BureaucracyBlog.com http://bureaucracyblog.com Fight bureaucratic injustice. Increase transparency and accountability. Tue, 15 Mar 2011 21:42:16 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Not a windmill after all? http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/336/not-a-windmill-after-all http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/336/not-a-windmill-after-all#comments Tue, 15 Mar 2011 20:40:42 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=336 My silence on this blog has been a trial. I’ve needed to have my attention elsewhere, but it’s been difficult not coming here in light of all that’s been going on.

I’ve written here now and then about hopes of the coming of an Age of Transparency, and then the dawn burst upon us and one of its names was Wikileaks.  And like other dawns, it was even accompanied by a chorus, even a symphony, of tweets, and other social networking sites buzzing.

And like other beginnings, it became messy and sometimes violent.  Very violent, as the revolutions and protests in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and Iran demonstrate.

I doubt anyone will ever be  able to draw a direct line from any Wikileaks document, specific FB post or tweet, to any resignation or deposing of any official anywhere, but that’s not necessary.   There’s an atmosphere, a field of influence, a spirit, to which they all contribute and in which they reside.

I’m glad to see it. I feel somewhat vindicated by it, and feel certain Dad, parked in some celestial recliner somewhere, feels vindicated, too.  If you’re so inclined, check out the latest addition to the library of his columns.  There’s a subhead in that column that reads, “Visionaries Are Scoffed At.”

Dad was certainly a visionary, and I have inherited that particular gene, or curse, or blessing, depending on your perspective.  At times it’s all three.  It’s a wonderful thing because visionaries can see a beauty that isn’t yet, and be driven by that beauty, and try to make it real.  It’s a horrible thing because there can be few or no others who can see anything similar, and when others pay any attention at all, it’s likely to scoff or worse.

When Dad left the newspaper and wrote that column, he was given a copy of it engraved in metal and framed.  I’ve seen it nearly every morning since he died in 1997.  It hangs in what may seem an odd place: in the kitchen, next to my coffee bar.  I like it there because seeing it at the start of the day reminds me that I came by this visionary propensity honestly, and his column is proof that there are other people in the world who get it.  It also reminds me that when scoffs and worse come, the appropriate response is, “So what?”

Twenty five or so years ago I set out on a path having to do with a particular vision of people being treated well, with respect, especially dis-empowered people, and how people in power treat them.

My attention focused first on child protective services, and how it can become better by treating everyone involved, including the workers, with respect.  That focus of attention was by choice, and I gave it my all, even to making that the center of my doctoral research. Next, I became intimately familiar with the maltreatment of another state agency, this time not by choice. Bureaucrats who were more concerned with preserving their power than serving the populace did what they could to silence me through a different arm of bureaucracy.  I gave my all once again because it was either fight or give up my credibility, and without my credibility, I would have no way to advance the vision I had about people being treated better, with honesty and respect.  The fight took pretty much everything, literally, but I came out with my credibility.

I also came out with a sharpened vision, about how much bureaucratic maltreatment there is and how to reduce it.  I’ve studied and researched and at times wondered if all this vision does is present a distorted image of a windmill on the horizon, and what a fool I’ll find myself to have been.

I’ll know better about that pretty soon.  If it turns out I’m a fool for thinking I can do anything to make things better, so be it.  I’d rather be a fool reaching for something beautiful than a cynic congratulating myself on rendering an accurate description of the mud on the ground.

But maybe I haven’t been tilting at a windmill.  Maybe there is a way my experience and knowledge can be put to use to make a substantive difference.  When the gubernatorial campaign started up last year, Peter Shumlin struck me as also being a visionary, and therefore someone who might be able to understand this vision that I see.  I put in time on his campaign, and at a couple of campaign events buttonholed him about meeting with him after he was elected.  Given the field of Dem candidates and their favorability ratings, he wasn’t “supposed” to win, but he did, and now I get to lay out the vision, along with the nuts and bolts of how to make it real.

Windmill, or something else?  I have two meetings scheduled in the Governor’s office–this Friday, March 18, and Thursday, March 24.  I’ll update here after those meetings.

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Here We GO! VT State Ombudsman on the Horizon… http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/326/vt-state-ombudsman-on-the-horizon http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/326/vt-state-ombudsman-on-the-horizon#comments Wed, 10 Nov 2010 18:13:12 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=326 The long absence from this blog, though coinciding with a personally rocky road, hasn’t equated with inactivity.

Far from it.

