” of wide-ranging “intellect” in a Washington Post article published today.
It’s hard, of course, for Stein to distance himself from Tanton. After all, Tanton started the organization in 1979 and is still a member of the group’s board of directors. But since the full extent of Tanton’s racist views have been exposed in recent years, Stein hasn’t talked about the founder’s ideas much. But now he is.
Stein told the Post that attacks on Tanton “are out of context and ‘simply do not reflect the true character of the man.” But it’s hard to understand how.
Over the decades, Tanton has repeatedly described contemporary immigrants as inferior. He has questioned the “educability” of Latinos and written that “for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.” In a letter to Roy Beck, head of NumbersUSA, Tanton wondered “whether the minorities who are going to inherit California … can run an advanced society?”
It doesn’t stop there. Tanton has corresponded with Holocaust deniers, former Klan lawyers and the leading white nationalist thinkers of the era. He introduced key FAIR leaders to the president of the Pioneer Fund, a white supremacist group set up to encourage “race betterment,” at a 1997 meeting at a private club. He wrote a major funder to encourage her to read the work of a radical anti-Semitic professor — to “give you a new understanding of the Jewish outlook on life” — and suggested that the entire FAIR board discuss the professor’s theories on the Jews. He idolized a principal architect of the Immigration Act of 1924 (instituting a national origin quota system that dramatically favored whites over people of color and barred Asian immigration), a rabid anti-Semite whose pro-Nazi American Coalition of Patriotic Societies was indicted for sedition in 1942.
Based on an investigation of Tanton’s views and those of his organization, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) began listing FAIR as a hate group in 2007. Stein’s defense of Tanton shows one more reason they deserve the label.
Iraqi Hero, Muntazer Al-Zaidi, Free At Last!
Xenox News (satire)
Of all the sickening outrages, brazen lies and scandals of the Bogus Bush/Shiney Cheney years, the worst is possibly the fact that they were not impeached, ...See all stories on this topic
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By JAMES RISEN
WASHINGTON — Private security guards who worked forBlackwater repeatedly shot wildly into the streets of Baghdad without regard for civilians long before they were involved in a 2007 shooting episode that left at least 14 Iraqis dead, federal prosecutors charge in a new court document.
While traveling through Baghdad in heavily armored vehicles, at least one of the guards, under contract with the State Department to provide security for United States Embassy personnel, fired an automatic weapon “without aiming” while another deliberately fired into the streets to “instigate gun battles in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed all Blackwater personnel in Iraq,” the federal prosecutors stated.
The new accusations were included in a document filed by prosecutors last week in the criminal case against five former Blackwater guards who have been charged with manslaughter in federal court in Washington in connection with the shootings in Nisour Square, in Baghdad, on Sept. 16, 2007.
The guards have pleaded not guilty and have argued that they did not fire their weapons with criminal intent in the Nisour Square case.
The prosecutors are trying to prove that the shootings were part of a larger pattern of reckless behavior.
“These prior bad acts are relevant to establish that the defendants specifically intended to kill or seriously injure the Iraqi civilians that they fired upon at Nisour Square,” the court document says.
Part of the evidence relates to the states of mind of the Blackwater guards, and whether statements they allegedly made about killing Iraqis were factors in the shootings. The document says, for example, that one of the guards, Nicholas Slatten, told people that “he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as payback for 9/11 and he repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot.”
The new allegations also seem to raise questions about whether there was adequate oversight of the security details by either Blackwater or the State Department.
Defense lawyers have not formally responded to the government’s latest document, and a defense lawyer for one of the guards reached on Sunday declined to comment. Previously, the defense stated that the government’s evidence was weak and that its case was without merit. The trial is set to begin in February.
The guards were indicted by a federal grand jury last December after a criminal investigation by the F.B.I. in Iraq and were arraigned in federal court in Washington in January. The case involves by far the bloodiest episode in Iraq linked to private security guards protecting American diplomats, and it has transformed the debate in both Washington and Baghdad over the proper role of private contractors in a war zone.
The Blackwater guards, assigned to a four-vehicle convoy known as Raven 23, drove into a traffic circle at Nisour Square in downtown Baghdad around noon that day and opened fire with a sniper rifle, machine guns and grenade launchers.
