Monday, October 25, 2010

With charity for none, with malice toward all who are different...

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. Abraham Lincoln, 2nd inaugural address.

You guys just don't get it. My objection to the piece is this:

Hall hits every one of the touchstones of white supremacy. He attacks African-Americans, who he claims are lazy and stupid. He attacks Latinos, who he says are criminals and welfare recipients. He attacks Muslims, who he says are murderers. He attacks scientists who study global warming because he says they suppress debate. He attacks Democrats because they caused the financial meltdown and the mortgage crisis.

In brief, Hall strikes a strong chord with Republicans because he names nearly every prejudice they have and says he shares them. Every one of his statements is false, every one of them is inflammatory.

I published the letter that Hall sent me that explains what was wrong about my original post. I don't see that it alters the original thrust of my post, which was to show that he was lying when he said he couldn't retire. For example, he says he doesn't get social security or Medicare. But he is definitely qualified for them and could use their income to retire. I'm glad to know that he doesn't have military benefits or benefits from the Massachusetts Senate. He reaffirms for me that it is not personal poverty that prevents him from retiring, but personal choices that have nothing to do with African-Americans, illegal immigrants, or global warming.

Hall has a degenerative disease and supports his adult daughter in a separate household. He will definitely retire when his disease prevents him from working. At that time his medical bills will be covered by Medicare and part of his living expenses will be covered by Social Security. In addition he has an IRA and he owns at least one house.

Contrast that with the situation of my friend, Lee, who has only a high-school teacher's pension and a small house in a rural area of California. Lee believed that Hall shared the same problems as he does, but Hall was lying. By Lee's standards, Hall is well-off. He has been earning a good income at steady jobs for 40 years.

Instead of considering himself well-off, Hall pretends he is persecuted, and names all the groups that he believes should be persecuted instead of him. His anger at these people show he is perfectly willing to do that.

We will not be able to solve the problems of this country by blaming the victims of failed social policies, or by pretending that global warming will go away if we ignore it. We will not be able to confront an inconvenient truth if we turn to Fox News for comfortable falsehoods.

Instead of stoking the fears of his fellow true-believers, Hall should be seeking solutions that are acceptable to all. He and the rest of the Republican Party are using fear and hatred to splinter our country and make us unable to work together for the future.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Robert A. Hall Responds

I received this email in response to this post.--Allan

I am the Robert A. Hall that you posted this string of lies about. Let me address them.

First, you are correct that I am not the Robert D. Hall whose pictures and name some idiot added to my piece “I’m Tired” as it went around the net since February of 2009. I assume it wasn’t done with malice, but because the person assumed there could only be one Robert Hall in the world. I am not responsible for the lies other people tell on the web, as you have.

If you look at the original post on my website, you will see that the actor’s picture and name are not there:

I’m Tired

I didn’t retire from the Marines. I served four years in the regulars and later another six in the reserves. I was not a Lt. and will never receive a penny in retirement from that service.

I do not receive a penny in retirement from my ten years in the Massachusetts senate. I had a small amount in the retirement fund, which I used as a down payment on a home costing about $45k.

I do not collect social security yet and am not on Medicare yet. I have paid into these systems all my life, but have yet to get a penny back. I may die before I do.

I have worked for associations in the private sector for the last 29 years. I am supporting two households, my wife and I in a small condo her in the Chicago area and my druggie step daughter, who is 35 and never worked full time, in a condo in Wisconsin, though she steals from us. I support her because she has a daughter, ten, who we love dearly, who would go on the street if we evicted her. The step-daughter is, of course, a fervent Obama supporter, as she hopes to live off the taxpayers after I can no longer work.

I do have an IRA, but it’s not enough for me to retire and meet these financial obligations, especially as it’s down so much since the Democrats took control of Congress four years ago. I’m not sure how much longer I can work, as I have pulmonary fibrosis, a terminal illness that kills more people every year than breast cancer, but gets very few research dollars, as it’s not a political disease. I’m on oxygen, but still working full time.

I’ve also published three books, but not made a penny on them, either. The one that is selling well, Chaos for Breakfast, directs the royalties to charity.

