Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Suggestion for the first 100 days

There's so much on the plate for soon-to-be-President Obama, it's a bit overwhelming. However, there are some things he can do in the first 100 days to improve our international standing and get the ball rolling domestically.

The very first thing he can do is make sure that every person the United States has confined around the world is transferred to a prison within the United States and brought to trial. If they are being held without charge or evidence, they must be released immediately. He can make this move entirely through executive order. Through this gesture, he will be showing the world that his administration will be a change from that of George W. Bush (and I'm sure we'll see many more examples!).

Some Republicans will see this maneuver as "giving civil rights to terrorists". However, holding people without charge or trial not only denies the American people closure regarding the terrorist attacks that took place on 9/11/2001, but also makes the United States look as though we've taken people prisoner to make it look like we're doing something about terrorism. Furthermore, it makes people suspicious that we have taken innocent people into custody. If we have potentially dangerous people imprisoned, they must be brought to trial and sentenced. If we have innocent people in prison, they must be released. It's that simple.

Besides, giving all incarcerated people the right to a fair and speedy trial is in the Constitution, and the President's duty is to uphold it.

Next, President Obama should work with Congress on infrastructure projects, starting with the construction of a new levy system in New Orleans. Infrastructure projects--not done with contracted, cheap labor, but with people given a living wage for the work--will provide the seed money necessary to get the economy moving again in areas where the infrastructure has deteriorated. New Orleans is a port city, and port cities are vital for trade and national security. It's not the only city we should rebuild, but the victims of Hurricane Katrina, who soon after became the victims of a derelict President and the FEMA people under his direction, need to get the hand up they needed three years ago.

The third thing President Obama should do is work out the redeployment plan for the troops in Iraq. Whether they are transferred to Afghanistan or put on a base in an allied country, they should be out of Iraq as soon as possible.

Finally, the new President's Cabinet members, after they are approved, must each be given a top priority issue to work on immediately:
  • Secretary of State: The new Secretary of State should meet immediately with our allies and formulate diplomatic strategies with countries who are not.
  • Secretary of the Treasury: The newly appointed head of the Department of the Treasury should meet with the nation's--if not the world's--top economists to figure out the best way out of our financial crisis.
  • Secretary of Defense: The first task of the new Secretary of Defense should be to enumerate programs that are obsolete and cut them out of the budget.
  • Attorney General: The Attorney General should immediately identify any Bush appointees who have litigated based on partisanship and replace them promptly. The next order of business should be to investigate whether war crimes have been committed and prosecute those who have committed them.
  • Secretary of the Interior: The first order of business for this department is to get industry lobbyists out of the department and undo any damage that has been done to our public land.
  • Secretary of Agriculture: Restore the export of food from the United States and end the import of it from China, in light of all of the harmful substances that have been found in that food. We have historically produced more food than we could possibly consume here; we should not be importing anything from anywhere unless it is not native to this country. It raises my hackles every time I see apple juice with "PRODUCT OF CHINA" stamped on it.
  • Secretary of Commerce: This department head should focus on identifying markets where the United States could fill gaps in the world's supply chains with new manufacturing jobs.
  • Secretary of Labor: The Secretary of Labor should identify the real numbers of unemployed and under-employed people in the United States, then make recommendations regarding the community service for education program. This program should be implemented in areas of the country where the most people are unemployed or not making a living wage.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services: This Secretary should identify ways to cut the costs of Medicare (renegotiating pharmaceutical prices, for a start) and how to bring the uninsured and underinsured into the program economically.
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: The immediate act that should be addressed by this appointee should be to put an end to HUD funds being routed to church remodeling and reconstruction. The intent of this money and this department is to make sure that people who need low-income housing get their needs served, not serving the needs of churches with empty pew syndrome.
  • Secretary of Transportation: The Secretary of Transportation should identify areas where our highway infrastructure needs the most work and develop projects to rebuild that infrastructure, beginning with any major bridges that need report (we don't need another incident like the one in Minnesota).
  • Secretary of Energy: Under Spencer Abraham (now it is Bodman, but Abraham was first), the energy infrastructure of the United States was tied together far too closely, causing more energy waste and the possibility of shutting down power for entire regions of the United States (remember the power outage that affected the Great Lakes region a few years back?). The first act of this department should be to come up with a plan to localize energy, preferably through a new infrastructure of green technologies. It's not just a matter of energy savings; it's a matter of national security. One accident or attack at one power plant should not be able to deprive an entire region of electricity.
  • Secretary of Education: The head of this department should work out a four-year plan to get our students competitive with students around the world in areas where we're lagging behind (as in math, science, geography--and, well, everything else).
  • Secretary of Veterans' Affairs: This Cabinet member should immediate work on de-privatizing the veteran hospitals system and make certain that every veteran who needs care is getting it.
  • Secretary of Homeland Security: This department is the biggest bureaucracy in the Cabinet. As such, the new Secretary should work on how best to keep from duplicating efforts across intelligence agencies. Either that, or the department should be abolished altogether. I would also like the DEA rolled into some other department. We need to begin treating drugs as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue. We spend ridiculous amounts of money--billions of dollars--on drug law enforcement. If drugs were legal and we treated abuse as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue, and if we stopped treating all use as abuse, we could save billions a year in enforcement costs and in prisoner maintenance.

These are just my suggestions, based on my own observations. I could be missing some important issues. I would love to hear other people's opinions.

We did it!

Well, we did it--those of us who supported and worked for the Obama campaign, those of us who contributed, those of us who voted have put Barack Obama into the White House.

Tonight, we celebrate.

Tomorrow, we continue to work. We are going to have a Democratic President and Congress, so things can move very quickly; we just have to make sure they are the right things. So, people: what is on the agenda? Here are my suggestions:

  • The economy: We have to restore the middle class. To do that, we have to look at rebuilding infrastructure to seed the economy with jobs that have a living wage. Those workers rebuilding infrastructure will allow entrepreneurs to make a living in areas where infrastructure has crumbled. In the meantime, we must rebuild our manufacturing base. The auto industry must build cars that run on alternative fuels and electricity. We must manufacture solar panels and wind turbines. We must put money into research and development, then take what we invent and manufacture it here, giving jobs to American workers--and we must do it where people aren't currently working. Regulations of the financial sector must be restored. I also think that every family that has lost a home to foreclosure should have loan terms renegotiated, if at all possible. The credit industry must no longer be able to charge outrageous interest rates to anyone.
  • The occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan must end.
  • We must close all secret prisons and Guantanamo Bay, bringing every person in custody to trial, or releasing them if there is no real case.
  • We must eliminate terrorist networks through intelligence efforts and clandestine operations involving international cooperation, not through occupation of countries.
  • We absolutely must address climate change and the rapid extinction of this planet's organisms.
  • We must have universal health care.
  • We must fix Social Security and Medicare.

To do all of the things we must do, we have to organize, and we have to persist in our efforts to contact members of Congress. Obama can do a lot from the Oval Office, but the bills have to come across his desk. I am sure he will take initiative, but we have to support him in getting those initiatives passed in Congress. We can not sit idly by.

Now, there is one other thing we absolutely must address: we must come up with a uniform way to conduct elections, and we have to address issues such as voter caging, voter suppression, voter intimidation, and election fraud. I have no doubt that an enormous turnout is the only thing that saved us from another stolen election. Well, okay--Ohio may have fixed their problems since the 2004 fiasco, as well, and that helped, but there have been a great many reports of voters purged from the rolls, fliers having been distributed to confuse voters, private investigators dispatched to intimidate voters, and, of course, the electronic voting machines have not all been fixed.

I posted an entry here some time ago, when McCain was slightly ahead in the polls, about how the polls were skewed. I still believe that this is the case. If you look at the wide margins of victory in some states, then go back and look at the latest polls, my logic holds up. For example, if we look at Ohio, there was an 11 point victory for Obama there. No poll--no poll the media used, anyway--in the week before the election was within the margin of error. If you look at Georgia, however, it went completely the other way--eleven points in McCain's favor, outside of the margin of error. I think something fishy happened in Georgia. I could be wrong. The polls of Virginia voters turned out to be dead-on accurate--something I don't buy.

My point is that we should not give up making sure that the elections are free and fair, just because we won. We can't rest at that, because the grassroots effort to suppress the vote still remains. We have to remain vigilant.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why I Am Voting For Barack Obama Today

I am going to admit from the start that my decision was made on a single issue, as soon as I knew who the nominees were.

It was the occupation in Iraq that made my decision. I decided to vote for Obama because he wants to end that occupation.

