Tuesday, October 31

Limbaugh and Michael J. Fox: the Backfire


Michael J. Fox is probably one of the most favorably viewed
celebrities in the country. During his acting career, he was always
seen as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.

When his Parkinsons forced him to drop out of "Spin City," he left a
popular show at the height of its publicity, doing so in a very
public way. Since then, he's been a tireless advocate and has done
so in a consistently respectful and charming fashion.

When Rush Limbaugh chose to mock him, he made a major error: it's
easy to go after politicians. It's even easy to go after River
Phoenix, shortly after his death, making snide comments about his
drug addiction. Limbaugh's basic demographic is twofold: bullies and
people who like to suck up to bullies. But he only has wider appeal
at the sufferance of the broader public. Most people know he's a
blowhard, but he's a blowhard who advocates for issues that a lot of
people support, and he rarely crosses the line where he's going to
lose support.

Attacking Chelsea Clinton (referring to her as the "White House Dog")
was one time he went over that line. In that case, he immediately
backed away from the statement.

In this case, he took his "apology" as an opportunity to slam Fox
further, and made himself look to the rest of the public the way he
looks to most of us left-wingers: like a hypocritical liar. In doing
so, however, he helped raise the profile of Fox's campaign, made for
-more- interviews with Fox, who repeatedly made his own comments not
about Limbaugh but about the broader issue of stem-cell research.

Limbaugh thought he could go up against someone with real class and
character when most of his experience involves going up against
politicians. Clearly, he misjudged this one.

Saturday, October 28

Medicine/Health Care Update

It turns out that if my insurance company covers a medication,
there's a price cap on it, which keeps it to ridiculously expensive
(as opposed to "ludicrously expensive"). Turns out that without that
cap, the price goes up an extra 27%. This morning, I spent $253.00
on a one-month supply.

I had to get special approval for this medicine from my insurance
company. Had they refused to cover it, it would cost me $3,036/year.

This is, by the way, a medication intended to -supplement- the
effects of my other medication.

Did I mention that, on top of this, I pay out of pocket for my insurance?

Medicine, Health Coverage, etc.

There's a medication I have to take for my diabetes which costs me
just under $200/month. I got a refill of it four days ago and last
night I managed to lose it. (I left it -on- the car before driving
off. Oops).

Now, this is totally my mistake, and I'm perfectly willing to pay the
extra $200 to get a new dosage of it. I don't -like- the idea of
doing this, but hey, sometimes we make stupid mistakes and sometimes
we make stupid expensive mistakes.

But this morning, I was thinking about it-- my insurance company
might cover that $200, but they might not. I can't find out until
Monday (I see no indication anywhere that they have an emergency
line) and I need to get the prescription refilled a.s.a.p.

Furthermore, the way my insurance company works is that I pay in
advance for the prescription and they reimburse me.

That said, I am one of the fortunate people who can afford to make a
$200 mistake and have it just ruin a weekend for me, and not have it
be a choice between medicine and food (or rent, electricity, heat,
etc.).

But it got me thinking-- what exactly would this mean in terms of my
well-being if I weren't in that situation? If I didn't have the
resources to take care of this relatively easily, this would not just
be a frustration and an inconvenience, this could be
life-threatening. What if this were heart medication? The risk I
have right now is that my blood sugar will spike, and I'll feel like
crap for a couple days, and I'll get it back under control again. If
I were in a worse circumstance here, this would be a major deal for
me.

What does this mean for people who are poor and have chronic medical
conditions? What does this mean for people who are poor and have
short-term medical conditions that they don't treat because the
antibiotics are too expensive? Do we, as a society, simply accept
this?

What if they use the antibiotics for a time, but stop them early
because they can't afford the refill? From a medical standpoint,
this is quite the problem for one simple reason: it helps create a
new, stronger, strain of the disease: one which more easily resists
antibiotics, creating potential superstrains?

Something is seriously wrong here.