You’ll note that my blog has my full name and 950 followers (, while yours has one follower and no name. So who is the honest person here? Looking at the lies you’ve told about me, I think people will know.

Other pieces that your readers might be interested in are below.

Robert A. Hall, Med, CAE
Des Plaines, IL

[Editor's note: I replied to this post at]

The Choice

Why the Rich Should be Taxed More

This I believe

The Coming Collapse of the American Republic

Economic Facts of Life

I’m dying

Posted by TartanMarine to Masri Zone at October 24, 2010 8:26 AM

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Aren't you scared yet?

One thing Republicans are doing this year is promising to solve all our problems by passing constitutional amendments. Sometimes this promise is the only specific promise a candidate makes during the campaign. Voters considering support for one of these candidates should ask them what else they intend to do in Washington. Constitutional Amendments rarely succeed, sometimes taking 20 years or more to become the law of the land. So what is your representative planning to do while waiting for his or her amendment to be ratified by 3/4 of the states?

They're also sending out spam, sometimes in the form of chain letters. Here is one of them.This is amusing. The Republicans have shown us this year what happens when they go to a bunch of inexperienced candidates. They're all nut jobs! On the other hand, some great people are long-time congressmen, like Nancy Pelosi, Jackie Speier, Pete Stark, Maxine Waters, Henry Waxman, George Miller, Barbara Lee. Do we really want to throw these excellent congresspeople out so the Republicans can have a shot at their seats? Most of the power in Congress comes from seniority, so it's no surprise that the people mentioned above have powerful positions. Do we want to replace them with people who have no power at all?

The Republican Senate has contributed greatly to the low opinion people have of Congressmen, by filibustering, voting against, and objecting to nearly every progressive bill or appointee that has come before them. Their intent is to make the Democrats look bad because they didn't pass the legislation that Obama promised. One Republican Latino group has advised Latinos in Nevada not to vote "because the Congress hasn't kept its promise to Latinos." The Republicans want you to be discouraged. If Latinos follow their advice, Sharon Angle could be elected to the Senate. This is a person who favors militarization of the border, no amnesty for undocumented latinos, and

The current congress, despite complete Republican stone-walling, has passed the first universal health care law in our nation's history, a government stimulus bill that funded 2.5 to 3.5 million jobs as well as many much-needed public works projects, and a financial reform package that brings the Financial industry back under control.

Speaking of financial reform, one of Obama's key advisors and a strong advocate for consumer rights is Elizabeth Warren. But she can't be appointed the new consumer rights tsar because of Republican opposition. The Senate could hold her nomination hostage indefinitely while they smear her daily on their Propaganda channel (Fox).

Perhaps the most important defect in this idea is that newcomers to congress are suckers for the lobbyists, since they have no information and the lobbyists are happy to give it to them and write their bills for them. This idea is a recipe for disaster.

But it would take a constitutional amendment to implement it, not just a bill. The Constitution specifically sets the terms for federal representatives. It took an amendment to restrict the president's terms to 2 (the twenty-second amendment). So this idea is going nowhere.


On Oct 20, 2010, at 2:00 PM, fred padula wrote:

Please forward:

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive the message. Maybe it is time.


A friend sent this along to me. I can't think of a reason to disagree.

I am sending this to virtually everybody on my e-mail list and that includes conservatives, liberals, and everybody in between. Even though we disagree on a number of issues, I count all of you as friends. My friend and neighbor wants to promote a "Congressional Reform Act of 2010." It would contain eight provisions, all of which would probably be strongly endorsed by those who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

I know many of you will say "this is impossible." Let me remind you, Congress has the lowest approval rating of any entity in Government. Now is the time when Americans will join together to reform Congress - the entity that represents us.

We need to get a Senator to introduce this bill in the US Senate and a Representative to introduce a similar bill in the US House. These people will become American heroes

Congressional Reform Act of 2010

1. Term Limits.

12 years only, one of the possible options below..

A. Two Six-year Senate terms
B. Six Two-year House terms
C. One Six-year Senate term and three Two-Year House terms

2. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they are out of office.

3. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people.

4. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

5. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise. Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

6. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

7. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

8. All contracts with past and present Congressmen are void effective 1/1/11.

The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen. Congressmen made all these contracts for themselves.

Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathersenvisioned citizen legislators, serve your term(s), then go home and back to work.

If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.

Robert A. Hall Sends Out Scary Email

Hi, Hon--

Robert A. Hall at 73
Thank you for sending me the forward from Robert A. Hall. I'm assuming, based on the fact that you sent it to me, and to your children, that you feel the email accurately reflects your own feelings and beliefs. Since I've recently sent you a fair amount of info about MY feelings and beliefs, I'm glad you want me to know what YOU feel, as well.

At the same time, Hall's email presents me with what is quite simply a not-to-be-missed opportunity.. because it is a perfect example of what is most pernicious about the way the Republican Right is manipulating voters. That entire email is a masterpiece of propaganda... carefully crafted to play upon your fears, speak to your life experience. What it is NOT... is sincere. Not in any way, shape, or form. He isn't who you think he is... and he doesn't have your best interests at heart.

Let's start with Robert A. Hall himself. I asked Allan to do some research on him, and the first thing he found is that the two photos on the email are NOT of the man who wrote it. They're both of the ACTOR, Robert Hall, from C.S.I. The dramatic picture in the email that shows a man covered with blood, facing what appears to be a brain... that man is NOT Robert A. Hall. And while that picture IS actually labeled truthfully, the other is not... and the juxtaposition of the photos with the email is DECEPTIVE. It creates the impression that the man writing the email IS the man in those photos.

The next thing Allan found out is that while Robert A. Hall claims to speak for the common man-- you know, the ones like YOU, who worked hard for 40 years and then couldn't afford to retire-- he actually has almost nothing in common with ordinary people. Though Hall claims he is being hurt by the policies of the federal government, he actually is not. In point of fact, he's been supported by government assistance (and hence, taxpayer's money) most of his life. He is eligible for Medicare, possibly receives Social Security, and enjoys an enviable lifestyle, due in part to his taking advantage of military benefits, serving as a public servant in the Massachusetts Legislature, and taking advantage of the educational system that is heavily subsidized by state and federal governments. (I'm just going to put in most of what Allan wrote here, and add in my own bit at the bottom...)

Hall neglects to add that he served as a Republican in the Massachusetts State Senate. This might explain why all his complaints are about Democrats, and why his intention is to demoralize voters during this off-year election.

When Robert A. Hall pretends he doesn't have enough money to retire, he's lying. By my count, he has at least 4 pensions, as a lieutenant in the Marines, as a former Massachusetts State Senator, as a worker in the private sector (Social Security), and, as executive director of non-profit associations since 1982, a 501(c)3 pension. We all wish we had that much retirement income. He owns his $250,000 condo free and clear. As a State Senator, he was able to shelter a portion of his salary from any taxes to invest in retirement instruments. His salary, as president of the American Association of Cosmetic Dentistry, from 2002 to 2007, was likely more than $150,000 per year, although he doesn't come clean about that. He also qualifies for federal health plans, Medicare and VA hospitalization.

Hall has also been writing right-wing articles for his blog and other publications. He's not saying how much money he gets for these, though others who do the same thing are not hurting.

Many of us are not so lucky as he. For example, those who had their retirement money in 401k equity accounts saw the accounts lose 50% of their value in 2008-2009. It will take years to recoup those losses, but of course people who are retiring don't have years to wait. But the people who lost their retirement funds are not to blame. They are the victims. The ones whose greed caused the financial meltdown are responsible for the suffering of millions. One of these, AIG, has donated $18 million to the U.S. Chamber of commerce since 2003. They still owe $50 billion to the U.S. taxpayers for their bailout. The CoC uses their donations to finance attack ads against people who voted to regulate the financial industry.

