Monday, November 30, 2009

Bet She Won’t Try THAT Again

Newscoma had a hilarious post up Saturday about “cannibalistic advertising.” You know, those cute food mascots like the scrappy Frosted Mini-Wheats (including "Mr. Mini Wheat”), who brag about how they provide such a nutritious breakfast for their human, right before he chomps them to bits and washes them down with milk.

Just, ewww. Never understood why advertising agencies thought putting a human face on food was a good idea. Kind of flies in the face of tens of thousands of years of human taboos, guys.

Anyway, with that in mind I happened across this hilarious LSD propaganda film. What does this have to do with cannibalistic advertising? Just watch, you’ll see:

With that in mind, the holiday is over and I’m retreating back into my hole. Hope to be finished with my project in a couple weeks.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Corpse Of Compassionate Conservatism

It's proudly on display at The Corner:
Seems like there ought to be a stigma attached to the use of welfare. A little bit of shame can go a long way toward encouraging people to find jobs. The federal government may think it's doing people a favor by providing them with access to food, but it's doing them a disservice if it also robs them of the motivation necessary to break free from dependency.

Sure, because in this economy, the one and only reason people would be hungry is because they’re just too damn lazy to get a fucking job.

Thanks for maintaining the stereotype of the clueless conservative with absolutely zero understanding of poverty in America. I knew you folks were out of touch, just didn’t know how much.

Too Much Work

God forbid Sarah Palin should embark on anything resembling "work," and that goes for the American tradition of turkey dinner with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving. It's Quiznos sandwiches for the Palin family (didn't know they were open on T-Day!) because, as she told this news crew, preparing Thanksgiving dinner is "too much work":

She's right, it is too much work. Next year I suggest we all take the Christian NewsWire up on their War On Thanksgiving fantasy and go to Quizno's instead.

And as for that 5k race she started, well, that was apparently "too much work," too.

Speaking of work, Palin's agent has been very busy lining up the speaking engagements, including not one but two in Nashville. How did we get so lucky? I'm getting lots of e-mails from folks asking if I've heard about Palin's February 2010 National Tea Party Convention appearance at Nashville's Opryland Hotel. Yes, we're all just tickled to death about it.

Here's a little "Ms. Cheap"-style tip for you tea baggers balking at the nearly $560 ticket price: Palin is also booked for the National Religious Broadcaster's dinner on Feb. 28, 2010, also at Nashville's Opryland. Tickets to that event are a comparatively affordable $150, and even better she's appearing with Pat Boone, who I imagine is much more entertaining than Michelle Bachmann.

Unless, of course, she cancels. Which, given her recent history of not finishing things, is always a possibility. You know, someone should tell Palin that things would be a lot less work if only she could ditch her opposition to human cloning and find a way to be in two places at once.

Ooops. Looks like she's way ahead of me:

(Photo hat-tip, Wonkette.)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Memory Hole, Citigroup Edition

File this one under nobody could have anticipated:
DECEMBER 16, 2008

Citi Voices Upbeat View on Dubai

As Debt-Fueled Growth Weighs on City-State, Bank Raised $8 Billion in Year

MANAMA, Bahrain -- With questions about Dubai's looming debt obligations swirling, Citigroup Inc. said it had raised $8 billion for the Persian Gulf city-state over the course of the past year and still had a positive outlook on its economy.


Analysts and bankers in Dubai question where that cash is going to come from next year, especially since two pillars of Dubai's economy -- real estate and banking -- are feeling the pinch. The statement from Citibank did little to address those concerns.


A Citigroup official said the $8 billion in loan financing for Dubai had been syndicated from other sources, but that an undisclosed amount had come from the bank's own balance sheet. Mr. Bischoff, who visited Dubai in November, said at the time that the bank had "lots of billions" of dollars of exposure to Dubai debt.

In November 2007, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the sovereign-wealth fund owned by the capital of the United Arab Emirates, injected $7.6 billion into Citigroup. Earlier this fall, the U.S. government became Citigroup's largest shareholder, after the bank took part in a U.S. Treasury Department bailout.

Well isn’t that just peachy.

Meanwhile, our business press elites keep telling us that they are shocked SHOCKED to learn of Dubai’s debt woes.

No, really!

Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, but I thought the point of the bailout was so that companies like Citigroup would free up credit for American businesses and families. Not, you know, send it to bad debt risks in freaking Dubai.

And then we have this:

Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc., the bank owned 34 percent by the U.S. government, said it didn’t offer Brazil a stake in the company amid the credit crisis.

Brazilian Energy and Mines Minister Edison Lobao had said Nov. 24 that the New York-based company offered the stake as it sought to raise money -- comments that Finance Minister Guido Mantega called untrue later that day. Yesterday, newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported that Gustavo Marin, Citigroup’s Latin America president, offered the country a 50 percent stake in the bank’s Brazilian unit.

Is it just me or does it seem like these folks operate in their own little world where anything goes? No rules, no morals, just do whatever they please, answerable to no one?

I used to be worried about what would happen if banking behemoths like Citigroup failed. Now I'm worried about what happens whey they don't.

War On Black Friday

I simply do not understand the media’s fascination with the whole "Black Friday” storyline. Local TV stations even reported on how many “Black Friday” ads were stuffed inside The Tennessean. To me that just means I have to throw more of the paper in the recycling bin before bringing it inside.

I cannot fathom why anyone would want to head to a shopping mall on the one day of the year you are absolutely assured of having a horrible time finding a parking space, getting into stores and restaurants, and basically enjoying the shopping experience.

I just don’t get the whole “shopping maul” mentality that surrounds these holidays. Why would you subject yourself to getting trampled at the Toys R Us? Who are these people who wait in line 20-something hours at the Best Buy?
At the Best Buy, Hal Whiting from Bolton was the first person in line. Whiting claimed his spot early, getting in line at 10:15 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.

Though Whiting has never waited in line on Black Friday before, he said the deals were too good this year to pass up and believes his early arrival could save $800 dollars from this year's Black Friday deals.

Dude, that’s just crazy. Did you even get to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family? Pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie? Experience a little community, a little family, a little humanity? Or did you squander the entire point of Thanksgiving to save $800 on stuff?

We’ve been “shopping” for charitable donations in our family over the past few years. It’s a lot more fun and a lot more rewarding and a lot less hassle. I already have too many sweaters that don’t fit, household stuff I don’t need, gift cards I forget to use. At our advanced age, we’d rather help someone else at Christmas.

One of my favorite charities is the Modest Needs Foundation. You donate money to create “points” and then search their data base of “needs” to allocate your points. Many of the applicants are people in your own community: a family who lost a job and can’t pay the rent, someone who lost a house in a fire, even a non-profit wanting to develop a website. The needs are vetted by the organization’s Client Advocacy Specialists, ensuring it isn’t a scam, and they have a great data base you can search to find those needing help by locality, by cause, or by type of applicant (individual, social worker or non-profit).

There are plenty of other awesome organizations out there offering “gift giving” via charitable donations. I hope everyone considers giving a gift that matters this year. There are a lot of people who need help in this economy. Maybe instead of trampling each other to death at the Toys R Us we should consider a new kind of giving this holiday.

My list of favorite charitable giving sites:

Modest Needs Foundation

• Heifer Foundation

Seva Foundation

World Wildlife Fund Adoptions

Friday, November 27, 2009

You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me

Politico seems to think Harold Ford Jr. might be running for U.S. Senate -- in New York:
Democratic sources say that former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. -- who relocated to New York City after his unsuccessful Senate bid in 2006 -- has been talking about the possibility of running against vulnerable rookie New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Ford, who was mentioned as a possible appointee to replace Hillary Clinton in late 2007, has reportedly told associates that he's skeptical about the idea. But he may have commissioned a poll to test his popularity, according to a Tuesday night post on

I’m thinking no. There’s the whole Merrill Lynch thing and the whole South thing and the whole conservative thing. But mostly I think the South thing won’t fly in New York.

Just a hunch. You know, that “y’all aren’t from around here, are ya?” thing goes both ways. And please don’t bring up Hillary Clinton because she was a completely different scenario.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

BlueCross BlueShield Data Theft


Check out my December follow-up to this story.


Although the theft occurred Oct. 2, as of Thanksgiving weekend BCBS-TN customers, including employers, had yet to be notified of the theft. Maybe they were hoping no one would notice.


