Shona Holmes is irritating me. What did those republicans in Washington DC pay this poor Canadian woman to do their commercials? And do you want to know what her real diagnosis was? Check the Mayo Clinic’s PR material!

They said it was a Rathke’s cleft cyst (RCC), a fluid-filled sac growing near the pituitary gland at the base of the brain which could eventually can cause hormone and vision problems. NOT a brain tumor, not brain cancer which was going to kill her in a few months, but a cyst. Come on guys, didn’t your moms ever tell you it’s not nice to tell lies? Want a more well rounded picture of the Shona Holmes story? Try the Daily Kos.

What I like about health care in Nova Scotia (and the rest of Canada) is that I know my fellow human beings here will be looked after if they are sick, whether they have extra insurance or not. I know that I don’t have to worry about my neighbors here. And that means a lot to me. I like living in a country that cares for its citizens as best it can. It really does feel friendlier. Many of my self employed artist friends in the States can no longer afford insurance. All they can do is pray to stay healthy. That is a worry.

So when I heard that Fox news was pushing Shona Holmes’ story, and saw the advertising, and heard people wondering what it is like to live up here in Canada, I couldn’t help myself, I had to post again. I am so tired of Fox (Faux) News!

Want to know what Canadians think about their health care?
1. Don’t listen to someone who is getting paid to tell you what their health care is like.
2. If you hear a Canadian grumbling about their health care, ask them if they’d like to give it up for the US system. In my experience humans love to grumble and can find flaws in anything but the true test would be are they willing to do without?
3. If you are being told something and you start to wonder about the truthfulness of it, ask yourself this little question: “Who benefits?”
When applied to just about anything, you can easily find truth.

If you were to believe Shona Holmes’ story who would benefit? The big insurance companies. They are paying a lot of money to get you to believe and you know they don’t give out money very easily.
Here’s another example, Bill Moyers on health care. Who benefits from believing Bill Moyers? You do.

And here’s Judy Woodruff asking us to video our votes.  It’s short, watch it, then go vote!  And video your vote!  (After you watch Judy there is a video of an early voter.  Just lovely.  If you have see too much Fox television, or read too many crazy blog comments, you may need to watch this.  It will restore your faith in humanity.

October 30, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
American Stories
By ROGER COHEN

Of the countless words Barack Obama has uttered since he opened his campaign for president on an icy Illinois morning in February 2007, a handful have kept reverberating in my mind:

“For as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on earth is my story even possible.”

Perhaps the words echo because I’m a naturalized American, and I came here, like many others, seeking relief from Britain’s subtle barriers of religion and class, and possibility broader than in Europe’s confines.

Perhaps they resonate because, having South African parents, I spent part of my childhood in the land of apartheid, and so absorbed as an infant the humiliation of racial segregation, the fear and anger that are the harvest of hurt — just as they are, in Obama’s words, “the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.”

Perhaps they speak to me because I live in New York and watch every day a miracle of civility emerge from the struggles and fatigue of people drawn from every corner of the globe to the glimmer of possibility at the tapering edge of the city’s ruler-straight canyons.

Perhaps they move me because the possibility of stories has animated my life; and no nation offers a blanker page on which to write than America.

Or perhaps it’s simply because those 22 words cleave the air with the sharp blade of truth.

Nowhere else could a 47-year-old man, born, as he has written, of a father “black as pitch” and a mother “white as milk,” a generation distant from the mud shacks of western Kenya, raised for a time as Barry Soetoro (his stepfather’s family name) in Muslim Indonesia, then entrusted to his grandparents in Hawaii — nowhere else could this Barack Hussein Obama rise so far and so fast.

It’s for this sense of possibility, and not for grim-faced dread, that people look to America, which is why the Obama campaign has stirred such global passions.

Americans are decent people. They’re not interested in where you came from. They’re interested in who you are. That has not changed.

But much has in the last eight years. This is a moment of anguish. The Bush presidency has engineered the unlikely double whammy of undermining free-market capitalism and essential freedoms, the nation’s twin badges.

American luster is gone. The American idea has, in Joyce Carol Oates’s words, become a “cruel joke.” Americans are worrying and hurting.

So it is important to step back, from the last machinations of this endless campaign, and think again about what America is.

It is renewal, the place where impossible stories get written.

It is the overcoming of history, the leaving behind of war and barriers, in the name of a future freed from the cruel gyre of memory.

It is reinvention, the absorption of one identity in something larger — the notion that “out of many, we are truly one.”