I put in some time both pre- and post-primary on Peter Shumlin’s campaign for governor, and thanks be to all who voted him in.  I’m certain we’re on the cusp of happier political days in Vermont.

I had intended an official launch of a State Ombudsman Campaign to be a few months ago, but circumstances, including the passing of one of the dearest and most significant people in my life, resulted in its delay.  If you’re new to this blog, the short story is that after having encountered and witnessed much in the way of Kafkaesque machinations and injustice in state bureaucracies, I planted this little seed of creating a State Ombudsman in Vermont.  I’ve watered and tended it to become a healthy growing thing, but now it needs the attention of many more people to become the thing that will bear good fruit for the citizens of this fine state.

Though delayed, the timing is good,  because now the election has come and gone and all Vermonters know (or can easily find out) who their state legislators are for the session starting January 2011.  The focus now is on people contacting their legislators to say they think creating a State Ombudsman is a good idea.  The idea has bipartisan support, e.g. Rep. Anne Donohue (R) and Sen. Harold Giard (D). The legislators I’ve talked with so far have identified additional reasons for having a State Ombudsman that I hadn’t thought of–such as its dovetailing well with Challenges for Change–so it seems an idea whose time has come.

The one-page State Ombudsman Proposal is here.  Right click to download it. Distribute it, talk it up, email your pals, post on Facebook and Twitter.  We’ll be seeing transparency and justice increasing in Vermont when the legislature makes it so!  We can do this in 20012, yes?  Maybe even 2011??


Deborah Alicen

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Open Records blog on transparency pros and cons http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/322/open-records-blog http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/322/open-records-blog#comments Tue, 22 Jun 2010 00:09:42 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=322 So  nice to come across someone else’s post that’s about one of the things on my list of topics to get to.  Open Records is a blog I’ve mentioned before. Leslie Graves and Joshua Meyer have done a consistently good job of  reporting on these things, and The Pros and Cons of Open Meetings is true to form.

I’ll offer a brief comment on one aspect before I leave you to read their article.  One of the reasons given, by an official who participates in the meetings, for not broadcasting open meetings on cable was “that meetings should not be taped because they are an opportunity to ‘not really worry about what we are saying.’”

I really do understand, and support, the need policy makers have to be able to have free flowing discussion without having to monitor every word they say before they say it.  A public meeting, however, is not the appropriate venue for that.  There are certainly work-arounds: tabling that particular matter until the next meeting; or taking a brief recess to allow board members to think over the issues and what they want to say or what questions they want to ask.

I certainly want all the people who set the rules by which I’m to live–from the city council right up to Congress–to have the time they need to educate themselves, ask stupid questions, make stupid comments, in the context of private conversations.  But when it comes to public meetings, the more open the better.


Deborah Alicen

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More moves toward transparency and accountability http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/313/more-moves-toward-transparency-and-accountability http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/313/more-moves-toward-transparency-and-accountability#comments Wed, 16 Jun 2010 00:01:15 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=313 The news, as ever, is filled with lots of horrific events.  I remember going round with my journalist father, Kays Gary, when I was in my first journalism class in junior high, about why newspapers were filled with mostly bad news.  His answer was that things out of the ordinary qualify as news, and if newspapers were to carry a predominance of positive, warm fuzzy stories, that would in a way be saying that those are the rare, non-ordinary things in life.  Better, he said, for “bad news” to hold place as the non-ordinary, and thereby (sort of) affirming the goodness of ordinary life.  Convoluted, and no doubt tailored for my 13-year-old brain, we just left it at that.

So the news is still full of bad stuff, but I detect a change in people’s reactions to the bad stuff, in that calls for transparency and accountability keep mounting.

Here are a few of the current stories that prop up hope that there is a substantive shift going on, and not just in this country.

Amrit Singh writes today on Huffington Post how the U.S. may soon face some measure of accountability for the secret “extraordinary rendition” program and torture undertaken post-9/11.  She tells a bit of the story of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen whom the CIA and Macedonian government detained and tortured. El Masri tried to obtain justice through the U.S. courts, but the government got his case dismissed by invoking “state secrets privilege.” El-Masri  has now taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights. While the U.S. is outside the jurisdiction of the ECHR, the court will need to determine Macedonia’s liability, and to do that, it will need to determine the role of the U.S. and form a judgment of the actions of the U.S.