After the episode, Blackwater officials said that the guards had been responding to fire from insurgents, but prosecutors charge that they fired on unarmed civilians, including many who were shot in their cars while they were trying to flee.
The government points to specific prior incidents to make the case that the Nisour Square shootings were not isolated. In May 2007, one guard, Evan Liberty, fired his automatic weapon without aiming from the turret of a Blackwater vehicle near Amanat City Hall in Baghdad, according to the document.
That September, it states, Mr. Liberty was driving a vehicle near the same city hall and fired an automatic weapon without aiming and while still trying to drive. That second incident occurred just one week before the Nisour Square shootings.
Mr. Liberty and two other guards, Paul Slough and Mr. Slatten, were also said to have routinely thrown frozen water bottles, frozen oranges and other items at unarmed civilians and vehicles as they drove through Baghdad, “in an attempt to break automobile windows, injure and harass people, and for sport,” the court document states.
The two other guards named in the case are Dustin L. Heard and Donald W. Ball.
The document does not specify the source or sources of information for the new accusations. But in prosecuting the men, federal lawyers appear to be relying heavily on testimony from a sixth guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government.
Blackwater, which has changed its name to Xe Services, has not been charged in the case, but the shooting aftermath has hurt the company’s business deeply. This year, Xe (pronounced “zee”) lost its contract to provide diplomatic security for United States Embassy officials in Baghdad, and its longstanding, but more secret, ties to the Central Intelligence Agency have come under new scrutiny as well.
The shootings have caused a deep-seated political reaction in Iraq against private security contractors, leading the Iraqi government to demand successfully that the United States agree to make the contractors subject to Iraqi law.
Previously, the contractors had been granted immunity from Iraqi law, even while it was unclear which American laws governed their behavior.
The company also faces a civil lawsuit filed in the United States on behalf of the Iraqi victims that day.
This summer, Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, told Congress that he had found that during the Bush administration, the agency had once considered using Blackwater in a covert assassination program.
Officials have said that the plan was never implemented. But the company still has other contracts with the C.I.A., including one that calls for Xe’s personnel to handle and load bombs and rockets on Predator drones at secret bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Adulterers will be stoned to death under draconian new laws passed in the Indonesian province of Aceh yesterday.
Hardline Muslim politicians in the semi-autonomous region unanimously passed the Sharia edict, under which single people will also be given 100 lashes for pre-marital sex, just weeks before a new, more moderate government dominated by the Aceh Party is due to take power.
Although the administration of Governor Irwandi Yusuf had opposed the legislation, when the chairman of the 69-seat regional parliament asked if the bill could be passed into law its members answered in unison: "Yes, it can."
The legislation, which has drawn immediate criticism from human rights groups, comes at a difficult time for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Widely praised for restoring democracy to Indonesia, he now risks seeing his country once more viewed by the international community as a heartland of radical Islamism.
The stoning law is the most recent, and most draconian law to be introduced since 2001, when Jakarta allowed Aceh to replace Indonesia's criminal code with Sharia, partly to appease hardliners in the province.
Although the early regulations brought in under Sharia were relatively moderate, observers said they have seen a gradual tightening of the laws, most recently in 2006 when caning was introduced as punishment for women who did not wear headscarves.
Dozens of public canings have been carried out by the Sharia police since, although it seems to be more a symbolic than physical punishment. Strict regulations controlling the angle and power of the cane stroke protect the women from injury.
But human rights activists point out it would be impossible similarly to protect a woman who was sentenced to be stoned.
"They take pride in not hurting women when they cane them, but stoning is something very different," a human rights worker who asked not to be named told The Times. "You can't say you're not physically harming a woman when you're stoning her to death.
"The future is very bleak," she added. "In Aceh, once you give out this sort of candy out you can't take it back."
The new law also imposes tough sentences and fines, to be paid in kilograms of gold, for rape and paedophilia, and severe prison terms and public lashings for other "morally unacceptable"behaviour such as homosexuality.
Ifdhal Kasim, the head of the National Commission on Human Rights, described the legislation as "cruel and degrading to humanity" and said his organisation would appeal to Mr Yudhoyono to review it.
"This will bring Aceh back to the past. Throwing stones is like Aceh in the 14th or 15th centuries," Mr Kasim said, warning that the law would encourage conservatives pushing for Sharia at a national level.
The measures received overwhelming cross party support when brought before Aceh's House of Representatives last week.
