Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Right Wing And Violence, Verbal and Physical

Dante Atkins at the Daily Kos reports the latest incendiary statement by right wing clown Glenn Beck: "It's just like 9/11 all over again, except we didn't have the burning buildings." Yeah, that's exactly the sentiment that the threat of "cap and trade" legislation brings to mind to reasonable people.

As Atkins says,
The right wing needs to understand something clearly: you don't get to claim that policy initiatives proposed by Democrats are tantamount to armageddon, Stalin, Hitler, the 9/11 attacks, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and an internal contradiction of the space-time continuum that will lead to the destruction of the universe--and then turn around and say that the last thing you wanted was to see people stirred to violence. You either sincerely think it's bad enough to merit violent resistance or you don't. Pick a side and stick with it.

You can see the criminally stupid video of Glenn Beck on the Daily Kos site.

There Is No Hell, So Make Earth A Living Hell For Them

As a lapsed Catholic, now a contented atheist, I have particular contempt for those who committed sexual abuses against children, and even more contempt for those who covered up their heinous acts.

They are among the very people who would like you to convince you that the guilty will reap their eternal punishment in hell. Guess what? There is no hell beyond earth, so let's make their one life hell, right here. Send them to jail, as they deserve, and let them rot in a cell. They can then seek comfort in their divine fantasies, if they so choose. No special treatment for anyone, including the Pope, if he is as guilty as he seems.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jefferson Quotes, True and False

"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not," warned Thomas Jefferson.

First of all, it is not known that this is an actual quote from Thomas Jefferson. It does not exist in any of his writings according to the Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. I say it because the person who used the quote on his blog has been rather sloppy with facts in the past (more about him at the end of this post), and my suspicions about the attribution of the quote were confirmed by a quick Google search which led me here.

What I find offensive about the quote is not just its incorrect attribution, but the fact that it is presumably being used to condemn "Obama care". (I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty given the context (the blog) and the user of the quote (again, more on him to follow).

As it happens, the quote seems aimed at eliciting in readers the worst feelings about what the American Right likes to call redistribution of wealth (which non-millionaires like me call what it is, i.e. progressive taxation) by implying that it rewards laziness over industry and entrepreneurship. Of course, this is--for the most part--sheer bullshit, but it helps that the people peddling it have the biggest megaphones.

Redistribution of wealth aimed at ensuring that as many of our fellow Americans (and legal aliens) can enjoy affordable access to a basic human right, i.e. the right enjoy a minimum level of health care services without risking bankruptcy or death, a right that is recognized by all civilized countries, should be accepted rather unbegrudingly by your average moneyed interests. It is the part of the social contract between the haves and the haves-not that guarantees, among other things, that the latter will not take to the streets and burn down the palaces of the former in exchange for a fair standard of living, which includes the ability to put a roof over one's head, to feed one's family, to go to affordable quality school, to be treated equally before the law regardless of income levels (yeah, right!) and, yes, to be able to receive good and affordable treatment in doctor's offices and hospitals.

But the picture that the Right astutely and disingenuously painted of the health insurance reform that Congress trudgingly and clumsily passed days ago is in keeping with the quote given at the top of this post, that is that Congress and the President are taking from "those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

It takes some truly despicable people to subscribe to and to promote the fantastic idea that this health insurance reform bill is a handout to those who don't deserve it because they are too lazy to go get it. Many of the uninsured or under-insured have a job. In fact, some even have more than one, but they still cannot afford health insurance for themselves or their families because of the outrageous cost of premiums or of deductibles and copays. You don't have to believe me. You can visit the many websites that document this known fact, like the ones listed below.

Faces of Maryland's Uninsured Project
Pennsylvania Health Law Project (PDF file)
The Uninsured (New York Times Editorial)
National Association of Free Clinics (PDF file)

These data are not hard to find, so not finding them is probably due to a combination of dishonesty and willful refusal to acknowledge that the picture they paint is definitely not one of lazy unemployed people whose goal is to mooch health care from those who work.

Consider that, as reported by USA Today, "the percentage of all employers offering health insurance in the past eight years peaked in 2000 at 69% and has fallen steadily since, hitting 60% this year [2007], according to an annual survey of employers by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Among small firms of three to nine workers, the percentage offering insurance has dropped even more — from 58% in 2001 to 45% this year" [again, 2007, which is when the article I quoted was published. And that was BEFORE the worst of the unemployment crisis hit.)