Hall's email contains a hodgepodge of false and prejudiced claims (... if you have favorite ones, pick them and I'll address them in detail-- otherwise, it would just be too time-consuming... and many of his complaints are too general). Its viewpoints about race and ethnicity are similar to those of white supremacist and other hate groups around the country. Hall hopes that he can get away with stoking hatred as long as he isn't wearing a sheet or a nazi uniform.
What Hall does NOT do is offer any solutions. He stirs up anger. He echoes frustration. But he leaves his readers with a feeling of hopelessness. It's quite clear his intention is to stop you from voting by piling up lie upon lie, prejudice upon prejudice, none of them backed up by facts, until you decide it's just not worth it to go to the polls.
The superwealthy heads of corporations, such as Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, have been spending millions of dollars to buy this election, through front groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and willing stooges like Beck and Rove. The banks and stockbrokers are upset by the current administration's success in financial reform. The insurance industry is upset by the passage of health care legislation. The energy companies are concerned that their subsidies may be re-routed to renewable energy sources and companies looking for environmentally sensitive solutions. The New York Times reports that half of the $50 to $70 million the Chamber will spend to buy this election will ome from just 45 corporations, many of which received billions of dollars in bailout money from TARP. These 45 corporations are managed by just a tiny handful of superwealthy executives, like Rupert Murdoch. When asked whether stockholders would be consulted about his $2 million in contributions to Republican candidates, Murdoch replied no, that if the stockholders didn't like his actions they could vote him off the board, otherwise he would do exactly as he sees fit.
Hall's role in this election is an important one. If all the voters who would benefit from the decline of corporate influence stay home, the corporations will win and take back the government. Then, the hundred or so executives of those 45 corporations will make all governmental decisions from now on.

Robert A. Hall isn't tired... and he could retire if he wanted to. He just doesn't WANT to. He's wealthy, he's successful, and he's having fun, doing what he likes. Why would he retire? Frankly, I think he's more likely to run for another office... and accrue another pension.

Hall's task is to make you feel frustrated, powerless, and hopeless. So you won't bother to vote.

Don't succumb to despair. Vote.

Lee-- I'm sure you know all about propaganda. I also understand that this is a brother Marine... but I feel certain that not ALL Marines, in your memory, were worthy of that name. This one is NOT... because this one is STROKING you.

If you doubt anything that Allan has said, or feel that any of the statements put forth by Mr. Hall in his email deserve a further answer, please say so-- and be specific. I will be happy to produce documentation (which, I assure you, Mr. Hall will NOT) for any statement that I or Allan has made here, so that you may judge for yourself who is telling you the truth.

Love, always--

Robert Hall responds

Friday, June 18, 2010

After the Vigil: a Few Thoughts on Activism, Human Nature, and Changing the World

Four days ago, I attended an oil spill “vigil” at Manasota Beach. It was organized by MoveOn.Org, and “hosted” by a local woman, Julia. I agreed to attend, and to speak, and to bring posters, and I did all of the above.

I also invited twenty or so people whom I knew locally. None of them came.

No, actually, one of them came. My Uncle Don, he of the beachfront home, he of the East Coast conservative “upper crust” pretensions and heavy gold nautical jewelry... HE came.

I didn't even know he was there till the end, when he approached me, and we embraced and exchanged a few inconsequential civilities. I didn't ask him why he was there, and he didn't tell me... but I suspect it may have had something to do with his home, which fronts on the Gulf.

Later, out of curiosity, Allan looked up Don's blog, “The Storch Report”... and sure enough, Don had made a new posting. Apparently he had attended, more or less, with the idea of scouting out enemy territory. Certainly he had nothing useful, or kind, to say; his pronouncement on the event seemed to be that it accomplished nothing, and that the people there were all stupider than he was.

But then, that pretty much encapsulates his whole reason for writing, anyway.

At first, in thinking back, I had to agree with him that nothing had actually been accomplished... people came, people spoke, disparate opinions were expressed, but no single useful idea or plan of action came from the evening, that I could see. On consideration, however, I've decided that actually, something WAS accomplished... something important.