Friday, October 27

Friday Bird Blogging: Snow Geese at Dead Creek


While no picture can do them true justice, this shot is but a qick encapsulation of the sky at Dead Creek, filled with Snow Geese as they would swarm in circles, deciding where to land.



The sheer size of the flocks is sometimes staggering, even when seen from quite a distance away. If you haven't made it to Dead Creek yet this season, now is the time to go. You may need to be patient. When I first arrived, few were visible, and they were all off to a distance. The distance didn't change much (though I got a better view from Gage road than from the viewing area) but the numbers increased dramatically during the short period in which I was watching.

Wednesday, October 25

What are you going to do about it?

The world's Coral Reefs are in trouble:

Researchers fear more than half the world's coral reefs could die in less than 25 years and say global warming may at least partly to blame.



Sea temperatures are rising, weakening the reefs' resistance to increased pollutants, such as runoff from construction sites and toxins from boat paints. The fragile reefs are hosts to countless marine plants and animals.

So... right now, today, what are you going to do to change this? Will you keep your speed on the highway under 65 mph? Will you turn off that light you're not using?

Tuesday, October 24

Reasons to Vote Against these Guys

Each of these links shows you just how bad Republicans can be these days. This is all courtesy of mydd.com. A team of us got together to create this list, and it was a lot of fun.




--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert



The Republican party was a lot better when it was just about screwing the poor.

Headline Stew

Headline #1: Iceland breaks ban on commercial whaling

Headline #2: Scientists Fret over Starving and Missing Whales

Headline #3: Humans living far beyond planet's means: WWF

(Banging head on desk)

Thoughts for the Day

I'm taking a Master Composter class right now. Literally, I started
to write this while sitting in the class. Bad student. Bad. Bad.
But right now it's review from last week, so I feel okay about being
slightly distracted.

I've been composting for a few years now, but I feel like I could use
what I know about the process a lot better and hopefully this class
will help me not only improve my own methods, but spread the word to
others about how easy composting is, and to try to inspire local
businesses to reduce their solid waste by composting what they can.

So while I sit here learning about microflora and actinomycetes and
the way things rot and how these bacterial and fungal organisms
convert food scraps from waste to soil, I think about the environment
and the world we're in and what we're doing to it.

To wit: I just read this morning that children in day care easily suffer from pesticide exposure.

This isn't due to pesticides being necessary. It's due to pesticides
being easy.

So here's the question: how do we change human behavior? Knowing
that people will generally prefer the easy path to the one which is
less damaging, what do we do to convince them to take the time to do
good things for the world than to take the simplest approach?

I don't have a good answer to this. I can only tell you my own
experience: when I realized I had to purchase a car for work (rather
than continually renting who knows what from week to week for my
occasional 200+ mile round trip commutes), I had a few choices to
make. I could have bought a Toyota Echo, which is a nice vehicle
with good mileage. I probably would have been happy with that
choice, but instead I chose to spend what I had on a used Prius. It
cost me about $1.5k more to go with the Prius. That $2k was a lot of
money, but I've made well over $1,200 of that back since buying the
vehicle in gas savings. If you assume gas has consistently been at
$2/gallon, and you figure out the difference between the average
50mpg that the Prius gets and the 40mpg that the Echo gets, that's
what it boils down to. Of course, gas has been a lot -more- than
that so I've probably made that money back and then some, and the
average Prius mileage is closer to 52mpg, except when I forget to
keep the tires inflated.

Of course the deciding issue for me wasn't MPG. It was emissions.

I bring this up not to get into economic details or to chide people
who haven't made the same choice, but to focus on the idea that
making choices that are better for our world and our environment are
somehow difficult. They're only difficult if you focus on the
short-term. They're only difficult if you buy into the notion that
environmentally sound choices somehow come at a cost.

And that depends on how you define "cost." If I have to travel
throughout the state for my work, and the nature of that work means
that I'm usually doing this alone, what am I doing to harm the world
around me in doing so? How do I define the cost of the toxins I emit
into the air? How do I define the cost of the extraction and
refinement of the fuel I use?