More recent [PDF] data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that since 1999 the cost of premiums has increased by 131% and that the cost of worker contributions has increased at more or less the same rate (128%). It also confirms the drop in number of business, particularly small businesses (between 3 and 9 employees) who are willing or able to offer health care benefits.

All these data help to dismantle the meme, propagated by the right and embraced by those who are angry and vulnerable (the ignorant, the uneducated and the fearful), that the bill is aimed at building a constituency of leeches who will vote for Democratic candidates to keep their "entitlements"*, the kind of bullshit that the right seeks to convey every day using inflammatory and demonstrably false rhetoric, aided by seemingly authoritative but fabricated quotes like the one at the top of this post.

Which brings me to the person who used the quote as a means of corroborating his despicable and false message. Sloppiness is an annoying trait and if the use of the quote above was simply a matter of sloppiness it would be bad enough. But I fear that we are dealing with something more sinister than sloppiness in this case, that is a willful attempt to mislead those who are vulnerable and inclined to be misled. This is particularly despicable when it comes from a member of academia (though not very reputable academia, to be sure) like the individual who runs The Constructive Curmudgeon, where the quote was posted. An educator is not supposed to mislead but to enlighten.

Let me leave you with a true quote by Thomas Jefferson: "To unequal privileges among members of the same society the spirit of our nation is, with one accord, adverse." Apply that concept, liberally if you will, to the topic of health care.

* This is an accusation that has now been leveled against Democrats for 3 quarters of a century. Consider the following quote from H.L. Mencken, written on the eve of the 1936 election, about the New Deal:
"Its chief practical business is to search out groups that can be brought into the [Democratic Party] machine by grants out of the public treasury, which is to say, out of the pockets of the rest of us." [Sam Tanenhaus, The Death of Conservatism] You know how bad the New Deal turned out to be for Americans, don't you?

In My Crystal Ball I See...

I predict that an invective by the (not so constructive) Curmudgeon is forthcoming for the "blasphemous" Brian McLaren. It wouldn't be the first invective against that influential Christian leader from the pages of the Curmudgeon. McLaren's crime is to favor a reading of the Bible, in particular the New Testament, that does not reward dicks for, well, being dicks.

In an interview with NPR to mark the release of his latest book, A New Kind Of Christianity, McLaren expressed views that don't resonate too well with older, more traditional Evangelicals.
"God revealed in Christ crucified shows us a vision of God that identifies with the victim rather than the perpetrator, identifies with the one suffering rather than the one inflicting suffering," he says.

McLaren says modern evangelicalism underplays that Jesus — who spent most of his time with the poor, the sick and the sinners — saved his wrath primarily for hard-core religious leaders.

Curmudgeonly people focus their message on the sanctity of the Republican Party vs. Democratic demons, behind a curtain made of common Evangelical calls for fools, like a very selective concept of the "sanctity of life" (the "pre-born", not Iraqi or Afghani children), a despicable view of the "sanctity of marriage" to the exclusion of anyone but heterosexual (whites), a view of society devoid of any social justice (let freedom rule, where freedom is to be enjoyed in direct proportion to one's earning ability), and so on. They do not spare any invective against McLaren's reading of the New Testament, in which Jesus is more concerned with chastising Pharisees and hypocrites than prostitutes and lepers. Their interpretation of the role of Jesus has more to do with power than charity (of spirit) than McLaren's, so the latter is a heretic. All this from a bunch of people who owe their religion to heretics in the first place.

Now, you know me, I think that all religious people are delusional to a higher or lesser degree, but if you want to be a bible literalist remember that the bible is composed of two volumes: one Old, in which God acted like a capricious despot, and one New, in which his soon thankfully proves to be more more mentally balanced than his father, and more concerned with walking the walk than with talking the talk.

The Rev. Jim Wallis said this:
We did this experiment way back a long time ago, as young seminarians, we found every passage in the Bible about poor people, about wealth and poverty, oppression, all that, and we found several thousand verses. It was the second most prominent theme in the Hebrew scripts, the Old Testament. And in the New Testament, the Synoptic Gospels, the first three, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, one of every 16 verses.