I didn't know much about Barack Obama when I decided that he was getting my vote. Quite frankly, since all of the Democrats in the primaries supported an end to the occupation of Iraq, any of them would have gotten my vote anyway.

Now, things are different. Now, I know a lot more about Barack Obama.

There are a lot of smears out there about my chosen candidate. One of those smears is that he got into Harvard through affirmative action. I don't know the circumstances of his entry into Harvard, but I do know this: affirmative action doesn't make you the President of the Harvard Law Review, and affirmative action doesn't earn you a magna cum laude status at graduation. Obama earned those two honors through his own wit and effort.

Another smear--a smear that shouldn't be a smear at all--is that Barack Obama is a Muslim. He's not, but as Colin Powell pointed out, should being a Muslim prevent American children from dreaming that they could run for President someday? In any case, one thing is clear: Obama supports the separation of state and church, so no matter what his religion happens to be, he's not going to try to establish it as the national religion. He's also pro-science, which will be a welcome change from the last eight years.

As an aside on the whole Muslim thing: for people who believe it, are you fucking stupid? It's either that, or you're completely ignorant of Islam, or both. A devout Muslim will usually wear a beard. His wife will have a head covering, at the very least. He will stop to pray three times a day. He won't eat pork. Obama is so obviously NOT a Muslim that it hurts my head when people make this comment.

I like the fact that Obama will roll back the Bush tax cuts, increasing taxes on the people who can afford it most, while giving tax relief to people in the middle class, like me.
Obama will bring back diplomacy as a major tool in international relations, rather than saber-rattling.

Obama understands the value of education from early childhood through college. I like the offer of community service in exchange for a college education.

I have a lot more reasons I like Obama, but I have to go vote now. I will end by saying that for the first time in my life, I will be voting for someone who has inpired me to vote for him and inspired me in general, rather than the lesser of two evils. It's a great feeling.


P.S.: If you're thinking about voting for McCain, please to to and see why that decision isn't a good one.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Are the polls skewed?

Something's not adding up.

McCain is slightly ahead of Obama in the polls? I couldn't wrap my mind around it until I began to question poll methodology.

In normal times, Gallup's polling methods, as explained here, should work fairly well. However, we do not live in normal times. We are in an economic downturn, to put it mildly.

I heard on the news that one in four hundred and sixteen homeowners will be facing foreclosure this month. I have heard that seven thousand homes foreclose each month. I have heard two statistics on the total number of homeowners that either faced foreclosure or who are behind on mortgage payments, but the one I can source is 6.82%.

Do you think the people behind on their mortgage payments or who are in foreclosure are answering their phones? How likely are they to vote for a guy who can't remember how many homes he owns?

Then, I read another statistic today: one in five households is either behind on credit card payments or over the limit on at least one card. That's twenty percent of American households. Do you think those people are answering their phones?

Gallup says that they randomly generate phone numbers--cell phones included, according to their FAQ--but if people aren't answering their phones, which is common with people who are behind on their bills and have autodialers calling them nine times a day or so, the statistics have to be skewed, do they not?

How likely do you think that the twenty percent of households where autodialers are constantly calling are answering their phones for Gallup? The polling company says they call back numbers where they haven't reached anyone, but I have trouble believing that they reach a significant enough number of these households to keep their polls from straying well outside of the margin of error.

The document from Gallup was written in 1997, and said that 95% of homes had a telephone (15% of homes use cell phones only, according to Gallup). How many homes have phones today? How many wrong or disconnected numbers do they get before getting enough good ones in their random sample? Are ten percent of the homes where bill collectors are also calling (inscessantly!) answering Gallup's polls? Fifteen? Five?

I think the methodology is no longer sound, because the probability of selection is not equal for all Americans anymore, and it is this probability of selection being equal that Gallup relies upon for statistical accuracy--as do all scientific polling organizations.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Sarah Palin Hype

She's for more drilling for oil--in Alaska.

She doesn't even want victims of rape and incest to have access to safe abortions.

She's for teaching creationism along with evolution in the public schools.

She asked a librarian three times if she could have "objectionable" books banned. She never presented a list (the one circulating on the Internet started as a speculation and became "the" list--it was never real, because Palin only asked about the concept of banning books), but she asked the questions. Three. Times.

She's all for hunting wolves. People in Ohio and Michigan, at least, should know that the reason we can hunt so many deer every year is because our recent ancestors took out the timber wolves, so nothing was hunting them. That imbalance created by an absence of predation could have led to ecological disaster otherwise.

She doesn't want polar bears to be protected as an endangered species.

The above are facts, and they're all I need to know about Palin to dismiss her as someone I feel is not qualified to be President (let's face it: John McCain hasn't aged well. If he were in the same shape as my dad, I'd say he has a chance of living through his first term, but he didn't play soccer for forty years of his life). The idea that she would support banning books from a library at all tells me that she either hasn't read the Constitution, or that she doesn't care about it--and she has to swear to uphold it if she were to become McCain's VP.

So I hear all of these polls have Obama and McCain neck-and-neck, with indicators that show McCain is ahead.

Rubbish, I say. Rubbish.

That's putting it very gently.

What do we know about Sarah Palin, other than what I've posted above? Well, there are a lot of allegations and some more factual items I could post, but here's what America has heard out of her own mouth.


The writer was Matthew Scully, former speechwriter for George W. Bush. Palin didn't write it herself. She merely recited what someone else wrote for her.

I'm not saying that just anyone could do that. What I am saying that reading off a teleprompter can be done by plenty of people who shouldn't be President. Your local news anchor can read quite well off a teleprompter. Even if she memorized the speech, so what? I was in a musical and a play in high school, and I've memorized some Shakespeare and good poetry, and plenty of other people have, as well.

Remember how polished Dubya was during the campaign season in 2004? I stopped listening to him during the 2000 campaign after he said that the jury was still out on evolution, because that one phrase put my vote into the Democrat column for the first time since I began voting. I can't vote for an anti-science candidate. If both were anti-science, I'd have to go for the one who was going to do the least damage otherwise, but I'd have to hold my nose to do it. In any case, Bush was polished because he stayed on message--a message someone else wrote for him.

Now, remember Bush in the debates against John Kerry? Unless you were Rudolph Giuliani or Karen Hughes, whose spin came from Bizarro world, or unless you were anyone from Faux News Channel, there is no way you could come to the conclusion that Bush won.

Enter Sarah Palin's upcoming debate with Joe Biden. People keep talking about how people who watched the Kennedy-Nixon debate thought Kennedy won, and people who listened to the radio thought Nixon won; looks allegedly played a role. I say no. I think maybe the correlation is that radio listeners were more conservative than television viewers, since the TV viewers would be more technology-friendly and more likely to enjoy the entertainment offered on television over radio. Plus, Kennedy was very smart. I'm not saying Nixon wasn't, but Kennedy was sharp.

Can Palin think on her feet? We'll have to see. What I think is that she's going to speak in the abstract ("Victory is within sight in Iraq"), and Biden's probably going to tear her to shreds with details. She's going to look just as bad with Biden as Quayle did with Lloyd Bentson. Remember that moment? If not, view it here.

Yes, I know Bentsen was on the losing side of that election, but Dukakis was his running mate. What do you want?

Barack Obama isn't Michael Dukakis, fortunately. Sorry, Mr. Dukakis, but you didn't inspire me; Obama does. In fact, Obama has been the first candidate ever to have inspired me in any way. Wait--Dubya inspired me to work for the Kerry campaign, but that's just not the same, somehow.

In any case, Palin is meant to be a distraction--something to take any media scrutiny off of him and onto Palin. Not that the media has been doing much scrutiny where McCain has been concerned, but with it being all Palin, all the time, nobody's looking at the corpse-like John McCain. Nobody is paying attention to his lack of energy, his gaffes, his substance-free speeches. Nobody's looking at the old, bald dude.

Palin was a purely political choice. There are plenty of women--even in the Republican Party--who could have qualified to be John McCain's running mate. She was chosen because she's young, she's pretty, she's unknown, and she has the values of the rabid religious right. She's not there because she's qualified. Most women I know would be insulted by the choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. What woman doesn't look at Sarah Palin and then say, "Is she the best you do? Really?"

Sarah Palin is nothing but a political choice, a marketing ploy. They're sheltering her from the media (until they can successfully coach her on the talking points), while the media is still gushing about how she "hit it out of the park" with her RNC speech--which contained lies and insults.

What person in their right mind insults community organizers?

