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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fuck Them All

I received this just now from United Progressives. My government, and its useless "representatives of the people" in Congress are nothing but corporate whores. I'm glad to be gone. Here's my favorite quote: "The current health insurance reform legislation passing through Congress amounts to a massive bailout of the profit-making health industries, which will enrich them and increase their ability to lobby and otherwise influence legislators in the future."

Fuck them all. Oh, and here's the letter...

Good Morning! I am Dr. Margaret Flowers. I am a pediatrician and the Congressional Fellow for Physicians for a National Health Program. I also serve on the steering committee of the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care and on the board of Healthcare-Now, a national single payer grassroots organization.

Members of Physicians for a National Health Program (known as PNHP) educate and advocate for a single payer national health system, also known as Medicare for All. PNHP performs ground breaking research on the health crisis and the need for fundamental reform and contributes scholarly articles to peer-reviewed medical journals. PNHP takes pride in providing information that can inform legislators and the public about the reasons why Medicare for All is the optimal solution to provide necessary medical treatment to everyone in a way that controls health care costs. PNHP does not take a position on how congress members should vote on the legislation that is currently proceeding through congress. We do provide information to members about whether the legislation is likely to be effective and how it compares to a national single payer health system.
We share the growing sense of desperation among patients and providers across the nation, desperation which has been heightened by the economic crisis. Like you, we are hungry for change. We believe that we should act based on the evidence of what types of health reform have been most effective in the United States. Review of the current health insurance reform legislation reveals that it resembles health reforms that have recently been tried and have failed at the state level.

It is for the reasons listed below that we ask our legislators to start from scratch in order to create health reform that addresses the fundamental problems with health care in this nation and creates a health system that is of similar quality to those in the top industrialized nations.
1. During the time that it will take for the health insurance legislation to begin (2013 in the House version and 2014 in the Senate version), tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans will die.

2. Once the insurance reform takes effect, people will still be left without health insurance. Whether it is the 17 million left out of the House version or the 24 million left out of the Senate version, we find this unacceptable. We know that the actual number of uninsured people is likely to be higher than these estimates and we know that people without insurance have a 40% higher risk of death than those who have insurance.
3. Medical bankruptcies will continue to occur as families will face out-of-pocket costs on covered services of up to $10,000 in addition to the cost of premiums and the cost of uncovered services. The average medical debt that causes insured families to become bankrupt is $18,000.
4. People who are uninsured will suffer the further indignity of being forced to pay a fine which may be as high as 2.5% of their income (House version).

5. The number of people who are underinsured will increase with this legislation. People will be required to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. There is no guarantee that premiums will be affordable even for those who qualify for federal subsidies. Health insurers have already predicted that the cost of premiums will rise because they are being required to stop the practices of excluding pre-existing conditions and rescissions. The public insurance is estimated to be more expensive than private insurance plans. A similar reform in Massachusetts has resulted in a rise of patients who forego needed care because they cannot afford the co-pays and deductibles once they have paid for their premiums.

6. People will continue to be consigned to only receiving the quality of care that they can afford. Instead of a standardized benefit plan that covers all necessary care, people will have to choose from a tiered set of plans. The least expensive plans will cover only 60% of necessary care and patients will be required to pay the balance.

7. The legislation will not control health care costs and will in fact increase the waste in health care spending. The regulation of insurance companies, which has failed to date and is predicted to fail again by industry whistleblowers, will be expensive to enforce. And the “exchanges” will have to be created from scratch. The exchange will add another level of bureaucracy which in Massachusetts has added a 4% charge to each insurance premium. Unfortunately, this legislation does nothing to reclaim the hundreds of billions of dollars that are currently wasted on administration, paperwork and marketing for the hundreds of health plans in existence.

8. The legislation transfers hundreds of billions of public dollars to private insurance companies. People will be mandated to purchase health insurance whether they can afford it or not, so the insurance companies benefit by having millions of new enrollees. In addition, between $447 and $605 billion in public dollars (depending on the senate or house version) will be given to the private insurers in the forms of subsidies to help people purchase their defective product.

9. The legislation protects the outrageous profits of the pharmaceutical corporations. The majority of Americans will not see any improvement in the costs of medications and the pharmaceutical corporations have already raised prices on brand name prescriptions by 9% this year. Biotech firms receive a windfall 12 year patent on new pharmaceuticals.

10. The legislation continues to allow discrimination based on age and immigration status. Older enrollees can be charged up to twice as much as younger enrollees. And enrollees will be required to prove citizenship in order to receive subsidies. Non-citizens will be required to bear the full cost of purchasing insurance.

The current health insurance reform legislation passing through Congress amounts to a massive bailout of the profit-making health industries, which will enrich them and increase their ability to lobby and otherwise influence legislators in the future. At the same time, patients will receive little in the way of long-lasting protection or ability to afford needed health care. The legislation is designed to fail and in the meantime, will waste billions of dollars and delay the process of creating effective health reform.

We call on Congress to start from scratch. We believe that we have the resources in the United States to create a national health system that will improve the health of the people of our nation. We believe that being ranked 37th in the world for health outcomes is unacceptable and that we, as a nation, can do much better than this. We believe that improving and expanding Medicare to all people is the simplest and quickest way to achieve our goal of universal and financially-sustainable health care.

As far as the health insurance legislation in congress goes, we support Senator Sanders’ substitution amendment which will substitute public financing for the current complicated and wasteful patchwork of financing. We urge our senators to vote “yes” on the Sanders’ amendment.

No matter what happens in Congress this year, we will continue to build the Medicare for all movement until we reach the day when all who live in the United States receive the same health security that is a right in other industrialized nations. We look forward to the day when doctors are free to focus on the needs of their patients without interference by health insurance administrators. We welcome all people who support health care reform to join with us in this movement. Together, we will succeed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Net Neutrality (and Your Gonads) Explained

I never thought I would need to write about this, because I kind of assumed that in general, people know what net neutrality means. Of course, if everybody knew everything, then I wouldn't be teaching in a university now, would I? (I'm still shocked when I watch my students write down everything I say. "Wow," I think, "you didn't know that?" I guess they didn't. Actually, what I really think is, "Wow. You think what I'm saying is important? My mother never did." But I digress.)

I just finished my routine of catching up on Jon Stewart's Daily Show and Stephen Colbert's Whatever Show. On Stewart's show, he revealed what I did not know (because I try not to listen to Republican mouth pieces if I can avoid it), and that is that Republicans are lying through their teeth AGAIN. I really should not be shocked at this, because whereever money flows into a Republican's pocket, there shall be his or her platform. And so, all the corporate media behemouths are bound and determined to block net neutrality in order to secure enough money so they can pay off more Republicans (oh, and to be fair, several Democrats, I'm sure) to make sure the media conglomerates can continue to make ludicrous amounts of money off of us.

The lies are typical - spreading enough fear to shrink the gonads of regular gullible Americans so that they run to their elected representatives and scream at them to save them from socialism, gayness, government control and terrorists against marriage, oh and tea bags too, just for good measure.

So, let me try and explain net neutrality to you, in case your gonads have climbed up into your asshole and you're busy building an underground fallout shelter just in case Obama's Socialist Secret Soldiers come knocking on your door demanding your soul and push their way into your very own living room so that they can turn your children into gays.

In a perfect world, net neutrality means that the Internet is neutral to the content that travels upon its "tubes." The Internet is just a vehicle or conduit for content. It passes no judgment nor imposes restrictions on that content. It sends your porn video bytes (Not bites folks. Settle down.) to you the same way it sends that video of Sarah Palin getting exorcised by her crazy-ass preacher. The internet doesn't look at Sarah Palin and decide to download her faster than your porn (Thank The Lourd). No. It sends both videos to you (because there are people out there that watch BOTH Sarah Palin AND porn videos, and you know who you are) at the same speed.

Here's another example. Your car is also a neutral vehicle. If you buy a Ford, you aren't restricted to buy only Exxon gas. Your Ford is neutral when it comes to the fuel it uses to get from one place to the other. Both your fuel and your car are neutral. Neither one gives a rat's ass if you drive home to your wife or across town to your Mistress. The car doesn't go any faster or slower based on which person you will be visiting. The fuel doesn't spark more or less based on where you go either. Your Ford passes no judgment on you. Only we pass judgment on you for driving one.

Your computer is mostly neutral (I say mostly because Bill Gates tried to control how you used your computer through limitations in your browser and Microsoft applications). No matter where you go, you can plug it in to an electrical socket and charge it. The electrical socket doesn't give a shit what you do on your computer. It just sends electricity to your computer to keep it running. It won't DENY electricity because you are using your computer TOO MUCH, or looking at the WRONG things.

Your computer is neutral in another way. You can get the Internet on your computer from any Internet Service Provider (ISP) out there. Your computer doesn't slow down or speed up based on which ISP you're using. You can go online via cellular, wireless, wired, satellite, cable, T1, dialup or DSL. Your computer couldn't care less which one you choose. These different providers are inherently slower (Dialup) or faster (T1) based on their physical limitations, but not based on some human deciding to fuck with you and make your internet slower.