[...] In Luke, it was one of every seven verses. And we took the Bible and we took a pair of scissors and we cut out of the Bible every single reference to poor people. And when we were done, the Bible was in shreds. It was full of holes, falling apart in my hands. I'd take it out to preach. I'd say, 'Brothers and sisters, this is the American Bible. It's just full of holes.

[...]This isn't about politics or a liberal or a conservative. This is about the integrity of the word of God. There's nothing as basic as this, how we treat the other, the vulnerable, the poor, the enemy. The one who's not at the table is the one we're going to be judged by. [from http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/jimwallis/transcript.shtml]

If people like McLaren and Wallis can provoke hissy fits in curmudgeonly hypocrites, more power to them.

Eric Cantor Is A Douche

Eric Cantor is, alas, one of the most representative faces of the current Republican Party.

Recently he went on national television to chastise Democrats for allegedly exploiting the climate of hostility verging on hatred that led to actual acts of violence against a few of them in the wake of the passage of health insurance reform. I say actual acts of violence, as opposed to fabricated ones, like the one Cantor alleges to have been a victim of. Except, according to the Richmond Police Department the incident was not directed at Cantor or Cantor's office.

Only a high-ranking Republican could have the balls to accuse his opponents of trying to gain political advantage from acts of violence directed at them while fabricating a story about being a victim of violence. Why would he do that, other than to try to gain political advantage.

It is not the wrong policies and politics of the Republican Party that are the biggest problem. It is their shameless hypocrisy that will get them in real trouble eventually.

Keep it up, Repuglycans.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Those Who Don't Know History Are... Republican Attorney Generals

It is quite astonishing how Republicans have immediately started calling for the repeal of the health care reform bill that President Obama signed into law today. Such is the frenzied state of mind of Republicans and their pitiful leaders (such as Senators DeMint, McConnell and McCain) who bet the farm on Obama's failure to pass any health care reform at all, and will now make utter fools of themselves in the process.

Or, consider the 13 or 14 State AGs who have decided to sue the Federal government for doing what has never been done before, that is forcing American citizens to buy a product they did not want. Ahem... If only they had read this before proceeding with their ill-conceived, clumsy lawsuits.

But then again, the true intent of these demagogues is not to have the law overturned (though this Supreme Court is perfectly capable of going to any lengths to thwart progress, I bet.) Their true intent is to create a divisive enough electoral issue to rally their fevered, deranged troops in November.

Put it this way: the sick and the uninsured are the gays of 2006 and 2008. Because, let's face it, when it comes to hating, it makes no difference to a Republican if you are gay or sick. Either way, you brought your situation upon yourself.

Perhaps we should teach Republicans new ways to use the bootstraps they are so fond of reminding us of.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

On The Hypocrisy Of Self-Anointed "Pro-lifers"

Those who, like Mr. Groothuis of Denver Seminary, call this a "day of infamy" because a health care bill has finally passed; those who, like him, profess that they have the best interest of the "pre-born" at heart; those who routinely call their opponents "enemies", "baby-killers", "mass murderers" and many other unkind, un-Christian epithets (while at the same time chastising others for supposedly using ad-hominems): these people would do well to read this op-ed by Michael Moore, particularly this excerpt, about abortion rates in other countries:
Why does godless France, where abortion is nearly free (it's covered by their universal health insurance), have 20% fewer abortions per capita than we do? What's even more amazing about that statistic is that you can't even get an abortion in America in 87% of our counties because there isn't one single doctor in those counties who will perform one! 87%!!

Mr. Moore also has a good thought for those how support disingenuous amendments to state constitutions such as the so-called "personhood amendment":
What is "life"? An egg is life, a sperm is life. Those sperm aren't running on a battery pack. They are living creatures, as is a fertilized egg. But they're not "human beings." A human being is something that can exist outside the womb of a mother. If you think a fertilized egg is a human being, then I respectfully ask you to go down to the DMV today and have them change your birthday on your driver's license to 9 months older than what you've been telling everybody.

The Republican Solution For... Well, Everything

Meg Whitman, she of eBay fame, is running to be the next governor of California on a platform of--wait, you guessed it--cutting taxes. For the rich. To solve California's budget deficit.