And Obama's right: Palin's comment about reading terrorists their rights is a flat-out insult to the Constitution she wants to pretend to uphold.

My final word for tonight is this: do not worry about the polls. Please, please ignore them. First of all, national polls mean very little, especially if they're even; only state-by-state polls do, because that's how electoral votes go. Something else is skewing the polls this year, though.

It's the economy.

People who found themselves suddenly paying interest rates approaching 30% on credit cards--just because the issuing banks could do it legally, when it used to be called "loan-sharking"--also found that they couldn't pay the minimum payments anymore, and they defaulted. Since bankruptcy is harder to declare, thanks to Republican policy, these people find no recourse but to let the bill collectors call them incessantly with autodialers. These people no longer answer their phones, and their numbers are large.

When a study shows a seventy percent increase in water bills, it's an indication that there are a lot of people with bill collectors calling about other unpaid services.

What about people facing foreclosure? I hear 8,000 per day, 7,000 per day--does anyone have the real number? I heard a staggering figure: just over 6% of homeowners are either behind on their mortgage payments or facing foreclosure right now. Do you think these people are going to vote for another Republican? Let's poll them and see if McCain has support anywhere close to Obama's. Oh, wait--they probably won't answer their phones, either.

So...if 6% of homeowners aren't answering their phones, add to it the percentage of people with delinquent credit card debt who also aren't answering their phones, and you have a great many unanswered phones involved in the polling process. Perhaps someone from a polling company will tell me they correct for that, but I somehow doubt it.

I'm going to say that Obama is actually ahead, and it's more like 58% of voters supporting him. I'm not saying you should stop working hard--work harder!--but I think the polls are horribly skewed this time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh, that crazy GOP

I think I've mentioned it before--yeah, it was on my first post on this blog. I somehow made it onto the GOP mailing list.

The problem is, the people they address in the messages at each of the two addresses where I receive GOP communications are not me. Perhaps James and William are my other personalities, but I don't have blank periods when I can't remember what I've done...

In any case, I've found their messages most...illuminating? No. Amusing? Perhaps. Disgusting? Definitely. Disingenuous? Absolutely.

I'm going to go through the points in each message and give my take on them.

Don't worry--I haven't forgotten about Michael Savage. He's still on my radar; I have just been so busy with personal and work projects, I haven't had time to hit his advertisers hard. I haven't even had time to update this blog with the new advertiser responses and the very few advertisers who haven't yet appeared on my list.

But hey--this blog isn't about Michael Savage. It's important that we hit him where it hurts, but I have opinions on quite a lot more than that piece of human garbage.

Speaking of Garbage, Often Putrid, let's get to the GOP's list of messages to my..other personalities? Sure.

Let's begin with their opinion that the choice of Senator Joe Biden shows poor judgment on the part of Barack Obama, since Biden has been one of his worst critics. Biden has been known to say that Obama is not yet ready to be President. However, their argument is exactly the opposite of the truth; the fact that Obama could get Joe Biden to be his running mate demonstrates how persuasive a leader he can be. If he could convince his worst critic (among Democrats, that is--and I would say second worst, but the GOP rates him chief among critics) that he is ready to be President, then he's quite the negotiator and has tremendous influence. Furthermore, it demonstrates how qualified he is to be our chief diplomat.

In any case, the message about Biden never criticizes Biden's credentials or character; it simply says that by picking his worst critic, Obama has shown poor judgment.

In the next message, McCain makes an appeal for more contributors. As of August 26th, he had 1.7 million contributors (Obama has surpassed 2 million already--by a long way). He's aiming for two million by the end of the RNC Convention.

Speaking of Rotten Nefarious Corruption, this message contains several claims I want to address. First, there's the question of matching federal funds for the major Presidential candidates. McCain criticizes Obama for "breaking his pledge" to go with federal funds in this election cycle, going on to whine about the support of, "Big Labor", "Hollywood elites", and "other left-wing groups". Obama explained his move: he wanted to fund his campaign with individual contributions. Besides, McCain's side has the Snakes Bent Voraciously on Truthiness and other 527 groups to support him, because his McCain-Feingold bill left open a huge loophole for these organizations. Until that loophole closes, any candidate would be crazy to take federal matching funds. He complains about misleading negative attack ads, but he himself has engaged in such ads already, comparing Obama to ditzy celebrities, with no ability to lead. There is already a book and a movie about Obama, both full of falsehoods.

McCain goes on to complain about the "liberal" media. This "liberal" media has done 80% negative coverage on Obama, while giving McCain a free ride. Most of the media is corporated owned. Conservative talk has far more outlets on the radio than liberal talk, or even neutral talk. The television stations are corporate owned, and the news organizations have been absorbed into the entertainment divisions of the major networks. To call this media "liberal" is downright insane. If anything, they're drawn to conflict and celebrity worship.

These messages are out of date order. The next message I came across was an invitation to attend or host a Raucous, Negative Claptrap event. For the night of the Republican convention, I could sign up to get special materials for myself and my guests, invite people over to watch the convention with me, and manipulate them into voting for Bob Barr--or, if I'm really on my game, for Barack Obama.

The Saddleback Civil Forum gets mention in the next message. What a farce. It turns out that McCain heard all of the questions in advance and had opportunity to prepare his answers. Even so, I thought his answers were simplistic and stupid, but that's the subject of another post. I really do have to go through it bit by bit, because I found the critiques of Obama laughable, and the praise of McCain gratuitous--more of the same media free ride.

In the next message, McCain reveals his plan: let the RNC do his dirty work, so he can take matching funds and use that as a talking point against Barack Obama. No doubt, the Rancid Nabobs of Chicanery will join the 527 groups in throwing as much money as they can raise at the McCain campaign.

I laughed out loud at the next message. The GOP sent me an urgent message to download the RNC toolbar. They assured me that it would help McCain beat Obama at no cost to me. Well, unless Randy Naked Cuties are involved, I'm not interested, and since I know that Robbers, Ne'er-do-wells, and Cuthroats are behind this move, I'm definitely not taking them up on it. Come on! These are the rat bastards who admitted to illegal wiretapping! Why in the world would I want them watching over my internet activity? They probably already are, anyway. My firewall attack history lists several hits from Langley, VA, Arlington, VA, Washington, D.C., and one other place that escapes me at the moment. I'm not kidding.

Why is it that the Republicans think we should ignore the opinions of the other six billion people on the planet? The next message criticizes Obama for labeling himself a "citizen of the world". It also says that Obama is proposing to raise the U.S. support to the UN to $845 billion, then goes on to say that it's $2500 from each American taxpayer "at a time when people are struggling to make ends meet." Um...McCain? We have a progressive tax system. It's not like each and every American will have $2500 taken from them directly. How stupid must your base be to fall for that one? Also, the message never mentions what amount goes to the UN now. Furthermore, the money is to combat poverty, but McCain calls it "redistribution efforts". It's not just wealth redistribution, Swifty. It's an investment in our foreign neighbors--something that might keep them from coming here illegally to escape oppressive economic and political conditions in their own countries. It only makes us stronger and more secure, and keep illegal labor from being exploited. You're just worried that if people in foreign countries are better off, there won't be a cheap labor pool from which to draw.

I didn't know whether to laugh or be thoroughly disgusted at the next message, which was a criticism of Obama's example of a way to help reduce oil consumption, which was to properly inflate your tires. McCain and other Geriatrics On Prednisone are making this suggestion out to be Obama's entire energy policy. They're even giving away a tire guage that says, "OBAMA ENERGY PLAN" on it. How disingenuous. Never mind that it's a sound suggestion in and of itself. Proper inflation of your tires will, in fact, improve your fuel economy. My Republican colleague--oh, boy, is he a Republican, too--made that very suggestion on a team conference call last year, in addition to making sure you have oil changes and other proper vehicle maintenance, because fuel costs were about to rise significantly.

McCain's energy plan, by the way, is to lease even more land to oil companies, who already have leased millions of acres where they know there's oil, but they're doing nothing about it.

Enter Orrin Hatch. Hatch's message is supposed to instill fear into the Republican base of the loss of the "Republican firewall" in the Senate. Oh, you mean the President's yes men, who stand together to make sure nothing of value to the American people actually gets done? Yeah, we need to break that "firewall" of corruption and advocacy of unofficial American nobility. We need to get rid of the roadblocks to restoring the middle class and preventing economic slavery--slavery that many Americans are now in because of insane debt, outrageous interest rates, and the fact that ruined credit can block an individual from gainful employment. They're stuck at the bottom, while people of privilege enjoy what they're fed with silver--nay, platinum--spoons.

