Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wishing all of our Penigma readers and contributors the happiest of New Years for 2011.
Best of luck for your success and enjoyment.

And a Happy Hogamanay as well.

We hope to continue to see you here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fact Checking Fun Sports Trivia; or "And Now for Something Completely Different"

"The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important."

The above quote is from an amusing 'adult truths' email that was sent to me by one of the Affinity Scam investors (male), in a flurry of exchanging end of the year emails.  It intrigued me sufficiently to fact check it; and I had so  much fun  fact  checking it that it seemed to merit a post  of its own.  (This is for you JH, something different as requested - we aim to please).
As always, the devil is in the details.  The most significant devils in this round of fact checking surprised me.  It relates to the reason for wearing a helmet, and the reasons for wearing a cup (no, it is less obvious  than you might suppose) and it took me on a virtual cyber tour of the history of hockey equipment, and the history of the game of hockey.  Here is just one of the sources I came across while researching the topic of cups and hockey helmets; you should scroll down to the comments exchange for some of the more pertinent details:
"The dates are very believable especially when you research “first helmet in Hockey”…”first game in hockey” and so on…. and these dates fall close to the first OFFICIALLY RECORDED dates. For example. Hockey is known to have begun in the year 1800 with the first officially organized indoor game played March 3, 1875 at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal. Prior to playing hockey indoors, it was played outdoors first. Hence the date difference (before it was officially recorded which happened after it was played indoors) Due to flying pucks, and sticks that did not have a length mandate, men were very much aware of what a puck in the genitals or a stick between the legs could do to a player, creating an advantage for the opposing team. They were more in tune with gaining an advantage then safety. Another vulnerable spot was the back of the heal of the foot, which was later solved by requiring a hardened protective/metal piece placed in the skate boot and now is apart of the boot itself. A helmet did not become a serious consideration until after Jan 15 1968 when the NHL had its first fatality due to a head injury. In 1970 it was still voted down to have a mandatory helmet rule even after the fatality. In 1975 there was an average of only 5 players who wore them in the NHL,. And finally, John Zeigler, President of the hockey league, I believe it was, mandated in August 1979, that anyone signing a contract after a particular date, it would be mandatory that all players in the NHL wear helmets on their heads. Prior to that date few protected their heads…it was not considered to be manly and was blamed for vision impairment.These dates do not mean #1, no games were played before 1875 nor does it mean that it wasn’t until 1979 that players did not try the helmet out (especially leather or early plastic ones that basically protected an existing injury ,but did not necessarily prevent any.) Anyone in Hockey can attest to seeing what ancient protective gear looked like for the genitals and that there were not protective helmets for the head before a particular point in time. One did come before the other. when you consider when the recorded history occurred..... It is, in fact, a “glimpse” of real history. And I repeat a “glimpse”. I did share it with the public because it had some merit, and I found it somewhat humorous when you consider which one became standard equipment before the other."
I hope I have not offended the delicate sensibilities of our Penigma readers (regular or occasional), and I hope that this provides a little levity to the discussion of politics.  Lastly, I hope this adds a certain humor to my usual fact checking obsession.  Enjoy! and in the words of the fictional Canadian character Red Green, "keep your stick on the ice".  Or, if you prefer, the words of my mom "don't lose your mittens, it's cold out there!".

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another 2010 Penny Award

This is a stand alone "Penny Award" for a deserving safer military helmet study, and at the same time I'd like to award an honorable mention to another blog, as well, the Brain Injury Forum, which focuses on issues that pertain to brain injury incidence, including in our military.

I have taken an interest in searching out a variety of sources for information on this topic, after it was pointed out to me during a discussion of the voter fraud hoax in Crow Wing County that Monty Jensen and his associates are pressing for the denial of voting rights to brain injured disabled people.   This would include hundreds of thousands of our veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The Rand Corp., per the Brain Injury Forum, puts the number at 320,000 servicemen and women who are disabled to some degree by this kind of injury.

For the efforts to mitigate further traumatic brain injuries, a special Penny the lead investigator Raul Radovitzky, and his team at MIT, for the above study,  which is set to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and for their continuing dedication to making a difference to our armed forces.

Teaching Lessons to the World

I just watched the tail end of an excellent story about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder called "Wartorn" on HBO. There were many stories, but perhaps the last was most articulate. The soldier in question was a platoon leader who, in his words, "Brought all his soldiers home, and 'Did a good job' supposedly because of it." He asked, "What did I do that was good? Was my job to kill people?" There were pictures of him holding a wounded little boy's nose, the boy was laid out in the back of a pickup truck, bleeding profusely from his torso and head. If I were guessing (and I am), I'd be guessing that he was holding his nose because the boy's face had been so mangled that they had to do a tracheotomy to allow him to breath, and attempting to breath through his nose was comprimising his breathing with blood. It's a horrid, haunting image. The pain that man experienced at dealing with that, whether fighting he was involved in caused it or not, I'm sure is excruciating.

After World War II, many soldiers returned home with undoubtedly similar, difficult, haunting images. We hold them in esteem (or certanly some do) because they "toughed it out" and recognized it's just part of war. They "didn't talk about it" and they held it in. While I admire the men for their selflessness, I question whether we admire them or whether instead we are taking shelter for our psyches by feeling that their toughness is right, and that the cost of war is what "tough men" bear. We build up images of supermen who are strong enough to bear up under this "inhumanity", which implies those who do not or cannot, are (as George C. Scott's character claimed in "Patton") "cowards" and/or lacking in "intestinal fortitude" (e.g. 'guts').

Contrasting with this are analyses of members of organized crime, especially those who are engaged as contract killers. There was a particular show on HBO called "Conversations with the Ice Man", which had one of these killers on camera, talking about his actions. He killed without compunction or remorse. He had been terribly scarred by his upbringing, beaten and abused as a child, he relished in torturing animals (a strong predictor of sociopathic behavior fyi). He had no regard for inflicting pain or for his victims. He certainly seemed to have few regrets at the "cost" inflicted on his soul at becoming "comfortable" with killing.

We have learned that those who deal "successfully" with their experiences in war, what they are compelled to do, either finally confront it, which is anguishing in it's own right, or they compartmentalize it, walling it off in a place in their mind where it lurks, causing nightmares, anger and even stress, and even among the strongest of us. Damned few men are born who can watch a young boy die in their arms and not be affected, not have such a memory linger, for the rest of their lives. So, the only thing to do is to "lock it away." This is what many who fought in World War II were told/taught to do. Talking about the ugliness was "needless bringng up the terror", hurtful, stupid.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Light of the World, and the Insight of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

A very merry Christmas Day to our readers.

I have been holding back, waiting for just the right time, to write about an extraordinarily spiritual interview that was broadcast on NPR some weeks ago, with the Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, of the UK.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Lord Sacks, or his office, the link will take you to his website for more information.  For the less curious, the office of Chief Rabbi is an equivalent to the special honor held by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he is (to give him full title) the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, an office dating back to 1704.  The broadcast was the program 'On Being' hosted by Krista Tippet, and the subject of much of the interview was the Dignity of Difference (which is not coincidentally, the title of Baron Sack's 2004 book).

Today, that time came together beautifully, again thanks to an email that arrived like a Christmas present under the tree, from my friend Sara who provides me with so many of my writing ideas. (Thank you, Sara, and Merry Christmas!)  For those of you who have followed my link to the Star of Bethlehem lecture, let me also share with you this news story on the same subject, relating to the recent English translation of an ancient Syriac text in the Vatican Library, the Revelation of the Magi.

How do these disparate topics come together?  That is the reason, at least, a reason, for reading Penigma!

Sir Jonathon throughout his interview with Krista Tippet touched me spiritually very deeply.  Listening to him speak it is evident that he is a man who has devoted his life to the human relationship to God. At other points in the interview, his observations on more secular and ecumenical topics touched me equally, but more intellectually.  Tippet quite fairly describes Sacks, in her introduction:
As Chief Rabbi since 1991, Jonathan Sacks has carved out an authoritative, and sometimes controversial, voice in the modern United Kingdom — it's a relatively secular culture in what officially remains a Christian state.