That's what the people against net neutrality want to do. They want to fuck with you based on how you use the internet and what content you choose to access over the internet. They want to make judgments about what you do on the internet and punish your ass because of it. If you're a superuser, you get slowed down, unless you pay a premium to get faster speed. If you're a superuser AND a schlub with no money (like me), you won't be able to pay the premium, so you're stuck with slower access.

Without net neutrality, if you watch lots of video online or play massive-multi-player games online, your ISP can detect that, and slow your ass down. Or, if your ISP gets PAID by some content provider to FAVOR their content over somebody else's, then when you access the other content, it'll be as slow as molasses. If you go and pay a premium to download the favored content, it'll be faster than a speeding bullet (to the brain).

In other words, your ISP, like Comcast for instance, will have (and in the case of Comcast, already has) you by the gonads.

Here's an example of something that is NOT neutral: your cell phone. Your cell phone should be like your computer, but it isn't. You buy an iPhone from Apple and in the US they force you to use AT&T as your carrier. Apple locks the phone (that you paid a fortune for - isn't that nice?) and you can't use any other provider. In Europe, that's against the law. That's because in Europe, they are more consumer-centric, versus corporate-centric. They actually care about the consumer. So, when I bought my iPhone here, I had a choice between three carriers: Orange, SFR and Bouygues. Of course, if I go back to the states, I can't just slip a SIM card from an American carrier into my iPhone. Because Apple made sure I couldn't do that. Steve Jobs sold his soul to the devil on this one.

Your ISP, like Comcast, and their partners who wish to make more money off of you, are the ones trying to destroy net neutrality. It's THEM that you should be afraid of. It's THEM that wish to control you. It's them that want to stick their noses into your private life and regulate you and based on what you do online, punish you with higher fees. It's THEM that can be bribed by anybody to make sure that you only see THEIR content, versus the content you want to see.

It is NOT our government who wants to control your life in this situation, OK?

Yell loudly at your representatives to VOTE FOR net neutrality, or Big Brother (in the form of your ISP) actually will be looking over your shoulder, very, very soon (If they aren't already). (Your gonads should be tiny little rocks right now, but for the right reasons this time.) Learn more at wearetheweb.org and/or savetheinternet.com. And take all the actions suggested on those sites (email your representative, sign petitions, etc.). If you want to read what the guy who invented the internet thinks about net neutrality, go here.

My apologees to anyone who has only one gonad, or no gonads at all. You know who you are.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Healthcare: Listening For What's Not Being Said

I haven't heard anyone say that Medicare is broke(n).

I haven't heard my mother or father bitch about "that godamned Medicare." Ever. And they call everything else godamned at least 20 times a day. My mother has Fox news on mute, all day long, so she can hear herself yell, "Oh shut your godamned mouth!" to any liberal that has the gonads to step foot upon the sacred ground of O'Reilly's Christian (and Christmas!) Vibratorlandia. She doesn't turn the sound back on to hear what the guest commie has to say. She already knows that he/she is a hippie ass and all he/she is saying is crap! and he/she needs to get his/her ass kicked.

So if my mother doesn't bitch about Medicare? That's something.

My dad figures out how to get his catheters cheaper. And conspires with his doctor's nurse to get them covered by Medicare, along with the cute little alcohol towelettes that come in boxes of 300 and something. So he's kinda sorta workin' the system. Kinda sorta like those welfare whores that he and my mother hate so much. Kinda sorta sucking off the government tit. So, why would he bitch about Medicare?

I guess because it works for him.

I haven't heard anyone say that Medicare is on the brink of running out of money. But they sure do say it all the time about the Socialist Security Program started by that New Deal bastard Roosevelt in 1935. They've been telling us that Social Security will run out of money - tomorrow! - for about 20 years, or as long as I can remember, which lately, is 5 minutes ago.

It's like that promise I used to see behind the bar in Cave Creek, Arizona - "Free beer. Tomorrow." I kept going back to that bar, every day, and for some godamned reason, it was never tomorrow.

I haven't heard anyone say that Medicare has single-handedly pushed this country down the slippery slope of socialism on the way to the Siberian gulags of communism and sooner than anyone of us dare to even think, straight into the everlasting, singeing, smoking fires of Hades. Medicare is taking us straight to hell. We will not pass go. We will not collect any insurance redemption. We certainly will have no fucking virgins. I haven't heard anyone say any of that.

I also haven't heard that Medicare will lead us to corpse fucking. I'm actually surprised at that. But the guy that was obsessing about gay marriage leading to corpse fucking on the Senate floor (well, actually, he was just talking about gay marriage leading to corpse fucking - I can't get enough of that phrase, frankly - he wasn't talking about actually DOING it on the Senate floor, he was just talking ABOUT IT on the Senate floor - phew! Glad I clarified that!) is on a government-paid healthcare plan, much like...er...Medicare. He's also conspiring with his doctor's nurse, to get free shit through his godamned socialized medicine plan, and probably asks her some pretty pointed questions about corpses while he's at it.

I HAVE heard some people say that Medicare costs less to maintain than private health insurance. Maybe once. On some late, late, late, late night blogger radio show.

So....why is a public health care option, a single payer option, something just like, um, Medicare, such a freaking problem?

I think it's always a good exercise to cut through all the hysteria and chatter and try to hear what isn't being said. It can be quite illuminating.


And, by the way, I haven't lost interest in starting our own Progressive Country. I'm just cranking out content for work right now and experimenting with creating a Facebook page for one of my classes. Once I'm done with that, I'll know how to create a page for our new country. Then maybe we can discuss whether or not people can marry corpses. Or marry more than one corpse. As the first Queen of the Progressive Lands (we'll probably have Rotating Royalty), I will decree that you can marry as many corpses as you like. That would be big-o'-me, now wouldn't it?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let's Start A New Country

I'm pretty fed up. The Republicans actually cheered when America lost the Olympics bid. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) just said that the Hate Crimes Bill Will Legalize Bestiality, Corpse-Fucking, Pedophilia, Lead To Nazism. Obama decided to continue illegal rendition. Obama continues to let the GLBT community down by not ridding us of the childishly ridiculous and shameful Don't Ask Don't Tell. That goofball dentist lawyer birther babe Orly Taitz is actually still getting press coverage. And healthcare? Don't get me started. These issues aren't just "Oh, darn, we lost that vote. Maybe next time!" These issues and events are disgusting! Ludicrous! And they are stuck in my craw and just won't go down, no matter how much Russian vodka I drink. (Thanks Anna!)

I woke up the other morning thinking that surely, surely, there's an island we can buy somewhere and start our own country? Even though it's just a fantasy, I'd rather start drafting my fantasy country's bill o' rights and constitution than continue to rant and rave at my newsfeeder about the insanity of my own country. It would be an interesting conversation, at least. Hell, I put way too much time into building my virtual farm in FarmVille on FaceBook. At least engaging with my other Progressive friends on a virtual country would be productive. Maybe we should just invent a game and stick it in FaceBook and see what ensues.

Perhaps, as Freud came to believe before he died, that humankind was just an uncontrollable mob, driven by deep-seated, unconscious evil tendencies and doomed to destruction unless they are controlled by a more intelligent elite, we might fail to get along too. But, call me Pollyanna, I just don't agree. Maybe that's why I spent all my time studying Jung and ignoring Freud.

Can we create a hierarchy-free country? I've witnessed 12-step programs working quite well all over the world, completely managed by volunteers with absolutely no hierarchy. It can be done.

How 'bout it, Arvan, Katharine, NewsWriter, Lori, Kim, Dana, Lisa - and any other interested party (I couldn't list you all, so don't feel left out) - wanna play? Should we start a FaceBook page and start drafting and voting on our own laws? Do you think we could get along better than our not-so-esteemed elected officials? At least we wouldn't have pockets full of cash from industry lobbies to distract us.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Devolution of Mankind

I don't know why I'm so disheartened.

I guess it's obvious that right-wing politicians are acting like children - making shit up (even though Sarah Palin told us not to, in support of the troops, dontcha know - and even though I have no freaking idea what the connection is between her lying ass, the press, and soldiers, but ya know, that's just Sarah!), obfuscating, obstructing just for the sake of obstructing and just plain forgetting about their constituents until they need to stir them up into salivating, gun-toting, town-hall-shouting frenzies in order to get the brain-dead main stream media aroused and off their sweltering summertime DC bar stools.

But what's new about all that?

And then these Republican bastards are joining with their Democratic bastard pals to lick the stinking buttholes of the health and insurance lobby so that the steady flow of money, and the high-end Congressional and Senatorial lifestyles, power and influence funded by such a flow, won't be interrupted.