A spokesman for the Prosperous Justice Party called the bill “a preventative step for the people of Aceh to avoid moral damage".
Bachrom M Rashid of the United Development Party, the chairman of the special committee considering the bill, said that his party backed it because it would deepen the practice of Sharia in Aceh.
“We want to save people from going to Hell,” he said, calling the proposed law “a door to repentance".
The majority of Indonesians practise a moderate form of Islam, and surveys suggest they do not support such hardline interpretations of the Koran.
But Aceh, where Islam first arrived in Indonesia from Saudi Arabia centuries ago, is historically more conservative than the rest of the vast archipelago of 226 million people. A long-running Islamic insurgency in the province ended only in 2005 in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 130,000 there.
Activists hope the moderate Aceh Party, which has a less strict interpretation of Sharia, will amend or tone down the law when it takes over from the hardliners next month.
Some critics say they will seek a judicial review in the Jakarta Supreme Court but there is no certainty that this would succeed. When a similar attempt was made to overthrow the caning law, the Supreme Court allowed it through on the basis that due process had been carried out correctly and the court could not rule on the substance of the law.
"My concern is that stoning will become normalised," the human rights worker said. "After caning came in, the first punishments were met with great protests but now no one bothers. The same may happen with stoning; a lot of noise at first, then everyone will just accept it."
Isolated instances of stoning ordered by Sharia courts have been reported in Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere, but the practice is rare and is denounced by Human Rights Watch among other international bodies.
At present, if you are alleged to have committed genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes before 2001 and you are living in England, you cannot be investigated and prosecuted in the UK, or face deportation, extradition, or transfer to the International Criminal Court. Now this ‘impunity gap' will be pushed back - but only by a decade. Under Justice Secretary Jack Straw's proposed 1991 cut-off date to the Coroners and Justice Bill, international criminals will continue to benefit from these loopholes, and evade domestic investigation.
The government has the opportunity to finally close the jurisdictional gap by choosing a date in line with the Geneva Conventions, of 1948 and 1949. Instead, Straw's amendment, due to be tabled to the Bill at its Report Stage in the House of Lords, is a serious abnegation of government responsibility, and leaves Britain a safe haven for some war criminals.
Lord Anthony Lester QC, Lord Alex Carlile QC, and Baroness Frances D'Souza see "no real logic" to the amendment, if there is to be "no hiding place for war criminals in the UK". Lester, who resigned last November as the government's independent advisor on constitutional reform, said: "If the government is willing to extend jurisdiction back to 1991, there is no reason why it should not be extended back further for those offences which became a crime under UK law prior to that date".
He adds: "Although it may be neat to have one date for all offences, this is simply not justifiable if it could result in an impunity gap. Jurisdiction for other genocide and certain war crimes could and should be extended back to 1948 and 1949 respectively".
Baroness D'Souza, a former director of REDRESS, said: ‘Crimes such as genocide are so severe and so heinous that we cannot impose artificial time limits that allow suspects to evade justice'.
The move to push the cut-off date back arbitrarily to 1991 is itself regarded a reactive measure to the political discomfort caused by the successful appealsin the High Court this April of four Rwandan génocidaires. They opposed extradition orders issued against them by former Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. The court ruled that the four could not be prosecuted in the UK. It did not question the quality and quantity of the evidence but came to its view simply because the alleged crimes were committed in 1994, before the existing 2001 cut-off date.
While Straw's amendment may bring the Rwandans to justice, it may also prove the last remaining opportunity to provide courts with the stronger universal jurisdiction that is surely needed - either by amending the International Criminal Court Act (ICCA) 2001, or passing a new Genocide Act. If the opportunity is squandered and the amendment accepted, UK residents who participated in organised atrocities in the 1980s and ‘70s will evade prosecution, some by a margin of a few years. And as Baroness D'Souza told the Lords : "there are at present perhaps up to 100 people suspected of such serious crimes currently in the UK".
A report, 'Closing the Impunity Gap' (PDF), recently published by Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) reinforces the point. It states: ‘The Government has chosen not to implement' to the "full extent possible" international conventions which "allow and in some cases oblige the Government to give our courts criminal jurisdiction over the world's most heinous crimes".