Someone needs to explain to me why computers with peoples’ personal information on it are still being treated like they’re harmless office supplies. If it’s got Social Security numbers, birth dates, etc., then it needs to be kept under lock and key. And don’t put it on every freaking computer hard drive in the office.

So now BlueCross BlueShield of TN is the latest to compromise people’s personal information:
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will provide free credit monitoring for any customers whose personal information could be at risk after 57 computer hard drives were stolen from an office at the state's largest health insurer.

BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Thompson said work is continuing to determine how many of the Chattanooga-based insurer's 3.1 million customers are affected.

The hard drives were taken Oct. 2 from a closet at the BlueCross Eastgate Town Center training center, where employees are preparing to relocate to the insurer's new state headquarters in downtown Chattanooga.

BlueCross earlier reported that 68 hard drives were taken.

Glad to hear those nine showed up somewhere. As a BCBS-TN customer, let me say the one year of free Equifax monitoring doesn’t restore my confidence that you folks know what the hell you are doing. Frankly, I never understood why Social Security numbers needed to be part of my medical file anyway. I’m sure I just don’t understand how medical billing works.

Even worse, a lot of this shit is for sale. We live in this Big Brother world of corporate information gathering where companies specializing in data mining harvest all sorts of information that drives decision making to maximize profits. It’s the free hand of the market at its worse, looking over doctors’ shoulders at what prescriptions they are writing:

The practice is known as "prescription data mining." Medical data firms annually blend several billion prescription records purchased from pharmacies and health insurers with physician data from the American Medical Association and other sources and sell the results to drug companies.

The result, according to critics of the practice, is increased prescribing of the newest and costliest, though not necessarily more effective, drugs.

The health insurance companies are selling this information? Ohhh goodie, yet another revenue stream. It’s bad enough they deny claims from paying policy holders; now they’re making money by selling the private information from those claims they do allow. Great. So glad we are asked to waive our HIPAA rights every time we check in at the doctor’s office.

Anyway, I thought some of the 3 million+ BCBS-TN customers should know that their personal information may have been compromised, because I certainly didn’t get a phone call from my insurance company about it. Thank you, local media: you did your job this time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Redistribution Of Wealth

It’s apparently still illegal:
German 'Robin Hood' banker gets suspended sentence

A German bank employee who secretly transferred money from rich to poor clients has been given a 22-month suspended prison term.

The 62-year-old woman, dubbed the 'Robin Hood Banker', moved more than $11m (£7m) in 117 transfers.

The court in Bonn was told that the employee, who has not been named, took no money for herself.

The bank made a loss of more than $1.5m (£1m) when poor customers were unable to pay back unauthorised overdrafts.

The employee was accused of allowing overdrafts for customers who would not normally qualify for them.

I have one question for this woman: why’d you do it? Was it compassion for the people who were overdrawn? A sense of the injustice that some customers would have so much, while others had so little?

Or just an obsessive-compulsive need to make sure everything tallied up at the end of the month?

I’m dying to know. And I think this story would make a fascinating screenplay.

(h/t, Moonbootica)

Pocket Book Politics

Back when I was kid I remember seeing this poster everywhere:

The poster I remember was different, though. It was rainbow colored (but then, wasn’t everything when we were kids?) and the font looked like handwriting. In other words, it was a little more hippy-dippy, but the message was the same:
”It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

I have been thinking about this poster a lot lately, what with all the talk about escalating the war in Afghanistan and calls by some Democrats for a war tax. So imagine my surprise when I heard Bill Frist fearmonger about the healthcare bill thusly:

Frist expects the bill will bring a lot more uninsured Tennesseans into TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program. He says TennCare’s roles could swell by 30 percent over the next decade. The extra money for that will have to come from somewhere, and Frist says one likely cut is education.

“And it’s going to fall back in the laps of the governors – Governor Bredesen, but even more importantly the next governor, who is going to have to cut education, who is going to have to cut the police force, in order to pay for these increased expenses.”

Really? You know, I don’t remember Frist or any of his Bush Administration cronies--or, for that matter, any of the tea baggers--worrying about expenses when they crammed the Iraq War down our throats with their lies and deceptions about mushroom clouds and yellow cake uranium.