It is a place better than Bush’s land of shadows where a leader entrusted with the hopes of the earth cannot find within himself a solitary phrase to uplift the soul.

Multiple polls now show Obama with a clear lead. But nobody can know the outcome and nobody should underestimate the immense psychological leap that sending a black couple to the White House would represent.

What I am sure of is this: an ever more interconnected world, where financial chain reactions spread with the virulence of plagues, thirsts for American renewal and a form of American leadership sensitive to humanity’s tied fate.

I also know that this biracial politician, the Harvard graduate who gets whites because he was raised by them, the Kenyan’s son who gets blacks because it was among them that mixed race placed him, is an emblematic figure of the border-hopping 21st century. He is the providential mestizo whose name — O-Ba-Ma — has the three-syllable universality of some child’s lullaby.

And what has he done? What does his experience amount to? Does his record not demonstrate he’s a radical? The interrogation continues. It’s true that his experience is limited.

But Americans seem to be trusting what their eyes tell them: temperament trumps experience and every instinct of this man, whose very identity represents an act of reconciliation, hones toward building change from the center.

Earlier this year, at the end of a road of reddish earth in western Kenya, I found Obama’s half-sister Auma. “He can be trusted,” she said, “to be in dialogue with the world.”

Dialogue, between Americans and beyond America, has been a constant theme. Last year, I spoke to Obama, who told me: “Part of our capacity to lead is linked to our capacity to show restraint.”

Watching the way he has allowed his opponents’ weaknesses to reveal themselves, the way he has enticed them into self-defeating exhaustion pounding against the wall of his equanimity, I have come to understand better what he meant.

Stories require restraint, too. Restraint engages the imagination, which has always been stirred by the American idea, and can be once again.

These clips are from the film Uncounted: the New Math of American Elections by David Earnhardt. A must see!

What can you do?  This from the Uncounted website.

Stop, Drop, and Poll – What to Do if You Have Problems Voting

By Mary Mancini

Anecdotal evidence is coming in fast and furious of early-voting incidences including voting machine malfunctions in Ohio, Putnam, and Jackson Counties in West Virginia and Davidson and Decatur Counties in Tennessee, as well as hidden problems with “straight ticket” voting (confirmed by Snopes) in Texas and West Virginia. A more complete list of the problems so far can be found at VotersUnite.org.

It CAN happen to you. If it does, here are a few suggestions on what to do:

1) Video Your Vote
If possible, plan ahead for any problems by bringing a video camera with you to Video the Vote. Then, spread it around (send it to us and we’ll help). Remember, the focus should be on gathering evidence and not telling stories. So, use video, audio, photographs to document what happened. Also, get names and phone numbers of witnesses, voting machine serial numbers, names of poll workers, and document the time of day.

2) At the First Sign of a Problem, Stop*
At the first sign of a problem with your machine (or if you experience any of the other problems listed below), stop what you are doing and ask to speak to the supervisor/officer of elections (skip the poll worker) at your polling location. Explain your problem. If they try and waive you off, call your main election commission number and ask to speak to the election commissioner who will satisfactorily address your problem. Keep in mind that many poll workers/supervisors will try and blame the voter aka “operator error.” Do not leave your polling place until your problem is well-documented and addressed to your complete satisfaction and, if the problem is with a machine, that machine is quarantined. Oh, and you get to vote. Never leave the polling place without voting.

3) File a Report. File Several Reports.
Your local polling place will have incident reports available to you. If they do not, call the main election commission for your county and ask for someone to bring one to you. Make sure that both you and the supervisor sign it. An example of a report is here (Hat tip: Wake Up and Save Your Country Voters Guide). The U.S. Election Assistance Commission also lists on their website where you can find out how to file a report in your state. Again, the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-Our-Vote can also help with any questions in this area.

4) Call the Election Protection Hotline
Report you incident to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-Our-Vote, especially if you feel you are being bullied or your incident is not being taken seriously. The ACLU has a hotline as well at 1-877-523-2792. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and Greg Palast offer suggestions as well in their comic StealYourVoteBack.org.

5) Pledge to Stand Up to Stolen Elections
Go to NoMoreStolenElections.org and pledge to not concede until every vote is counted – and counted as cast.

*Problems can include: machine problems, polling place problems (machines not set up on time), switching or closing of polling place, voters forced to vote on a provisional ballot, long lines/waits, intimidation, unusual ID demands, poll workers asking inappropriate questions, etc.