The Ministry of Justice defended Straw's 1991 cut-off date with purely bureaucratic and institutional logic:
"The date is a significant and symbolic one in terms of the prosecution of individuals for offences of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is the date from which the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was given jurisdiction to prosecute these three types of offences by the Untied Nations Security Council. It is an appropriate milestone in the prosecution of international crimes, and would allow us to have a single date for all the categories of crimes we are covering".
But as Sir Ken Macdonald QC, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, asked, where is the ‘moral logic' of any impunity gap? Speaking almost a year before Straw's proposed amendment, on the sixtieth anniversary of the Genocide Convention:
"How can it be right, let's say, a Zimbabwean resident in the UK and suspected of war crimes since 2001 can be prosecuted, but a Cambodian living in the UK suspected of involvement in the genocide in the 1970s cannot?"
The same moral vacuum will apply if the 2001 date is moved back to 1991. Those who may evade investigation will include suspects from the 1982-87 Matabeleland Conflict in Mugabe's Zimbabwe, and those participant in atrocities in Equatorial Guinea, dubbed the ‘Auschwitz of Africa', from 1968 until the 1979 overthrow of its president, Francisco Macias Ngeuma.
Kevin Laue, Legal Advisor at REDRESS, said: ‘Crimes against humanity were committed by Mugabe's army in the 1980s in Matabeleland when the rival political party of Joshua Nkomo was effectively being destroyed. Thousands of civilians were killed and tortured. Should those responsible be allowed to come here and escape prosecution for their crimes?"
Other genocides, crimes against humanity and war crimes from the 1980s and 1970s, which will not be covered by Straw's cut-off date, include:
- The 1988 Helmet Massacre in Brazil
- The 1986-88 campaign against Iraqi Kurds
- The 1979-89 Soviet war in Afghanistan
- The 1976-83 Dirty War in Buenos Aries
- The 1975-99 East Timor genocide
- The 1972 mass-killings of Hutu by the Tutsi army in Burundi
- The 1971 Bangladesh genocide
Nick Donovan, Head of Campaigns at the Aegis Trust, which successfully campaigned (pdf) to bring the cut-off date in line with the War Crimes Act 1991, said: "The impunity enjoyed by suspected war criminals is a serious global problem in which the UK plays a, perhaps unsuspecting, part. If there are suspects here who are alleged to have committed war crimes before 1991, then the government should review these cases urgently before it finalises its planned reforms".
The Bangladesh episode, one of the most distant in time, provides a vivid example of the issues involved. There seem to be three men resident in the UK since the 1970s who are suspected of direct criminal liability for war crimes committed in the Bangladesh genocide of 1971. The three are currently London-based, and alleged to have been leading figures in a paramilitary death-squad complicit in the killing of 3 million and systematic rape of up to 400,000 in the closing days of Bangladesh's War of Liberation against West Pakistan. Testimony this year by a former activist of a political grouping indicted in the 1990s for war crimes alleges one ‘infamous collaborator' - who absconded to London in 1971 - was ‘Operation-in-charge' for the drawing up of lists and killing hundreds of members of the Bengali intelligentsia.
There has been some difficulty (PDF) in clarifying precisely when the ‘civil war' between East and West Pakistan graduated into an international armed conflict, which provides a lacuna in domestic law that inhibits successful prosecutions.
But with a mandate to pursue war crimes suspects after years of military rule, the recently-elected Awami League Bangladesh government may in time call for extradition of UK-resident suspects. It is at present developing its International Crimes (Tribunals) (Amendment) Act 2009, and seeking cooperation from the international community in the provision of evidence. Any such call for extradition may cause embarrassment to the UK government of just the kind that occurred with the Rwandans in the High Court this April.
Finally, there is another significant loophole: ‘residence' has itself a circular definition in domestic law, ‘a ‘United Kingdom resident' means a person who is resident in the United Kingdom'.
While the offences of hostage-taking and torture will continue to be prosecutable in the UK without requiring ‘residence', the Straw amendment will exempt non-residents from prosecution, and fail to deter war crimes suspects from visiting Britain.
Burmese or Sudanese visitors suspected of crimes against humanity, even of acts committed after 2001, could thus evade arrest and trial as they are not UK residents.
Suspects who have been ‘present' in the UK since the 1990s but not ‘resident' include Félicien Kabuga, an alleged financier of the Rwandan genocide, and Charles ‘Chuckie' Taylor Jr., former head of the notorious Anti-Terrorist Unit in Liberia, recently sentenced to 97 years in the United States for torture.