He's not just a spokesman for the Jewish community. He is one of the most visible religious figures in British public life — commenting on radio and television and counseling government ministers on issues of the day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Second Bad Penny Award

Because the weeping histrionics of Glenn Beck, as the poster bastard for all that is so very wrong with Fox Pseudo News, deserves a dishonorable mention all their own -- and because this update from just arrived in my email box at precisely the best time to coordinate with the Palin award by Media Matters of their Glenn Beck Honorary Misinformer of the Year Award.

This is the time of year when many fans make a holiday tradition out of watching the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life", starring the great late Jimmy Stewart, directed by the equally great Frank Capra, from 1946, in the traditional black and white of the era.  To borrow the summary from, "An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed."  This time of year the 'where are they now' folks trot out the last remaining living cast member, who was a child in the movie, famous for the line that every time a bell rings, 'an angel gets their wings'.

So, the despicable,ever-maniuplative Glenn Beck has picked this movie to use to persuade his mostly unsophisticated audience, to use as a basis for selling his line of bull.

I award Glenn Boo-hoo Beck, who talked Charles Alan Wilson over the edge and into jail with his false hype about the threats (the imaginary threats) of the health care reform legislation, the second Bad Pennies Award of 2010.  Meanwhile, for the same offense, awards him yet another pants-on-fire rating for his latest lie, a lie in which he uses the movie to launch a falsehood about real, live people:
"This town (Wilmington, Ohio) hasn’t taken any money from the government. They don’t want any money from the government."

Politifact tells it better than I do:

Radio host and Fox News personality Glenn Beck loves to tell a story with dramatic flair. And he’s latched onto one this holiday season that’s familiar to many Ohioans.
It’s the story of Wilmington, a town of 13,000 people in Southwest Ohio that has lost about 8,600 jobs since DHL Express, it largest employer, pulled out in 2008. The job losses the small town has suffered since DHL’s departure have been the subject of presidential campaign stops, celebrity charity events and numerous media reports, including two from CBS’s vaunted 60 Minutes.
In Beck’s version of the story, Wilmington is real life Bedford Falls, the fictitious town in the holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life.
Wilmington, Beck said on his Nov. 22 radio show, is ground zero of the recession, and its people – like those in Bedford Falls -- are pulling together to save the town through self reliance and prayer.
What makes the Wilmington really special, he continued, is that Wilmington refuses government assistance, a key tenet of the political philosophy he espouses on his shows.
"It went from the No. 1 most up-and-coming city, and a city everybody wants to live in, to ground zero. And this town hasn’t taken any money from the government. They don’t want any money from the government," he said on the show.
Beck then noted how Wilmington area churches are working together to provide food for the citizens and asking God -- not the state or federal government -- to fill its food pantries.
To highlight his Wilmington story, Beck will hold a show titled "America’s First Christmas" at city’s Murphy Theatre on December 15. The proceeds will be donated to a charity in the city.
"I’m going there because I think this town needs to be highlighted," he said. "I think this town is going to help the rest of the country, not the other way around."
With such a large spotlight headed shining on the small town, Politifact Ohio decided to review Beck’s storyline that Wilmington shuns government assistance. We asked for Beck’s sources, but our e-mails to his producer went unanswered. So, we looked ourselves.
We quickly found Beck’s story full of holes.
The city of Wilmington itself has received federal assistance, including money from the federal stimulus bill that Beck often rails against.

Dishonorable Mention, End of the Year Awards

While certainly not as distinguished as the venerable Politifact Lie of the Year Award she won last year,
it does deserve mention here that Sarah Palin has not gone unrecognized for another twelve months worth of dishonesty and inaccuracy.

This time, Sarah Palin has won the second ever Glenn Beck Honorary Award for Misinformation, from Media Matters.

While I appreciate the detailed reasons outlined by Media Matters for their choice........seriously? Have you seen the extraordinary lifetime body of work in inaccuracy, and outright lies, in the promotion of an extreme theocratic rightwing ideology that Michele Bachmann has achieved?  Palin,while even more popular with her segment of that same narrow base, is still a jenny-come-lately, compared to Bachmann.

The First Annual Penigma 'Pennies Award'!

An Award reflecting- what else?- our 2 cents worth!
(an award that also quite realistically recognizes that, unlike say the Nobel prize, there is no attendant monetary value to our awards, and because finding a penny - or two - unexpectedly brings good luck)

These may or may not continue on an annual basis; instead they may be awarded at random, spontaneous moments as the spirit moves one or more of us.

For the first Penny award, I have selected the category of best recent study.

My candidates for this category are:

1.  The Military's DADT study on attitudes towards gays openly serving
2.  The University of Maryland's Fox News Creates Ill-informed Voters Study (profiled here)
3. The Moody's Study of the savings by income group, present back to 1989,
    which found that Tax Cuts to the wealthy did not correlate with job creation or investment,
    and that extending the Bush Tax Cuts to the wealthy
   would have a negative effect on the deficit and the economy
4. The Vegetation / Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change Study conducted by
    the NOAA, NASA, and my new favorite academic institution - the University of Maryland,      
    and research scientist Lahouari Bounoua  (published in the peer-review journal Geophysical Research Letters)
5. The Minnesota County Attorney's Association Study disproving claims of Voter Fraud in Minnesota's 2008  Elections

Shower Power: the Threatened Attempts to Undo the Repeal of DADT

This repeal of DADT should not be overturned in the next Congress, or in any future session of Congress. It is time to remove the other legal impediments to LGBT citizens leading the same normal lives as the rest of us do, without regard to their innate and natural sexual orientation as a basis for discrimination. These right-wing nuts embrace the same unscientific, impotent, badly prejudiced, inaccurate and untrue beliefs that were characteristic of the bigotry of racism in the past that postulated racial inferiority, the belief that some races were inherently 'degenerate' promoted by conservatives in other eras. (Or perhaps currently circulating, with the attempts to promote revisionist history by conservatives like Gov. Haley Barbour, touted as a possible 2012 GOP conservative candidate for President.)

John McCain stormed out of the Senate when DADT was repealed.  John McCain will continue to be part of the ultraconservative movement to oppose the civil rights of anyone who does not conform to their narrow and exclusively heterosexual, bigoted and misinformed politics and/or religion.  Some incoming candidates-elect in January want to stop LGBT equality of any kind. Like the right in Virginia when Governor Bob McDonnell back in February 2010 removed sexual orientation from discrimination protection. rescinded an earlier executive order from 2006, the new Tea Partiers and Republicans, and their supporters, are already talking about undoing critical protections for LGBT people.  This includes a bigoted desire to reinstate DADT.   I think we can look forward to John McCain leading this effort, in his dire necessity to appeal to the extreme right for his political survival.

Here are a few of the statements which illustrate that intention:
"We are now stuck with sexual deviants serving openly in the U.S. military... If historians want a fixed marker pointing to the instant the United States sealed its own demise, they just found it." – Bryan Fischer, American Family Association"

"The American military... has now been hijacked and turned into a tool for imposing on the country a radical social agenda." – Tony Perkins, Family Research Council.

"This action will be overturned in the next Congress." – Matthew Staver, Freedom Federation

"The repeal of the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' law is a disaster of historic proportions and it must be reinstated. My organization and others will to fight to make sure that happens." – E. W. Jackson, Stand America PAC

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Holidays - fact checking Christmas

This is a holiday post from me (DG) offered as a sort of gift, a token of appreciation, first and foremost to my colleague and 'boss', Penigma (an inside joke - hope you are laughing, Pen).  Pen is the best possible blogging partner one could hope for; I am particularly grateful for his help to me with computer difficulties during this past year.  So - thank you Pen; this is especially for you.  But it is also offered with appreciation to our other contributors during this past year, and to our readers.

What do I do that is uniquely 'me', what is my 'bete noir'? Fact checking!  So, in selecting a topic around which to write a holiday post, I turned to - what else? - fact checking Christmas, including drawing on some experiences out of my own past, for a holiday perspective.

Certain Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches celebrate Christ's birth on January 7th, not December 25th - specifically, the Russian, Georgian, Egyptian, Ukrainian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Greek Patriarchate of Jerusalem churches.  It was an interesting experience to visit sites in Bethlehem in early January when a tourist in Israel some years ago, including viewing the image of a very western Santa Claus on a billboard, expecting Christmas to be over, other than possibly the feast of Epiphany on January 6th.  Some Armenian churches don't celebrate Christmas until January 18th for Christmas eve, and the 19th for Christmas Day.  So.......Christmas can quite literally be a celebration that keeps on giving well beyond the traditional 12 days of Christmas, into January, at the very least.