For me, the Prius is the bare minimum: it's what I can afford, but
not what I truly want. I want a car that runs on a combination of
electric and biodiesel. I want a vehicle which, when available,
makes use of the power of the sun to recharge itself. And I want
that to be the standard. I want 50mpg to be the -minimum- road
standard, not one of the best mileage rates available.

So back to composting... it's impossible to be seriously into
composting and not pay attention to the interaction between life,
death, pollution, sewage, landfills, disease and soil. And yet, as
a planet, I don't see how that many of us pay much attention at all
into what we put into the ground. For most of us, trash is merely
something we put away and it goes to a place where we don't have to
worry about it any longer. It's not. Every chemical, every toxin,
every pesticide, every disease, we throw away goes somewhere.
Landfill chemicals filter into the water. That water spreads into
the rivers, lakes and oceans.

I don't know where to go with this exactly except to say that
everything I've decided to do to change things is a starting point,
but I'm just doing it on a local and personal level. This is
something which needs to be accomplished on community, statewide,
national and global levels.

Sunday, October 22

That was kind of fun

When the Martha Rainville stolen ideas thing broke a few weeks ago, I
got a call from Gorty, a producer of Brattleboro's local WKVT talk
programming asking if I'd come in for an interview. I have to say, I
just didn't think I had that much to say, especially not to fill an
hour. But, I eventually decided that it might be fun to go ahead and
do it.

I'm glad I did. It was actually nice and relaxing. I'll have audio
of the show sometime next week.

Friday, October 20

Friday Bird Blogging: Falcons

Last weekend was a particularly nice treat for me. Not only did I get to see all three of our regional falcons (Peregrine, Kestrel and Merlin), but I got excellent pictures of all three. I've had acceptable pictures of a peregrine (upper left) before, but never quite like this. The kestrel (upper right) flew directly overhead. The merlin (bottom) was just hanging out in a tree for hours. It let me get right beneath it and rattle off 40+ shots without even seeming to care.

The Peregrine picture was taken at Parker River Wildlife Refuge, in Plum Island, MA. We got to watch it fly by and hunt for a time, fly off, get chased away by a Harrier, come back and hunt some more before flying off.

The Kestrel and Merlin were both at Lighthouse Point, a major migration route in East Haven, CT.

More Trouble for Martha.

On Martha Rainville's web site, you can find the following statement:
Former Rep. John Freidin, D-New Haven, also spoke highly of her when he first nominated her for election. “Martha Rainville’s record is one of optimism, creativity, initiative, determination and strength”, said Freidin.
(source: http://www.martharainville.com/meetMartha.htm)

In a letter to the editor in today's Rutland Herald, you can find this statement from John Freidin:
Nine and a half years years ago, I nominated Martha Rainville to be adjutant general. While I have no regrets that I did so, I was flabbergasted to learn that Ms. Rainville is using a quote from that speech on her Web site to bolster her candidacy for Congress.
Note exactly what he's saying here: he nominated her to be adjutant general. What does Martha's web site claim? It refers to when he "nominated her for election." When did this nomination take place? Nine years ago.

Perhaps if I ever run for office I should quote from the letters of recommendation I got for graduate school. They were very complimentary and highlight some of my better qualities.

That's the ethical lapse, but there's a political problem it creates for Martha. Freidin continues:
Although she served nine years as adjutant general, Ms. Rainville is not someone I would recommend for the far more challenging job of representing Vermont in Congress. In particular, I have been struck by her unwillingness or inability to take a stand — on Iraq, global warming, health care reform, federal tax cuts that have helped millionaires — or even whom she favors to lead the next Congress. Denny Hastert?