Nor do I remember any sudden jones for "fiscal responsibility" when we decided to go after the Taliban in Afghanistan. It’s fair to say one reason our government is in its current fiscal mess is due to trillion-dollar wars that were never put on the books but simply passed on to the next generation, while this generation helped themselves to some tax cuts.

Someone decided to throw a little par-tay and have the grandkids pay for it. Sorry kids, no healthcare for you! We're spending your inheritance on war instead. Take it up with Bill Frist, he's one of the former Senate leaders who thought this idea was just peachy.

Now, I’m going to dispute the whole “there will be cuts in education to pay for healthcare” premise anyway, since education is one of those things for which there are federal grants (including Recovery Funds), though I imagine as soon as the Recovery money stops Frist and his cohorts will shout “See! Told ya so!”

Anyway, the idea that we must choose between educating our kids and keeping them healthy is just so much bullshit. How about both? Why do we have to choose? Only a Republican would think it’s one or the other.

Again I ask: how come there is always money for war, never money for things like education and healthcare? One of the things that kills me about our discourse is how the media always couches the debate on healthcare and education as a fiscal argument. They bought the Republican talking point hook, line and sinker.

Our media asks, Can we afford this? I reply: My God, can we afford not to? But on issues of war, "can we afford this" is rarely asked. It's, ohmygawdwe'reallgonnadie. News flash: people are already dying from lack of healthcare in this country. Crazy, ain't it?

Does Bill Frist know how many kids in Tennessee don’t have health insurance? According to FamiliesUSA, it’s one out of every 13 kids (or was--before the economic downturn. It could be worse now). What good is education if kids are too sick to get to school?

How often do we hear war spending presented in fiscal terms like this? Rarely. Yet an additional 40,000 troops in Afghanistan is estimated to cost $40 billion a year. That’s in addition to what we are already spending on the war.

Another $40 billion. That’s $40 billion on top of the hundreds and hundreds of billions we’ve already spent there. We’ve already sank more money into blowing up two countries than we needed to fund healthcare reform and education.

Why is it when it comes to things like healthcare we quibble about the pennies and go to great lengths to make sure a bill is “budget neutral.” Why don’t our wars have to be “budget neutral”?

Why is a war of choice always viewed as a necessity, but necessities like healthcare and education are luxuries?

I’m tired of people like Bill Frist telling us we need to choose between educating our kids and keeping them healthy. That’s just wrong. We just need to shift our priorities.

It will be a great day when the country realizes we can’t afford these little, decades-long military adventures any more. Sorry but we’ve got kids to educate, and a populace to keep healthy, and senior citizens to care for. We have levees to shore up and an energy grid to repair.

If you want your little war, go have a bake sale.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fox Is Still Comedy Gold


For those who asked, here is the video clip:

How absolutely precious that Fox News management would suddenly lay down the hammer about the constant lies “inadvertent errors” that have plagued the network (or, in Fox parlance, “quality control”). And they’re totally serious! They really really really mean it, you guyz!
Mistakes by any member of the show team that end up on air may result in immediate disciplinary action against those who played significant roles in the "mistake chain," and those who supervise them. That may include warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination, and this will all obviously play a role in performance reviews.

Oh noes, not the dreaded performance review. That must be the “official record” my mom always warned me about when report card day rolled around.

Anyway, now that management has promised to go all tough love on their hapless employees, I wonder what punishment may befall the individual responsible for this fuck-up?

Thursday, November 19, 2009



A friend writes of this story:
And do you know why the Psalmist is calling down such horrid curses on the leader's head?

According to my NRSV, the Psalmist says at 109:16--

For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and brokenhearted to their death.

And at 109: 30-31, the Psalmist concludes--

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would condemn them to death.

Google THAT, Cheri Douglas.

Aunt B is rightfully horrified by the “Pray For Obama: Psalm 109:8” T-shirt. She writes:

So, when this small subset of folks start throwing out Bible verses like only a small, chosen group will know or be able to find out what they mean? They look like dumbasses. Guess what? The Bible is a perennial best seller. Churches give them away for free. You can read them on the internet. Your secret code is not secret.

And therein lies the problem. We live in a secular culture, and in the internet age, free and easy access to Scripture is coupled with Biblical illiteracy to create a whole mess of problems. The result is everything from a botched bumper sticker slogan to people claiming there’s a Biblical justification for bigotry, war, oppression, and even “free market ideas.”