On the same issue, the UK is launching a government inquiry into its role in rendition and torture. Many are hoping it will be done in such a way as to provide a model for how other governments should investigate their roles, as well.  All of that is good for transparency; I’ll hope the inquiries result in recommendations for, and actions to effect, accountability as well.  Otherwise in the UK, there’s been a coming clean about Bloody Sunday, that day in 1972 when British troops slaughtered 13 Northern Ireland demonstrators. A 12 year investigation determined that British soldiers were wholly to blame, and that determination has helped a lot of families heal some very old wounds.

The Roman Catholic Church, which has verbally made some progress in moving toward transparency and accountability in its multinational pedophile priest scandal, is also being challenged about financial transparency and accountability in Germany.  SpiegelOnline carries this report about enormous assets controlled by bishops, though just how much can’t be determined.  The bishops have no requirement to make full financial disclosure to the German government, nor do they even let the faithful in their own diocese know how much and what kinds of wealth they control.  And while there are clear indications that the amounts are, in most dioceses, quite large, and some of the bishops enjoy a lavish lifestyle, the rank and file of the church are going through major cutbacks.  So again, more of people calling for transparency and accountability.

The BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill cataclysm: good heavens, where to start?  Fortunately, the news is full of stories demanding transparency and especially accountability within and from BP.  Even the numbers of right wing politicians who’ve sought to protect BP is dwindling, as the catastrophe grows ever larger.  With all the different articles out there I’ll restrain myself and link only to this one.

May turning of the tide toward transparency and accountability become a great sea change, even to becoming its own Age.  Coming soon: a report on efforts to achieve more transparency and accountability in Vermont.


Deborah Alicen

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Of Gladiators and Children http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/310/of-gladiators-and-children http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/310/of-gladiators-and-children#comments Tue, 08 Jun 2010 17:27:02 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=310 One of my avocations is archeology.  I’ve never been on an archeological dig (yet), but I like reading about them and their discoveries, and the stories they suggest about the people who lived once upon a time.

This post is going to be about two articles I came across today.  The first one I came across, about Roman gladiators, was also posted today, and the second one was posted two days ago, but I found it after having read the gladiator story.

In Britain, archeologists have discovered what appears to be a Roman gladiator graveyard.  The discovery consists of skeletons, most of which were decapitated and the bodies apparently buried with respect.  Indications that the skeletons belonged to gladiators include almost all being male, their having been taller than average height for the time, and one arm having been stronger than the other, as happens when someone routinely wields weapons such as swords and clubs.  One of the skeletons also bears bite marks from a large carnivore, like a lion or bear.

The article offers a little education about gladiators, including that sometimes they started training for the profession in their teens.

Such a profession to choose.

That got me to thinking about gladiatorial events and the people who went to be “entertained” by them.  Yes, we now have the likes of UFC and WWE, and yes, I do wonder about those who find that entertaining, but at least it’s meant to stop short of someone dying.  It’s not that the minds of people who are entertained by violence and gore are unfathomable–having practiced psychology I know they can be fathomed.  But for all the understanding of the factors that lead people in that direction, there’s still and always the question of why they choose that direction.  There are enough other people coming from similar circumstances who made a different choice–enough to confirm that other choices are possible.

So there I am, wondering about the hearts and minds of people who, once upon a time, went to watch other people fight and die a violent death, for entertainment.  And then I came upon the second story, about children in a residential treatment facility in Texas.

It’s a story that reveals hearts and minds more depraved, I think, than those who went to gladiatorial contests.  In the latter case, they were watching trained, adult, professional warriors, and the contests were further sanctioned by the state and deemed a normal part of the culture.

The story involving the Texas children, however, is very different.

A joint report by the Houston Chronicle and The Texas Tribune, revealed hundreds of violations in residential treatment facilities serving the most vulnerable Texas children.  The incident among the hundreds that gets the most attention in the news report is when staff forced seven developmentally delayed girls to fight each other while the staff cheered and laughed.

Whatever the developmental debilitation of any of those girls, they come nowhere close to matching the moral debilitation of the staff involved.

There is one thing about the report itself that bothers me, though, and it bothers me a lot.  That’s the fact that findings of sexual abuse by staff received not much more than passing mention.   Granted, there are many, and many types, of abuse covered in the article, including punching, choking, and illegal drugs, in addition to forced fighting and sexual abuse.  And the story also cites an earlier forced fighting atrocity at an adult care facility, which has become infamous as “the Corpus Christi Fight Club,” and one of its aims is to question why there wasn’t the same level of outrage over what happened at the facility for children. But to give the forced fighting center stage while short-shrifting the seriousness of sexual abuse of children can send a dangerous message, especially to perpetrators of child sexual abuse, who are always looking for validation that what they are doing “isn’t so bad.”