There are no death threats from public healthcare. Just a death knell to profit-bloated insurance companies who will spend every fucking cent of your premiums to whip the slaves into a final oar push of their gold-laden pirate ships through these tumultuous waters of late. Oh, and the bell also tolls for the silent people who die every fucking day because they either are not insured or are underinsured or are insured but afraid to go to the doctor because their premiums will go up or they'll be diagnosed with a pre-existing condition and be fucked for life. These evil insurance companies will do anything, anything at all, to convince an enormously gullible and reactionary and childish American public that the very same companies who deny Americans health coverage and spend every waking hour thinking of ways to deny their claims, are their fucking SAVIORS.

Well, it's just...stunning.

And then, after 8 years of the BushCo ass-kissing press minions running images of Kalashnikov-wielding Middle Eastern "terrorists" on the front page of once-glorious and now laughable daily newspapers, and Americans looking at those pictures with sneers and horror and saying, "What a bunch of ragheads! Look at 'em! Running around with automatic weapons in the street for God's sake! BARBARIANS!" we now have people showing up at Obama's town hall meetings toting automatic weapons. But that? Why, that's just fucking dandy. We're UHMERICUH after all. Not barbarians!

And then that amped-up (was she doing coke OR WHAT?) Betsy McCaughey on Jon Stewart slapping the giant healthcare bill on Jon's desk for no reason whatsoever that I could discern, since every time she did it she said, with her own flavor of repulsive gusto, "I'll READ it to you!", then she never would fucking find the particular paragraph and read it. I kept yelling at the teevee, "Just READ the fucking thing! Will you just read it? OH MY GOD just REEEEEEEED IIIIIIT!" Then she insisted on playing to the jury (audience) as if she'd been prepped by OJ's trial lawyer, instead of actually having a reasonable discussion with Jon. She's the self-declared expert but Jon sat there calmly with all the knowledge of the bill in his head while she scrambled from page to page never finding anything she was looking for, but when he finally had to grab it from her and read it, she had to keep looking out at the jury and nodding and smiling and frowning and then back at Jon where she'd lunge into his face and point at some general point on the page. I bet you a million dollars that she was grinding her teeth at the same time. That girl snorted a big fat line right before she came on stage. She did a big-ass bump. I know she did.

Maybe McCaughey should have done what D'Amato told her to do in the first place and blown ol' Giuliani, after all.

I'm just exhausted by all the ignorance and tomfoolery. These are grown men and women, but you could have fooled me. And I think that countering all this shit, in writing or in conversation, is an enormous waste of breath. And don't fucking get me started on Obama and the Democrats who actually have allowed this three-ring circus on healthcare to devolve into pandemonium, WHEN WE HAVE A FILIBUSTER-PROOF MAJORITY! What the FUCK? What the FUCK! is all I can say.

For those of you who think this is a fun game where politicians make things up all day long because 'That's politics!" and get your rocks off on arguing and fussin' and fightin' and fueling the fire...I think, no matter what side you're on, that you need psychological help. The current state of American affairs is not amusing at all. It's a despicable and shameful part of our history that is sure to be laughed at (I hope, I hope!) by a more evolved human race 20-50 years from now, if the planet hasn't been blown up by a toothless gun-totin' anti-immigrant pro-life pro-gun gay-hatin' Krishtian fundamentalist nutcase Republican next week.

And...just after I hit the post button and shuffled back sadly to my feed reader, I got to have a big laugh at this. My mostest, mostest favorite? We Are All Nazis in the Eyes of the Lord!

Ahh, perhaps we're not so lost, after all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Obama's Upcoming Presser Notes Leaked

(Note from speech writer: President Obama, take a look at this and let me know if it works for you, so I can get it to the teleprompter guy before the presser.)

Good morning. I come to you today with good news. Last night, Jesus, Moses and Sarah Palin came to me in a dream, and I have finally seen the light. They revealed to me that my socialistic ways will lead to communism, and even though the United States likes to do business with and borrow billions of dollars from communists in China (so we can fund our wars and keep American military contractors wealthy), we don't want to BE like those commies, we just want to USE them.

So, it is my sincere hope that my actions today will finally put an end to your anger and fear (and hopefully you'll stop bringing guns and rocket launchers to my parties). Today I plan to take unilateral actions, with the executive order capability that my friend George W. Bush gave to me, in order to end all socialist programs in the United States. As of midnight tonight, all socialist programs will be discontinued, all employees of those programs will no longer have jobs and all recipients of those services will no longer be able to obtain services.

But please, don't worry. I have been assured by Jesus himself (even though he had a hard time getting a word in edgewise with Sarah Palin yapping incoherantly) that The God Of The Free Market will take care of all of you in no time at all. You can send your prayers to this God (not to be confused with that God, Jesus's dad) to your local Republican party offices, your friendly corporate insurance lobby and all of the other "grassroots" organizations who have been encouraging you to disrupt Democracy with shout-down tactics, believe all kinds of horse pucky that isn't true, and who will desert you as soon as they don't need you any more. Good luck with all that.

Here are the programs I will be stopping at midnight tonight:

  • Medicare
  • Police
  • Fire dept
  • Highways maintenance
  • Military
  • Sewers
  • FEMA
  • National Institute of Health
  • Your free Swine Flu shots
This list is incomplete, of course. (Writer's note: Mr. President, I'm lurking on the Distributor Cap NY blog to see if he reveals any more of those dasterdly socialist programs and will add to the list as they come in.) Because I now know that socialism lurks in the dark corners of our society in many scary ways. So, I will be spending the last years of my term finding those socialst programs everywhere, and killing them where they stand.

Oh, and don't worry about socialised medicine anymore, or even health care reform. I got the message loud and clear that health care WORKS in America. So, as my granny (whom I actually killed in a regretful fit of sinful health care reformism) used to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" You can keep your private health insurance and let them continue to charge you outrageous premiums and fight any claims you make. If you are denied coverage from an insurer, well, just do something. I don't know what. I'm sure The God Of Free Markets will let you know.

Thank you, and God Bless America.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blah Blah Blah Health Care Blah Blah Blah

I read a post over at BayouRenaissanceMan about "socialized" health care and had so many thoughts about his post that his comment box laughed at me when I tried to publish. So....I will post my thoughts here:

I didn't read the original article or Roberta's rant yet (see bayou's post for links to both), but I wanted to make a few comments while they're in my head...

If I read Bayou's post correctly, he states that there are some people who have health issues because of their lifestyle (smokers get cancer, etc.) and not just because of chance, and he asks how much care should be given to these people and for how long? Here's what came to mind for me:

If I get sick and need care and the care provider can make a decision as to the amount or quality of care I receive based on his/her own judgment of my morals or the circumstances of my illness, then my health care turns into a crap shoot. Who knows what mood the care giver is in, or what their belief system is or what their prejudices are (we are all prejudiced to some degree, if we are honest) at what might be a critical time for me. I think it's problematic to base the availability, quality or duration of care on the subjective judgment of individual humans or institutions. Because, it inevitably ends up with somebody playing God, if the decisions can impact whether a person lives or dies or they rebound to full productivity or just drool in a chair the rest of their life.

So I think it is best if health care (whether public or private) treats the illness objectively - such-and-such symptom requires such-and-such treatment - without the invasion of moralistic or other subjective judgment criteria.

Discarding, dismissing or withholding care from people because of their waywardness is not a very, um, Christian thing to do. There are some very brave people out there who work with rapists and murderers (i.e. "bad" people) to try and help them, because these care givers or religious people have compassion for all living beings, and because they know that many victimizers were victims of violence themselves. If one of those criminals can be helped, it is a good thing. I think it's problematic to say that because so-and-so did these bad things, that they deserve less care, or no care at all. If I was a foolish American who got caught protesting the regime in Iran (or was just hiking in the wrong place or stepped over the border into North Korea) and got injured while being arrested or in jail, I wouldn't want my health care determined by the judgments of Iranian doctors or jailers as to whether or not this infidel deserves care. I know this seems like an extreme example, but we have just recently seen two reporters arrested in North Korea and hikers arrested in Iran, so this is a very real possibility.

If Mary Magdalen got syphilis and was dying, I don't know if Jesus would have patted her on the head and said, "Well Mary, now you know the consequences of your sinful whore life! I'll pray while you suffer and die, that you might be lucky enough to be forgiven by my father and allowed to enter the gates of heaven. Other than that, see ya!"

I live in France where there is a combination of public and private health care, and there is nobody making a decision about my worthiness for care. You just get sick and then you get care, whether you can afford it or not. I just read recently over at TPMCafe from another American girl who lives in France and just got diagnosed with breast cancer, that the French have a review board who will review more complex cases (long-term diabetes or cancer care) and determine if the patient receives 100% state coverage or the regular 70% that all citizens get. Most long-term care cases receive the 100% coverage. You don't have to wait for care during this review. You just pay the 30% you normally pay and if you receive the 100% coverage, it's retroactive and covers past bills.