I enthusiastically support Peter Welch for Congress. He understands the issues and has repeatedly had the courage to tell Vermonters where he stands. Peter has grappled with public policy for years as a state senator, president pro tem of the Vermont Senate, and Democratic candidate for governor in 1990. At this critical time, Vermont needs Peter Welch as its representative in Congress. We do not need someone who neither speaks clearly on the issues nor has the courtesy to ask permission before using a quote from someone she has not spoken to in nearly 10 years.
I'll just leave it at that.

Tuesday, October 17

A Lord of the Rings Contest



Salon.com is reporting that Rick Santorum just made a Lord of the Rings reference during an interview with the Bucks County Courier Times.

This inspired me to create a contest. I will give $50 (Paypal only) to the first person to successfully get a mainstream senate or house candidate (i.e., Democrat, Republican, Sanders or Lieberman) or any Vermont statewide office candidate from the Democratic, Republican or Progressive party, to use a metaphor which includes references to Gimli, Legolas and Samwise Gamgee. There must be evidence of your success which can be linked from this blog, and it must come from a reputable news source. You must post your evidence of this heroic deed in the comments section of this post. This is first-come, first-serve-- first person to prove this deed wins and this is a one-time offer.

If you prefer, you can have me donate the $50 to the candidate of your choice (hint: this might be a way to get your targeted candidate to do the deed). This contest officially ends at 5pm on Halloween.

Conservatives Eating Their Own

This hasn't made a lot of news, but it's just surreal enough to post. The American Family Association (an anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-sanity, organization) is, apparently, having a bit of trouble with Condi Rice.

You see, Condi recently swore an openly gay man in as global AIDS coordinator, and referred to his partner's mother as his "mother-in-law." Now, I think Rice is a shill for the Bush administration's absurdly misguided (and lethal) foreign policy, and completely incompetent as Secretary of State. In this specific case, however, I was impressed. It takes more awareness than I gave her credit for to be that accepting.

The American Family Association, on the other hand, is sort of freaking out:
"So, for her to treat his partner like a spouse and treat the partner's mother as a mother-in-law, which implies a marriage between the two partners, is a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the Defense of Marriage Act," the FRC spokesman states.
Really?

So the Defense of Marriage act is not simply about protecting heterosexuals from having to share the their special privileges with us scary queers, but it's about what people get to call our relationships in conversation as well?

Well isn't that special?

Monday, October 16

Wow

I don't know if any of the rest of you caught the Connecticut Senate
Debate that aired this afternoon, but it was quite unexpected.
Schlessinger did a lot of damage, and not to Lamont. His attacks on
Lamont were exactly the same as Lieberman's-- no real harm to Lamont,
but he launched the exact same attacks on Lieberman and I think
that's going to hurt Lieberman's conservative base.

Schlessinger was respectful, but strong-willed, and nothing like the
candidate we'd been led to think he was. I wouldn't vote for him;
he's an avowed conservative, but from a rhetoric and charisma
standpoint, he clearly won this debate. Lamont came across as
acceptable, but not spectacular, and Lieberman came across as a fool.

Lamont, for his part, focused almost entirely on Lieberman, which
made perfect sense. There's no reason for him to go after
Schlessinger. Schlessinger looking good -improves- Lamont's position.

Lieberman just fell back on the same crap he's been pulling all
along: complaining about attacks by attacking Lamont. I don't think
he was expecting Schlessinger to come across so well and it seems to
have thrown him for a loop. The next debates should be interesting,
and I can't wait to see the post-debate polls. Lieberman's at his
worst when he feels his position is threatened, and if the polls
tighten up due to Schlessinger's performance, the next debate could
do Lieberman real harm.

Friday, October 13

Friday Bird Blogging: White-Throated Sparrow

It's clearly Fall in Vermont, as demonstrated by the return of the white-throated sparrows:





This one was quite close by, and obliging enough to hang around for a few minutes while we were observing at Herrick's Cove; along with a flock of them was a much rarer bird, the Rufous-sided towhee. On that same day, down in Brattleboro, we spotted a Yellow-Rumped warbler.

Seasons are changing, changing, changing.

Wednesday, October 11

Rainville Robo-Call?