I want to focus specifically on the gospel of Matthew 2:1-12, referencing the astronomy and astrology of the Star of Bethlehem, and the visit of the wise men, or magi from the 'east'.  The offering of the gifts of the magi, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, are at least part of the basis of our sometimes manic,  sometimes all too commercial tradition of gift giving, and therefore is very much at the heart of our seasonal celebration, whether we embrace the religious reasons for it, or only the secular traditions.

Holding BP Accountable for the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill; or, Deputy Dawg, er, Joe Barton compared to Senator Al Franken

From Senator Al Franken, in response to an inquiry from me, DG -
(also, a link to the text of the bill is provided by me, because I believe we should all read legislation, not have others predigest it for us):
Thank you for contacting me about the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act. I appreciate learning of your support for this legislation.

Under current law, the criminal penalties for Clean Water Act violations are not as severe as the penalties for other white-collar crimes. Restitution for environmental crimes -- even those that take human life -- is discretionary, and only available under limited circumstances. As a result, corporations sometimes treat fines and monetary penalties as merely a cost of doing business to be weighed against profits.

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has made it clear that environmental crimes can cause serious and widespread harm to people's lives and livelihoods, as well as to the environment. By all accounts, BP had no viable plan in place to deal with an accident of this magnitude, and I've been deeply disappointed by BP's neglect of safety and slow response to stopping the leak in the Gulf. BP must be held responsible for all costs incurred as a result of the oil spill.

That's why I cosponsored S. 3466, the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act. This bill would direct the U.S. Sentencing Commission to increase sentences for criminal Clean Water Act violations and would make restitution mandatory for criminal violations of the Act. Should BP or others be found criminally liable in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, this legislation would allow the families of those killed to be compensated for wrongdoing and would help the people of the Gulf Coast rebuild their coastline, wetlands, fisheries, and livelihoods.

S. 3466 was introduced in the Senate on June 9, 2010, and was referred to the Judiciary Committee, which reported the bill favorably on June 24, 2010. I will continue to push for the passage of the Environmental Crimes Enforcement Act to ensure that polluters are held responsible and victims receive the compensation they deserve.

Thank you again for contacting me, and I look forward to hearing from you in the future on this or any other matter of concern to you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Going Viral, Just Like the Common Cold........and Harder to Cure

When I did some volunteer work making phone calls for a couple of candidates for the 2010 elections, my favorite question of the people I called was what was their most important issue in their choice of candidate for whom they would vote.

In looking at the list of false emails, the viral cyber disinformation campaign, I encountered a frightening number of people who believed these claims, although I could not always trace them to email.  I have one friend, Lynda, who makes a habit of routinely forwarding me her 'junk' viral emails on political and sometimes historical topics, just because she gets a kick out of my somewhat sarcastic debunking of them back to her.Well, the humor factor is part of it; the other part she gets out of doing so I hope carries over here  to Penigma readers -- having specific sources provided; Lynda says when she comes back to her other friends, family and work colleagues, she "looks smarter to them" for knowing the debunked accurate information,  (with sources, in case someone challenges her on this stuff).

Monday, December 20, 2010

This Explains the 2010 Elections / Political Auctions Results

“The lowest form of popular culture - lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people's lives - has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage."
- Carl Bernstein
author, All the President's Men

If you watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbaugh, or most other right-wing propaganda media and blogs,  you're DISinformed, by a deliberate and calculated pattern of inaccurate information and deliberate attempts to create moral panics.
- Dog Gone

disinformation (ˌdɪsɪnfəˈmeɪʃən) — n
false information intended to deceive or mislead
- World English Dictionary

Now one study has made official what I have been saying here for some time, particularly about Fox News as a source of information.  Here is the Maryland Study, "Misinformation and the 2010 Election, A Study of the U.S. Electorate", so you can read it for yourself.
There has been extensive coverage of the study elsewhere, including the New York Times.  There has been the de rigeur counter-attack from the right, particularly from Fox News - a rather limp and impotent attempt, for them, compared to their usual standards of snark:
So, in addition to providing the actual study, I am making the obvious link between inaccurate information and the 2010 election results.  The only explanation that makes any sense for the results of that election cycle is to understand the significant segment of a mis-motivated, disinformed electorate segment (see moral panic), and the calculated results of the right wing election-cum-auction purchase by the right with the efforts  of Fox News and the big media buys of the groups profiled by the conference, "Cash Attack 2010". The link of the Right Wing false messages to the outcome of the 2010 elections is also reflected in the 2010 Lie of the Year, the false claim that the Obama Health Care Reform passed last spring constituted a 'government take over'.

There is a clear link between the deliberate disinformation of the right, by the right, established by this study which charts the inaccurate beliefs relating to politics and economics that have resulted from that deliberate disinformation campaign.   We can see more local versions in the voter fraud hoaxes perpetrated by groups like Minnesota Majority, statewide, and Monty Jensen, more locally, in Crow Wing County, Minnesota.  In other states we have hysteria over voter frauds like that which was circulated by the fake Fox News segment about the Cincinnati High School Ice Cream Bribes for votes.  (Can anyone else find an update, or better, a correction by Fake News for this story?  I couldn't.)

Five things to do to fix economy

The root and solution to the problems with the US economy aren't really that murky or even that difficult to envision a way to fix. The first thing you have to do is understand the root, the second is understand what is feasible or even reasonable to do about it. Instituting a 75% tax on incomes above $3M wouldn't fix it because it would never get passed. Likewise, cutting public sector benefits and pay, while likely necessary, is simply admitting we're running on empty, and worsening the overall problem of too little money in the hands of workers. Because THAT is the overall problem, the buying power and negotiating position (which go hand in hand) of labor has drastically eroded over the past 30 years, especially over the last 10.

This has happened for two key reasons. First, organized labor is effectively disappearing from the US landscape, making the power of labor near meaningless. Second, the tax cuts of the 80's and 2000's incented the wealthy to do everything possible to direct profits to themselves, rather than to workers, investment, infrastructure, or anything else. The primary cause of the erosion of labor has been an uncontrolled, unplanned exposure of the US (and European) labor markets to effectively free labor in China and India. The key differences in the responses (between Europe and the US) to that exposure has pointed out precisely what we did wrong, and what they did right. We didn't enforce our labor laws, and we DID allow our "captains of industry" to direct our governmental policies to do little (or worse) to plan and control the effects of offshoring.

So, in short order - some solutions are:

1. Enforce the Fair Labor Standards Practices Act - this act initially required employers to pay overtime for anyone not in management (in a direct hiring role). This would need to include the enforcement of the ACTUAL union organizing rules. Probably the most necessary thing in the United States at this point is the ability of labor to demand a fair split of profits. The split has roughly reversed in the last 30 years, and with it, vast shifts in wealth have occurred.

2. Require any company off-shoring any jobs to pay a wage off-shore not less than 70% of the wage they pay on-shore. Yes, it will cause inflation in those economies, but I suppose when you look at how off-shoring has devastated our economy, it certainly doesn't seem either India or China much care.

3. Move this nation toward a small, renewable energy manufacturing. Included in that should be a movement toward renewable energy within the United States (i.e. creating our own demand for this product).

4. Reduce public sector employee pension obligations. While I abhor this, it clearly is necessary at this time given the risk of default by so many states and municipalities on their public bond debt. If you think 1929 was bad, you have no idea how bad it would be if this happens - unemployment might top 40%, maybe more. We'd risk open violence in the streets and the election of an authoritarian regime.

5. Publicly fund campaigns. Remove the ability of corporations to buy votes in Washington.

Notice, I didn't say anything about Wall Street or banks, quite simply because Wall Street is a symptom. Too much money had too few good investments on shore in the 2000's, too much of our economy rested on bond/mortgage/currency speculation and manipulation as well. If you fix the jobs/manufacturing question, Wall Street will/should (must?) go back to what it is supposed to be, a place to raise capital for expansion and to secure high quality investments and return.