So, I'm not sure that providing care for anyone who needs it, through objective medical decision making, versus subjective judgment about a patient's worthiness is what Bayou man would call "one size fits all" "socialized" medicine. But it's what I prefer. And I believe a public, government-funded health program (with all its inherant beurocratic bullshit) has more of a chance of delivering objective care, than a profit-motivated insurance company who WILL and constantly DOES make decisions about whether or not you qualify for coverage.

Another thought before I go - There will always be people who are not so much unfortunate as they are manipulative, cunning and who take advantage of anything and anybody. There will always be people who figure out how to "game" the system and get stuff without working for it. I believe (and have no facts to back it up) that the percentage of those types of people is low and I also believe that we can't make a decision to implement or not implement something, based on those people. We just have to figure them into the overall cost, just like restaurant owners figure in a general cost for employee theft and dishware breakage.

I've paid into the US tax and Social Security system for more than 30 years, and although I've lost several jobs during the dot bomb, I only collected unemployment once for a few weeks until I got pissed off at what a big hassle it was. I realized that if I accepted my $750 a month from unemployment, if I got three little jobs (which is what I eventually did) that added another $2000 a month to that $750, I would come closer to the $3500 per month overhead I had created when I had those high-paying corporate jobs. But I wasn't allowed to do that. I had to only accept the $750 and make no extra money, or not take the $750 at all. So I either had to game the system and collect unemployment and do the little jobs under the table, or not take the unemployment. I'm a lousy liar, so I chose to not take the unemployment, and take my chances with waitressing, driving a van for a trail riding company and babysitting an art gallery.

But the thing about unemployment is that they told me I had paid so much into the system that I had hundreds of weeks available to me. I could have just surfed on those many weeks until I used them all up. After all, It's MY money. But, I don't mind if somebody else less fortunate, whether they are gaming the system or not, gets that money instead of me. At the same time, me and my various employers have paid thousands and thousands of dollars into the coffers of private insurance companies, and I have rarely gone to the doctor and have had no major or lingering health care needs during the last 30 years of employment. It DOES piss me off that all that money went into the pockets of insurance company executives. I would MUCH RATHER know that the money I paid in for health care but didn't use, went towards helping somebody else in need.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

You So Sensitive!

Yesterday afternoon I was on my way back to my temporary-temporary Paris apartment from my temporary apartment (too hard to explain) and there on the sidewalk was a woman with a 4-5' tall by about 3' wide hand-made sign with "Obamanator" written on the top, above an image of Obama with the right half of his face replaced with steel robotics and his right eye painted red like a laser. Under the image, in French, the sign read, "He is terrorizing the elderly and the children." There was more shit on the sign, but after hesitating, I just kept going. The sign woman was deep in conversation with two guys, and I figured I'd let it go. As Dorothy (sans braids and ruby slippers), I was so glad to be out of fucking Kansas, but I soon realized that Kansas followed me over to Paris somehow or another.

Fuck.

I've mostly been reeling in silent horror about the bullshit I saw and heard while in America. I know people felt constrained around me, because they couldn't say all the nasty things that they think and feel about Obama and the current administration. But at the same time, some of them kind of enjoyed taunting me with their opinions, just to see if I'd react. It reminded me of the manicurist I used to go to across the street from my condo in Arizona. She'd cut my hands while filing my nails, and blood would be balling up in my cuticles. But if I said, "Ow!" or pulled my hand back from the pain, she'd look at me with feigned surprise and say, "Oh lookee you! You so sensitive!"

Well...when somebody calls Obama a nigger, or says "I hate gay people. They should all be killed." I can definitely, definitely, definitely agree with my former manicurist: Lookee me! I so sensitive!

One morning at breakfast at an American golf course, after somebody said they loved Rush Limbaugh and somebody else said, "You love Rush? That's great! I think Rush Limbaugh is a True Patriot!", some sane person at the table said, "We shouldn't talk politics at breakfast." I said, "Yes, that would be really, really nice if we didn't talk politics." Someone who I love very much, leaned in to me and quietly said very, very sweetly because I know he loves me too, "If you want to talk politics, you have to hear the other side." And he's so right. But my response was, "I'll talk policy all night long, but I won't talk personal attacks."

I don't consider any conversation about Rush Limbaugh worth having. He's a radio personality who (like his TV cohort Glenn Beck) makes money in direct proportion to how much shit he can stir up. The more nutty and over-the-top his rhetoric, the more attention he gets from the press, and the more false power (through superiority and aggression) his fans proudly claim by association. If somebody wants to repeat something specific and real that Rush said about policy, then it would be a great conversation to discuss that policy aspect, or the pros and cons of that policy. But if somebody wants to talk about Limbaugh's patriotism (or mine, for that matter), which is a completely vague concept to begin with, and something that is supercharged with irrational, nationalistic, propped-up bullshit emotion, I won't do it. Fuck patriotism and nationalism and everything that comes with it. Let's talk about what works, and doesn't work or what might work better, in existing and proposed policy.

There are many things that me and conservatives agree with politically right now. Neither of us likes the fact that Geithner gave all that money to his banking and insurance buddies so that they could reap huge profits while individual Americans and small businesses are suffering with no solution in sight. If the government had given relief to the toxic mortgage holders themselves - temporarily lowering payments or allowing an interest moratorium, etc. - then maybe the whole mortgage and real estate industry wouldn't have collapsed. People could have stayed in their homes and after the economy recovered, they could take back the slack and repay the moratoriums.

I also had a conversation with a conservative who agreed with me that the problem with health care in America is the insurance companies acting as middle men and the pharmaceutical companies robbing us blind. We both agreed that the chances of getting rid of the REAL health care problem - the corporate insurance middle men - would never happen while millions of dollars in insurance industry lobby money is flowing into Capital Hill pockets on both sides of the aisle.

My Republican politician friend made the mistake of saying in the car when we were driving from Vegas to San Diego, "Obama said he'd stop the war, but all he's done is expand it." I had seen and heard this Republican talking point before she said it, so I knew she was just thoughtlessly mouthing off the party line. I lost my voice yelling at her. I'm one of those people that want us OUT of Iraq and Afghanistan NOW. But I knew Obama wouldn't do that. I knew that before he was elected. I also know that the supposed withdrawal from Iraq that supposedly happened is bullshit. I also know Obama is going to add more troops in Afghanistan. So, her talking point is right. What fucking pissed me off until my head started spinning and green slime started spewing out of my mouth, was my Republican friend's nonchalant, wide-eyed-innocent complaint about Obama expanding the war. That took balls. After she and her Republican cohorts voted to START that motherfucking war to begin with, based on a LIE, to illegally invade a country that had NOTHING to do with 9/11. And then continue the war. And then torture people. And then disappear people. And then use illegal rendition and kidnap people. And then deny human beings habeas corpus and keep people in prison without a trial. And then set up kangaroo courts with no intention of letting anybody end up being innocent. Now, after tossing this huge Republican-created pile o' shit into the lap of the incoming president and administration, she plays innocent. What? Why are you so upset?

You hands bleed? Aw. You house blown up? Aw. You whole family die in war? Aw. You teenage brother in prison in Guantanamo? Aw. You country destroyed? Aw. Wall Street take you money? Aw. You lose you house, you job? Aw. Lookee here! You crying? Awww. You so sensitive!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Molten Bolton

I'm back in Paris (Yay!) and recently caught up on a bunch of Jon Stewart's Daily Shows. One of the things I like about Stewart is that he has people on the show that I don't like, but he treats them with respect, when I would have done something different, like... not have them on the show at all. When I saw that John Bolton would be on one of the segments as the guest, I almost didn't watch it. But curiosity won out.

I've been railing against the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and all of its n'er-do-wells like Bolton, Cheney, Abrams, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush (G must have been out getting drunk), Scooter Libby, Steve Forbes, Bill Kristol, Kagan, Podhoretz, Dan Quayle, etc. for, well, a New American Century (at least that's what it feels like). But since I'm a Z-list blogger (I stole that from some other Z-lister who is so unknown, just like me, that he'll never know I stole it), somehow my PNAC rants have never made it to MSNBC. Darn. Last night I mentioned PNAC to an Irish writer friend and I watched that "oh, you believe in that conspiracy theory" smile flash across his face. I was just stunned that he even knew who/what PNAC was. He said, "Did you know that the origin of those guys was liberal?" Yup. Bill Kristol's dad started the whole mess. And I understand how that kind of evolution happens...people's pendulums can swing from one extreme to the other. But, in this case, I think it's beside the point.

In the PNAC statement of principles, they state very, very clearly:  We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership. ... Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.

This isn't, "We lead through diplomacy and right thinking and cooperation and mutual respect and benefit." This is, "We lead by force. If you don't follow, we'll nuke your ass."

Hell, they urged Clinton to get rid of Saddam Hussein all the way back in 1998.  And since Clinton was too busy smoking cigars and getting blow jobs, he kind of failed in that one area. We had to wait for the PNAC shadow government to prop up nincompoop GW Bush to pretend that 911 was perpetrated by Saddam so we culd invade Iraq and git 'er done! Somehow, I prefer blow jobs to bombs. I'm just sayin'.