We've received robocalls from candidates in the past, so they're not
a major surprise. We expect them from left-wing candidates because
we've signed up to support them in the past. We don't expect them
from right-wing candidates because we never offered them our names or
contact information. But still, we get unsolicited contact from
Tarant's campaign as well as Rainville's from time to time. It's
annoying, but we don't raise a fuss over it because it's expected
during campaigns.

This, however, is a bit different: for the past few weeks, we've been
getting hangup calls from the caller I.D. # "000-000-0000"

No one ever left a message on those numbers, until tonight.
Tonight's message was a robo call explaining how Martha Rainville was
the best candidate for Vermont, etc.

Now, I expect to get calls sometimes from unlisted numbers. The
"000-000-0000" item, however, is different. It means that software
is being used to actively fake the phone number.

To be clear: I'm not sure where this call came from. The robospeaker
didn't identify himself and there was no indication of who sponsored
the call. Clearly, the anonymous caller supporting Rainville is
enough of a coward that he doesn't want to be identified or reached.

I'd like to know if Rainville's campaign has anything to do with
these harassing phone calls and, if not, who is behind them.

Monday, October 9

I Wish I'd Voted for Jeffords, just once

Peter Freyne's blog has a great story on Jeffords and Rainville.

The quick summary: the NRCC has an ad for Rainville which features a picture of Jeffords. Jeffords tells them, in short, knock it off; I didn't want to be involved in this election, but since you decided to appropriate my image for partisan purposes, I'll say openly what I've said in private: I don't want your candidate to win. Peter Welch is a better choice for Vermont and for the future.

I voted against Jeffords the first time I was eligible to vote in Vermont. I liked the guy, but I wasn't about to support a Republican for any Senate seat. I'm not sorry about my vote, but if I knew then what I knew now, I'd have voted for him in a heartbeat.

Political Vandalism

I noticed this weekend that quite a few of the "Bernie for Senate"
signs in the area have Martha Rainville bumper stickers on top of
them. While I find it plausible that people would support both
Sanders and Rainville, I somehow doubt that's what's going on here.

What's more likely is that someone supporting Rainville is doing
something slimy: vandalizing Bernie signs which can't be easily
replaced in order to create the illusion that a widely popular Senate
candidate is supported by the same people who support a
not-so-popular house candidate.

Martha Rainville, if she wants to support the notions and ideals of a
clean campaign, needs to put a stop to this immediately. She needs
to announce to her supporters that they need to stop it and that
running a clean campaign doesn't just mean for her, but for everyone
who supports her as well.

Saturday, October 7

Why a Republican?

I'm looking forward to Bernie becoming the next Senator from the
great Green Mountain State; it seems a good continuation of Jeffords'
legacy (though clearly quite a different approach).

Here's what I don't get: in this political climate, with this
particular administration in charge, why would anyone run for
Bernie's old seat as a Republican? If Rainville had chosen to run as
an independent instead, she'd actually have had a serious shot at
this.

I've voted for Republicans in the past, but there's no way I'm going
to vote for anyone who willingly chooses to work under that party's
label in this cycle.

Friday, October 6

Friday Bird Blogging

Work sometimes takes me all over the state of Vermont, which means that on occasion I get to stop by nice birding areas. Thursday night, at Dead Creek (off rte 17, Northwest of Middlebury), I got an amazing look at a pair of black-crowned night herons. Here's one of them:




Okay, this is ridiculous

Does this sound familiar?

From http://www.martharainville.com/articles/budget/accessFedBudget.htm:
We need maximum transparency for government. There should be no secrets unless it involves critical aspects of National Security. Every earmark, every grant, every contract should be online so the public can get access to it
If it sounds familiar, it's because it's the exact same passage, unchanged, that I found on Sunday night that was stolen from the PBS show NOW. Just in case she takes it down, a screenshot:


This is just getting silly.