Oh, there are more drastic measures of course, and those likely will come if we don't act to begin a course correction now. WE must insist on reduced spending by the government propping up private companies, but if we are to do that, we have to create living wage level jobs on shore. The wealthiest Americans didn't think their focus on keeping more for themselves would ever land us where we are, but that is exactly what has happened. Our economy, and our nation, are teetering on the brink of becoming a second tier economy, with poor futures for our children, certainly much poorer than we had. If the Republicans in Congress think 2010 was a watershed for them, they've seen nothing like what 2012 or 2014 could be like if things keep going as they are, but most importantly, if we chose to make a new way, we've got to begin planning for sustainable manufacturing and protecting our own jobs, our own children, our own retirements, our own futures because it is certainly the case that the Chinese aren't, nor are the wealthiest among us because their futures are (they think) already secured.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Monkey Trials

In 1925, in what is sometimes called "The World's Most Famous Trial," high school teacher John T. Scopes was put on trial for teaching evolution in his science class in Dayton, Ohio.

The lead prosecuting attorney was William Jennings Bryan, the lead defense counsel was Clarence Darrow.

In my time in high school, we studied this trial, even re-read the entire transcript. It had a profound effect on students, who marvelled and laughed (at times) at the verbal jousts between two great orators, one a master at appalling to the masses, the other a master of logic and as it turns out, of the law (though that Darrow was a legal genius isn't really a surprise these days). We were stunned at the bigotry, the perverse adherence to a specific religious dogma, over actual research. All of us were, children of Republicans as well as children of Democrats. There were no children present who protested and claimed the earth was only 15,000 years old (or 5,000). It was a little different time. The primary point of the trial was that no religion, not Christianity, not Islam, not Judaism, not Shintoism, nor Hinduism, nor Confucianism - none - should be dominant in the classroom. We believe in this country in religious freedom, that is, the right of everyone to chose to worship (or not) whatever they desire, and no religious historicity (as in creationism) should take a lead/front-seat in the classroom because to do so is to endorse one religion over the others.

As John Scopes said, in his only public comment at the trial, in response to his sentencing for violating the "Butler Act" a law which forbad the teaching of evolution...

"Your honor, I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can. Any other action would be in violation of my ideal of academic freedom — that is, to teach the truth as guaranteed in our constitution, of personal and religious freedom."

These were his, not Darrow's words. The Butler Act had been passed as religious fundamentalists tried to prevent the progress of evolutionary theory by enacting laws to prevent it from even being discussed. They used the government to stop in the courtroom what they could not stop in the court of public opinion (good line from Wiki).

Why do I bring this up? The obvious application of this quote is as a response to Sarah Palin and the like where support of strict creationism is a litmus test for entrance into the fold of true believers. For example, Palin believes the earth is 15,000 years old and that God put the dinosaurs on earth so we'd have oil. More compelling, though, is that the Scopes trial points to the origin and impact of attempting to have a specific religion (Christianity) usurp research and the scientific method. During the Bush years, the executive branch repeatedly meddled in the scientific research of organizations like the EPA, but also of NASA. Reports which confirmed that the earth was warming were quashed, reports which showed the devastating impacts of pollution were heavily redacted by political appointees. Many scientists felt the government had become impotent or worse, a political tool of a highly biased political movement which, for example, believed the world is 15,000 years old and so any scientific discovery which suggested otherwise (such as the study of early man), was to be heavily questioned and the outcomes restated to allow for this possibility. The truth wasn't that science was trying to get rid of religion, but rather, much like in Tennessee v. Scopes, religion was trying to outlaw/deny science. They were using the executive branch to hide the findings which routinely supported the case they still could not win in the court of public opinion.

Yesterday Barack Obama issued a policy document to all scientific branches/offices of the executive government which effectively denies the right of any political appointee to interfere in the findings of the scholars/engineers/scientists engaged in research in those offices. Reports are not to be subject to political censorship/approval, department heads are to keep their hands off. Note that Obama didn't instruct the offices (as Bush did) to review reports to support his personal political faith (Obama is a Christian), but rather to keep religion out of science and out of the determination of governmental policy. When the vast preponderence of information supports one theory - it is time to put the fact that it conflicts with one particular version of faith aside. Much as the "Dover Trial" showed, creationism is deeply lacking in scientific substantiation, while evolution still has not been found to have one major, material flaw (or it would have been discarded). The government, whether in the classroom or in the laboratory, should not be stunting the progress of medicine, exploration, and most of all, of thought. It is a powerful tool, it can be powerfully misused, or it can be a power for great good. I am glad this sad chapter in our history (of Bush's interference in science) was ended by Obama. When I was a child I believed it ended in 1925, for while Scopes was convicted, Bryan and the creationists lost as the public, like school-children, laughed at the absurdity of the arguments of Bryan, and applauded the logic of Darrow. I hope this is the last time we have to establish the correct separation of faith from fact in science, I believe John Scopes would have held the same hope.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell; Don't Look Back

“It is time to close this chapter in our history.
It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.
It is time to allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve their country openly.” - President Barack Obama

This afternoon, Saturday, December 18, 2010 marked the end of the 1993 law, with a vote in the Senate that included votes in support of the end of DADT by eight Republicans as well as a majority of Democrats.

The honor roll of those Republicans are:
Senator Scott Brown, Massachusetts
Senator Richard Burr, North Carolina
Senator Susan Collins, Maine
Senator John Ensign, Nevada
Senator Mark Kirk, Illinois
Senator Lisa Murkowski. Alaska
Senator Olympia Snowe, Maine
Senator George Voinovich, Ohio

The House of Representatives passed the bill on Wednesday, December 15, 2010.  Thank you, members of Congress for righting this wrong.  Thank you for voting for our armed forces to be able to serve with dignity and integrity on our behalf.  This will mark a similar turning point in our history to the end of segregation in the armed forces.

General Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, if you cannot in good conscience continue in your position, now would be a good time to pack your bags, and leave your position for a more open minded man or woman.  There is no going back.  So, either look forward, move forward, with honor, or sir, please, with respect for your years of service, leave now.

General Amos made the comment that he felt allowing people to admit they were gay would present a distraction.  Apparently not allowing them to admit they were gay avoids that distraction for General Amos; I doubt the general cares if living a lie distracts gay soldiers or otherwise disturbs them.  General Amos made the statement that the distraction of someone admitting what in fact their comrades often know anyway and don't care about, would distract soldiers, and might get the straight soldier killed.  Amos doesn't appear to care about those who aren't heterosexual, but serve their country in the armed forces.  Soldiers like Marine staff sgt. Eric Alva, the first soldier seriously wounded in Iraq, who lost a leg after being injured by an IED.

Amos must not have been thinking of Alva, or the men and women like Alva, when he said he
"I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda [National Naval Medical Center, in Maryland] with no legs be the result of any type of distraction."
General Amos's solution was to simply kick those distractions out of the military, at the rate of two soldiers a day who are separated from the service.  Good thing General Amos didn't happen to visit Sgt. Alva when he was a patient; the general might have been distracted by the ill timing and offensiveness of his own comments in the presence of Alva's sacrifice for his country; or maybe just embarrassed at his faux pas.  Good thing General Amos can no longer exercise his prejudice, although his freedom of speech, defended by soldiers like Alva, still permit him to express it.  We can only hope he might think better of it, and honor real warriors, instead of conforming to the false ideals and ignorance of the conservative 'culture warriors'.

Senator John McCain, your position on this issue has been a disgrace, and dishonor, sir.  It has saddened me to see someone I once admired betray his prior position on this issue, and it is tragic that you have so little regard for the many members of our armed forces, in all branches, both men and women, who are homosexual or bisexual, who have made tremendous sacrifices in order to serve and defend this country or who will do so in the future.

Senator McCain, shame on you, and shame on those who supported your backwards, ignoble, ignorant and intolerant position on this issue. Pretty much every modern nation allows people to serve in their armed forces, without respect to any other criteria than that they do so with competence and integrity. 

Thank you, Congress, especially you Democrats who didn't have to be bribed with political advantage to do the right thing for the sake of doing it.  Thank you Mr. President.  Thank you members of our armed forces, in all branches, for your sacrifice and your courage, like you Sgt. Alva.  Thank God we finally have reordered our priorities to reflect a more worthwhile set of values.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Monty Jensen: how many ways does he not tell the truth?

I have watched Monty Jensen's YouTube videos about voting in Crow Wing county.  You can watch them here.  Why would I challenge Monty Jensen's integrity, his accusation? Because of all the things wrong with what he has said.

Monty Jensen claims that there were 20 to 25 disabled people milling about at the Crow Wing County courthouse auditor's area on Friday, October 29th, at 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.