For those in the dark, Psalm 109:8 reads:

"Let his days be few; and let another take his office."

Ha ha. That’s so funny. Neat little inside joke for the wingnut Obama-haters. Problem is, Psalm 109:9 says:

"Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow."

Ooops. Not so funny anymore.

I think what we have here is a classic case of someone cherry-picking a piece of Scripture to make a political point, and folks, that just never ends well.

And yes, they end up looking like dumbasses:

Twitter user Cheri Douglas felt compelled to share the psalm with others. Reached by phone, she said she found it on a website while searching for Bible passages relating to leadership – a topic on which she writes, speaks, and consults for a living.

Ms. Douglas was unaware of the verses that followed the ones she referenced and doesn’t think that those who shared the psalm wish the President harm.

“I don’t believe there’s Christians who wish him ill will,” she says.

But Douglas does say she’s unhappy with the president and used the psalm to convey that she’d like him to serve only one term.

I don't think anyone any of these folks seriously wish the president harm either. But this is what it means to live in a post-Christian world. People who don’t really understand Scripture, are unfamiliar with the meanings of certain passages (like a Psalm sung for “Vengeance Invoked upon Adversaries”), and have no sense of context or Biblical interpretation just throw shit out there without really knowing what they are doing.

A hundred years ago this would have been called blasphemy. Now it’s just called reading the Bible on the internet. But then, a hundred years ago this never would have happened because religion was a much bigger part of American society then, and people weren't quite so Biblically illiterate.

Even better are the people who take these passages of Biblical Scripture out of context and try to make a mint hawking T-shirts and bumper stickers. The intersection of church and market is always an interesting place, fraught with peril and full of all sorts of spiritual potholes. Jesus overturned the money-lenders’ tables for a reason, people. Maybe the Cheri Douglases of the world haven’t Googled that particular piece of Scripture yet.

It’s a dangerous thing when people who are basically Biblically ignorant can Google their way through the Old and New Testaments and think they’ve got some kind of spiritual authority. Have you ever read the Bible? It’s tough stuff. It takes more than just a mouse click to understand what you are reading.

But this is where we’re at, people. This is how we get ridiculous ideas like the Conservative Bible project and people convinced that Obama is the anti-Christ. You know, a little religious education in schools wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It’s War On Christmas Time!

Gosh, and here I thought everyone was going skip the formalities this year, what with the recession and two real wars going on. But not ones to disappoint, the American Family Assn. has fired the opening salvo in the annual War On Christmas, calling for a boycott of Gap Inc.:
AFA is calling for a limited two-month boycott of Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic, the three stores owned by San Francisco-based Gap Inc., over the company’s censorship of the word "Christmas."
Right. Because one group’s free speech is another group’s censorship.
Last year, Gap issued this politically-correct statement to Christmas shoppers: "Gap recognizes that many traditions are celebrated throughout this season and we feel it is important to display holiday signage that is inclusive to everyone."

Christmas is special because of Jesus. It's not just a "winter holiday." For millions of Americans the giving and receiving of gifts is in honor of the One who gave Himself. For the Gap to pretend that isn't the foundation of the Christmas season is political correctness at best and religious bigotry at worst.
Yes but for millions more Americans the getting and receiving of gifts is in honor of the secular commercial/consumer event known as “The Holidays” and for the American Family Assn. to pretend otherwise is sheer dishonesty.

Sorry but launch all the boycotts you like, that bell won't be unrung. You will, however, present yourselves as a bunch of religious bigots that no one save a bunch of old Scrooges would want to be associated with.

Because nothing celebrates the birth of the Prince of Peace like an old-fashioned culture war.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Putting CNN In The Shame Corner With A Dunce Cap

This morning CNN’s Ed Lavandera gave us this stunning report on “warning signs” missed in the case of Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan:
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Nidal Hasan's family describes him as a good American, but several people who knew Hasan in his years at this Maryland military university say the high-ranking Army officer expressed extremist Islamic views. One says Hasan openly pledged allegiance not to the United States but to the Quran, and when asked of the constitution was a brilliant document simply responded no, not particularly.