Thursday, October 5

NOW it's down

Apparently, someone's paying attention. NOW we get the 404 error:


Not Found
The requested URL /issues/issuesTxt.htm was not found on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
Apache/1.3.36 Server at www.martharainville.com Port 80


Martha, you get a break, because I'm busy tonight. But just in case, double-check your site again. I'll be rechecking tomorrow morning.

"We are reworking the wording of our issues" redux

Okay, so Martha's site is now back up again, and she's fixed all the stolen language problems, right?

Not so much as you might think:

http://www.martharainville.com/issues/issuesTxt.htm::
I also support making health insurance portable. Too often when people switch jobs their health insurance isn't portable, forcing them to change doctors and coverage or lose it entirely.
http://www.rickodonnell.com/healthcare.html:
People switch jobs but their health insurance isn't portable, forcing
them to change doctors and coverage or lose it entirely.
As with before, I kept a copy of the site.

The Greater Internet Culture (agreement)

Odum notes:
At the very least, you have to admit that the greater internet culture enabled your great work. Without search engines, the research would likely have been too much work. Without email, it may not have been as timely.
I fully admit this. There is no way I would have even thought to do this if it were something time consuming or complicated. I think the internet played a very valuable role in all this. And I think blogs did as well. I just don't think this blog did, because (frankly) until this blog got all sorts of media attention, I don't think any of the people now talking about it even knew it existed.

From a strictly personal, standpoint, I think I should have posted it on my website because then it would have been linked to the music I have for sale :).

Wednesday, October 4

A few Rainville updates

I've been on the road most of today; when I checked this afternoon, Rainville's whole site was finally taken down.

The reformer has a really nice editorial about the problems the stolen ideas incident created.

But now, something seems ready to blow the whole stolen ideas concept out of the water. Peter Freyne's print column has a broad story about the Vermont political scene which suggests a fairly major problem during Rainville's tenure as head of the VT National Guard. Per Peter:
As for the charge she covered up an internal Guard pornography probe — she denied it. “That’s completely untrue,” said the Vermont congressional hopeful. “I had a relatively short incident that I dealt with immediately,” said Rainville, “and since then some other stuff has developed that Mike is having to deal with. This is not something that either one of us would take lightly.”
I'm thinking that this isn't a week Rainville is going to be looking back on with pleasure.

So why isn't Ranville's website really down?

Martha Rainville does claim that her website's been taken down, but that's not accurate: you can still get to all the stolen material. The MAIN page indicates that the site is down, but all the other pages are still there. Take, for example, this page. Right there and available to anybody.

The Meta-Story

Much of the focus on the whole Rainville story has become more about me and how I uncovered it, and so much of it has been about the power of blogs to influence the mainstream media.

I don't think it should be about any of those things. Here's why:

I'm concerned by the number of people who are impressed by my amazing Google skills. This is not a talent. It's not even a skill. It's just copying some words from text posted on the web, putting them into Google and seeing what happens. Try it yourself. Try it with the phrase "The squares marked A and B are the same shade of gray" and you'll see that I took those exact words from a very cool site about an optical illusion.

This isn't about the blogosphere rising up to get the mainstream media to focus on something. I found this information on Sunday night. I posted it on the blog because it was easiest (and because there's a comments field, in case anyone wanted to respond), but I could just as easily have placed it on any one of my websites. If I'd done this, would anyone be framing it in terms of blogs or the blogosphere?

This wasn't picked up by mainstream media because I posted it on my blog. This was picked up by mainstream media because I sent an e-mail out to everyone I could think of who worked for a paper with which I was familiar, and used the blog as an information archive. Mainstream media was all over the story more quickly than most bloggers, and the one blogger who was on it quickly (Peter Freyne) got the story because he was affiliated with Seven Days, one of the newspapers to which I sent the original story.

Blogs are very important, and I think they've provided some valuable resources, but this particular story is not about blogs, nor is it about me. It's about a candidate with manufactured talking points who only seems to have a surface understanding of the ideas she's using to pretend her independence.