All of it, all of it, is so bad.

And WWE and UFC ratings just keep going up.


Deborah Alicen

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The reason why Justice hasn’t acted on Siegelman? http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/298/the-reason-why-justice-hasnt-acted-on-siegelman http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/298/the-reason-why-justice-hasnt-acted-on-siegelman#comments Thu, 20 May 2010 19:56:54 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=298 I’ve posted here before about Governor Don Siegelman‘s case, and have been dumbfounded, mystified, and all other such forehead-slapping reactions, as to why the U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t acted on his case.

Justice was something approximating timely in the aftermath of the flawed case against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. There have been many people of no small journalistic, political, and judicial weight who have documented and assessed prosecutorial misconduct in Gov. Siegelman’s case, and called for Justice to do something about it.

But not a peep from Justice.

I’ve been on the list to get email updates on the Siegelman case for a long time, and the latest one has that one little piece of information that starts dispersing the fog around the matter of Justice’s inaction: the involvement of someone very close to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Summarizing the content of the Siegelman email, and the other articles to which it links, would’ve been pretty much like re-inventing the wheel, so I asked Gov. Siegelman if I could reproduce it in its entirety.  The answer was yes, so here it is.


Tamarah Grimes…had come forward about misconduct in the Siegelman prosecution and wound up losing her job. A second, unnamed whistleblower fears a similar fate, or worse, if he comes forward.

Dear Deborah,

Scott Horton, Legal Affairs writer for Harper’s Magazine, exposes further misconduct in the Siegelman case quoting one member of the prosecution as saying that he would not come forward to expose government misconduct because:

–”you don’t understand, these people would kill me if they have to to keep the lid on this.” And Main Justice? “They’d be happy to learn that I was dead.”

Horton says the person responsible for subverting justice is David Margolas, Deputy Attorney General and the right hand man to Eric Holder. (Who is David Margolas? See Scott Horton’s speech below, 4th page, 3rd full paragraph.)

Please read this article and Horton’s speech linked in The Legal Schnauzer. It is chilling!



A member of the team that prosecuted former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman says he witnessed rampant misconduct in the case but is afraid to come forward out of fear for his life.

Scott Horton, legal-affairs contributor for Harper’s Magazine, made the revelation in a speech last week to the Rotary Club of New York and the American Constitution Society.

Horton says that one Justice Department whistleblower–Tamarah Grimes, of Montgomery–had come forward about misconduct in the Siegelman prosecution and wound up losing her job. A second, unnamed whistleblower fears a similar fate, or worse, if he comes forward.

Horton says he has interviewed both prosecution insiders, and they corroborate statements by key witness Nick Bailey that he was heavily coached and threatened with being outed as a homosexual. Says Horton:

As I note, two members of the prosecution team were appalled by the misconduct that drove the case against Siegelman. One of them filed internal complaints inside the Justice Department. The result? Her name is Tamara Grimes. She was persecuted, hounded, and finally dismissed from her position–in direct violation of the federal whistleblower protection statute.

And what about the second member of the team?

(He) tells me he will not step forward because he knows he would face the same fate. He even indicated the fear of a mob type–”you don’t understand, these people would kill me if they have to to keep the lid on this.” And Main Justice? “They’d be happy to learn that I was dead.”

Horton goes on to summarize the Justice Department’s disgraceful handling of the Siegelman case:

So today, even though the Siegelman case has been torn to shreds in the public and 104 state attorneys general, led by Grant Woods, the national co-chair of the McCain for President campaign, have formally complained about the Justice Department’s gross and abusive handling the case, the Justice Department admits no wrong. It’s even issued a series of brazenly false public statements in an attempt to cover its tracks.

The Siegelman prosecution hardly is an isolated instance of abuse. Horton discusses other justice-related matters, and the full speech can be viewed here.

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Bob Schieffer on Church Bureaucracy http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/294/bob-schieffer-on-church-bureaucracy http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/294/bob-schieffer-on-church-bureaucracy#comments Sun, 04 Apr 2010 20:05:22 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=294 To follow up on yesterday’s post, here’s a great commentary by CBS’s Bob Schieffer on Catholic Church bureaucracy and the pedophile priest scandal.


