Monday, March 31, 2008

Cause for Concern?

From Truthout, "Why Hospitals Want Your Credit Report":

Consumer advocates say the practice creates the potential for hospitals to misuse the information by denying or cutting back on patients' care if they can't pay. Hospitals say that doesn't happen. Hospitals often ask patients for permission to access their financial records, but such authorization is sometimes buried in the fine print. What's more, hospitals could scour a patient's financial records for credit lines and encourage the patient to tap them, despite high interest rates or other costs. "It has the potential to put people at risk financially," says Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, a research and advocacy group that focuses on medical debt
I have no health insurance until October 1, 2008. Six months from that date, on April 1 (this is not a joke), 2009, said insurance will begin to cover pre-existing conditions. I do not qualify for independent insurance because I am 40 years old with expensive pre-existing conditions. My debt-to-income ratio resembles the numbers on the monitor pictured above because of (and ONLY because of) student loan debt in preparation for the career that is currently not offering me health insurance. Should I be worried?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Clinton Mistakes Teapot for Two Irish Women Discussing Their Menfolk

(Photo credits: bottom--Nilgangilga top--Simple Life)

Central to Mrs Clinton’s claim of an important Northern Ireland role is a meeting she attended in Belfast in with [sic] a group of women from cross-community groups. "I actually went to Northern Ireland more than my husband did," she said in Nashua, New Hampshire on January 6th.

"I remember a meeting that I pulled together in Belfast, in the town hall there, bringing together for the first time Catholics and Protestants from both traditions, having them sitting a room where they had never been before with each other because they don’t go to school together, they don’t live together and it was only in large measure because I really asked them to come that they were there.

"And I wasn’t sure it was going to be very successful and finally a Catholic woman on one side of the table said, ’You know, every time my husband leaves for work in the morning I worry he won’t come home at night.

"And then a Protestant woman on the other side said, ’Every time my son tries to go out at night I worry he won’t come home again’. And suddenly instead of seeing each other as caricatures and stereotypes they saw each other as human beings and the slow, hard work of peace-making could move forward."

There is no record of a meeting at Belfast City Hall, though Mrs Clinton attended a ceremony there when her husband turned on the Christmas tree lights in November 1995. The former First Lady appears to be referring a 50-minute event the same day, arranged by the US Consulate, the same day at the Lamp Lighter Café on the city’s Ormeau Road.

The "Belfast Telegraph" reported the next day that the café meeting was crammed with reporters, cameramen and Secret Service agents. Conversation "seemed a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times" and Mrs Clinton admired a stainless steel tea pot, which was duly given to her, for keeping the brew "so nice and hot".

Do read the whole account for perhaps a fairer treatment and the real photo of the event in question.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fact vs. Opinion: Such Tricky Business, Like Really, Really Hard Math

(Photo Credit: and then)

Associated Press:
A chunk of Antarctic ice nine times the size of Manhattan has suddenly collapsed, putting an even larger glacial area at risk.

Satellite images show the runaway disintegration of a 220-square-mile chunk in western Antarctica.

British scientist David Vaughan says it's the result of global warming.

Free Republic:
On the subject of global climate change, McCain acknowledged his position on the subject might be at odds with some in the audience.

"Suppose I'm wrong and climate change (is) not taking place," McCain said. "All we've done and given our kids is a greener world."

MSM Finally Admits that Clinton is NOT a Populist

(Photo Credit: bgramer)

I am very grateful, even at this late date, for such an admission because this particular fairy tale--that Hillary Clinton is the "working class" candidate--has grated my nerves more than any mass delusion since Saddam's link with 911:

From Politico:

When her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination slid into a ditch in Iowa, Clinton found her way out by moving left and now is delivering a full-throated populist message worthy of her vanquished rival, John Edwards.

But it’s a message that seems an awkward fit for the Clinton campaign. Many of the corporations and companies she rails against on the campaign trail today are primary sources of income for her top consultants in the off-election years.

A few examples:

• “We’ll take on the credit card companies so that you and your families aren’t drowning in debt,” Clinton vowed in Ohio.

And who might be defending those evil credit card companies during such a fight? Roy Spence, Clinton’s new advertising guru from Texas, who produced the now famous “3 a.m. phone call” commercial and whose firm also does work for MasterCard.
Let's also not forget her role in engineering the 2001 version of the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform Act. Both versions were lobbied by predatory lenders who undoubtedly saw the risks inherent in their adjustable rates.

• “We’ll take on the insurance companies and tell them they can no longer discriminate against the sickest people who need care the most. They spend more than $50 billion a year trying to figure out how not to cover people,” she said in the same speech.

Among their Capitol Hill strategists is the Glover Park Group, which represents America’s Health Insurance Plans and also employs Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson.
Could this be the reason that she's so adamant about a mandate on individuals to purchase health insurance?

• “And I’ll go after drug companies and insurance companies that are overcharging consumers and the government — it’s time to end their profiteering at our expense,” Clinton told Ohioans.