Here's a message from something called "The Small Cap Insider's Report". It calls Ted Kennedy "the drunkest man ever", and suggests that maybe Kennedy would give Obama a ride home and "narrow our choices this coming election." Wow. Then it warns Obama: "Watch out for those bridges, Barack!" Classless. Utterly classless. The man's battling a malignant brain tumor. The incident mentioned happened decades ago. If you're going to bring up the accidental death of one woman at the hands of a Kennedy, how about I bring up the death of 163 sailors at the hands of McCain?

On the USS Forrester, the aircraft carrier on which McCain was stationed, a young pilot decided to wet start the engines of his jet. Wet starting engines will cause flames to shoot out the exhaust end of the turbine, and shoot out they did--startling the pilot behind him, who accidently released two bombs. These bombs subsequently exploded and kill 163 members of our United States Navy. Because of a young John McCain's poor judgment, his fellow sailors died fiery deaths. You really want to play, Small Cap Insider's Report? Oh, I'll play.

In the next message, entitled "Beat the One", McCain's people list the consequences of an Obama Presidency and 60-seat majority in the Senate: "higher taxes, wasteful spending, more regulation on small businesses, more liberal activist judges on the Supreme Court and much more..." Okay, let's see what the Republicans have done:

Instead of higher taxes, we have deferred taxes. Someone, someday, is going to have to pay the national debt.

Wasteful spending? Wasteful spending?!?!? Are you kidding me? Bush rubber-stamped every single spending bill that came across his desk during the entire time the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress!!!! When Bush came into office, there was a budget surplus, which meant the debt remaining from Reagan and Bush the Elder could actually get paid. The darling of the Geritol Overdose Potentials worked with a Republican Congress to turn it into a half a trillion dollar deficit annually.

More regulation of small business? That's far better than the deregultion of big business, which has had devastating effects on the economy and the environment. Shall I mention the slap in the face the contracting of traditional military jobs to private companies represents, especially when the contractors make several times the average enlisted soldier's pay?

Liberal activist jugdes? Where? How about conservative activist judges and federal attorneys? No, not even conservative--Puritanical, radical reactionaries, fascists...

Speaking of Really Not Cool Groups Of People, how many Bush appointees were graduates of the unaccredited law school Pat Roberston founded? 150?

Finally--at least for now, I received a message about how awful it was that the Democrats apparently cared more about their vacation than about voting on an energy bill. In other words, the Rats Nesting in Congress Griped Over the Petty issue of the delay on the vote regarding drilling offshore. Why the Goofy, Overblown, Petty Republicans are so hot and bothered over plunging metal phalluses (or is it phalli? I think it's a word rooted in Greek, so it's probably not phalli) into Mother Earth is beyond me, especially when the oil companies have millions of acres of land where they already know there's oil, where they are allowed to drill, but they're doing nothing to extract it.

Until next time, Go Obama! Poor Republicans...Next Campaign...maybe. In 2016. When you grow up, get rid of the theocrats among you, understand what fiscal conservatism actually means, understand that investing in your neighbors makes the country stronger and living in America and in the wide world more comfortable; when you see taxes as an investment instead of an intrusion on your enormous fortunes...until you realize that what you did almost ruined America in eight short years, maybe, just maybe, you can put someone else in the White House.

(I don't know what came over me with the acronym play, but I hope you enjoyed it, and didn't just groan. Cheers!)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Taking it up a notch (and Michael Savage is such a liar)

Michael Savage is so infuriating. I'm really trying hard to keep listening to maintain a current list of advertisers, and others are, as well (though there are precious few).

He keeps saying he was taken out of context. Well, I put him into context here. I argued originally that there was no context into which you could put Savage's attack on autism that would make it better, but it turned out that the real context made it worse. First, he talked about how he'd rather fund treatment of cancer and diabetes in America than AIDS in Africa, and then he went into why he didn't throw autism in with cancer and diabetes. That was the context. His sychophantic listeners forget so easily and don't bother to check; they simply accept that the context was what Michael Savage said it was, instead of recognizing what he did as an attack, and what he did susequently as complete spin--a frantic attempt to appeal to advertisers.

He keeps saying that Media Matters led autism advocacy organizations by the nose, as if they're all mindless sheep who wouldn't bother to check their facts before acting. Never mind that I am completely unaffiliated with any group, officially (though I get many newsletters and am on a few message boards); I'm just a loving parent of a daughter who happens to have autism, and I'm coming to her defense. It's not just Media Matters, Michael Savage. It's every parent who recognizes that what you said has been passed on to millions of people who will now suspect our children of merely being brats who haven't been told by their fathers to cut out the act, as you ignorantly said on July 16th. If they follow the work of your "expert", Peter Breggin, then they will suspect us of causing the issues our children have by abusing and neglecting them. That's what's making my blood boil more than anything. I would never lay a hand on my child in malice, and she is very far from neglected. My wife takes her shopping, to the zoo, to Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford, to restaurants, to preschool, to therapy...and I pay attention to her at home with conversation, games, puzzles, and lots of hugs and laughter. It took a lot of work to get those hugs and that laughter out of her, and it angers me to no end that someone like Savage could lash out in all of his intellectual laziness and outrage borne of ignorance in a way that will affect my child and cast suspicion on her relationship with her loving parents.

Savage said tonight that not only are his advertisers staying, but they're increasing their ads. That's funny, because AFLAC, Chattem, Boca Java, Prison Fellowship Ministries, The Heritage Foundation, DirectBuy, Roger Schlesinger, and Home Depot want nothing to do with him. There are other advertisers I haven't heard in a week, either. There are a few new ones, but this week, during his show, there have been advertisements calling for advertisers to support the Michael Savage show, and a couple of the advertisers who had their ads on last week didn't have them this week anymore.

Someone asked me how we can take it up a notch and really get after Savage. There are groups--Media Matters, for one--who are taking the approach of protesting stations who carry him and calling for them to fire him. I'm not saying they're wrong, but I think it makes a lot more sense to contact the companies who support him financially and educate them about Michael Savage's position on autism. No matter how he wants to spin it, the fact remains that Savage calls autism spectrum disorder a fiction. He talks about how "real autism" is "heartbreaking", but never defines what he means by "real autism", then follows up with an "expert" who dismisses all autism and other childhood disorders as the result of abuse and neglect, especially on the part of mothers. During his original attack, he disparaged minorities as dishonestly claiming that their children had asthma to get more welfare, when they are three to six times more likely to die of asthma.

When you contact that advertisers, focus on the facts. People want to make it into a First Amendment issue, but commercial radio involves company image, and no company wants to look bad by associating themselves with someone who will attack children, women, and minorities in the same segment (except Talk Radio Network, apparently). When they have withdrawn their support to the point where the stations that carry him can't afford to do so, he will still have his freedom of speech, but he won't have a nationwide platform from which to exercise it. He has no inherent right to be financially supported on commercial radio.

Help me educate his advertisers. I need more people in more markets listening to his show, preferably in shifts (listening to his show every day will take your IQ down ten points, I swear, if it doesn't give you a splitting headache). I certainly would love to take turns with someone in the Detroit market, and so would others in their markets. If you want to help with this effort, simply listen for the commercials during Michael Savage's show and note the time and company name (with phone number, if you're not sure of the name's spelling, and if they give it), then send it to me at I am keeping these logs so when advertisers tell me that they don't advertise during his show, as so many have claimed, I can give them days and times when their ads were heard. Please tell me the station and city, as well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"You liberals!"

Recently, I began to allow anonymous comments on my blog. I think I'm regretting it, but maybe not. I do want people to see that it's not just Savage; there are apologists for him who take his garbage quite seriously.

What I'm tired of is this caricature of "liberal". What does the word even mean anymore? I know what Michael Savage thinks it means; he doesn't know the difference between a true liberal and a fascist, as is evident from his labeling of George W. Bush as a liberal/socialist. Bush is a fascist; he is into corporate control of the government and doing things that promote big business. A socialist doesn't do these things. A socialist promotes legislation and action that benefits society as a whole. Just what is a liberal, though?

I did something on liberalism on one of my message boards, but I'm not going to cut and paste.

The Free Online Dictionary has several entries for the term, "liberal". I am going to go through them one by one, because I think it's important that we stop caricaturing liberals--and conservatives, for that matter, because these terms are used to divide us, and they have been made trivial and meaningless by those who work toward such division.