There was one group of disabled people voting that afternoon; and they were there around 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m, not 4:30 - 4:45.  They were residents from the Clark Lake group home; they came in two mini-vans, vehicles which could not possibly accommodate 25 people.  There were 8 disabled people, 4 in each minivan, with 2 staff members for each group of 4.  That makes 8 disabled people, and 4 staff; not 20 to 25.

Monty Jensen is off by a factor of three times the number of disabled people involved in his accusation.
One of these people was in a wheel chair; Monty Jensen makes no mention of this.  He describes the disabled people as wandering around, and he repeatedly throughout his video refers to these disabled individuals as mentally incapacitated.

Monty Jensen cannot by casual observation determine the level of function of disabled people.  Monty Jensen claims that these people were unable to vote themselves, specifically that the disabled didn't know where they were and didn't know they were participating in voting. 

The disabled voter themselves argue that they have previously voted, and that they were able to designate the candidates for whom they voted.  The auditor's staff were very clear that, as election officials, they did not see what Monty Jensen claimed, and assert that they would have intervened if they had seen what Monty Jensen claimed.

Monty Jensen claims that the assistants told the disabled people to vote for Democratic candidates.  The disabled people themselves insist that some of them have in fact voted on that afternoon for Republican candidates and that they voted for Republicans in the past.

Monty Jensen and his associates claimed these people were 'turned away' from the polls, and this was why they voted absentee.  It is untrue.  These people HAD previously voted at the polls.  The allegations about the disabled were in accurate every step of the way, and the accusations were clearly made to serve their agenda.

Monty Jensen claimed that he was told 'this is the 4th group today'.  Because Monty Jensen wants people to believe that widespread voter fraud takes place when it does not.  The staff of the auditor's office quite specifically denied making that statement to Monty Jensen, and there was in fact only the Clark Lake Group of disabled voters voting on October 29th.  So it would be implausible to believe Monty Jensen's version of the conversation.

If you don't accept the story that Monty Jensen is telling, which is refuted by the Crow Wing county investigation, then there is no reason to believe Monty Jensen.  He is wrong on every point.

If you don't accept Monty Jensen's story that he can tell people who are qualified to vote from a person who is not, then his story falls apart.  If you don't accept that Monty Jensen approached a disabled voter - and they are specific Monty Jensen did not approach them while they voted, then the story falls apart.  If you don't accept that the family or guardians of the disabled voters would object to their family members or client would go along with the kind of behavior that Monty Jensen describes then Monty Jensen's story falls apart.

The only person who comes out a hero in his account is Monty Jensen.  Monty Jensen is no hero to the disabled voters he insulted.  There is no reason to believe Monty Jensen about anything.

So........why would I think there might be a set up, claiming, oh.......that AFSCME or SEIU union members were somehow rigging the vote, and doing so by somehow hijacking disabled voters? Here is why.  A convenient story, one that suddenly got short shrift when I pointed out that it was easy to check the truth of such a fear by looking at the voting registration.  There are records when people vote.

Oh look... Jensen's story is one more instance of a right wing group making the exact same claim.  A claim that once again, doesn't hold up to the scrutiny of an investigation.  One where Mitch Berg then interviews Monty Jensen on his radio show. 

Coincidence? Not bloody likely. A lie? Sure looks like it to me.

Update - the Very Funny Cincinnati High School Voter Fraud Hoax

That would be the one where a Tea Party candidate claimed that high school students were bribed with free ice cream afterwards, to vote for Democratic candidates, for those of you who don't remember.  I wrote about it in late October.

In summation, a disgruntled and unsuccessful tea party candidate for some local office has sued the school district because three students - not three busloads of students, as reported by Fake News - who were eligible to vote did so during school hours, as part of their civics class curriculum.  The tea party wacko, in the best tradition of conservative conspiracy theorists, asserted in his law suit that the school was practicing partisan politics, that it used school resources (the buses that didn't in fact transport anyone anywhere) to cause students to be taken to a polling place to vote, and shown democratic candidate only sample ballots (they weren't shown anything of the kind).

I don't know what it is about a segment of the right - let me hasten to be clear, this isn't all of you, just a wack-a-doodle lunatic subset - that asserts these stories, promotes these stories, and sadly, can't wait to believe these stories of voter fraud, despite a total lack of any proof whatsoever.  Despite, repeatedly, the proof to the contrary, the obvious demonstration that these claims are false, hoaxes, bad jokes, which make you look really, really stupid for believing them.  If I were one of you right wingers who engage in these stories, who believe these stories, I might actually assert that this kind of gullibility should render you ineligible for voting yourselves, because you obviously lack the judgement necessary to exercise your right to vote.

Fortunately for you all, I'm not going to claim that......however tempting that idea might be.  Because, seriously? A gullibility test, rather than an IQ test has some merits here in the area of the franchise.  See the 2009 and 2010 politifact lie of the year awards; I rest my case.

So here is the update.  Three students, not three busloads of students, went to vote on school time.  They rode along to the polling place in three 15 passenger vans in which they were provided donated seating space, along with the other people the church was transporting to vote, as a good civic minded sort of public service.  The vans were stopping for ice cream on the way back, as part of the outing, and generously invited the students to join them.  There was no bribe offered, no fraud, no democratic candidate ballots; all of that was something a friend of the tea party candidate made up, based on 'maybe' the teacher possibly wearing a sticker for a democratic candidate - which she did not do.

There was a scheduling hearing on the law suit full of misinformation (always with the misinformation, sheesh) and presumably because minors might be involved, or maybe because the tea party nut job is afraid of looking silly, the files on the law suit were sealed.

The school is still insisting - and can prove it - that the suit is full of false statements.  But the school DID suspend both the principal and the teacher involved, briefly.

Oh, NOT for having done anything wrong in letting the three students out of class to vote. No.  For having let them travel on the church vans, which had not complied with some of the formal criteria for transporting students.  The school still supports that otherwise the teacher and principle were acting appropriately.  And it is not clear at this point if the church vehicles met the criteria for safe transport of students, but just hadn't done the paperwork or not.

While neither the teacher or the principle have fought their disciplinary action, I would think they could have done so, given that any student old enough to vote is no longer a minor, and can therefore make their own decision about who and how they are transported, unlike the usual minor students.

In any case, there are depositions being called, and the case is set out for next summer for further action.

I'm hoping the damnably lying tea party candidate who filed this suit gets hit with all the costs, and that the school proceeds as it was suggested earlier it might do, in filing a counter suit.  Because this is just one more case of voter fraud that is purely a hoax for the gullible on the right.

These are getting easier and easier to spot, and like shooting fish in a barrel to disprove, because inevitably the details have egregious flaws in them, that are not plausible on the surface, that should raise red flags of alarm in every person who encounters them.  And they are always always always claiming some Eeeeeevil deed by democrats or liberals, accusations which inevitably turn out to be false on closer examination.

And every time - EVERY TIME - the accuser, when faced with these details, or someone supporting that accuser, asserts that their false accusation was justified because it COULD have been true.
No. It couldn't be true, and none of the rest of us other than those few fools on the right who consume this stuff like heroin addicts consume heroin, believe these voter fraud hoaxes any more.  But in the meantime, debunking voter fraud claims is to me like cat nip to a cat.  It makes me laugh, so you can expect more of them.  Bad me for laughing AT people instead of with them, but heck, it is still fun and funny.

My thanks to my esteemed colleague ToE for helping me with some of the legal research.

It's Official! the 2010 Politifact Lie of the Year: "A Government Takeover of Health Care"

It was a claim that was professed by dozens of right winger politicos, at all levels.  And it was wrong every time they said it, every time they wrote it, every time they justified their votes with it.

Politifact selected it because it was wrong, and because it was believed by a significant number of people.  People who, sadly, apparently don't know how to fact check.  People who, sadly, voted for Republican or Tea Party candidates.  People who, in fear, made threats last spring against Democratic Senators and Representatives to Congress.  It is widely believed by the fawning followers of Rush Limbaugh and the talking heads of Fake News.

It is no secret to regular readers of Penigma that I just adore the fact checkers, particularly and  This lie earned more than a few right wing politicos the pants on fire rating for the most egregious deliberate sorts of lies, as contrasted with simple factual inaccuracies, like a good faith use of outdated statistics.  I deeply believe that promotion of these lies, as a concerted effort, is in fact unpatriotic, a dangerous threat that does real harm to our citizens, our country, and to our system of government. 