California already had a couple of actors as governors. It's time for another joker.

Does Prayer Really Work?

For the umpteenth time, it appears it does not. From the pages of The Constructive Curmudgeon:

You can imagine me snickering with delight then when this appeared on the pages of the Huffington Post a few hours later:

Either prayer does not work or, more frighteningly for Christocrats, prayer does work and

a) a larger number of people were praying to God that health care should pass, which then means that God finds it more important for people to have health care insurance than the "defeat this abortion-laden health care bill." What would that say about the Christocrats' God?
b) a larger number of people have prayed to Satan than they have to God, which should also dishearten the Christocrats.

Either way, you have to question the power of prayer. Personally, I would rather rely on old-fashioned boots on the ground activism than hands to the sky fanaticism, of any kind, but hey, that's only me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Great Health Care Debacle

When the Democratic health care bill becomes law, most likely this coming Sunday, it will be a betrayal of the principle that health care is a human right. It will be a gift not to those who have struggled for years to keep their health coverage, but to the corporate uberlords who have exploited a universal need to enrich themselves and their cohorts in Congress. It will signal to the world that the United States has chosen to put profit over social justice, something no other advanced nation in the world has done. It will be a blow to progressives, who will be defeated but won't stop fighting for what is right: the right to be treated equally in front of an illness, regardless of one's station in life.

It is a revolting bill. It did not have to be. It did not have to reward the very interests that deserved to punished. It did not have to legislate that health insurance is a duty while health care is not a right. It did not have to bow to corporate interests instead of taking them on. It will do nothing or too little to control costs, absent a public option to keep insurers on their toes.

That is why I have not backed it in spite of repeated pleas by the White House and by a number of representatives who have my name on their mailing lists. I cannot support a bill that so unconscionably and so casually abdicates the tenets of progressivism and of social justice. Single-payer was not even brought to the table and the public option was a chimera created to pacify those who would not readily lend their support to this health care reform but who could be convinced that something pretty ugly was better than nothing. That, incidentally is true. Even this ugly bill is, in some ways, better than nothing (the status quo), which should really clarify for everyone how deep we have sunk this country's sense of what is right, what is morally acceptable.

You should read Solomon and Rothschild to understand what is happening and what needs to be done

Friday, March 12, 2010

Let Them Idiots Secede (Continued)

"Texas Board of Education cuts Thomas Jefferson out of its textbooks" is just one of the brilliant ideas the Texas Board of Education had for its textbooks. Here are some others:

– The Board refused to require that “students learn that the Constitution prevents the U.S. government from promoting one religion over all others.”

– To avoid exposing students to “transvestites, transsexuals and who knows what else,” the Board struck the curriculum’s reference to “sex and gender as social constructs.”

I rest my case.

Let Them Idiots Secede

I am all for letting Southern states secede. I have had enough of them. They are populated by too many idiots, bigots, and hypocrites who keep electing dicks (mostly Republicans with some Conserva-Dems) who make a living by railing against big Washington spending and handouts when most Southern states are, as it happens, the biggest net recipients of Washington handouts.

If that weren't enough, these disingenuous, conniving, and overbearing Congressfolks continue to financially rape those who elect them, in exchange for empty promises of restoring decency in America and protecting family values. Take for example the Mississippi high school that canceled its prom rather than have it "marred" by having a lesbian couple in attendance. So bless the ACLU for suing the idiots!

Back to secession: There is plenty of room in the surviving states of the Union for those who would inevitably be persecuted (you know, blacks, Mexicans, atheists, GBLT types, scientists, etc.) by the dumb idiots who would secede. We tried to create a great Union, and--alas--we were overwhelmed and overpowered by stupid.

We can no longer afford to let some inbred Senator from Oklahoma or Kansas halt environmental protections or health care reform while rising temperatures make glaciers melt and oceans boil over and thousands die every year for lack of access to health care. We can no longer live in a nation that allows credit card companies to exist that can charge 79% interest with impunity, or to let C students take us to war against the wrong country. We can no longer tolerate a whole class of bigoted electors and politicians who legally discriminate against those who were doomed at birth by their economic fate or who later in life found out that they were "differently-attracted".