The first definition:

a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian
attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

Sounds like "liberal" is a synonym for "freethinker" here, and I'm of the firm opinion that being free from bigotry is a good thing. Under this definition, I'm definitely a liberal, and an unapologetic one at that.

Savage says that liberalism is a mental disorder. So it's a mental disorder to break from traditional/orthodox/authoritarian views? It used to be the orthodox view that the Earth is flat. It used to be the orthodox view that the Earth was the center of the solar system. Breaking from tradition and orthodoxy can be a very good thing.

Let's look at the second definition:

b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant
of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

Supporting reform for the right reasons is never a bad thing. Being open to new ideas is the only way we can progress, really. Tolerance is a good thing until you tolerate intolerance (which is what apologists for Michael Savage are doing). What's wrong with being tolerant and having an open mind?

The third definition is one of those generic ones: "Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism."

Perhaps it would be useful to define "liberalism", then.

A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of
the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law
with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.

Hmmm. Are human beings naturally good? This article about German researchers who studied altruism would suggest that we are born with altruistic tendencies. It makes sense; being slower, weaker, and less well-armed than the predators in existence when our ancient ancestors first evolved, cooperation would have been a great survival strategy; groups of humans would have found it easier to fend off predators, hunt, gather, raise children, make tools and shelters...cooperation has been the norm for us from the beginning--at least along tribal lines.

I kind of like my autonomy, civil and political liberties, rule of law--as long as I'm represented in the legislature, and protection from people who declare themselves to be in charge ("I'm the decider!").

I also think that it's a good thing for people to come together to solve problems they can't solve individually, and that taxes should be an investment. If we can't get some sort of return from the tax money we invest, we should nix those taxes. I use the word "return" loosely; it doesn't have to be realized financially.

Getting back to "liberal", I'm going to skip the political party definition, because we don't have a major party that's truly liberal. The next definition is:

2.a. Tending to give freely; generous: a liberal benefactor.

I think this definition represents part of the caricature of "liberal" that the neo-cons promote and demonize. They don't want the government to just "tax and spend". I know very few people who do, actually, from any political party; it's irresponsible, and would be difficult to justify. I do know plenty of people calling themselves "conservative" (again, caricaturing the term and rendering it meaningless) who think it's just fine that we're in debt to the tune of nearly ten trillion dollars to foreign countries, most notably China. That's $10,000,000,000,000. That's a million millions. That's enough to give 300 million people (roughly the U.S. population) $33,333.33 each. Except we owe that much. Savage calls that "liberal" policy, and he's right to this extent (though he wouldn't put it this way): the Congress from 2002-2006 and the President who signed the spending bills coming from them borrowed liberally from our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, burdening them with debt. Where is the benefit to society as a whole, though? That's where the "socialist" label breaks down with Bush, making it downright laughable. Those spending bills were benefits to corporations and individual political donors, along with every pet project the Republicans wanted to support during those four years. In the meantime, 8,000 people lose their homes to foreclosure each day. People are making roughly $2000 less than they made a few years ago. Unemployment is at an all-time high--if you look at the real numbers. The "official" numbers come from the number of people actually receiving unemployment, which runs out after a certain period of time. Gas prices are outrageous, but oil companies received tax cuts from that Congress and this President. Very wealthy people became even wealthier; the rest of us saw our incomes stagnate or go down, while everything became more expensive.

I don't advocate giving tax money away to anyone; I want it to be an investment. In this respect, I can't really be called "liberal". Giving money to autism research and therapy would be an investment in the future of children with autism; society would benefit from having more functional people working, paying taxes, and supporting themselves.

The problem with the people who throw around the word "liberal" is that they're stereotyping people who happen to disagree with them. I argue that we're all liberal, conservative, or moderate, depending on the topic at hand, and labeling people with one of these terms only marginalizes them and causes division. Let's have some real dialogue and stop with the intellectually lazy caricatures.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Boca Java Responds

Stefanie Hochstadter of Boca Java responded today by saying that Boca Java has not advertised on the Michael Savage show or with the network for more than a year.

I am not reproducing the letter here because there was a privacy notice at the bottom of the email. I know that these notices are not legal and binding, but I've given you the gist: another advertiser is not claiming association with Michael Savage.

Just what is going on here? Only one advertiser so far has admitted to having knowledge of being a current advertiser on the Michael Savage show: They chose not to renew the contract. Geico claimed in a response to me that they advertise indiscriminately, and to another person that they pulled their support for Michael Savage years ago (probably from the MSNBC show he had). Either none of these advertisers know that they've bought advertising spots during Savage's show, or their ads are airing without their knowledge and without payment. The former scenario seems more likely to me, but I would really like to know. Do the stations run advertising during Savage's show to make it appear as though he has more financial backing than he really does?

I wonder if there's a way to find out how the bills get paid at a given radio station.

Geico Responds

I received the following message from Geico:


Dear Greg Reich:

Thank you for your Internet request.

Thank you for using GEICO’s online services.

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. Let me assure you that we value your opinion and your business.

We purchase our advertising through a national media buyer and it appears on television stations and radio stations throughout the entire country. GEICO has no contract with any specific show, station, or channel. GEICO does not take positions or endorse opinions on stations where our advertising is run.

GEICO has long been, and continues to be, an insurer for everyone. As with any large national insurance company, our customer base is comprised of individuals who represent virtually every position on every issue. We support the first amendment rights of our policyholders and we strive to provide them with exceptional customer service, without regard to their views and beliefs.

If you need assistance, you may reply to this email. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We appreciate your business and look forward to serving your insurance needs for years to come.

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Brian Moshier
GEICO Internet Representative


Essentially, they're telling me that they do not endorse opinions, but their advertising dollars do just that; as long as Savage has financial support, he has a megaphone through which to shout baseless claims about autism.

The First Amendment rights of their policyholders aren't at issue here. The issue is that someone with national syndication--which is only possible with the support of advertising--is saying something that hurts children with autism and their parents, and Geico is part of that financial infrastructure. They most certainly can choose not to advertise during Savage's show; the association of their company with Savage certainly damages their corporate image, especially as other advertisers withdraw their support.

There was actually a spot on the Savage show tonight calling for entrepreneurs to advertise. I found that plea encouraging.

What I am doing now is writing to the advertisers I actually hear during the show, letting them know what time I heard their advertisements. It reduces the number of responses I get that tell me it's false that they advertise on his show.

Has anyone else received responses from anyone on my list at the right? I know AFLAC allegedly withdrew support, but I have never seen an official response, and I heard a commercial for them the other night.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Inspiration from the North

On July 25th, in the midst of the Michael Savage autism spin, I received an email from Leah Bortolotti from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Her daughter, Sophia, has autism. Her son, Josh, has become a prominent national figure in Canada, and he's only fourteen. The following article details what he did at age eleven on behalf of his sister and every child in Canada with autism:


Here is Leah's description of her son's activism to date:

"Our neurotypical 14-year-old son, Josh, has been single-handedly doing an autism fundraiser annually for the past 4 years (door-to-door pledges) and has now raised just over $20,000 for autism charities. The past two years have been for Autism Speaks. He advocates on every level for his baby sister, and has been recognized here in Canada in national newspapers, CTV National Television News, and most recently as a runner up in 2008 Canada's Top 20 Under 20 Awards. His unselfish motivation has graced him with some friendships of important people that are impressed with his accomplishments, and brought more awareness to ASD. He has become friends with Nickelback, Rich Little, and other Canadian celebrities."

I hope this young man's story and that of his family moves you as it has moved me.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Want to understand autism?

Maybe an example of a parent working with a child who has autism will help those of you who don't understand what it means to have a child with autism. Take a look:

I thought it was a great example.

I'm thinking of putting video up of exchanges with my daughter. Our communication isn't quite on the level of Adam's yet, but translation of atypical word usage is a daily activity for us, too.

Off the top of my head, figuring out that "Mickey piano" is an episode of Mickey Mouse Club where a piano appears about halfway in was a recent challenge. Good thing I watch any television she watches, and she doesn't watch much.

Ads removed

I decided to take the ads off of my blog.

AdSense has a competitive ad filter, but even though I set it up to filter out the Michael Savage TV ads, it kept putting them into the banner at the bottom of my page. I decided that if I do any advertising from now on, it will be with a known entity, and it will not be random, content-driven advertising.