No surprise, perennial fact check failure Michele Bachmann was runner up, again, for the award, as she was last year.  The 2009 Politifact. Lie of the Year award went to Sarah Palin, for her health care reform lie about death panels - although, again to be fair, it was not unique to Palin either.  Numerous other right wing voices spouted the same or similar lies.

So, here without further ado (imagine the drum roll) from, specifically Bill Adair, and Angie Drobnic Holan, is the heart of their expose on the right wing health care claim:

I hope this is a pleasant interlude from the Minnesota Voter Fraud hoaxes series, especially for those of you who live outside of Minnesota.  I use the term interlude, because there are more.
In the spring of 2009, a Republican strategist settled on a brilliant and powerful attack line for President Barack Obama's ambitious plan to overhaul America's health insurance system. Frank Luntz, a consultant famous for his phraseology, urged GOP leaders to call it a "government takeover."

"Takeovers are like coups," Luntz wrote in a 28-page memo. "They both lead to dictators and a loss of freedom."

The line stuck. By the time the health care bill was headed toward passage in early 2010, Obama and congressional Democrats had sanded down their program, dropping the "public option" concept that was derided as too much government intrusion. The law passed in March, with new regulations, but no government-run plan.

But as Republicans smelled serious opportunity in the midterm elections, they didn't let facts get in the way of a great punchline. And few in the press challenged their frequent assertion that under Obama, the government was going to take over the health care industry.

PolitiFact editors and reporters have chosen "government takeover of health care" as the 2010 Lie of the Year. Uttered by dozens of politicians and pundits, it played an important role in shaping public opinion about the health care plan and was a significant factor in the Democrats' shellacking in the November elections.

Readers of PolitiFact, the St. Petersburg Times' independent fact-checking website, also chose it as the year's most significant falsehood by an overwhelming margin. (Their second-place choice was Rep. Michele Bachmann's claim that Obama was going to spend $200 million a day on a trip to India, a falsity that still sprouts.)

By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: "The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.' "

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another GOP Voter Fraud Hoax - the 103 Dinkytown Ballot Fantasy

From my favorite source of what propaganda is circulating on the right at any given time:

Pay No Attention To The Fraud Behind The Curtain
By Mitch Berg
"This email, from a GOP election recount-watcher, has been making the rounds of local conservative activists. I’m keeping the writer’s name off the record for now. "
Of course the original writer's name is off the record! I would be surprised if it is ever attached to the 'record'.
Because the story isn't true. If his name were on the record, the source, a GOP candidate by one report, not merely a recount watcher, could be held accountable for this hoax, this right wing example of disinformation. If it came from a real source, not this kind of anonymous circulation, the disinformation wouldn't work nearly as well. Readers would have recourse to complain, to challenge.

On the preceding day, Tuesday November 30th, in reference to the very same Hennepin County Recount, from over at Penigma blog roll blog Centrisity, our friend Flash noted:

Yes, That's Her!
Yes, that;s [sic] my sister leaning over the table on the front page of the Strib. Both her and my mom participated in the recount efforts, yesterday.
Which made it the simple matter of sending off an email to inquire, asking Flash to please pass on my inquiry to his mom and sister, to check with someone who was there if they saw anything remotely like this. They didn't. We KNOW that they were really there, unlike the anonymous source Mitch used, thanks to the front page photo heading the STrib article, over the caption :

"Dan Decker, representing Tom Emmer, left, and Linda Freemon, right, representing Mark Dayton, closely looked through ballots as recount judges counted them at the Hennepin County Government Center."

Governor's Recount - and recounting the Challenges, by Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Mitch goes on to share from his official GOP candidate source:
For instance, we found one precinct with ALL Dayton ballots challenged (103 total) that appeared to be a “mass” group of blank ballots run thru without a judge’s signature – all in a row. Shows how easily certain folks of a party’s persuasion can cheat so easily – and have it counted?

I wasn't at the Hennepin recount, but others who can verify the recount were - like Flash's sister and mom. Like video of the recount. I couldn't find anyone from the GOP or Emmer campaign either that would support this story, officially. There is a good reason for that.
This is a LIE. This is a FALSE story. This is a HOAX. ANOTHER Voter Fraud HOAX.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Ambassador

Richard Holbrooke,
April 24, 1941 - December 13, 2010

Yesterday this nation lost one of the finest, most accomplished diplomats of our time, Richard Holbrooke.  Penigma offers his family and friends our condolences for his loss, and our gratitude for his decades of service to our country, and to the world. 

He will be missed; our hopes for peace in the region of Afghanistan and and Pakistan have suffered a terrible loss with his passing.  God bless and keep you, Mr. Holbrooke.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Announcing FactCheck.Org's Post-Election Conference : Cash Attack 2010

The following is offered as a Penigma Public Service Announcement
Political Advertising In a Post-Citizens United World

C-SPAN has informed us they will be covering our event live tomorrow morning, on C-SPAN 3. Check local cable listings for the channel number. We get underway at 9am EST Monday, Dec. 13.

At our conference strategists from three of the top five outside spending groups from the 2010 House and Senate campaigns will discuss the thinking behind their attack ads – and the results. And among others, we will also hear from the head of the California Labor Federation, which ran a successful outside campaign for state governor.

2010 Outside Spending by Groups

1. American Crossroads / Crossroads GPS     $38,675, 723
2. U.S. Chamber of Commerce                     $32, 851, 997
3. American Action Network                          $26,088,031
     this produces a total for conservatives from just these three groups 
          of $97,615,751 (DG)
4. Service Employees International Union      $15,769,546
5. American Federation of State, County        $12,416,770
      and Municipal Emplyees (AFSCME)
   this produces a total for progressives from these two groups,
         for comparison, of $28,186,316 (DG)
The event will be held at the Holeman Lounge of the National Press Club at 14th and F Streets NW, Washington DC. It is sponsored by, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The event is open to press and to the public. Should you be unable to watch or attend (or should C-CSPAN's plans change) we plan to post our own video of the event as soon afterward as possible.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dear Mr. Obama: An Open Letter to the President

Dear President Obama:

I write this open letter with the greatest respect for you, and for the office of the President; please regard my comments in that context.

Sir, you made a bad deal with the Republican leadership. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Recount: Now It's Over, I Can Share My Own Experiences as a Dayton Recount Volunteer

I did some volunteer work for the DFL, mostly on behalf of Jim Oberstar, in the 2010 elections.  I happen to believe that Mr. Oberstar was an exceptional congressman in representing his constituency, and for our state. The measure of his loss has yet to be appreciated. Because I had been a volunteer during the past election, I was contacted when the DFL was looking for volunteers to assist with the recount.

To be a recount volunteer, attending one of the 2 hour training sessions was required.  From my own conversations with Emmer recount volunteers, along with the shared experiences of other Dayton recount volunteers, and media coverage, it was clear that the Emmer campaign did not similarly either field an adequate number of recount volunteers, but more importantly the campaign and the GOP did not provide any training whatsoever as a condition of participating in the recount.  For those few who had previously been part of the Franken/Coleman recount, a very acrimonious recount in comparison to this one, it was especially important for volunteers to be aware of the changes to the law between 2008 and 2010 elections.  In all, the DFL reported (in their 'thank you' email) that there were 3,345 of us who volunteered.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Minnesota Governor's Race, Recount Update 4

This morning, Wednesday December 8, 2010, Tom Emmer conceded that the recount did not show him receiving a sufficient number of votes to defeat Governor-elect Mark Dayton.

Yesterday a law suit ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court went against Emmer that would have provided the basis for a court challenge.

Information from Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and/or the Canvassing Board on the official status of the Recount issues will be posted here as they come to our attention.

It occurs to me that Tom Emmer may have been very wise to withdraw frivolous ballot challenges, and to conceded at this time.  I'm sure he hopes that it will deflect the attention of the Minnesota electorate which is properly angry over the abuse of the recount process, and the unnecessary expense that those FRIVOLOUS ballot challenges represent to every community in Minnesota.  Let me be clear - I have no objection to legitimate issues being pursued, or legitimate ballot challenges being pressed.  I have a huge objection however to campaign trying to manipulate our election processes for sleezy and dishonest political advantage.

That is what the voter fraud hoax stories represent.  That is what the frivolous ballot challenges were.

Be a Patriot! Support Our Troops During the Holidays!