We reasonable people are "unequally yoked" in an abusive, forced relationship with people who believe that it is more important to care for embryos than for those who have already landed amongst us, who believe that the world was created six thousand years ago by a petty, mean-spirited caricature of a deity who, for two thirds of our existence (based on the 6k year time-frame), ruled that adulterers should be stoned to death, that you are impure and should go to hell for eating shellfish, that you should treat your slaves fairly, etc.

We are up against a sea of idiots, who eat cheap lettuce picked by the same people that they rail against and would rather leave to die than spend a penny to treat in a national health care system; an army of retards, who rail against socialized medicine while themselves or their parents are alive because of Medicare or Medicaid; a coalition of the dupes, who complain about the decay of the American family and the middle-class, and then go on to elect serial adulterers and closeted homosexuals whose whose only cure for society consists of cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations while facilitating the exodus of jobs beyond American borders; a legion of failed Klansfolk, who attend tea parties holding up signs that depict president Obama as an African tribal leader, complete with bone through his nose and traditional garb, while their conservative heroes enjoy their all-expensed-paid retreat at a tropical golf resort, courtesy of their generous corporate lobbyists who are clamoring for labor laws to be relaxed and to return the U.S. to the days when child labor was all the rage.

I have had enough of all of them.

Let them secede. Let them live without the annoyance of the EPA, the FDA, the FAA, while their children get leukemia from drinking polluted water or die of dehydration induced by their e-coli infested hamburger meat, if they have been lucky enough to survive the runway crash that took the lives of most their fellow fliers when their Halliburton traffic-controller did not show up at work because he existed only on paper, so Dick Cheney could charge the government some more billions for services not actually rendered.

Let these idiots secede. Then the rest of us can go on with our lives, without having to subsidize these sanctimonious doofuses, and make a better place for those who want it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Pass Health Care, So We Can Get Rid Of The Big, Fat Idiot

If Congressional Dems cannot pass health care reform for the right reasons (you know, to help the uninsured, the underinsured, etc.), perhaps they can do it to get Rush Limbaugh to move.

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is.... Ken Starr?!?

If you had any doubt about the fact that an evil man without credibility can only give rise to an evil woman with no credibility, you have to look no further than Dick and Liz Cheney.

Their attacks on President Obama and his policy are so vile that even one of the vilest men of the 90's, Ken Starr, thought it fit to distance himself from the Cheneys.

For Communists Only

And now that I have your attention, watch these two segments from last week's Bill Moyers Journal:

The first one, where communist Wendell Potter (formerly a vicepresident at Cigna) tries to convince socialist Bill Moyers that President Obama's health care reform plan is worth voting for.

The second one, where Marxist Marcia Angell (former Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine) argues for why we'd be better off with the status quo for a few more years.

At the end of the episode, Bill Moyers asked his viewers to express themselves in favor or in opposition of reform. I know my post does not answer the question, but it summarizes how I feel about the health care kabuki theater. In italics, below.

To a foreigner who has lived in the United States for almost twenty years, the health care reform debacle is almost incomprehensible. It becomes simple to understand once one reminds himself of the fact that Americans have been brainwashed to think of themselves as Number One, in every field of human endeavor, no matter all evidence to the contrary.

As everybody who has ever been the best at something knows, being Number One at anything requires not just confidence in one's strengths, but awareness of one's limits, something that most Americans are completely oblivious to.

That is how, in the midst of the health care reform fiasco, most Americans are shamefully blind to the fact that no other advanced country treats health care as a commodity, and that there are plenty of successful examples around the world of countries that have tamed the health care beast with better outcomes and at lower costs. Imagine how surprised most Americans would be to find out that, in spite of Republican fearmongering, many of those countries have thriving health insurance sectors.

You can't fix health care until you fix stupid.

Monday, March 08, 2010

David Michael Green As A Modern Day Cassandra

"Keep yout passport current" is Michael Green's advice to progressive Americans as the next two or three election cycles complete the plundering and destruction of the American middle-class.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Stupid Political Correctness (And The Height Of Inconsistency)

Fresh from the Oscars, from the "In Memoriam" segment: Deceased actresses (e.g. Brittany Murphy, Jennifer Jones, etc.) identified by the on-screen caption "Actor". That during a show where awards are given out for best Actress in a Leading Role and best Actress in a Supporting Role.
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