Tuesday, October 3

"We are reworking the wording of our issues"

The phrase "we are reworking the wording of our issues" suggests to me that somewhere, the point got lost.

This isn't just about stealing words from other people. No question: that's bad. But what does it mean when a candidate has to steal policy statements from other politicians?

I'm not naive. I've been watching politics for long enough that I know not to expect anything new or original from politicians. I know that people write speeches for them and that not everything they say is likely to be their own words.

But I still think this is different. This is not merely echoing talking points. This is letting other people write your policy agenda and signing off on ideas which you may not even understand or comprehend.

The Fallout

Busy day yesterday: all the following are in today's news on Rainville's campaign:
They're mostly accurate, too. The one error was from the Rutland Herald which said, about me, "she produces Rep. Bernard Sanders’ Internet broadcasts." I don't produce anything. I just manage the podcast feed. Every once in awhile, someone from the Sanders' campaign sends me a URL for a Sanders speech, and I add it to the podcast. Minor detail but, as someone who produces her own music, I see a big difference between producing broadcasts and just adding URLs to an internet feed. One takes talent. A trained monkey could do the other.

Monday, October 2

And one more update...

From Peter Freyne again:
Rainville Website Shut Down & Staffer Fired

GOP Congressional hopeful Martha Rainville told yours truly Monday afternoon she has fired campaign staffer/researcher Christopher Stewart following an internal investigation of the plagiarism scandal involving Rainville’s website.

“I am incredibly disappointed in him and we have shut down the website,” Rainville told us. “We are reworking the wording of our issues and we are continuing an internal investigation to see if there were any other cases of this or if anybody else was aware of it.”

Candidate Rainville said she was not aware of the plagiarism until the matter was brought to her attention on Monday morning. She called it “very disappointing news.” Said Rainville, “It’s not acceptable and we are not going to condone it in any way.”
Would it be wrong for me to ask if she said those words herself, or if someone wrote them for her?

An update from Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne's blog (Freyne Land) has a wonderful bit on this:

Just before the conference call, we did reach Rainville for Congress spokesman Brendan McKenna. He said he was online checking it out as we spoke.

"Martha Rainville," he told us, "has always taken good ideas because they're good ideas, without regard to the source."

Press Secretary McKenna (nice guy, formerly with the Rutland Herald), corrected himself and asked if he could replace the word "taken" with "considered."

Politics in the Pulpit

The "House of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act." That sounds empowering. Allow those poor, innocent churches freedom of speech! This bill, introduced in 2005 by Rep. Walter Jones, would allow churches to endorse political candidates without losing their tax-exempt status.

Well, it's back, this time sponsored by Sen. James Inhofe as the Religious Freedom Act of 2006, described as, "A bill to protect freedom of speech exercisable by houses of worship or mediation and affiliated organizations."

Unfortunately, the Library of Congress doesn't have the full text yet (it was introduced on 9/27/06), but it's S.3957, and in the Senate Finance Committee.

The problem is probably best expressed by this quote on the 2005 bill:

The Rev. Chan Chandler is an enthusiastic supporter of President Bush and wanted to make sure his North Carolina parishioners knew it. If they didn't agree with him -- and at least nine of them fit that category -- they were forced out, some congregants said.

Chandler himself resigned last week, a symbol to his detractors of the dangers of partisan preaching inside a church. But to supporters of a congressional bill that would "take the muzzle off" religious leaders, Chandler should have been free to issue endorsements from the bully pulpit -- if not bully the flock into leaving -- without endangering his Baptist church's tax-exempt status.


It's not just conservative churches that run afoul of the law; a church in California nearly lost its tax-exempt status because the minister gave an anti-war sermon:

The dispute at the 3,500-member Episcopal church centers on a sermon titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush," delivered by a guest pastor. Though he did not endorse a candidate, he said Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war.
The United Church of Christ's television ads were also refused on "political" grounds:

“After screening the spot … we must decline as our guidelines state we will not accept religious advertisements that take a position on controversial issues or may be deemed as disparaging to another religion,” according to a company statement on March 31.