If you read PNAC's project paper, Rebuilding America's Defenses (PDF), written in 2000, which they famously still have online, because they famously believe in it, you can see, from the final signature page, how a bunch of politicos got together with some military guys and some captains of industry (that would be the war industry), and came up with a compelling (?) analysis that supports a theory that the US has no choice but to become the bad ass of the Middle East, and subsequently, of the world. Otherwise, those rag heads will have us by our oil-consuming hairy balls and this gonad-snatching could threaten the national security of the US of A.

I guess it's the Big Dick Stick Theory.

There are two (or probably more, but these are the only ones I can come up with on a Monday morning) problems with this:

  1. If we had spent some money on developing alternative energy instead of pouring billions of dollars (borrowed from China) down the toilet trying to conquer the Middle East, nobody would have us by the short hairs. (But then, the PNAC guys couldn't feel like bad asses.) 
  2. Their whole theory is based on the assumption that being scary is the only way you can control people. It discounts the huge leaps forward, in consciousness and sociopolitical evolution, that have been made by peaceful people like Mandela and Ghandi and Martin Luther King (before the right-wing mob killed him). 
"Eh!" Cheney would say. "So what?"

But, I've always been curious about ivy-league-educated guys like Bolton who espouse these theories. I mean, is he a dick at home too? Or a loving husband and father who simply believes that you have to threaten and kick the shit out of people (and dogs) in order to keep them "in line." So, I watched him on the Daily Show. He wasn't a dick (well, not much of one). He was well-spoken. And... he's still full of shit. But the most telling thing he said, the thing that answered so many questions I've had for such a long time, was what he said before Jon closed the interview:

"There's not much difference between me and the people who want a world where no government has nuclear weapons...I only want one government to have nuclear weapons...You're sitting in it."

I guess he assumes that American leaders are the only ones capable, in the whole wide world, of controlling nuclear weapons and deciding who to threaten them with and when to drop them (think Sarah Palin. mmm hmmm). I can see French faces getting rouge right now. Putain!

I also guess he assumes that all the "good" countries will go, "Whew! I'm sure glad America is handling all this for us!" And all the "bad" countries will go, "UH-OH! We better be good now! Or America will nuke us off the face of the earth! Hurry up! Tell me where I can go and become a Christian. Quick! Oh, and where can I find enough K-Y to make it easier to accept Democracy as it's being shoved up my ass? (soto voce: And call North Korea and have them ship us all that nuclear shit toute suite!)"

So, forget the walk softly part, let's just make sure we super-elite Americanos are the only ones carrying the biggest stick. Talking? Diplomacy? Waste o' time. That's for pussies. Unless the talking is about how big our stick is. Then, we'll talk and talk and talk about that. Because we love our big stick. We're proud of our big stick. We want to drop our pants and show you our big stick...all the time. And by the way, we really are very nice. We'll "engage" any time. We'll play with you! As long as we always get to win. K?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Green Revolution: Power Of Love

This video made me very happy, in a time when some people might give up on Iran. It's time for the rest of the world to show our support, while Iranians struggle for their vote.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Iran Revolution Needs You

After the previous frivolous post, I wanted to write and say that even though the MSM is obsessed with celebrity deaths, there are some websites that are continuing their excellent coverage on Iran and I'm still tracking the uprising day and night. Not everybody has the kind of patience I have, to track through all the Twitter posts and sift the real stuff from the crap (and there's a lot of crap), but I have learned many, many things.

If you want a reputable place to go online to get the latest news, I suggest following Nico Pitney on Huffington Post, who continues to live blog. He has now started separating his posts by day, so you can click here to keep up with his Monday post.

Andrew Sullivan is also doing an excellent job keeping up with Iran developments here. And you can get great information at Anonymous Iran.

In Twitter, I've been following the #IranElection hash tag, but it can get weighed down with spam, and it's become pretty dangerous to click on links and to retweet information, unless you really, really know the source. Since I've been tracking Twitter from the beginning of the vote debacle, I know who the real insiders are and I've followed them so that I can just get their posts versus wading through #IranElection. I've noticed that they don't always add the hash tag to their posts, so it's important to follow them separately. If I know you, and you want to know who those people are and how to follow them, just leave a comment here and I will email you. If I don't know you, I won't respond.

A few of the old reliables in Iran have dissappeared from Twitter. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are either in hiding, arrested or dead. If they had resurfaced under a new name, I would have known. The Iranian government may have been able to obstruct or slow down access to the Internet for their citizens, but they have not been able to stop them electronically. Instead, they do some simple research based on the user's IP address and other available information, and go and arrest them. Geeks from all over the world have united in setting up proxy servers on their own machines using Tor, which allows Iranians to mask their IP addresses and appear as if they are Twittering from another country. It's easy to download Tor but I have yet to figure out how to make my laptop a server, even though the instructions online are great. The problem is, I'm staying in other people's homes and the Internet here, for instance, is way too slow for me to set up a Tor relay. Tor relays takes bandwidth away from your own usage, since you are allowing other people to hop on and use your bandwidth, so this would not be cool for me to do.

If you are interested in setting up a Tor relay, you can go here for downloads and go to Anonymous Iran's Tor page and go check out Ian's Brain for step-by-step setup instructions with graphics. Even without the Iran crisis, I use Tor when I'm outside of the US to mask my location so that I can watch US TV online, such as The Daily Show and Colbert Report, so it can be useful for you outside of this situation. If you don't want to do this yourself, then donate to AVAAZ.org's fundraiser to supply anonymous bandwidth to Iranian protesters.

In general, I believe there is no turning back because the will of the people is incredibly strong and the world knows too much now. Iran's current regime is and will continue to crack down. They have the guns and the money. But the movement has people in huge numbers, and if united, they can overcome the guns and the money. They need encouragement though, so if you can post a tweet of love and encouragement (avoid nasty comments about the regime and any encouragement towards violence) and append the #iranelection hashtag to your tweet, this is a grand gesture, believe me. It helps drown out the spam tweets, and it lets the Iranian people know that they are not alone.

Gay Men And Republicans Reportedly Eat And Drink In Same House; Dancing Could Have Been Involved, Too

I'm in Vegas visiting my Republican girlfriend. I've known her for twenty-two years, so I figure if I was going to infest her with any dirty liberal germs, I would have done so by now. You know, the kind of germs that would threaten the entire institution of marriage (worldwide) or open up our borders to octobillions of government-tit-sucking Mexicans who already threaten the closure of the entire US hospital system by crowding our emergency rooms with riot-level frenzy (rather than the sleepy torpor that is usually assigned to them) and who will steal all of your children's menial-labor jobs (and my children's jobs, if I wasn't such a mortal-sinning birth-control-taking baby slayer) and whose wives (working as our maids for cash under the table) will steal our heirloom Lladro figurines and take minute scoops out of our $75 face cream jars (you know, over time, it adds up!!) and... let's see... what other cataclysmic thing do the Repubs want to make the American public think we nasty liberals will perpetrate upon them... the entire destruction of the happy-go-lucky, corporate-run, free-market, plastic Shangri-La in which we live right now?

I even slept with my girlfriend. Uh-huh. Yes I dih-id. OK, well, but nothing interesting happened. Otherwise, I'd be blackmailing her right now. In addition to the blackmailing I've already been doing - about that trip to Greece. (She thought I gave her all the negatives.)

Anyway, I helped her celebrate her 60th birthday Friday night. It was me, two gay guys and 75 Republicans. How did I know about the gay guys? Wey-uhl... When my girlfriend was getting roasted, the roaster mentioned how sad it was when my girlfriend lost her political race to a Democrat (Isn't that the damndest thing?). On the word "Democrat," the entire crowd moaned, "Boooooooo!" and I piped in with an elated, "Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!" Suddenly, very suddenly, the Boooooos stopped. There were a few shocked "Ohhs!" ...then silence. Except for two voices still going Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! Mine, and a snappily dressed fellow over at the bar. Later, he found me in the crowd and said, "It was me over there saying Yay! along with you. When I heard you, I just couldn't help myself!"

Always been a trend setter. That's just me. Leave it to me to yell "Michael Jackson!" in a KKK BBQ. Hey, it makes me a popular party invite, if you are just dying to stir up some shit.

I did meet some nice people. Like the craps dealer with a PhD who brought his 87-year-old Dad with him to the party. My friend had already told me about how she met him when she was going door to door during her campaign. He and his dad have been big fans of her ever since. She told me he is brilliant, and he definitely is. (But I just cannot, for the life of me, understand how a PhD can watch Fox news. I just can't. But, that's just me.) He and I and his dad stood outside to share a smoke and we had a great time. He agreed with me that American traditional media was useless. He also agreed that it's a good idea to read and watch an array of news outlets, so you can try and find the truth buried somewhere down under all the fluff and bullshit. I was happy to know that he reads/watches the Guardian UK, MSNBC and CNN in addition to Faux News. I mentioned how amazing Al Jazeera is, and he stunned me when he said he has watched Al Jazeera online. So few Americans a) know how to do that and b) would even bother watching it if they did know how to find it. He said he felt it was too biased. More biased than Faux News? Anyway, it was a friendly and stimulating conversation and I look forward to changing his mind more.