This was in the Penigma email inbox this morning. 
I want to share it with our readers, hoping that as you enjoy holiday celebrations, you will take a moment or two to have a thought for our armed forces, especially those who are serving in other countries, far from their families and friends at this special time of year. 

Please show your appreciation for their sacrifice, not only by keeping those brave individuals in our hearts and minds, but if you can in a more tangible expression of gratituted as well. 
Thank you!
Dear USO Supporter --
Welcome to the USO, and thank you for supporting our brave service men and women.

When you joined our Thanks from Everywhere campaign and left your note, you had an enormous impact on the lives of our troops and their families -- especially at this time of year. And as a former Army Officer, I can't thank you enough for that generous act.
Right now, you can continue to make a difference by taking part in the USO's At Home in Our Hearts campaign. It's an all out effort from USO supporters like you and me to go the extra mile and show our commitment to our troops and thank them for all they do for us.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Please join us at Penigma in taking a moment today to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor the morning of Sunday, December 7th, 1941.

That morning 2,402 personnel were killed, and 1,282 were wounded.  The attack began our Pacific theater part of World War II, with Japan, leading to many other deaths on boths sides. Included in those subsequent deaths were the casualties resulting from the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

This was a momentous day in world history, and a very, very important day in the history of this country.

It should not be forgotten.  Please, take a moment today to silently honor the memory of those who made the sacrifices that allow us to be here today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Minnesota Governor's Race Recount Update 3

Over the weekend (12/4 - 12/5) there was some reluctant progress in the Minnesota Governor's race recount.  Finally, after doing everything in their power to impede and delay the timely and efficient recount progress with thousands of frivolous ballot challenges, the Emmer campaign has abandoned  those meritless challenges.  After the attorneys for both campaigns met over the weekend to review just the frivolous ballot challenges for Hennepin County alone, a task taking some 6 hours, the Republicans finally withdrew 2,604 frivolous ballots.   The Emmer campaign hung on to another 24 ballots that were deemed frivolous, but at least letting go of the other 2,000+ was a step in the right direction.  Hennepin County is the largest county and the most populous in Minnesota; but it will be a better step if they do the same for all the other frivolous challenges in all the other counties.

Minnesota Governor's Race Recount Update 2

UPDATE 12/2: There are five counties still in the recount process; 82 counties have finished in the Minnesota governor's race. According to one local news source:

The Dayton campaign says that as of 8 p.m. Wednesday night (12/1), the net gain was 228, making Dayton’s total margin 9,031 votes compared to the 8,770 after the canvass.

There is a minor discrepancy in how counts are being tabulated. Some counties are including frivolously challenged ballots in the respective totals, where there is overwhelmingly clear evidence of how the ballot should be accepted. In those counties, the frivolously challenged ballots, which are nearly all from the Emmer side of the controversy and would therefore benefit candidate Mark Dayton even further, are counted in with the other totals, but separated out for a final review by the canvassing board. In other counties, all ballot challenges, the legitimate, and the stupid, are counted separately from the candidate totals. This appears to be the explanation for differing total gains for Dayton, and gains/losses for Emmer.

Minnesota Governor's Race Recount - Update 1

UPDATE 11/31: the Republicans have tried to make an issue of reconciliation - the challenge that they believe the number of voters and votes do not match up. This appears to be explained, here.

Last week’s kerfuffle de jour was “reconciliation,” that is, whether there were more votes than voters in certain precincts. Amid that issue was whether election officials in many counties were counting the number of voters correctly; did they count signatures on voter rolls or did they count the voter receipts obtained when ballots were handed out at polling places? The latter, said many election experts, is more accurate.

[Joe]Mansky said today that of the more 192,000 votes in his county, there remains one — count ‘em one — vote more than there were voters. All other votes have matched up.
So, in the state’s second busiest voting county [Ramsey], a single vote is in some doubt out of 192,000 with Emmer’s deficit growing each day. In many other counties, there have been no reconciliation disparities."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Monty Jensen is a Liar; Crow Wing County Investigation Concludes NO Evidence of Wrong Doing, Part 1

The results were conclusive; there was no evidence which supported Montgomery 'Monty' Jensen's accusation of wrong doing. 

I will take apart Jensen's accusations, pointing out the drive-a-semi-through holes in separate posts.

What is perhaps the more interesting aspect of this story, that suggests this was intended to be an attack on disabled voters from the very beginning, possibly specifically against this group home for having DFL political signs on their premises (which they are entitled to do, it's private property). In the comments section outraged right wing nuts who don't need evidence to justify foaming at the mouth, are publishing the address and phone numbers of the Clark Lake Group Home, and their staff.  This is a frightening parallel to the publishing by right wing bloggers of the incorrect address and phone number of Virginia Representative Perriello, actually his brother's, which led to vandalism of a propane line, vandalism which could have resulted in a fatal fire had it not accidentally been discovered by the home owner coming home unexpectedly during the day, contrary to his usual routine.

I have suggested that the operator of the group home that is being targeted ask the paper to remove these phone numbers and addresses, and that he consider legal action against the parties involved with continuing smears, and against Jensen.  I've also offered to assist him in finding the best possible qualified legal representation to do so.

from the Brainerd Dispatch
Ryan: No evidence found to back voter fraud claim
By JODIE TWEED, Staff Writer

Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said Friday afternoon that his office did not find evidence to substantiate a Crow Wing Township resident's claim of voter fraud that was said to have taken place on Oct. 29 at the Historic Crow Wing County Courthouse.
Now one of the interesting features of the accusation by Monty Jensen is that he is quite specific about the timing of what he witnessed.  He is quite specific about arriving at the courthouse around 4:30 - 4:45 p.m., ostensibly he was only there to vote, which appears not to be the case.  Either he was there earlier than he admits, possibly to observe voters in search of voter fraud to gain the $500 reward offered; or he did not see the disabled voters who exercised their franchise that afternoon.  Certainly there were significant discrepancies in his description of those voters, and the staff assisting them - the only disabled voters that afternoon.

The problem with his account of what he claims to have witnessed begins in the first minute, the first 30 seconds, of his video.  The Clark Lake Group home residents and staff voted an hour earlier; they were back home AT the Clark Lake Group home when Monty Jensen claims to have witnessed the misconduct which resulted in an expensive investigation.  If you compare the account by Jensen, which no one else other than perhaps his girlfriend supports, and the account of the Clark Lake residents and staff, the timing alone that Jensen claims makes this accusation impossible.  But his description also doesn't match up.

No one else who was there that afternoon supports Monty Jensen's claims.  Not the auditor and other employees, not the other people who were there voting or on other business, not the disabled individuals themselves; they don't agree with Monty Jensen's bogus accusations.  Now the right, is making excuses,  is claiming that Jensen is the victim here, in the outcome of the investigation - at least, some of them are.  The right, as with the James O'Keefe bogus videos, where parts were faked, didn't learn a very important lesson. 

A lesson I learned at my father's knee. The lesson that when something is too good to be true, it pretty much isn't true.  And the obverse, the other side of the coin, is also true; that something that is too bad to be true likely is not true either.

This is even more true when the person telling the 'story' comes out the hero: in this case the only person who comes out a hero is Monty Jensen, and then only in his version of events.  His version would have us believe that he is the only person in Crow Wing County who will stand up for these poor exploited disabled persons.  Persons he very wrongly describes over and over and over and over in the most derogatory and inaccurate terms as being too intellectually helpless to pick a candidate.  Monty Jensen would have us believe that only he, right wing superhero Monty, would speak up, would object to the very public exploitation of these people.  A version of events which has gotten him a great deal of public attention, including at least one right wing radio interview, and attention from Flummoxed Fox Cable News (which I would bet is NOT covering the investigation outcome), a version which no one else will support.  Stories like the one told by Monty Jensen, or the ones told by James O'Keefe lend themselves to the exploitation of the credulous, the unquestioning thinker, the gullible goons who are too willing to be exploited, and the lend themselves to the public attention paid to the teller.

And let me assure you - it was very public where they voted.  The courthouse does not provide voting booths for people voting absentee at the Auditor's office.  EVERYONE coming and going can see and hear everything.  Neither the disabled voters, or their assitants, or Monty Jensen was inside any little cloth-sided cubicle when this happened.  If Monty Jensen HAD approached these people during voting, they would have been well aware of it.