Deborah Alicen

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They may as well be Martians: what the Vatican doesn’t get http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/291/they-may-as-well-be-martians-what-the-vatican-doesnt-get http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/291/they-may-as-well-be-martians-what-the-vatican-doesnt-get#comments Sat, 03 Apr 2010 21:00:33 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=291 Like many people, I’ve been reading the reports of emerging charges of sexual abuse by pedophile priests in Europe, as well as reports of the mounting evidence of Pope Benedict‘s role, first as Archbishop in Munich, and later as Cardinal Ratzinger in the Vatican.

But there’s something I’m not yet seeing in the articles and analyses I’ve read so far, and it is a crucial point, so I offer it now as a retired psychologist who had the privilege of working with hundreds of sexual abuse survivors.

To date, every time a Vatican spokesman or other defender of the Pope opens his mouth, what comes out is a clear demonstration of how much they do not comprehend about the experience of sexual abuse; and, more to the point, how little they attend to what’s necessary for healing from sexual abuse.

Here’s a quote from Bishop Gerald Kicanas in Arizona, which concludes a Huffington Post story here, posted today.

“Cardinal Ratzinger, as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was always receptive, ready to listen, to hear people’s concerns,”  said Kicanas. “Pope Benedict is the same man.”

That pretty well sums up all the comments I’ve seen offered in defense of Benedict: that he’s been attentive, and often, much more so than others in the Catholic hierarchy. Indeed, the same article that ends with the above quote also mentions his having headed up important changes in how the Church responds to cases of pedophile priests. So from the perspective of those who are speaking out in defense of the Pope, he is a shining star, a role model, of  responsible ecclesial attention to the problem of pedophile priests.

And that is why they may as well be from Mars: in their world, all they see is that they have a problem, and that they are doing things to address the problem responsibly. What they see is that they, and specifically Benedict as Cardinal Ratzinger, took action to deal with their problem of pedophile priests.

To their credit, their recognition that they do indeed have a problem of pedophile priests is an improvement over pretending there was no problem, or at least not much of a problem, with pedophile priests.  We can think of them, then, as having made the leap from, say, one of Jupiter’s moons to the nearer realm of Mars, but they’re still not seeing what’s true for the victims of pedophile priests here on the surface of planet Earth.

What absolutely floors me in this situation—and I’m referring to the whole  sex abuse scandal that’s been hanging around for decades, not just the newer revelations from Europe—is that the Church appears to have not taken the step of learning from sexual abuse survivors and their advocates what is necessary for healing from that horrendous trauma.

Bishop Kicanas spoke of how receptive Benedict XVI is to listening to anyone’s concerns.  Listening isn’t enough.

Here’s the disconnect in a nutshell: from the perspective of the Vatican, they have listened and taken action to rectify their problem with pedophile priests.  But from the perspective of the victims, beyond a bit of listening they haven’t taken action toward effecting healing of the victims.

The Vatican does not show any awareness, in its public statements, that the problem crying for attention is, “What must we do to help these children of God to heal?” rather than, “What can we do to rid the Church of the scandal of pedophile priests?”

Jeff Israely‘s opinion piece posted on Time.com goes a step further than others I’ve read in calling for specific actions from the Vatican that would help the victims:

Rather than state another mea culpa for the sins of the abusers, the Pope must simply and publicly seek forgiveness for himself — and other bishops — for what we might call the sins of ignorance and denial and administrative malfeasance that some critics say border on the criminal.

I’ll note first that many critics say the malfeasance is criminal.  But to the point of Israely’s piece, public penitence and would be another major step forward toward giving victims what they need to heal.  But more is needed yet.  Here are some specific actions victims and survivors need to see in order to believe the Vatican “gets it,” that it puts their healing ahead of its concern over their scandal.

  • As new cases arise, act quickly. Immediately provide counseling for the victim and his or her family; immediately report the case to law enforcement authorities; and immediately provide for the alleged perpetrator to have a thorough psychological evaluation.
  • For pending cases, arrange for quick dispensation.  Draft canon lawyers from around the world, if necessary, to speed the church trials of priests known to be pedophiles. The case in Arizona, highlighted in the HuffPo piece here, screams to victims of clerical abuse that the Church doesn’t care about their healing.  There’s no excuse for letting a case drag out for years on top of years.
  • Establish absolute transparency in dealing with pedophile priests.  Too often agencies dealing with any form of child abuse hide behind the confidentiality rightly accorded the victim to avoid their own actions being scrutinized.  What’s necessary is to have an open process making the Church’s actions visible, while maintaining the victim’s confidentiality.