There was a lot of “venting”, and a lot of sharing of stories and information relating to the spill-- what I read fell into those categories. There were also a lot of opinions aired. One woman in an eccentric outfit got up and told us we needed to throw out all the incumbents; a man was there promoting his scheme to make and sell compressed-air cars. Another man, who said he had worked on oil rigs, insisted that BP had caused the spill on purpose. Equally ludicrous (and unfortunate, in that it spread false information) was the Vietnam vet who told us that the dispersant that is being used in the Gulf is actually closely related to Agent Orange (only 10 times as toxic) and that a whole lot of us were going to die, over the next 10 or 20 years.

(...actually, considering the median age of the crowd, that last statement was somewhat... no, I'm not even going to go there.)

A man came from the newspaper and went around interviewing people. There was also a woman whom I strongly suspect of being a Republican plant, as she told us all how Buchanan is really a great guy (she knows him personally) and it's those OTHER guys (like Nelson, the Democrat) that we need to keep on top of. Then she invited us all to come to an event she said she was organizing. EVIL.

A couple men mocked us, saying we were “preaching to the choir”, and that “you won't get anywhere putting up pictures of dead seabirds... nobody cares”. I noticed, though, that neither of them had any alternate suggestions, so far as I could tell.

In fact, it has been said that one picture of a dead sea-animal is more effective than 10,000 “tweets” from BP. I will continue to hope so.

The event was well-attended, for a rainy evening in Englewood in summer; there were between 40 and 70 people present. That in itself was a positive thing... because I know many (including myself) were surprised to find that they were less alone than they had thought. Still, the disparate nature of the many views expressed, and the lack of a practicable outcome were more than a little disheartening. Some people began to wander off, eventually, looking discouraged; others raised their voices in loud discussions, and all efforts at maintaining a coherent “meeting” were abandoned soon after that.

Since the meeting, I have been troubled in mind, with feelings more than a little mixed. On the one hand, I'm quite pleased with my own part in the vigil; my three posters were a big hit, and the article and speech I prepared met with a very satisfactory reception. Although I became emotional at a couple points while I read, I was able to regain control; beyond that, I felt that I spoke with an uncommon force and clarity. A number of people came up to me afterward to embrace me, press my hand, tell me how much what I had said had meant to them, and how I ought to send it into the newspaper.

All very heartening. Still, I wished that I had been able to do more than move people... but I was just like them. I had no idea what we could actually do.

One man waxed eloquent about how we could all conserve, individually, by riding mopeds and taking solar showers in the back yard, and so on... commendable, surely, but it doesn't clean up the spill, or stop companies like BP from continuing to maximize profits at the expense of everyone and everything else in the world.

IS there anything we can do, that would make any real difference?

I'm not sure. I've never been a “political” animal; I don't easily comprehend and retain the workings of the various institutions that drive us. Also I know myself to have definite limits when it comes to how much I can do, and what I can handle. Yet I'd very much like to help, somehow... because I do care, deeply.

I've had a few thoughts, over these past days-- nothing new, certainly, but just possibly worth remembering...

Firstly, I personally can contribute my strengths and gifts, if I can find a way to apply them. I can write well, speak well, sing well. I can inspire people, and move them. I also tend to think “outside the box” (possibly because I LIVE outside it). ALL potentially valuable.

Most of my thoughts, though, have been about people in general. How to “reach” them? How to begin to change their minds? How to get them to actually DO things? Those are the hardest questions.

In general, I think we need to EDUCATE people... by showing them the truth of things, and backing it up with proof, so that they will be protected from those spreading falsehoods. Then we need to organize those educated people to function as a larger force, such that they can begin to influence world events. That's what has tried to do, and to a certain extent, they have succeeded... they were a big factor in Obama's victory, after all.

They've done something else worth noting: they inspired Julia, and with her help, they brought together 40-70 environmentally-concerned people in the small and conservative town of Englewood, and got them to talk to each other. They got the newspapers and TV to pay attention, too, and they got people to notice that their neighbors were really riled about this Gulf thing... and that they were trying to do something. I'm not sure that's ever happened before... but I have a feeling it WILL happen again.

One of the things I keep thinking about is the concept of “critical mass”. When a critical mass is reached, say, in a physical or chemical reaction, things start to happen. I've often heard, in past years, that consciousness has a critical mass, too: that when enough people come to care about something, then, suddenly, they can create change... whether it's change in beliefs, in laws, or in the way the world is run.