Here are some things I observed about Republicans at close range...

I don't know if it was because I was in Vegas, but there were a good many men at the party who had cemented pompadores just like Silvio Dante in The Sopranos.

Every conversation I walked by was political. (At least they're paying attention? Or are they just whining?)

Republicans show up for a party either early, or right on time. And we were not ready. Not by a long shot. I have always liked to be on time for parties. But from now on, I think I'll be late.

Republican men are just as bad at dancing as Democrats. I, on the other hand, danced alone, like I have for most of my life. I love music and I love to dance and I don't wait around for some guy to ask me to dance so I can gain access to the dance floor. And as soon as I got up there and started jumping around, my girlfriend said with slight dismay, "You're not dancing alone, are you?" "Yes, I ammmm!" She, and a phalanx of other women, rushed to surround me and dance too, as if they were protecting me from the fact that the last time I'd visited the "powder room," I'd accidently tucked the back of my dress into my pantyhose. Now that I'd started a trend, all the other women crowded onto the dance floor, and we had a... gay old time. But after a while, they all drifted away. It could have been all the staring that was going on. I'm just assuming that was the case. I wouldn't know, because I had my eyes closed.

Suddenly, a man also felt the need to save me from my lonely Snoopy dance. He took both my hands and we began to do something, but I'm not sure what. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. Men try to lead, and I refuse to follow. It's not spiteful. (I just don't want to follow any men. Anywhere. Ever. Again.) After all, one dangerous dip n' swirl can lead to illegitimate children and heroine addiction, at least. Or maybe me dancing with a man doesn't work because I never color inside the boxes. If there are two beats and my partner takes two steps, I'm taking eight. There's just a lot of extra foot and hand work on my side of the sweaty divide. So, I said the SAME THING I ALWAYS SAY, "I'm sorry, I've just never been good at letting the man lead." (because, of course, it's ALL my fault.) He said, "I know. I'm just trying to be a gentleman."

I certainly hope he didn't hurt himself trying.

The next morning, while my girlfriend, her daughter and son-in-law and I were holding our heads, counting empty bottles and watching ants carry off half-eaten sushi and ham sandwiches, the son-in-law said, "Was I imagining things or were there a couple of gay guys at the party?" I said, "Yes there were, sonny boy, but as long as they don't want to get married, they're welcome here." (I didn't really say sonny boy. It just sounded like it should be in there.) My girlfriend's daughter said, "Oh, so you've obviously met my mom." hehe. Yes, I have.

And I still love her, even if she's severely misinformed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What Do You Do?

What do you do when you're in a fake-ass French restaurant in Scottsdale Arizona, celebrating Father's Day with your 87-year-old dad, your mom, sister, brother and brother's adorable girlfriend and the conversation goes something like this:

Bro: Every day I see financial ruin in this city and the worst hasn't hit yet and nothing...nothing...is mentioned in the press about this. Why isn't anybody talking about this?

Dad: Because they don't want to go against that nigger president...Oh, I'm sorry..."our" president...

Fuck.

Here's what I did. I sat there and took the hit. Didn't say a fucking word. Let it go by. After all, it was my Dad's day. It was a party for him.

So, I felt sick to my stomach. Felt all the hate of the world at one moment in every part of my smartly-clad body. Little polka-dotted print skirt. Colorful little top. Strappy French shoes. Dressed like one should when one goes to a fake-ass French restaurant in Scottsdale Arizona where everyone is older than dirt and the food is made to match. Nothing on the plate that could possibly threaten dentures. No conversation that could possibly threaten reality. The little pile of corn on my plate was as decrepit and tasteless as the clientele. And the wine list was an expensive joke. Thirty bucks for a bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.

Fuck.

Then I went outside because that nigger word was eating at me. I had to do something, separate myself from it somehow. So I harmed myself, of course. I stuffed it all down with a cigarette, got dizzy, felt sick, went back and ate too much, drank too much, so that I wouldn't open my dangerous mouth.

Then they started talking about my niece and how she's working for a Republican candidate in Sacramento or somewhere in that area. The conversation went like this:

Bro: If I go to the candidate's website, will I see anything that our niece is working on?

Mom: I don't know the details. I think she's an administrative assistant, maybe... But I sure do like that candidate.

Bro: Yeah, me too. I read about her and I like her.

Mom: Yeah. Except that she's pro-choice (said with a Snidely Whiplash sneer).

ME: Good for her!

Mom: Oh, DON'T say that to me!

ME: Well, don't call Obama a nigger then.

...

My dad came out of his reverie and said, "What?"

My brother changed the subject. Deftly.

I went out for another cigarette. And outside, there was the most amazing rainbow ever. What are the odds of that happening? I mean, think about it. What are the odds?

And as I turned to gaze at the sky behind me, the clouds were tinged with gold and orange and pink. If there is a god, she was there for me to behold, in all her glory.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Global Shift Of Consciousness

I really am amazed at what I'm seeing transpire in Iran. This is so much more than a protest supporting one candidate or another. Mousavi is the more popular candidate, but there were three other candidates who also ran against Ahmadinejad. While some protesters carry Mousavi's image, most carry signs that say, "Where is my vote?"

This is not a student-led movement. These crowds are full of young and old men, young women and grannies,  women wearing veils and black gowns and women wearing makeup and jeans and heels, poor people and wealthy people, people from the city and people from the country.

This is not a movement against Islam or Iran's Islamic government. This is not about religion. It is a movement against suppression, lies and fraud.

What strikes me most, above and beyond the incredible numbers of people who crowd together on a 7-lane highway for five or more miles, is the silence of the protesters. They walk peacefully, in silence. This speaks a strength that is unstoppable. It's a strength that's not derived from threats, shouts, violence or burning motorcycles or buildings.

When I see this amazing picture of a protester running with flowers, as if he were doing the most beautiful ballet on a stage, and watch videos of protesters giving flowers to soldiers, I know that this simple gesture has the power to melt hatred and fear.

When I watch total strangers from all over the world stay up for three days so that they can help Iranians stay connected on Twitter, I know that there's hope for humanity.

There are stray voices on Twitter asking why we should give a shit about Iran, or making ignorant, derogatory comments. But they will be silenced too. We give a shit because we are all one. We all want the same thing - to be free to express who we are, to practice our trade and our religion, to be safe in our own homes, to watch our children grow and thrive.

Peace has never been so loud in its silence, and so powerful in its gentleness.

I've watched the video below three times. Mousavi has asked the protesters to call out "God is great!" from their rooftops at 10, 11 and midnight. From Nico Pitney, who has been liveblogging this revolution almost non-stop for three days:

"Allaho Akbar!" Such haunting video. Midway through, you'll hear a woman's voice, whose words were translated by emailer Lily:
The woman in this video is saying something that really touched me. She is saying that they can take our phones, our internet, all our communication away, but we are showing that by saying "allaho akbar" we can find each other. She ends it my saying that tonight they are crying out to god for help.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Who Says Civil Unrest Is Out of Control?

This is an amazing video from the Iran protest today, with the videographer doing a blow-by-blow in Italian.

First of all, it shows a peaceful walking throng of protesters. Next, the crowd begins to scream and scramble. Then you see what has now become a common image - motorcycles with two policemen, one driving and one with a baton beating people as they drive by - plowing directly into the crowd of protesters. Next, you see that the crowd somehow separates one of the policemen from his motorcycle and burn the motorcycle.

The next part is the most amazing. The crowd PROTECTS the policeman. They surround him and give him water. One gentle hand touches him as he puts cool water on his face. He is terrified, and he is comforted.

There is hope for us all in this one video.