By contrast, in the US, it is a crime for anyone ‘present' to commit, or to attempt to conspire to commit, torture abroad. The JCHR report rightly recommends the government consider adopting the presence requirement in the US Genocide Accountability Act 2007. Lord Carlile put it forcefully in the Coroners and Justice debates: "We would not be closing the loophole effectively if [suspects] were allowed to go shopping in Knightsbridge for a couple of days but were not liable to be arrested and tried here. It would continue the poor reputation that the United Kingdom has had as a safe haven were there to be loopholes of that kind".
With so many apparently blanket laws and regulations being imposed on UK's millions of citizens for often tendentious reasons it seems extraordinary that the in the case of actual mass crimes the government should be so determined to cut short the arm of justice.
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan rights watchdog praised on Tuesday a decision by the International Criminal Court to gather information about possible war crimes committed by foreign forces and Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan.
The Hague-based ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said last week the ICC had received "allegations from many different sources" that crimes including massive attacks, excessive collateral damage and torture had been committed in Afghanistan.
Kabul-based Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM), which deals with rights violations in Afghanistan , welcomed the decision.
The plight of civilians and crimes against humanity have been "largely ignored, unreported and unaddressed by the international human rights groups and the Afghan government" it said in a statement in English.
"Over the past several years civilian people have been increasingly killed, wounded, displaced, imprisoned, tortured and deprived of their basic human rights by armed insurgent groups and Afghan and international military forces," it said.
The ICC said that if a preliminary examination shows grounds, it would launch a full investigation.
Afghanistan is a signatory of a treaty that established the ICC, and any war crimes committed on its territory by Afghan nationals or foreigners is of interest to the court, according to the ICC.
Afghanistan's recent history was replete with appalling crimes from "disproportionate and indiscriminating use of military power to the large-scale crimes of mass-killing of civilians and prisoners of war to the destruction of essential civilian infrastructures" it said.
Over 100,000 foreign troops, more than a third of them Americans, under the command of NATO and U.S. military are battling a resurgent Taliban, overthrown by U.S. and Afghan forces in 2001.
The United Nations recorded 1,013 civilian deaths in the first six months of this year, about 60 percent of them caused by insurgents, the rest caused by government or foreign troops.
REVILTALISATION OF TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE
ARM called on the government, human rights groups and the United Nations to renew and revitalise the Action Plan for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation drawn up to address rights violations committed by Afghan factions before the Taliban's ouster.
Various regimes and guerrilla groups that have come and gone in Afghanistan in the past three decades of conflict, often backed by foreign powers, have been accused of widespread human rights violations and crimes.
Nearly two million people lost their lives in the war triggered by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
UN condemns 'war crimes' in Gaza
There is evidence that both Israeli and Palestinian forces committed war crimes in the recent Gaza conflict, the official UN report says. ...See all stories on this topic
Evidence of Israel, Hamas war crimes in Gaza: UN
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - There is evidence that both the Israeli army and Palestinian militants committed war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity ...See all stories on this topic
August 19th, 2009 Baltimore race beating suspect has Hitler tattooBALTIMORE — Baltimore police say a suspect in the racially motivated beating of a 76-year-old black man has a tattoo of Adolf Hitler on his stomach and even uses "Hitler" as a nickname. Twenty-eight-year-old Calvin Lockner was ordered held without bail Wednesday morning.
August 14th, 2009 Russian police nab suspect in 15 racial killingsMOSCOW — A man suspected of committing 15 racially motivated killings was arrested in Moscow on Friday, according to officials. Vasily Krivets, 21, was detained at a railway station as he tried to board a train for Ukraine, police spokeswoman Yulia Kiselyova told Vesti 24 television.
August 12th, 2009 BUDAPEST - Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom expressed outrage Tuesday over plans by neo-Nazi groups to hold a commemoration marking the death anniversary of Adolf Hitler's former deputy, Rudolf Hess. Solyom "learnt with indignation" of plans by foreign and Hungarian far-right and skinhead groups to convene in Budapest Saturday to mark the anniversary of the death of a "Nazi leader who was sentenced for war crimes", he said in a statement to state news agency MTI.