Frankly, the law isn't frequently enforced as it is; a google of "church tax-exempt politics" fails to turn up large numbers of oppressed churches.
According to the IRS, the only church ever to be stripped of its tax-exempt status for partisan politicking was the Church at Pierce Creek near Binghamton, N.Y., which was penalized in 1995 after running full-page ads against President Clinton in USA Today and The Washington Times in 1992 during election season.
There's also no reason why churches should be held to different standards when other tax-exempt organizations (501(c)(3)) aren't allowed to endorse political candidates, either.

I also wonder how consistently this law would be enforced in the current political climate.

That was Quick

Last night, I made copies of the stolen parts of Martha Rainville's website. Apparently this was a good choice, because now when I go to her website, it reads.

Currently Under Construction

We will be back up as soon as possible!

Sunday, October 1

Rainville's Stolen Ideas

While trying to find polling information about the Welch / Rainville race (Vermont race for the house seat left open by Bernie Sanders) I discovered something interesting:

From Martha Rainville's web site, there is the following statement on energy:
"Briefly, I strongly believe that our present system of energy is weakening our national security, hurting our pocketbooks and threatening our children's future."
source: http://www.martharainville.com/issues/issuesTxt.htm

In May, Hillary Clinton delivered the a speech which includes the following comment:
"Our present system of energy is weakening our national security, hurting our pocketbooks, violating our common values and threatening our children's future. "
Source: http://clinton.senate.gov/news/statements/details.cfm?id=255982


Martha Rainville on easy access to the federal budget:
“We need maximum transparency for government. There should be no secrets unless it involves critical aspects of National Security. Every earmark, every grant, every contract should be online so the public can get access to it,” Rainville said. “Letting the American people see exactly how their money is being spent is one of the best ways to control spending and ensure accountability.”
Source: http://www.martharainville.com/articles/budget/accessFedBudget.htm

This was dated September 8th. On August 25th, there was an interview on the PBS show NOW, which included a segment with Representative Jim Cooper (D-TN), which includes this statement by Cooper:

"Absolutely. I think we need maximum transparency for government. There should be no secrets unless it involves certain parts of national security. Every earmark, every grant, every contract should be online so that the public can get access to it. But the key principle is this: sunshine is the best disinfectant. And we need a lot of disinfectant in Washington today."
Source: http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/234.html

Here's the best part about this: notice the grammatical error in Cooper's original comment: "There should be no secrets unless it involves certain parts of national security." (the noun is singular but the verb is plural). Rainville's statement makes that exact same grammatical error-- it's not just a rendering of the same idea. It's cut and pasted from the statment by Cooper.

Earlier I found these other items on Rainville's health insurance policy:

Press release from Martha Rainville, dated September 17th:
“Our health insurance system is in a crisis,” Rainville said. “Employers face spiraling cost increases for employee health insurance, forcing them to reduce coverage or drop it completely. People switch jobs but their insurance isn’t portable, forcing them to change doctors and coverage or lose it entirely The uninsured show up in our nation’s emergency rooms and leave unpaid bills, so hospitals cost-shift the added burden onto those with insurance. We see a similar problem with Medicare reimbursements that are far below the cost of care.”
Source: http://www.martharainville.com/articles/MedicareReform/healthCareReform.htm

Here's an excerpt from Rick O'Donnell, who's running for congress in Colorado, dated July, 2006:
America's health insurance system is in crisis. More than 10% of 7thCongressional District residents - nearly 150,000 people - lack healthinsurance. Employers face spiraling cost increases for employee health insurance, forcing them to reduce coverage or drop it all together. People switch jobs but their health insurance isn't portable, forcing them to change doctors and coverage or lose it entirely. The uninsured show up in emergency rooms and leave unpaid bills, so hospitals cost-shift by charging more to those with insurance.
Source http://www.rickodonnell.com/healthcare.html