Iran Twitter Revolution: Thoughts From Fifty Thousand Feet

If I step back from the fast-moving intricate tweet data that I've been staring at for many, many hours, there are a couple of things that occur to me now, and some things also occurred to me when I did the same thing during the Mumbai terrorist event:

  • You can quickly separate the geeks from the commoners. Geeks write tweets like this: "News bureau estimates 1-2 million protesters. Unconfirmed." Commoners write "OMG! BILLIONS of people rise up against the fascist Iranian government!!!!!!!!! Fight for your freedom! We're with you, Greens!!!" When I worked for an internet game company and the servers crashed, geeks would say, "The servers just crashed. Interesting." The marketing and sales people would say (as they were charging across the room to the nearest geek), "OMG! WTF! How can this be happening! You have to fix this NOW! NOW!"
  • There are always people who want to try to trick you into clicking on their links, such as the person who kept saying that Steve Jobs or "The Queen" had died. Somehow, the seriousness of the situation drowned out the tricksters. Being ignored must suck.
  • There was little to no nastiness in the millions of tweets that I read. In other words, if there were right wing American nutjobs or fundamentalist Iranian hardliners on there, they may have been lurking, but they were not trying to tweet their case. I was only following #IranElection, so maybe the arguments were happening at #Ahmadinejad. But I doubt it, because #IranElection was the highest-trending hash tag and nutjobs of any kind would be attracted to that level of possible attention like bugs to a flame.
  • When there were stupid or nasty tweets, they got lost and eventually drowned in the sea of worthy information.
  • As always, the best people bubble to the top of the pile and soon you know where to get the most reliable information.
  • You have to be patient when following a huge trend like this. Sifting through that much information takes time and analysis. You end up "feeling" the overall reality more than taking each tweet separately.
  • You can't jump to any quick conclusions or have any knee-jerk reactions. You have to watch trends ebb and flow until you know which ones are sound, and which ones are not. You have to check the source and compare one piece of information with all the other pieces you've seen before. Once you verify for yourself that a source is trustworthy, you stick to them like glue, and you watch who they talk/listen to, and stick to them too. A great example of this was when people started panic-posting that YouTube was taking videos down. Then, in the midst of hundreds of "Those bastards!" tweets, there was the sane geek voice that said, "If you have 'dead' or 'death' in your video title, they'll take it down. Just categorize the video as 'Adult" and it will not be taken down."
  • You will see old data (photos, videos, etc.) redistributed as brand new, sometimes with completely false attribution or description. If you're a journalist and haven't had the patience to watch everything from beginning to end, you won't know when this happens.
  • If you don't have anything verifiable or valuable to add to the conversation, then get the fuck out of the way. Tweeting just to stroke your own ego is annoying.
  • There is something that happens that is bigger than any one individual, bigger than any one politician, bigger than any one country. A completely spontaneous movement like this, one that is fueled by its own cohesive momentum, not organized by any one individual but collaboratively propagated of its own volition, is impossible to crush. It doesn't matter what happens in the days or weeks to come in Iran. The world has shifted on its axis, and it cannot go backwards.
  • It will probably be impossible from now on for Western politicians to depersonalize the Iranian people with derogatory labels like terrorists, jihadists, etc. Anyone who spent any time on Twitter in the last two days knows that many of the protesters are Muslims, and that is no longer a scary or bad thing. It has become crystal clear that Iranians are people, just like us. And the majority do not want nuclear war, do not want to destroy Israel, nor are they Haters of America. That was always bullshit, but now, me and you aren't the only ones who know it.
  • Speaking of Israel, I didn't see any tweets from the Iranians against Israel. Iran's supposed leaders might be spewing anti-Israel rhetoric, but I didn't see any of it amongst the real people tweeting on #IranElection.
  • There was only one MSM journalist that I observed who "got" Twitter and was actively and smartly participating with other tweeters: Jim Sciutto (ABC). He rolled up his sleeves and worked side-by-side with everyone who was closely involved.
That's all I can think of for now. I believe that Twitter's role in this event constitutes a psycho-social phenomenon. How people interact with total strangers to accomplish not only the dissemination of vital information, but also to effect a gigantic social and political change, is nothing short of amazing.

Maybe when CNN stops whining about how unfairly the Twittermass trashed their coverage (see #CNNfail), they'll start reporting on the importance of this phenomenon? Nah. Prolly not.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dennis Ross Ousted?

I don't know what to make of this yet: Why is Dennis Ross being ousted as Obama envoy to Iran?

Too early to tell if this is good news (meaning his influence on Obama is lessening) or bad news (meaning he is moving into a position of higher influence). Making him go away completely is the best solution.

My background posts on Dennis Ross.

Quote From Iran: Baseej Have Guns; We Have Brains.

In support of my premise that geeks should rule the world, here is a quote from a protester in Iran: we honour and thank the people of Iran and especially the hackers. Baseej have guns we have brains.

Hackers have been systematically taking down pro-Ahmadinejad and government websites all night long and this morning as well. Geeks have also been Tweeting new proxy server addresses so that the students and other grassroots protesters could continue to Tweet and upload images and video, even while the government was shutting down or blocking cell phone and Internet service. Geeks rule.

Baseej are the civilian-clothed, baton and baseball bat-wielding, pro-Ahmadinejad thugs who have been terrorizing university students in their dorms all last night and who may be behind the gun shots and death(s) in the crowds at Azadi Square in Tehran.

Quote From Iran: Ahmadinejad Called Us Dust, We Showed Him a Sandstorm.

I haven't had much sleep. Been glued to Twitter, watching the Iran revolution unfold. You can watch history in the making too.

Brilliant quote in my post title comes from an anonymous person in Iran.

Another brilliant quote came from Mousavi as he addressed the throng: "these masses were not brought by bus or by threat. they were not brought for potatoes.they came themselves". Potatoes is a reference to how Ahmadinejad bribed people in the villages with potatoes during his campaign. The first part of the quote refers to rumors that the crowd of admirers at Ahmadinejad's speech were bussed in from outside Tehran, or were threatened or paid to be there cheering.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Iran Elections

UPDATE: Of course, it didn't take long for neocon Richard Perle to blame Obama for Ahmadinejad's power grab:

Richard Perle, a neoconserva-tive and former Pentagon adviser, said Obama must share the blame for Ahmadinejad’s power grab. “Normally, when you unclench your fist it benefits the hardliners, because Obama appeared to be saying we can do business with you even with your present policies.”

I've mostly been following Twitter on the Iran elections since American media is so freaking useless (see #CNNfail). Although, Christian Amanpour allegedly has balls of steel. If you go to search.twitter.com and enter a search term (click on any of these to get to its individual page: #iranelection #iran #ahmadinejad #mousavi #iranelections), it will constantly let you know when new tweets come, so you can refresh it. I thought that if I put all the hash/search terms in the search box I'd get all tweets with ANY of those search terms, but instead, I got only the tweets that had ALL of those terms. So, you'll have to pick one or have multiple tabs/windows open and track each search term separately. If anyone knows a better way, let me know. The highest trending search term right now is #iranelection (without the 's').

This really is the only way to get news from people actually involved. However, Iran is suppressing everything they can - Twitter, Facebook, journalists, closing down news bureaus, cutting off cell phones, etc. But the thing about geeks is that they always find a way around it. Geeks should rule the world. I'm convinced. Um. After women, of course.

Andrew Sullivan has great coverage, analysis, commentary and new information of the alleged actual vote tallies. Huffpost is liveblogging it here.

Of course, the neocons want Ahmadinejad elected so they can get their Israeli pals to bomb Iran. The Israeli press machine is in full action already. Just look at CNN's home page and the number of Israel-related articles, especially the one saying half of the Israelis want to bomb Iran. Niiiice.

Please also read this article about long-time neocon propagandizer Con Coughlin: Trans-Atlantic Con Man.

Of course, this is an excellent time for me to encourage you to go to Jstreet.org, the "the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement." (@jstreetdotorg) It's important for everyone to know that there are sane Israelis who want peace. However, they have nothing on their blog or Twitter about Iran yet.

I had a lovely but unfortunately misinformed (by her fundamentalist church) girlfriend the other day say that "it's always been a holy war over there" and it's just "end times." George Bush and his Israeli neocon pals made it a holy war, and if anybody is moving it towards "end times" it's those bastards.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Now You Can Hate GM Just Like You Hate ATT

He doesn't know anything about cars now, and he didn't know a damn thing (or care) about net neutrality then. Meet Ed Whitacre, Mr. Control Freak: GM's New Chairman -- You Won't Drive on My Roads for Free.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Healthcare Reform: Where's The Unemotional Fact Analysis?

I'm in Arizona right now, visiting with family and friends and taking care of some bidness. It's a vacation for me, after an intense final push to finish up two writing contracts I had at the same time. I don't turn away work, but the result of all that intensity is that the left side of my body is pretty much numb. I sit in bed and write on my computer, because when I sit at a desk I always slump, which caused back problems. But now I guess I need to also pay attention to how I work sitting up in my bed too.

So...I went to my brother's massage therapist for some relief, but it looks like I might have a pinched nerve somewhere, so I have an appointment Monday with the chiropractic neurologist in the same office as the massage therapist. As I was sitting in the waiting room, I started chatting with the doctor's mother, who is the receptionist. She's Canadian, with an American green card. Here's how our conversation went:

Canadian: You don't want socialized medicine.
Me: Yes, I do.
Canadian: No, you don't.
Me: Yes, I do.
Canadian: No, you don't.
Me: Yes, I do.

She gave up, because she's nicer than me. Then...

Canadian: But I've experienced socialized medicine in Canada and it's terrible. Long waits for appointments and in the doctor's office.
Me: I've experienced socialized medicine in France and it's great.
Canadian: Well, ok, but in Canada, even somebody with throat cancer has to wait six months just to get in to see the doctor.
Me: That sounds like a Republican fear mongering talking point.
Canadian: No. That's my story. I had throat cancer and I couldn't get to a doctor for six months.
Me: ...