What would be funny if it were not so serious is that this total lack of evidence is not considered conclusive by the right.  They still believe that Monty Jensen MUST have seen something bad. This is evident by the comments on the story at the online Brainerd Dispatch site, and this has been evident in my exchanges with my right wing friends who promote and believe these stories.  If the roles had been reversed, if it were a Republican or Tea Partier or some other conservative who had been so vilely accused, and if there was a fairly exhaustive investigation which did not support the accusation, they would be outraged that anyone could consider this other than conclusive against the Jensen accusation.  They would - rightly (pun intended) - ridicule anyone ELSE who so blithely ignored the facts.

But all too often the right, specifically a significant segment of the right is no longer about facts.  The right is about the narrative; they have a "tell me a story I want to hear" mentality, never mind if it is fiction, never mind if it is a lie, never mind the accuracy of facts. 

This is not acting in good faith.  This is not acting with integrity.  This is not acting with intelligence. 

Whether it be Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has never passed a single fact check at with a truthful or even nearly or partially truthful rating. Or the commenters like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and especially weepy Glenn Beck at  Fox News who promote all kinds of lunacy as fact, and nearly never comes back with a correction later when everyone else presents them.  Rush Limbaugh builds every one of his radio shows around a few pieces of information that have some tangential connection to fact, but then skews into unreality, unquestioned by his audience.  UNQUESTIONED, because they want the conspiracy theories, the hysteria that lacks fact to support the claims to be true. THEY WANT IT, they want it badly, so facts be damned.

Monty Jensen, 29, of Crow Wing Township, filed a complaint Nov. 1 with Ryan's office, the day before the election, requesting an investigation into a situation he said he saw Oct. 29 while filling out his absentee ballot.

No, he didn't see what he put in his complaint.  He didn't see anything of the kind.

In his affidavit, Jensen said he witnessed what appeared to be staff members from a group home filling out a client's ballot and verbally instructing a client who to vote for during absentee balloting.
The right wants to believe that Jensen must have seen this, no matter how many other people, including the quite competent group of disabled people he insults in his video, over and over and over by describing them as 'mentally incompetent'.  These were not incapacitated people mentally.  These were people who have strong ideas and feelings about issues and candidates who are quite capable of speaking up for themselves, of selecting who they want to vote for; they just needed help with the physical process of completing the ballot.  Jensen's entire premise hinges on the notion he promotes that these people couldn't or wouldn't choose a candidate for themselves. 

This foundational premise is inaccurate, and insulting; it is profoundly untrue.  These individuals need assistance; that is why they live in a group home.  Some, but not all, of them have been assigned guardians by going through the legal process to determine their competence, and their voting rights were specifically NOT restricted by the court.  That means qualified people had to present evidence and testimony to a judge for that to happen - qualified people, not casual people with an agenda, with an axe to grind, like Monty Jensen.  Monty Jensen wants his audience - because he has from the very beginning sought an audience, not simply filed his complaint - to believe that you don't need to know anything about people's capacity, you don't need to have any testing of them, or to have special training to understand this.  Monty Jensen wants you to believe that someone who is bone ignorant about brain injuries or determining functional levels can 'just tell' by casual uninformed observation, that everyone can.  It is comforting to believe you don't need to know anything, or that the world is less complex than it really is.

Wow, how well this plays into the dumbing down of the right, the same right which believes any idiot can do any job in government without training or education, if they are simply willing to voice the political agenda that the right wants to hear and believe. This plays into the narrative of the right that insists 'common sense' solutions will work; we don't need facts on which to base policy, we don't need any complex or detailed analysis to make good government decisions.  Be like Bush, go with your gut, with what you want to believe might be true, and the hell with facts, the hell with complex problems solving reality based thinking.  THAT kind of government, thoughtful government is much harder to carry out, and doesn't favor their side.

Jensen said Friday that he hadn't yet spoken to Ryan about the outcome to his complaint so he didn't want to comment on that. Jensen said he needs to review the case and if he feels it was done improperly - he has some concerns about it already, he said. Then he said he will take it to the secretary of state's office or FBI. He said if it's a legislative issue over voter assistance at the polls, he'll take it to area lawmakers.
I will make a bet right here, right now with Penigma readers.  Jensen won't go to the Secretary of State, because the right has so wrongly vilified Mark Ritchie, and there is no story supporting Jenesn for Ritchie to find.  Jensen won't go to the FBI either, because he already knows they would find that he wasn't honest, that he wasn't factual, that there was no basis for his accusation - that he made it up to serve a purpose.  And the FBI doesn't like people lying to them; they take it seriously.

Jensen will go to a sympathetic Republican law maker with his 'issue'.  He will seek out someone who will also not give a damn if his accusations are true.  Because it will play into the larger pattern of efforts by the right to disenfranchise people, to take away their right to vote; in this case it will be disabled people. I predict that the right is going to try to disenfranchise this segment of disabled voters, in the mistaken belief they vote far more for Democrats than for Republicans.  This idea is not unique to me, it is an observation that has been made to me by advocates for the disabled about this incident.  They don't - but Republicans think they do, and as long as they believe it, they don't bother checking the facts.

Voter fraud claims are a staple of the right wing, and they are pretty much consistently never true.  The right wing promotes the craziest possible stories.......stories that don't turn out to be true.  They always, always have a left wing cartoon villain for the right wing audience to boo and hiss.  James O'Keefe played it out as a badly costumed, totally false melodrama targeting ACORN for voter fraud - except there was no voter fraud, and only minimal voter registration problems.  ACORN was a target for having registered large numbers of poor voters, black and other minority voters, more of whom voted Democrat than Republican.  The right just doesn't want these people, these legal and qualified American citizens, participating in our elective, representative form of government.  They repeatedly attempt to disenfranchise anyone who is likely to vote for someone other than the right.  The right intends to use this claim by Jensen, even though it is false, to make voting more difficult for every voter in every election in the hope that it will benefit their minority.

The current stories that have circulated in the last couple of months illustrate this claim perfectly.  I will use my favorite source for them, my friend Mitch's blog Shot in the Dark, because he collects and promotes all these stories eagerly without fact checking, often holding back the identity of the source, which of course limits any accountability for the factless feckless claims.  He has promoted the widely circulated but bogus story of the Cincinnati School students being bribed to vote - NO they weren't, but that will be a separate post; I have an update.  He has promoted an anonymous email that those terrible SEIU union goons took advantage of someone's aged Alzheimer's afflicted mother to vote for Al Franken in the last election.  You will note that the Jensen story had the same attack lodged against the unions; they are a regular target, it is part of that agenda I mentioned earlier, it is part of why this is an accusation tailored to serve a specific agenda, and not an honest accusation.  When I challenged Mitch to check the voter rolls, in the alleged Alzheimer's voter fraud accusation, he wouldn't - but he claimed it could have maybe, possibly, happened even if it didn't! So he didn't need to check, in fact refused repeatedly to check. NO. It couldn't happen.  It couldn't happen,  precisely BECAUSE you can check. You can check voter records, you can check care facility records, you can investigate such allegations effectively.  Then he circulated THIS story, and interviewed Jensen on his radio show. I can't wait to see the spin he puts on no one anywhere supporting Jensen's story. 

After that he went with the false 103 ballot story.  That is the one where some right wing nut claimed that 103 fraudulent ballots were found in Hennepin County, ballots which were consecutive, and unmarked except for Dayton votes, and unsigned by election judges.  It was even reported in the news! NO. The news mentioned the total from Dinkytown in connection with stupidly large numbers of frivolous votes being made.  If there were 103 consecutive, otherwise blank ballots, they would be legitimate ballot challenges.  There is no indication in any news media, or from anyone who was THERE at the recount that any such ballots exist.  The frivolous ballot challenges are an embarassment to the GOP, a failed tactic that was never anything other than an attempt to slow down the final results of a lost election being decided.

The fuss about the 103 frivolous ballots from the Dinkytown precinct? That just means that they were absentee ballots that were not opened at an polling site by an election judge; they were handled at the court house.  Anyone who believes otherwise is simply ignorant about election law and vote processing.  (See the separate Penigma post on that hoax.)

But it is to this audience on the right which trusts their sources without critical thinking, regardless of how often they are not told the real story that these narratives are intended to appeal. Shame, shame on them, for not demanding facts, for not asking themselves after so many lies, "is this true" before believing these stories.