Another thing worth remembering, I think, is that people are much more motivated to do things when they figure them out on their own, than when they are told, or ordered, to do them. Every good teacher knows this... that when kids “learn by doing”, they absorb much more than when they are lectured at, or ordered around.

The third idea that has been much in my mind, goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, and is a very old one, beloved of advertisers everywhere: “sex” sells.

I don't actually mean SEX, of course... a more accurate word might be “seduction”. Make an idea seductive, make it exciting, make it fun and appealing and interesting, and that idea will sell faster than you can say “iPad”.

Can sustainability be sexy? Yes, I think that's doable... and we need to find ways to do it, if we are to save this world. Unfortunately, it will take more than sexiness to save the Gulf. What CAN we do, in that regard?

I suspect that if there were a large enough public outcry, that Obama would feel it incumbent upon him to take actions that the large, ugly powers around him might disapprove of... like taking control of BP, perhaps, or seizing their assets. I am informed that he actually does have the power to do both of those things, in an emergency situation, without having to get it through Congress, et al. I don't KNOW that the government would do a better job than BP, but I suspect they would, because they wouldn't be averse to bringing in any experts that might be able to help... whereas BP wants to keep things secret, and to only use its own people. Plus, while I'm sure BP does want to stop the leak, I don't believe they want that as much as they want to continue to make a profit. Their capitalist motives are hurting the world.

In point of fact, capitalist motives have been doing an awful lot of harm recently. More and more, I wonder whether capitalism itself is to blame... or whether the problem has more to do with Big Business, and Big Banking. I DO know I will never again vote for anyone who has been CEO of a big corporation... because you only get into that position by putting profit FIRST.

Maybe that's why I'm not rich... because I believe putting profit first, is WRONG. Put people first, put Earth's welfare first... but I think Hippocrates said it best: “First, do no harm”. Doctors swear the Hippocratic Oath, yet because we are a capitalist society, most of them end up putting profit first, patients second.

Am I becoming...(gasp)... a Socialist?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Arizona has passed a very bad law

The state of Arizona has recently passed a new law that persecutes latino-American citizens in the name of controlling immigration from Mexico.

Arguing about this law with conservatives makes my head explode.

This law is simply bad law. Only the Supreme Court can determine whether it is unconstitutional, yet one conservative after another declares it is constitutional. Evidently being a talking head on Fox gives you insight into the future decisions of SCOTUS.

But we can all see it is bad law, because it moves us closer to a police state, in which all private actions are closely watched by the police and no one is ever safe from police interference.

The law does not define what is "reasonable suspicion". It is vague and general, and relies on the discretion of the individual, unsupervised police officer. Whether there is proof the law will be abused is beside the point. The fact is, it could be abused, because it offers no guidelines for the police.

Some have assumed that the legislature would not have passed the law if they believed it to be unconstitutional. This is obviously not true. Laws are passed because the politicians believe their constituents want them passed. So this is a politically motivated law.

What is that motivation?

Many people of Arizona do not like latino immigrants. Furthermore, they have no objection to subjecting citizens of latino heritage to harassment by the police. So the legislature and governor scored political points by giving them a new law. Yielding to bigots and racists is not a good reason to create a new law.

Many people of Arizona are upset that the federal government has not resolved the issue of immigration. So the legislature passed the law to send a message to the federal government that immigration reform is necessary. By doing so, many of them must have realized that the states cannot legislate in areas where federal law takes precedence. Passing a bad law to punish the federal government makes no sense.

Many politicians of Arizona would like to make a popular gesture in an election year. This includes many Senators and Representatives, the very people that are responsible for making improvements to immigration laws. But these people are ducking their responsibility. Instead of taking responsibility for bad laws and making better ones, they blame the poor and powerless, the ones who are the targets of this very bad law.

This is a very bad law

1. Because it is at least partially motivated by racial hatred.
2. Because it is at least partially motivated by political animosity.
3. Because it permits the harassment and imprisonment of American citizens for the crime of being brown.