The Church aims to be Christ to the world’s suffering people.  To do so it must do everything possible to emulate Jesus the Healer.  Many good people in the Church do their utmost to do just that.  It’s time for those in the Vatican to come down to Earth and do the same.


Deborah Alicen

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“Sunshine is the best disinfectant.” http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/288/sunshine-is-the-best-disinfectant http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/288/sunshine-is-the-best-disinfectant#comments Sat, 30 Jan 2010 15:54:50 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=288 President Obama’s appearance yesterday in Baltimore with Republican House members was certainly a stunning event, not least in that it seems to have left some Republicans stunned as to why they allowed it to be televised live.  Obama seized the opportunity to lay out the biggest problem that accompanies demonizing the opposing party—members of opposing parties can’t then work together on anything without their constituents thinking they’ve somehow defected or sold out.  That leaves each side with nothing other to do than fight against each other, rather than accomplishing anything together, which is what voters need them to do.

At one point during his question and answer period, in a section having to do with the national budget, Obama spoke about wanting to bring transparency to all Congressional “earmarks,” those additions to necessary bills that add on monies for projects and programs in some congressional district or other, that the Congressperson gets to go back home and tout as what s/he has accomplished for the voters back home.  The President wants all proposed earmarks to be put online where everyone in the country can see them, as a way of discouraging some of the spurious and frivolous things that have historically been slipped through Congress.  It was in that context that he said, “I think sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

That applies, also, to the very event at which he was speaking.  It was the White House that wanted the event to be televised live.  The Republican House leadership at first resisted, then agreed.  Afterward, MSNBC’s Luke Russert reported that one House Republican said to him that “We shouldn’t have done that.”  The only reason for wishing it hadn’t been televised would be to keep from the public view the things the President had to say, especially about the process and dangers of demonizing everyone and everything associated with the other party;  that is to say, to be able to maintain the culture of demonization that has become so prevalent in U.S. politics.  Here, too, sunshine is the best disinfectant.

But while some in the Republican leadership regret the live telecast of sunshine being thrown into their works, I’m optimist enough to believe that a considerable number of Republicans were, albeit silently, cheering President Obama and the live telecast as opening a door to the return of a civility that used to be SOP in Congress, and which will give them a way to accomplish even more for their voters back home.

When did the demonizing take over?  Hard to say when it took over, but it certainly took root with the fundamentalist rise in the Republican party a few decades ago.  Quite literally, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others made claims that The Devil was behind much, if not all, of liberal politics.  I defer to Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, to impart the details of how that happened.  But prior to the rise of the religious right, respectful opposition among opposing party members was the norm.

May the sunshine that Obama brought to Congressional politics yesterday be the beginning of its re-establishment. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you can find it and the transcript here.


Deborah Alicen

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Cigna: “That’s just the way it is;” but not if Dawn can help it http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/285/cigna-thats-just-the-way-it-is-but-not-if-dawn-can-help-it http://bureaucracyblog.com/http:/bureaucracyblog.com/285/cigna-thats-just-the-way-it-is-but-not-if-dawn-can-help-it#comments Fri, 02 Oct 2009 18:06:24 +0000 Deborah Alicen http://bureaucracyblog.com/?p=285 Yes, I know that stories from corporate bureaucracy have been taking front and center here lately, but this is our time to undo what insurance companies have done.

One woman who is dedicated to that undoing is Dawn Smith. She was diagnosed with a treatable brain tumor for which Cigna has refused to pay. She’s been through nine denials over more than two years, and in the meantime Cigna has increased her premiums by more than 100%.

These are the kind of tactics that insurance companies have relied on for years to beat down the people whom they owe. And it’s generally pretty easy to get away with, because sick people generally don’t have a lot of resources–internal or external–to fight hard against the injustice of being denied coverage they’ve already paid for.

But every now and then a bureaucracy finds out that they’ve messed with the wrong person, and now it’s Cigna’s turn to find out they shouldn’t have messed with Dawn Smith. Here’s the video of Dawn’s story:

Word comes today that Dawn wants to travel from Georgia directly to Cigna’s headquarters in Philadelphia to confront Cigna’s CEO, H. Edward Hanway. She also wants to stop off in Washington, D.C. to talk with a few people in the Capitol along the way. There’s a fund raising drive underway to hire a nurse and an RV to get Dawn safely there and back. Go here to chip in.


Deborah Alicen

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