Our sources asked not to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, and the investigators wouldn't comment on the details they offered.

(The online story is here.)

Wow. I’m just stunned. This is what passes for news on CNN these days? I think it goes without saying that Nidal Hasan is public enemy number one, he opened fire on a military base and murdered a lot of innocent people. But the fact that the “most trusted name in news” is now trying to determine if the Ft. Hood shooter was a “good American” and is using his religious views as a barometer is just jaw-dropping.

I wonder how often CNN asked that question of Scott Roeder, James von Brunn or George Sodini?

Did Hasan have extremist views? Well, duh. Opening fire on a group of innocent people is by definition an extremist act. But are someone’s religious views or opinions about whether the U.S. Constitution is “brilliant” extremist? How responsible is it to report snippets of someone's "remembered" conversation--someone you won't even identify? That's the sleaziest tabloid trick of all.

For shame, CNN. For shame.

Here’s a question for CNN and Ed Lavandera. How many times have we heard conservative Christians say they put God before country? Is this extremist?

Or this?

The problem with CNN and Ed Lavandera’s piece is that it’s hearsay and gossip. We are given no context for these snippets that someone remembers Hasan saying. The where and when and why are kinda relevant here. Was he wielding a Molotov cocktail when he said his allegiance was to the Koran? Or was he professing his faith, like those Christian homeschoolers who recite their daily Pledge of Allegiance to the Bible? There's a huge difference between the two scenarios.

CNN’s piece was shockingly unprofessional. It’s an affront to religious people of all stripes: the idea that you cannot espouse a religious view without being labeled an extremist is offensive. If you can't give us context, if you can't give us more information, then just don't run it at all. It's worse than irrelevant, it's inflammatory. And it’s appalling.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

“Government-Run” Healthcare Is Not Fascism (But This Bill Might Be)

Yesterday I was forced to debunk a right wing talking point near and dear to the hearts of the tea bag set which continues to go unchallenged by our punditry: namely, that the healthcare reform package is “government-run” healthcare.

Excuse me? True government-run healthcare is one in which the doctors are government employees and the hospitals, clinics, etc. are all government-owned. You know, like our VA. This healthcare reform package doesn’t do anything close to that. All it does is rein in some abusive health insurance company policies and provide access to health insurance for those who can’t afford it.

Indeed, while we do have a government-run healthcare system in this country, you must be in the U.S. military or a veteran to take advantage of it. And one might ask the tea bag set why a true government-run healthcare system is fine for our soldiers and veterans but not fine for the rest of us.

With that in mind I headed over to one of my favorite bloggers and saw that he, too, is discussing the “government takeover of healthcare” thing. So before I retreat back to my bat cave for another week of hard-core creativity, I thought I’d point people to The Search For Integrity for an interesting perspective on healthcare reform and why we need the public option.

The Reverend points out some very inconvenient truths about this healthcare reform package. For example:
One complaint is that a public option will have to be paid for with taxes, or, more directly, that the premiums paid toward such a plan amount to a tax. Sure. But at least those tax dollars go to the government, which is ultimately responsible, however unwieldy our system is, to the people. I can vote the decision-makers in and out of office, raise a public outcry to persuade people to join such a cause. Clearly Congress has the power, constitutionally, to raise taxes. But does Congress have the power to require people to put money directly in the pockets of private corporations? Money that is required by law to be paid out of people’s incomes is a tax, any way you cut it. Why should my tax dollars go, not to my government, run (however imperfectly) by people I can vote for or against, but to a company, whose primary motivation is profit, which has every incentive to provide denial of service to its customer (me), and which lives in a culture that thinks it is just fine to pay its executives millions or billions of dollars, and feels it must do so in order to retain such “talent”?

Directly taxing the people in order to enrich corporations is fascism. That’s what an individual mandate without a public option would bring us to.

Now, of course, it won’t be called a tax, it will be called a premium. I think that’s kind of funny, really. If it’s a payment required by law, it’s a tax, and if it’s a tax, it should go to the government. If instead of going to the government it goes to a private corporation, what does that say about who is really in charge here?

Someone needs to ask Senators Joe Lieberman, Mary Landrieu, Olympia Snow, Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker and all the rest why they support fascist healthcare system in this country. I thought they were against that sort of thing.