August 12th, 2009 German convicted of Nazi crimes slams verdictBERLIN — A 90-year-old former German army officer convicted of Nazi-era war crimes said Wednesday that the verdict against him was a "swindle." Josef Scheungraber said in a television interview in his native Bavaria that he was innocent and would appeal the verdict. "They cannot lock me up because this whole nonsense is invented and made up," he said, according to a copy of the interview provided to The Associted Press.
August 11th, 2009 Recent Nazi-era suspect cases— August 2009: Josef Scheungraber, a 90-year-old former officer in the Nazi army, is convicted of murder for ordering the massacre of 10 civilians in a 1944 reprisal killing in Italy; sentenced to life. Scheungraber plans to appeal.
August 4th, 2009 WWII US airman's remains repatriated from HungaryBUDAPEST, Hungary — The remains of a U.S. airman killed in Hungary near the end of World War II are on their way back to the United States, officials said Tuesday.
July 13th, 2009 Demjanjuk charged over WWII killingsMUNICH — Retired auto worker John Demjanjuk was formally charged Monday with 27,900 counts of acting as an accessory to murder — one for every person who died at Sobibor during the time he is accused of serving as a guard at the Nazi death camp. The charges by prosecutors a Munich state court are one of the final steps before an expected autumn trial for the 89-year-old, who has been fighting a variety of Nazi-era charges since 1977.
July 8th, 2009 SAO PAULO - A 17-year-old girl has confessed to the police that she participated in more than 30 murders since 2006, with all the killings committed with the same knife, a media report said. The teenager told the police she confessed to clear her conscience and avoid being tried as an adult once she turns 18, the police commander in the city of Sao Jose do Rio Preto, Mauro Truzzi, told the media.
July 7th, 2009 German court rules Nazi suspect fit for trialBERLIN — Admitted Nazi hit man Heinrich Boere will stand trial for murder in Germany for the execution-style killings of three Dutch civilians during World War II, a court ruled Tuesday after years of legal wrangling. A Cologne appeals court ruled that the 88-year-old is fit for trial despite medical problems, overruling a lower court's decision this year.
June 17th, 2009 Austria: Man convicted of glorifying Nazi ideasVIENNA — An Austrian court has convicted a man of glorifying Nazi ideology and sentenced him to two years in prison. The court in the southern city of Klagenfurt found the 85-year-old man, who was not identified, guilty Wednesday of "re-engaging" in Nazi-era beliefs.
May 29th, 2009 Spain: official targets alleged Nazi guards in USMADRID — A Spanish prosecutor is seeking international arrest warrants for three alleged former Nazi death camp guards who live in the U.S. Pedro Martinez Torrijos of the National Court says there's evidence they were accessories to genocide.
May 13th, 2009 Cop: 1 person responsible for Ill. family's deathsCHESTER, Ill.
May 12th, 2009 History of Nazi-run camp where Demjanjuk worked BERLIN — The Sobibor extermination camp, where retired autoworker John Demjanjuk is alleged to have served as a guard, was built by Nazi officers in occupied Poland in 1942 and razed to the ground 18 months later. In the time it was operational, some 250,000 Jews, Gypsies and political prisoners were murdered in its gas chambers.
May 12th, 2009 Nazi guard suspect Demjanjuk arrives in Germany MUNICH — Suspected Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk has arrived in Germany where he faces a warrant accusing him of being accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews and others at Sobibor. The retired Ohio autoworker was deported from the United States and arrived Tuesday morning on a private jet at Munich's airport.
For those who still don't understand what the conservative teabag movement is all about, here's a helpful guide:
"Socialism" = "They" are taking away our money and giving it to "them."
"Big government" = "They" are taking away our money and giving it to "them."
"Too many taxes" = "They" are taking away our money and giving it to "them."
"Too much spending" = "They" are taking away our money and giving it to "them."
Welfare programs = "They" are taking away our money and giving it to "them."
Obama's school speech = "They" are trying to turn our children into "theirs."
Healthcare reform = "They" will get something and we will lose something.
"Public option" = "They" will make decisions that may hurt us.
"Death panels" = "They" are coming to hurt or kill us.
Approval of torture = We need to hurt or kill "them" before "they" hurt or kill us.
War on terrorism = "They" are trying to take away our way of life.
English-only laws = "They" are trying to take away our way of life.