For me, this fight isn't about making profit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Audio That Started It All: The Context, What Was Overlooked, The Spin, and The Apologists

Here is the audio that started the whole campaign to remove Michael Savage from the radio. Note that I chose to post a video with the preceding context this time:

Here's the transcript of the preceding context:

"But I'm really getting pissed off at the world. I really am. I feel it. I feel it today in particular. When I hear Paulson, the Treasury Secretary, not giving a straight answer to a real conservative Republican, when I read that Bush just slapped us in the face again, and raised the ante on money to Africa for AIDS and malaria from $15 [billion] to $48 billion with a stroke of the pen, without the people's input, I'm telling you, I don't know which way to turn.

"What kind of government is this that can write checks to bail out friends on Wall Street without any oversight by the people, and can write a check for a bunch of degenerate bums in Africa who are going to rob the money, on top of the drug company thieves? Do you think it's actually going to treat people in Africa? I'd rather treat people in America who have cancer. I'd rather treat people in America who have diabetes. Don't get me started on this!"

When I wrote my original article on Michael Savage's attack on autism, it was based completely on what came next. My argument has been that it doesn't matter what context the audio was in; what he said stood on its own and could not be legitimized. I stand by that assertion, but the context is important in light of the subsequent spin. Before I posted my original piece, I had heard the audio I transcribed for you above, and it was obvious to me that there really wasn't a context; he just said the next thing that popped into his head. Basically, his thought process appears to be "I'd rather treat cancer and diabetes, because they're real diseases. Now I'm going to tell you about something I think is not a real disease and does not deserve funding." I don't know how else to take it.

"I'd rather treat people in America who have cancer."

"I'd rather treat people in America who have diabetes."

The implication of what comes next in the audio is that he'd rather NOT treat autism.

"Now you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I'm not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket."

In my original article, I mistakenly replaced the "not" with "now", but "not" is the correct word here. He was saying, "I'm talking about funding cancer and diabetes as legitimate diseases that deserve funding, but NOT autism."

Savage is now in spin mode, of course, but remains not only unapologetic, but indignant that anyone could ever think he'd attack children with "real" autism. He made an absolute statement about autism first, then changed the "fraud" to "99 percent of the cases". But first, he went into something that the media is currently overlooking, that the autism community seems to be overlooking, and that the minority communities are overlooking, unless I have just been missing their outrage. I caught this part and gave an opinion on it in my original post, but I want to bring it back up, because I think it's a twisted bit of audio:

"For a long while, we were hearing that every minority child had asthma. Why did they sudden--why was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because--I'll tell you why. The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help at school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in was told [mocking fake cough]. When the nurse looks at you, you go [mocking fake cough]. 'I don't know. The dust got me.' See, everyone had asthma from the minority community. That was number one."

No one has been talking about this venemous little blurb. I mentioned it, but I'm just a small fish in the ocean of the Internet. Media Matters, autism advocacy groups, and several other people transcribed and published it, but somehow, it became lost.

When were we ever hearing that every minority child had asthma? The tragic truth of the matter is that minorities are three to six times more likely to die from asthma than white children, depending on the group studied. I posted a link to an article about African-American and Puerto Rican children in my original post on this issue, and anyone who wants to research it can find plenty on Google.

Savage hasn't had to answer for these remarks. I mentioned them to several of the advertisers in my letters, but the focus has repeatedly been on autism. I'm glad that so many people want to talk about autism and are sympathetic/empathetic to the cause, but I just don't want people to lose sight of how disgusting this assertion regarding minorities and asthma was, and how it's been largely ignored.

Asthma advocacy groups might also want to give that audio some attention.

Moving on, I want to address the spin where Savage is now saying that he wasn't attacking children with "real" autism, and that the "ninety-nine percent" was hyperbole:

"Now, the illness du jour is autism."

In other words, the illness people--probably minorities, given the previous context--are using to get additional funding and academic help for their children is autism.

Savage's naked ignorance is overwhelmingly on display here.

Anyone who has tried to get extra funding in the area of special education knows that most programs are horribly underfunded and, as a result, inadequate. The preschool program my daughter attends does pretty well, but they could use quite a lot more in the way of resources, and the research-recommended approach of intensive, one-on-one daily therapy is impossible in the public school system. I am paying for additional therapy outside of the preschool to the tune of $780 per month, and I know there is a lot more I could do if I had the funds.

In addition to the lack of resources and funding, it's not as easy as Savage seems to think to get the therapy and extra academic help for autsim. A parent can't just say the child has autism; the child must be screened by a group consisting of a speech therapist, a psychiatrist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist. My daughter had to meet certain criteria to qualify for special education, and additional criteria to be in the autism class. It's not just a matter of getting a doctor's note or the word of a school nurse. Maybe things are different elsewhere in this country, but quite a few schools are facing funding crises, and funding is being micro-managed. Anything that sucked funding into one area of focus would draw the attention of the school board and would be addressed.

"You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is in ninety-nine percent of the cases."

Savage has told his audience (including me, since I've been listening to the show to gather an accurate list of advertisers) that the ninety-nine percent figure was hyperbole, and that children with "real" autism should get all of the funding and services they need. Now, had he accompanied this spin with an apology, saying that his attack was irresponsible and had no basis in fact, and he wouldn't still be going on about how the autism spectrum is fiction, I may have simply left him alone and forgotten about him. I have heard enough from him during "Right Wing World" segments on the Stephanie Miller Show to know that I wouldn't want to listen to his show (and I still don't, but I'm keeping on his sponsors until he has none or they've all responded). However, placing the spin into the context of his previous remarks, Savage is being disingenuous here. He followed "I'd rather treat people in America who have cancer" and "I'd rather treat people in America who have diabetes" with "Now you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I'm not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket." How does this juxtaposition NOT imply that he doesn't want to see autism funded through tax dollars? I'm talking about cancer, I'm talking about diabetes, but I'm not talking about autism. That's what he said.

Additionally, Savage claims in his spin-fest that the larger discussion was about drug companies and overdiagnosis of conditions. Now, I missed everything that came before he began to talk about Secretary Paulson, but unless the previous discussion was about how AIDS is also a fraud, a racket, and a largely misdiagnosed condition, I don't see how I can take the spin as anything but a bald-faced lie.

In any case, even if the new figure he's using, allegedly quoting (I can't find the original source) a Dr. Camarata from Vanderbilt University, that sixty percent of autism cases are misdiagnosed, is accurate, it would be difficult for someone whose child was misdiagnosed to get past the screening process at my child's school.

I looked up Dr. Camarata, and I noticed a link for TRIAD, or Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorder. On their Common Questions About Autism Page, it says that autism occurs in 1 in 166 individiuals. Nowhere on the page does is say that sixty percent of cases are misdiagnosed. I emailed Dr. Stephen Camarata to see what he thinks of his name being used on Savage's show in the way it is being used, asking him to susbstantiate or refute the claim. I am awaiting a response.

"It's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is."

So...throwing out the ninety-nine percent as hyperbole and using the new figure Michael Savage now uses, sixty percent of children who have been diagnosed with autism simply have bad parents. He has made the claim, based, I'm sure, on the writing of Thomas Sowell, that the cases where autism is misdiagnosed include children with high IQs and late talkers. It very well could be that this sort of misdiagnosis would have been made quite often before more was known about autism, but there's much more to the observational diagnosis of autism than late talking and evidence of exceptional intelligence. There's more to it than simply having OCD behaviors, which can be part of autism. There's inappropriate play, lack of pretend play, lack of theory of mind/empathy...there is a range of symptoms that, when taken together, result in a correct diagnosis of autism.

The example Savage has been using quite often is Albert Einstein, who was notably a late talker. From many reports, Einstein was told to cut out the act, was called a dummy by his parents, and had a similar childhood to the one Savage recommends for all children. Did it make him speak any sooner? No. Setting aside a diagnosis of autism that Einstein may have faced today, did the parenting method Savage recommends work for Einstein?

Now, going back to whether Einstein would have been diagnosed with autism (there are several people out there who claim that he very well may have had Apergers): the claim Savage makes is that there would be no Einstein today, because he would have been labeled autistic and thrown into an institution. The reality is that during Einstein's childhood, it was much more common to institutionalize people with mental disabilities than it is today, so that argument doesn't hold water.

Also, what is the worst that would have happened if Einstein had received the treatments recommended for autism today? He certainly wouldn't have lost his IQ, would have he? He would have received speech, occupational, physical, and social therapy, all without medication, and he might have had less of a difficult time with his parents and teachers. Would it have caused him not to have gone into physics? Who knows? The theories of general and special relativity probably would have come later anyway; there certainly are scientists who are living today who understand them--they had to in order to build on the theories. Just because a name is a household name (who doesn't know Stephen Hawking? But my understanding is that there are other physicists out there more capable than he) doesn't mean that nobody could ever be as intelligent or capable.