Anyway, I urge everyone to read The Reverend’s entire post over there because there’s a lot of good stuff and a lot of great food for thought.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How Not To Evangelize

Via Pith In The Wind we have an update on the “Not Religious? You’re Not Alone” billboard I wrote about here.

Now, as many of my regular readers know, Southern Beale is “religious.” However I’m as offended as the most avowed atheist at the way religion is used as both a marketing tool, get rich quick scam, and a political wedge in this country. In fact, there’s a lot about modern American religion that offends me these days. So when a secular group does a little old-fashioned billboard evangelism (and trust me, Nashville has seen plenty of the other kind--including, in answer to the lady who called, one at Harding and I-65 which said you will burn in hell if you don't believe in God), I think it’s a positive step. News flash to the churchy set: you got a little competition in the message wars.

Of course, some folks didn't like it. Here are the messages Secular Life received on their answering machine from a few of those people:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stupak Stupidity

You know, I thought conservatives--Blue Dog Democrat and Republican alike--were against government interference in private enterprise.

Or a government bureaucrat coming between doctor and patient.

Yet it seems that is exactly what they are doing by jumping on board the Stupak bandwagon:
Sixty-four Democrats voted for Stupak’s amendment, without which the House healthcare bill would not have won final passage in a 220-215 vote.

Stupak’s language not only prohibits abortion coverage in the public insurance option included in the House bill. It would also prevent private plans from offering coverage for abortion services if they accept people who are receiving government subsidies.

Gosh, where’s the free hand of the market when you need it? I wonder if the Tea Partiers are concerned about this gross government intrusion into private enterprise? Aw, who am I kidding!

You know, I love it when my lady parts are turned into a political football. It makes me feel so very special. So much like ... gosh, what is the word I’m looking for? Oh yeah: chattel. Frankly, I’m a little creeped out Congressman Stupak is even thinking about my lady parts in a bill that does so much more to overhaul health insurance. It’s a little pervy.

Yes, this royally pisses me off. But you know, a reality check, people. Being a woman has been a pre-existing condition since, you know, forever. As I pointed out when I wrote about this last month, gender rating is widespread in health insurance markets (that’s where women pay more than men for identical plans). So, you know, what’s a little inequality among friends? We’ve only been allowed to vote for, what, 90-something years? Surely you didn’t think you’d have equal access to health services by now, too?

Here’s the thing. Abortion is still legal. Try as they might, the anti’s have yet to outlaw it, and they probably never will. We won that battle.

All they’ve got left are rather empty gestures like the Stupak Amendment, which applies to insurance coverage of abortion--something which, according to the Guttmacher Institute, only paid for 13% of abortions (or thereabouts) in 2001. And Stupak also only applies to insurance plans on the exchange, which itself affects a small percentage of people.

So, this all looks like a lot of hoo-hah over an amendment that would affect a relatively small number of women. Unfortunately, those women are the poor, the ones who need reproductive choice the most. Yes, it sucks. But since when does Congress care about the poor, anyway? Is anyone really surprised?

Take heart. If Stupak becomes law, you can still buy an insurance plan that covers abortion services. You just can’t be poor, or receive government assistance. And those more well-off can always pay for their abortions themselves, without a health insurance plan.

I’m trying to see how much has changed. Abortion services available for the well off, but not the poor. How is this different from what we have now? From what we’ve ever had?

Make no mistake: they’ve done a really shitty thing to women, treating us like second class citizens who aren’t entitled to the same health insurance options as penis-Americans. Am I pissed off? Yes.

But abortion is still legal. We can still get low-income women the reproductive health services they need in other ways. Start by donating to NARAL or Planned Parenthood, if you are able.

Is the Stupak Amendment worth scuttling healthcare reform over? I don’t think so. But it has been a tremendous reality check. It has shown us who within the Democratic Party thinks it’s their business to decide what insurance plans should be available to women.

Got that? Good. Now use that information.

Friday, November 6, 2009

More American Morans

From yesterday's Michelle Bachmann/Fox News-led "tea party" in Washington. You'd think after six months of protests they'd have figured out how to use spell-check:

One would also think that they'd have figured out there is no government run healthcare in anyone's future. But that's the low information voter for you: rallying to protest something that doesn't exist.