UPDATE: One of TrueVote.Us’s members has a great suggestion to add to this list: “Voters who see their vote being flipped by the machines on election day, if they can’t get the machine taken out of service, they should immediately begin telling all the voters still waiting in line exactly which machine flipped their votes. (Third machine from the left, or whatever.) Try to get people…to refuse that machine. This could cause trouble, backups, and increase the pressure on the local officials to mothball that machine. No doubt people are already complaining both to the officials and to election activists and lawyers waiting outside – but the other voters waiting in line also need to know. [I took out a bit of this that was very partisan because we believe that fair and honest elections are no-partisan and non-ideological. – Ed.]

OMG, I found this article in the Gaurdian and what it says about the state of US intelligence and education is shocking, appalling, and very, very sad. Having watched the Rachel Maddow clip in an earlier post, where McCain says “bla bla bla” in reference to the need for nuclear regulations, and the audience applauds wildly at the implication that such a need is foolish, well all I can say is if the US of this article is in the driver’s seat of this North American bus, God help us. Read on and weep.

How these gibbering numbskulls came to dominate Washington

The degradation of intelligence and learning in American politics results from a series of interlocking tragedies

George Monbiot
The Guardian, Tuesday October 28 2008

How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind’s closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a terrorist?
Like most people on my side of the Atlantic, I have for many years been mystified by American politics. The US has the world’s best universities and attracts the world’s finest minds. It dominates discoveries in science and medicine. Its wealth and power depend on the application of knowledge. Yet, uniquely among the developed nations (with the possible exception of Australia), learning is a grave political disadvantage.

There have been exceptions over the past century – Franklin Roosevelt, JF Kennedy and Bill Clinton tempered their intellectualism with the common touch and survived – but Adlai Stevenson, Al Gore and John Kerry were successfully tarred by their opponents as members of a cerebral elite (as if this were not a qualification for the presidency). Perhaps the defining moment in the collapse of intelligent politics was Ronald Reagan’s response to Jimmy Carter during the 1980 presidential debate. Carter – stumbling a little, using long words – carefully enumerated the benefits of national health insurance. Reagan smiled and said: “There you go again.” His own health programme would have appalled most Americans, had he explained it as carefully as Carter had done, but he had found a formula for avoiding tough political issues and making his opponents look like wonks.

It wasn’t always like this. The founding fathers of the republic – Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton and others – were among the greatest thinkers of their age. They felt no need to make a secret of it. How did the project they launched degenerate into George W Bush and Sarah Palin?

On one level, this is easy to answer. Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. US education, like the US health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on earth, one adult in five believes the sun revolves round the earth; only 26% accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of US voters cannot name the three branches of government; the maths skills of 15-year-olds in the US are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries of the OECD. But this merely extends the mystery: how did so many US citizens become so stupid, and so suspicious of intelligence? Susan Jacoby’s book The Age of American Unreason provides the fullest explanation I have read so far. She shows that the degradation of US politics results from a series of interlocking tragedies.

One theme is both familiar and clear: religion – in particular fundamentalist religion – makes you stupid. The US is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing.

Jacoby shows that there was once a certain logic to its anti-rationalism. During the first few decades after the publication of The Origin of Species, for instance, Americans had good reason to reject the theory of natural selection and to treat public intellectuals with suspicion. From the beginning, Darwin’s theory was mixed up in the US with the brutal philosophy – now known as social Darwinism – of the British writer Herbert Spencer. Spencer’s doctrine, promoted in the popular press with the help of funding from Andrew Carnegie, John D Rockefeller and Thomas Edison, suggested that millionaires stood at the top of a scala natura established by evolution. By preventing unfit people being weeded out, government intervention weakened the nation. Gross economic inequalities were both justifiable and necessary.

Darwinism, in other words, became indistinguishable from the most bestial form of laissez-faire economics. Many Christians responded with revulsion. It is profoundly ironic that the doctrine rejected a century ago by such prominent fundamentalists as William Jennings Bryan is now central to the economic thinking of the Christian right. Modern fundamentalists reject the science of Darwinian evolution and accept the pseudoscience of social Darwinism.

But there were other, more powerful, reasons for the intellectual isolation of the fundamentalists. The US is peculiar in devolving the control of education to local authorities. Teaching in the southern states was dominated by the views of an ignorant aristocracy of planters, and a great educational gulf opened up. “In the south”, Jacoby writes, “what can only be described as an intellectual blockade was imposed in order to keep out any ideas that might threaten the social order.” Read the rest of this entry »