Woops.

This repartee underlines what I've been thinking about recently. In a land of sound bites, "socialized medicine" is a huge sweeping general term that is loaded with emotion but, like most sound bites, is a quickie phrase that inadequately sums up a very complex issue. When the Republicans utilize this phrase, they distract all of us from really discussing the nuances of worldwide health care practices and their underlying values, and coming up with viable solutions. It just becomes a hot potato that politicians throw at each other, while the American people suffer the inadequacies of the system first-hand but have very little data to help their elected representatives come up with a solution.

What the generic term doesn't cover is the fact that all health care systems are run by people and processes, whether they be people within the government, people within insurance companies or healthcare providers or healthcare consumers. And something I discovered when working for the government (contractor to the marine corps) and inside corporate America, is that people are fallible and processes can be overly complicated, completely inadequate or amazingly smart. It just depends on the skills and foresight of the fallible people who define the processes. So, it's not a surprise that the efficacy of healthcare in different countries differs.

I have British friends who say that healthcare in Britain is terrible. When I lived near London twenty-five years ago, I experienced it first-hand. All I had was a cough and sinus infection that wouldn't go away, and when I arrived at the doctor's office I had to take a number from one of those dispensers you see in American grocery stores at the meat or deli departments. Then I waited forever until I could go into the doc's office. He was a grumpy old geezer who listened to my symptoms and then made me take off my shirt AND my bra, so he could listen to my chest, supposedly. There was no reason at all for me to take off my bra, but he was probably bored to death and decided it would be fun to see young American girl breasts. In the end, he told me to go to a pharmacy and buy cough syrup. Needless to say, I was underimpressed.

My current British friends say they come to France to get better health care. I have some friends who are Canadians and they tell me they like their healthcare system, but the first-hand stories I heard at the chiropractor's office yesterday indicate that the system is not so great. The receptionist's son, with whom I will visit on Monday, is also a Canadian, but he struggles to make money as a doctor in the American system. Because of the insurance companies, he can only make money if he limits each patient appointment to a maximum of 15 minutes, but he doesn't believe in that.

Who or what is the culprit here? I don't know enough to say at this point. My brother asked me, "What do the French do differently than the British or Canadians that make their healthcare better?" I don't know the answer to that. I think Denmark was recently listed as one of the best countries to live in, and that their socialized medical system is wonderful. If that's true, I wonder what the differences are? While American politicians run around yelling emotionally-charged sound bites at each other, is ANYBODY analyzing the structures and processes of successful socialized healthcare systems and using that hard data to define America's new and amazing approach? I sincerely doubt it. That approach makes too much sense and doesn't get your political mug on the news, doesn't get you vilified by Rush Limbaugh so you can get MORE news coverage of your shocked and outraged defense against his vilification. That's the game that's being played here, instead of people working together to create a solution that works. What a shame.

My gut tells me that the insurance and pharmaceutical companies are at the root of the American problem. There's a commercial greed factor that can't be denied. It's built into the system because both are for-profit entities. And Americans go to Canada to buy their drugs, the very same drugs they get in the states, but at a fraction of the cost. How does that happen?

Do you or should you profit from healthcare? Is healthcare a basic human right? I believe it is. Then, how do the pharmaceutical companies fund the many-year drug development process required to bring drug solutions to the market, if they don't reinvest profits? In my mind, drug development should not be in the private sector, but should be done in the universities using government money.

I see my right-wing brethren rolling their eyes at the last statement, touting the overused hype, "Oh Lisa, government money is the tax payer's money, don't you know that?" No, actually, I'm a fucking moron and have no idea that when the government pays for something, it's using my tax dollars. (snark) I pay taxes happily. It's my privilege as a citizen. But I don't always agree with how our tax money is spent. I'd be much happier if my taxes funded drug research in the universities and I could buy drugs at a reasonable price, than if my tax dollars are paying off the loans that BushCo took from the Chinese to fund an illegal and immoral war in Iraq, kill American soldiers for NO good reason and kill, maim and displace MILLIONS of Iraqis. Or I'd much prefer my government tax dollars went towards insuring America's children rather than giving billions in no-bid contracts to murderous Blackwater/Xe and incompetent and greedy Halliburton/Dick Cheney.

So, fuck you, Republicans, every time you start that cheap-shot, intellectually bereft Government-Tit talk.

The doctor's mom/receptionist and my right-wing brother both agreed with me that the insurance and pharma companies are a big problem. As Obama has been saying recently, let's focus on what we can agree on, and this seems to be a shared value. But there's way too much industry lobby money flowing into politicians' pockets on both sides of the aisle, to ever see the end of insurance/pharma in America.

Is there any effort out there to do what I'm suggesting and unemotionally analyze and compare successful and unsuccessful healthcare systems and construct a new way? If you know of any, let me know. THAT's a productive discussion I'd like to be a part of. All the rest is political pandering and obfuscation.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Journalism At Death's Door?

I read about the death of newspapers and journalism, much of it blamed on the straw woman called the Internet. But everybody seems to be skirting the real culprit in this issue, and that is the quality of today's journalism. People haven't stopped reading newspapers because they prefer getting their news online. People have stopped reading newspapers and stopped watching main stream news on TV or listening to radio because all of them offer little to nothing of value.

Radio has become a sad, and dangerous, joke. During Katrina, people who couldn't read could get zero emergency information on the radio. That's because FCC Chairman and Bush Appointee Kevin Martin was too busy jumping up and down on hotel beds in front of an industry lobbyist and an XM Satellite Radio media executive - you know, those guys that Kevin was supposed to be independently, soberly and professionally overseeing. Meanwhile, he was helping Rupert Murdoch and Clear Channel turn news into global news monopolies. The fall-out from this during Katrina was that independent guys had to erect their own news radio towers (examples here and here and here) in order to broadcast helpful information to people who were stranded. All of the "local" news was prerecorded somewhere in other far-away cities and so, there was zero local information available.

When news companies decided that news was entertainment for the masses, shit started to literally roll downhill, and across the country. Now there are buffoons like Jim Cramer, who makes an ass out of himself for one thing, but more importantly, spewed, and continues to spew, WRONG information about the financial markets. The other day I was excited to see that Arianna Huffington was going to interview Elizabeth Warren and Eliot Spitzer on ABC's Squawk Box. I don't even know the names of the goofballs on Squawk Box, but during each show, I kept thinking, STFU! every time any of them opened their mouths. Of course, they tried to focus on Spitzer's salacious prostitution scandal (because they think viewers love that shit...and the media loves that shit), versus listening to what he had to say (of great value) about the current economic disaster. I wrote about Spitzer's connection with AIG, and even though he's a huge putz for paying for sex while he was an elected official, the Attorney General for fuck's sake, I believe he was taken down by BushCo in order to shut him up about AIG. Of course Spitzer had to leave office. But so should diaper-wearing David Vitter and men's room foot tapper Larry Craig.

What I'm trying to say here is that the contrast of Arianna Huffington trying desperately to stay on point and allow Warren and Spitzer to enlighten us, against the backdrop of her empty-headed, entertainer co-hosts, was stunning. I'm lucky to be in Paris and not have to watch American shit TV news, but even before I left I never watched them. There's NO CONTENT. That's why.

Future news is also a big problem. Huffington Post is also guilty of this. American news in all formats is plastered with conjecture about what might happen. What Obama might do, what Congress might do, what so-and-so might say. What could be the problem, could be the cause, could be the next imminent disaster. Just pick up any newspaper right now, or go online to any main stream media website, and count the number of future news articles. What's left might be worth reading. But I doubt it.

The problem with the American media's recent swine flu orgy is a classic case of crying wolf. The headlines screamed impending death and destruction, while 100 people IN THE WORLD were sick. Heck, by now I think it might be a total of 1000. I don't know the exact figure, and I don't care. But the problem with sensationalist horse shit like this, is that it gets us all cranked up, and then it dies. Meanwhile, in the last day or two I've been watching a headline on CNN's home page "WHO reports big jump in swine flu cases" start at the top of the article list and quickly descend to the bottom and now it's landed in nowheresville because the media has exhausted the public with their overblown coverage, and nobody's clicking on that news anymore. The problem is, right now, if any vital information about swine flu needed to get out there, the media has made it difficult, or impossible to get the public's attention.

Even though the American people have been easily led around by their noses by the media, I think at some level, they know that they're being fed pablum, and aren't getting the news they need, in a professional format, uninfluenced by money or power. This is what has destroyed newspapers, and what will destroy TV news. People will start looking elsewhere for real, in-depth, fact-based journalism, and leave the buffoons choking on their own fairy dust.

If you want to read about a real journalist, whose biographical statement is just as true today as it was when he wrote it in 1963, check out Izzy Stone.