"What do you mean, they scream and they're silent?"

Savage continues to be ignorant about the symptoms of autism, never really defining what he means by "real" autism. Screaming and silence are certainly not the only characteristics of autism. In fact, with Asperger's, the children talk early and incessantly. They have other specific symptoms; I'm sure it's the Asperger's children Savage dismisses as being in the "high IQ" category. In his eyes, they don't really have autism; that's part of his spin.

Let's just say for a moment that everyone with Asperger's just has a really high IQ, and isn't on the autism spectrum. Should they not get any sort of therapy? As someone with a high IQ, I can tell you that going through school without peers of any kind was really, really tough--until I decided to hide my intelligence as much as possible during my high school years. It simply wasn't respected. Really smart kids are often the social outcasts, labeled nerds and regarded as arrogant. Funding programs so high IQ children can have peers in their classes wouldn't be such a bad idea, as far as I'm concerned.

Getting back to reality, people with Aspergers certainly can have high IQs, but there are other symptoms. When I was looking for what could be going on with my daughter, I ran across several professional screening tools for Aspergers. Three of the symptoms that always appeared together were early, precocious talking, physical clumsiness, and social awkwardness. Along with the early precocious talking was the inability of the child to comprehend the speech; it would be scripted, memorized, and only understood later in life. Along with these symptoms had to be the presence of symptoms from each of six categories. I can't remember everything from the list, but it included clues like hand flapping, lack of empathy, lack of eye contact, and several other symptoms that look like autism. That's why Asperger's is on the spectrum.

I will repeat what my friend Angie suggested: take the spectrum people consider "normal", then throw autism on top of it. To me, this statement is a profound way of looking at the autism spectrum. The children may have low, average, or high IQs, but they all have similarities, as well. They are as individual as any other group of children, but they have that one thing or set of things in common.

I know it's not a requirement in order to be a radio personality, but wouldn't it be logical to research a subject before talking about it, especially after making an attack on people who are intimately familiar with it? Savage admitted to lining things up as a child and being obsessed with counting tiles on the bathroom floor, and asked if he would be diagnosed with autism because of that behavior. That's not necessarily autism. OCD behaviors are common on the autism spectrum, but OCD behaviors alone mean that you have obsessive compulive disorder; they don't mean that you have autism.

Maybe Savage is insecure about being labeled as having autism or Aspergers, and that's why he's so irate about the issue. Whatever his problem is (and I'm talking about his insecurity and/or anger issues, not the possibility of him having ASD), he's hurting parents and children by saying that there's one group with a real disability that requires intense treatment, and another group where the problem is bad parenting, but couldn't possibly be a disorder mistaken for autism that also would require treatment. He's still calling the autism spectrum a fraud thrust on the public by drug companies and the medical profession.

"They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there screaming and crying, idiot."

Savage has since had an "expert" by the name of Dr. Peter Breggin, who resurrected the long-abandoned stereotype of the "refrigerator mother". Leo Kanner, who defined autism, labeled "cold, unfeeling" mothers as its cause. Breggin's assertion is that all of autism is the result of bad parenting. Michael Savage asked him directly if he believed autism exists, and his answer indicated that he suspected it didn't. If we need any further confirmation, we can turn to his book, Toxic Psychiatry. In chapter 12, which is entitled, "Abandoning Reponsibility For Our Children: A Critique of Hyperactivity, Attention Deficit Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, Autism, And Other Diagnoses", Breggin quotes research that links all childhood psychiatric disorders with child abuse and neglect. He goes one to talk about how Leo Kanner described autism as having to do with childhood upbringing--in 1948. Quite a lot of research has been done on autism since 1948! The chapter reads similarly to the quackery of people who denounce other science: the prevailing "ideology" keeps any papers that challenge it out of the peer-reviewed journals. That's why the quacks publish books--their professional peers don't have control over the publication of a book, nor can they stop it from being popular among people outside of the profession.

Apparently, Breggin hasn't updated his research on autism since he published the book in 1994. The American Journal of Human Genetics published an article in 2001 on genetic markers and autism. They found that chromosomes 5, X, and 19 were different in children with autism. Interepreting the findings is complex, but they would seem to suggest that autism has a genetic component. Also, with the multiple questionaires parents of children with autism must invariably fill out when seeking therapy, evidence of abuse and neglect would certainly be caught. A "refrigerator mother" would certainly be unable to talk about every detail of her child's behavior, because she wouldn't be paying attention, now would she?

I resent Breggin's resurrection of the "refrigerator mother" and the insinuation--no, accusation--that autism is the result of child abuse and neglect. My daughter has never, ever lacked affection. She has become quite affectionate with people she knows, but it had to come over time--and it wasn't for lack of trying on our part. I've never had a problem holding her, but I'm one of the very few in her life who hasn't. My wife certainly has no problems getting a hug or a kiss, either. We've never laid a malicious hand on her, either, and wouldn't think of it.

Savage attacked single mothers here, and insulted loving fathers who do take part in raising their children. Never mind that what he's suggesting is that we fathers verbally abuse the children we are around to raise. Discipline doesn't have to involve calling our children morons, putzes, and idiots. There is nothing constructive in this approach, nor is there anything in Savage's statement that would qualify as real discipline. Where is the correction?

Oh, and I can also tell you from experience that hurling insults at your child with autism will result in scripting (if your child is verbal at all), and you'll regret it. I have never verbally abused my child, but she did once wake me up at around 4:30 AM with a blow to my head with her electric guitar (she loves musical instruments, and even sleeps with them). I yelled the worst possible expletive I could yell before I knew what was happening, and she hasn't stopped repeating it. I've even tried to get her to replace it with something that sounds similar (e.g., fudge), but it hasn't worked. My wife once slipped and called her a "crybaby", and now she says it anytime she doesn't get her way.

Road rage is also not good around children with autism who happen to be verbal.

In contrast to my child, my niece learned to say "Bullshit!" when she was two. More accurately, my brother told her to say it, and she started repeating it with glee. I took her aside after seeing that her mother was getting quite embarasssed, and I told her to say "Bullpuckey!" It sounded a lot cuter, actually--but the point is that a parent/caregiver can do this sort of thing with a neurotypical child. Not so with a child who has autism.

"Autism! Everybody has an illness."

This statement comes back to Savage's insecurity about his own childhood behaviors being on the list of red flags for autism, not understanding, as I've illustrated, that it's a combination of symptoms and not one here or there that results in a correct autism diagnosis. Of course, that's if you buy into his spin. It could also go back to his original labeling of autism as "a fraud, a racket."

"If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, 'Don't behave like a fool.' The worst thing he said: 'Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry.' That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and your turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men."

Poor Michael Savage, always acting like a foolish girl as a child, crying his poor little eyes out.

Okay, that might have been a cheap shot, but he deserves it. It's too bad he didn't take his father's advice about not sounding like an idiot.

What if your kid is a girl? I have a daughter. Is she supposed to stop acting like a girl, whatever that means at age 4? Or is it that Savage is only concerned with boys? Or maybe only girls have this thing Michael Savage calls "real" autism, without ever defining it.

I could never take this guy seriously if he didn't have a radio show carried by 300-plus stations (some have dropped him since July 16th). He truly is a reflection of his father's child-rearing methods, though, because he makes a living insulting anyone with whom he disagrees without regard for intellectual dilligence, fact, empathy, or nuance, nor does he ever seem to suggest practical solutions for problems--he just complains about them.

"That's why we have the politicians we have."

Bad parenting is why we have bad politicians? Maybe, but I think that's a separate issue from autism. If 1 in 166 (or 1 in 150, whatever the current accurate number is; I'm using the TRIAD number because it's the most recent I came across) children have autism, that's hardly a majority of people, so it's not much of a voting bloc. That's just a weird conclusion to draw there, Savage.

Finally, we have the apologists for Savage. These people are the reason why I'm going after the sponsors. The apologists have painted him as everything but a simple entertainer to a full-fledged hero of children with autism, and it's making me sick, quite frankly. Here are the things I've been hearing and reading:

"He's just an entertainer."

No, people take him seriously, and say that he speaks the truth. He makes this claim himself. Furthermore, I have to wonder what sort of people are entertained by hearing that liberalism is a mental disorder, autism is a fraud and racket, homsexuals are perveted pigs who should die of AIDS, dissent should be met with arrest for sedition, Obama is a closet Muslim socialist, and the euthanasia of Terri Schiavo was the same as the beginning of the Holocaust. I suppose if no one took him seriously, or if his rants were taken as satire, which is Stephen Colbert's format, then it would be different.