Illegal immigration = "They" are coming to take away our way of life.
Gun control = "They" want to take away our protections so "they" can hurt or kill us.
"Activist" judges = "They" want to take away our protections so "they" can hurt or kill us.
"Original intent" = We make the decisions; "they" don't.
Birth-certificate questions = Obama is one of "them," not one of us.
Jeremiah Wright protests = Obama is one of "them," not one of us.
Obama as a Muslim = Obama pretends to be one of us, but he's really one of "them."
Obama as a "half-breed" = Obama pretends to be one of us, but he's really one of "them."
Obama as a witch doctor = "They" are charlatans, scammers, quacks.
Obama as a monkey or gorilla = "They" are savages, beasts, animals.
Obama as the Joker = "They" are criminals, brutalizers, madmen.
Obama as Hitler = "They" are conquerors, killers, evildoers.
On the pure economic issues, the key indicator is that there wasn't a single march or rally when Bush massively increased the size of the federal government and the national debt, launched massive new expenditures including two wars, and instigated a massive bailout of the financial industry. If there's a rational explanation for why the protests happened only after Obama became president, I've yet to hear it.
These protests aren't about the issues. If they were, you'd hear specific, fact-based claims. For instance, "Bush's $3 trillion budget was just right, but Obama's $3 trillion-plus budget crossed the line." Or, "We support Method X to ensure that everyone can afford health insurance, but we oppose the so-called public option." (Note: Method X is a fiction since conservatives haven't presented a viable alternative to healthcare reform.)
Instead, what you hear at these protests is irrational paranoia and fear. You hear scary sound bites such as "Socialism!" and "Death panels!"--which the people uttering them can't even define. You see scary signs such as Obama as the Joker, Hitler, or a "half-breed Muslin." The protests usually veer into rants against gun control, illegal immigration, or whatever it is that conservatives claim to loathe.
In short, these protests aren't about anything real, concrete, or specific. They're about conservatives' fear of the unknown--of "them."
Who Are "They"?
As for who the "they" and "them" are, look at the composition of the so-called Tea Parties. As previously noted, these people are 99% white. Lower middle class. Middle-aged men with either military crew cuts or biker tattoos. Too many people who watch Fox News and not enough people with college educations. Heck, not enough people who can write or spell correctly.
"They" is everyone who isn't a teabagger: a Palin-style "real American." In other words, liberals, socialists, One-Worlders, poor people, minorities, immigrants, feminists, homosexuals,atheists, intellectuals, "elitists," et al. Basically, anyone who isn't a white male Christian who loves God and country in roughly that order.
Given the teabaggers extra credit for inspired use of the term "half-breed." In old Westerns, the half-breed vied with the Indian as the villain. One could argue that the half-breed was worse. He was white enough to know how society worked, how civilized people acted. He could live and move among "real Americans" without fear of detection. But he was really a spy for "them," the forces of evil. He was a traitor to his race, a backstabbing Judas. Inside the facade of civility lurked a monster.
Not convinced? After you're done explaining why there were no protests against Bush, explain why the Tea Parties are overwhelmingly white. Are minorities too stupid to understand that conservatives are trying to help everyone, not just themselves? Or have minorities correctly read the Tea Parties as a pure expression of white privilege? As patriotic, God-fearing white Americans who are trying to protect themselves from anyone who's "different"?
White Teabaggers Vs. Brown "Others"
As I've shown, the teabagger mentality is little more than "them vs. us." America vs. the rest of the world. Good guys vs. bad guys. Cowboys vs. Indians. White skins vs. brown skins. White vs. black.
In other words, it's a xenophobic, racist fear of the other. This has been a driving force in America ever since the first colonizers saw Indians and deemed them "savages" and "heathens." It's still a driving force, but now the "savage" is a Harvard-educated black man--i.e., a radical, socialist "half-breed" who's turning the White House into a black house.
Note to conservative idiots who don't understand hyperbole: This entire posting, especially the paragraphs directly above, consists of gross generalizations. Please don't waste my time listing exceptions that you think disprove my claims. Unless you can come up with a general theory that explains the teabagger movement better than my general theory, don't bother responding.
Any questions? If you need any other teabagger code-words decoded, feel free to e-mail me. For more on the subject, seeAmerica's Cultural Mindset.
Below: Some "real Americans."