"He wasn't talking about kids who really have autism."

That's what he claims, but that's after he made the claim that autism is a fraud and a racket, leaving a little loophole of one percent who have legitimate disorders. What he's done since is dismiss the autism spectrum, bring on an expert whose work suggests that he believes all of autism is the result of child abuse and neglect, and leave "real" autism undefined. He hasn't done a thing to educate his audience on what constitutes autism. Instead, his focus has been on how he has been persecuted, taken out of context, and maligned by the media and progressive groups--and how he's so heroic for bringing autism to the forefront of public dialogue.

No, Savage, you're no hero. Autism awareness has been growing without you. What you did was turn autism into a misdiagnosis, and you continue to do so by never defining "real" autism (if you say it exists, then you have to know what it is, right?), never educating your audience in any meaningful way on the subject. That's why you have to go.

"Media Matters is just trying to get rid of him before the election."

Media Matters has been pointing out what Savage has been saying for quite some time now. It's not like they made up something untrue about him, either; they simply passed on what he said to the American public. Now, he wants to shoot the messenger. He calls them Stalinists and fascists, which simply aren't compatible political worldviews; he calls them perverted, childless men. Also, to listen to Savage, you'd think Media Matters was the only group coming after him.

I'm coming after you, Michael, and so are a bunch of other parents (I certainly couldn't do it alone). There was no call for what you said, you're unapologetic about it, and we're now having to defend ourselves against your ignorant apologist listeners. I've already spoken to three apologists this week--one who was a listener and two who simply heard about the controversy and thought it had been blown out of proportion. Everyone has an opinion, and when you added fuel to the fire of ignorance, you made it harder for those of us who have children with autism, who are struggling to pay for therapy and struggling to help others understand our children, to gain and maintain acceptance in society.

"There are more important issues."

My child is pretty much at the top of my list of important issues. I want her to have a functional future.

Savage has thrown out references to obscure court cases that haven't been publicized, where someone is already going through the justice system, or has gone through it and the system failed (in his mind, anyway). It's a diversionary tactic, and it's really stupid. You can protest a court all you want; a jury is going to be influenced by the evidence presented in a case, both forensic and testimonial, and by the arguments of the attorneys. We don't try people in the court of public opinion. That's a good thing. We don't want to live under ignorant mob rule. Media sensationalism and political/special interest opinion would destroy anyone's right to a fair trial. Think about the O.J. Simpson case: how difficult was it for the court to find jurors who didn't have knowledge about the case or a firm opinion on it? Activism doesn't belong in the justice system; impartiality and objectivity should be the standard.

I've heard more from Savage apologists, but I think I'm going to end this extraordinarily long post here. My next piece will be more positive and inspirational, I think. I've been indirectly introduced to an extraordinary young man who has been advocating for his younger sister who has autism. The story of his family turns everything Michael Savage has said on its ear, and it moved and humbled me so much, I absolutely have to share it.

Till next time.

The Heritage Foundation Reponds Re: Michael Savage

I received the following email message from The Heritage Foundation yesterday:


Subject: Heritage doesn't advertise on Savage


It came to our attention today that a blog post you wrote last Sunday incorrectly identified The Heritage Foundation as an advertiser/sponsor of The Michael Savage Show. That is incorrect.

We do not now, nor ever have, sponsored or run ads on The Michael Savage Show. Would you mind correcting your blog post to reflect this?

Please let me know if you have any questions.


The Heritage Foundation
Robert B. Bluey
Director, Center for Media & Public Policy
214 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002
tel: (202) 608-6155
fax: (202) 544-6979
mobile: [removed by me]


Once again, we have someone whose advertisements have definitely aired during the Michael Savage show (at 10:21, 10:54, 11:21, 11:54, 12:14, and 12:43 on July 23rd on WDTK, for example), who denies advertising on the Savage show. What is going on?

It is worthy of note that no advertisements from The Heritage Foundation aired during the July 24th show on WDTK in the Detroit market. It is also noteworthy that DMI USA, Roger Schlesinger, Business Software Alliance, AFLAC, and Sears did not advertise on the July 24th show.

There were several new advertisers on the July 24th show. I have already updated the list with them. I wonder if they even know their ads are being used to support Michael Savage.

I did not get the chance to hear last night's show in my market. I had a guest in from out of town. I did get reports from other people and will be updating my list shortly.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reflection on autism diagnosis

Brain physiology is a tricky thing. One may dissect the brain of a cadaver, but observation of actual brain physiology during development is mostly limited to what neurophysiologists can see with electrical activity and MRI/CT scanning technology.

I was reading an article on autism diagnosis when it occurred to me that what is known about the brain are the areas where we should see electrical activity corresponding to various stimuli. Shouldn't children with autism display fairly consistent EEG data? The obvious problem--at least to parents of children with autism--is that getting the child to sit still for an EEG will be a major challenge.

If it is possible to determine which areas of the brain are or aren't firing the way they do in a neurotypical child, shouldn't stimulation of those areas with very low grade electrical shock or through specific physical activities help with the child's issues, at least early on, when the brain is most malleable?

According to Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, therapy for autism works best when tailored to the individual child--but that's true, in my opinion, of neurotypical children and education, as well. I think that my friend Angie is correct in saying that the reason there is an autism spectrum and the reason it is so broad is that children with autism span the same range neurotypical children do--except with autism added. If that assumption is true, and it seems logical that it is, then there should be some common physiological feature that defines autism--which means medical diagnosis is possible, with treatment that has much less trial and error involved.

Has anyone seen research in this regard?

Just how ridiculous is Michael Savage, anyway?

I just had one thought that came from Savage's show last night. Before some of the segments of his show, they play clips from past shows (Please remember that I am only listening to this garbage to make sure my list of sponsors is accurate, and will never debate him point-by-point). One of those clips involved Terri Schiavo. Savage compared pulling the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo to the beginning of the Holocaust, linking liberals to Nazis in the process.

However one feels about the whole Schiavo ordeal, how could anyone in their right mind compare a euthanasia issue with the wholesale slaughter of millions of people to fulfill the sick fantasy of racial and cultural purity?

I guess if you listen to his show from the perspective of anticipating what ridiculously outlandish thing he is going to say next, it might be entertaining. I just find it disgusting.

Savage keeps saying that his rant about autism was taken out of context. I say that there is no context into which you could put his words to make them any less incendiary, and his subsequent shows have done nothing to make me feel any differently--he still denounces the concept of the autism spectrum as something made up by greedy pharmaceutical companies and doctors, casting suspicion on families whose children have the diagnosis of autism. He's saying that he's defending the defenseless, the children who really have autism, but he's actually hurting them--us, in the case of my family--by labeling autism a misdiagnosis in most cases.

In the time my wife has been on autism message boards (since Caitlin, our daughter, was two) and in the short time I've been on them myself, we have found that the autism community is quite skeptical of doctors (as just about anyone who has dealt with the health care industry will be--I really must talk about my back sometime and the six-month circus that occured before I had any sort of treatment). I encourage such skepticism; therapy for autism isn't cheap. I just dropped nearly $1600 down on classes that meet three days a week for a couple hours each day so my child can receive therapy from professionals. Savage probably would call this therapy a racket, too, but I've seen the progress my daughter has made in this time. She's really learning how to interact properly in social situations in a way that is fun for her. Her clarity of speech is improving. It was a real sacrifice in my current situation to spend that money, but the best research demonstrates conclusively that children diagnosed with autism respond best to early intervention. The longer parents wait, the more difficult it becomes to get the child to respond to therapy.

There is a physiological reason why early intervention works. Anyone who has studied childhood brain physiology (I know, it's a hobby for us all!) and mental development knows that when we are children, we have the ability to form more connections between synapses, known as dendrites. This physiology is the reason why we learn language best before the age of ten--the more connections we make early on, the easier it is to maintain them later. For the child with autism, the earlier the diagnosis, the more malleable the brain will be, and more likely it is that the brain can be "rewired" a bit to get around the issues associated with autism.

With the kind of therapy we're providing for our daughter, even if she didn't have autism, she'd benefit from the social interaction and the mental stimulation. The people who have been involved in her therapy at The Abilities Center in Walled Lake and at the Bussey Center in the Southfield School District have always want to involve the parents, as well; they send us information on what they're doing with Caitlin and how we can help.

I encourage skepticism; I denounce derision. The former is a quality rational, protective, loving parents have where there children are concerned; the latter is a quality Michael Savage has.