Meet Tony Podesta of The Podesta Group, who has parachuted into Pennsylvania to help the Clinton campaign take the last big state and stay in the primary hunt. In his day job, he represents pharmaceutical companies such as Amgen, Merck Serono and Pfizer.
Uh huh.

• “We’ll take on Wall Street and tell them: ‘You’re going to finally pay your fair share in taxes, because it’s outrageous that a teacher making $50,000 pays a higher tax rate than some Wall Street investment managers making $50 million,’” was another Clinton line that day.

But John A. Merrigan may take a different view. He’s a major fundraiser for Clinton and a partner in the global law giant DLA Piper, whose client list includes Goldman Sachs.
A teacher making 50K? Where? And after how many years of service?

Now Clinton is honing her anti-corporate message in the Keystone State. And she’s vowing to take “back at least $55 billion per year from special interests, including the drug companies, oil companies and firms that ship jobs overseas.”

It will be the job of Steve Elmendorf, who toiled away without pay to drum up Iowa caucus-goers for Clinton during the Christmas holiday, to help his client, Shell Oil, blunt those losses.

And Clinton is telling Keystone State voters that “after seven years of an energy policy written by and for the oil companies — with help from Dick Cheney — oil has now reached $107 a barrel, and gas prices in some areas are approaching $4 a gallon.”

For help in pushing those prices down, Clinton may want to turn to one of her campaign’s most senior advisers, Mark Penn, whose lobbying and public relations shop represents none other than oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
"Dick Cheney in a pantsuit," even though uttered by Andrew Sullivan, was not that far off the mark.

Clinton’s new populist theme also hits some static when reviewing her campaign contributions.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan tracker of campaign money, Clinton had received $783,290 in donations from federally registered lobbyists through January.
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia, Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Oregan, Montana, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico: Please lend an ear!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Real ID, Real Scary

(Photo Credit: Chris)

"I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin... the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered."
--Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today, an entry at Kos shook me up.

I generally try not to count the ways that advanced technology in the wrong hands turns people into products and tracks our every move. I try to keep my mind off this topic because 1) it scares the living hell out of me worse than the most horrific horror film, 2) the insistence that people are being tracked or "remotely controlled" has traditionally been considered textbook paranoia, and 3) I try to preserve my sanity by focusing only on the surface of just how fucked humankind is in this brave new world.

But Real ID has bubbled over that surface. In case you've not heard of it, or like me, didn't want to think about it, in short, Real ID legislation is a federal mandate on states to gather extensive information on all driver license applicants (and renewers, too, of course) and link that information to a micro-chipped state driver license which will then be used as a valid "national ID card." The card will be necessary to conduct routine business, such as entering federal buildings or even opening bank accounts. The scope of the linked information on individuals can be widened at any time and the card, over time, is expected to become necessary for more and more routine transactions.

The good news is that 15 states have told the federal government to take a flying leap since funding for the Real ID is astronomical, and the federal government is not offering that funding to the states. As you might imagine, though, Louisiana, under Bobby Jindal, is not going to be one of those states. But I don't think that funding is the real problem here; the problem is the very concept.

There is currently anti-Real ID legislation, H.R. 1117, that you can find out about here.

Who opposes Real ID?

2) Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (but both seem to oppose it because of the funding issues and not on principle).
3) Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee (on principle)
4) Anybody who does not believe that U.S.A., Inc, is inherently benevolent and trustworthy

Who supports Real ID?

1) George W. Bush et al (I doubt that a link is necessary)
2) John McCain
3) Bobby Jindal
4) Anyone who buys into the idea that we must give up our humanity/privacy/freedom to protect ourselves from terrorists/evil-doers/extremists/illegal immigrants

If anyone you know supports Real ID legislation, please furnish them with a copy of Orwell or Huxley or the work of any author who may help, and then hope to god that they can extrapolate.

Good grief.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Jindal Watch

The story of the youth correctional facility in need of a direct care provider has the happiest possible ending: the position and candidate were approved by Bobby Jindal and Angele Davis, and the candidate is still available.

I think it's important to remember, however, that the job would have been filled in January if not for the beaurocratic nightmare that ensued after it was advertised. Perhaps some taxpayers can feel good about the fact that two months' salary for this provider has been saved thanks to Jindal's vigilant supervision of the state hiring process. I cannot.

Since this case is closed, please feel free to inform me of any similar situations that come to your attention. I'll be more than happy to offer whatever effect the Funk Bump may have in resolving them :)


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

But That's No Reason To Be Angry or Anything, Right?

T/P, 3/19/08
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday tossed out a Kenner man's conviction and death sentence for killing his estranged wife's male friend 13 years ago, finding that a district judge in Gretna erred in allowing a Jefferson Parish prosecutor to cut black people during jury selection.
In giving Allen Snyder a new trial, the high court, in a 7-2 vote, found Jefferson Parish prosecutors had "discriminatory intent" during jury selection in the August 1996 trial. (full story)

I Think I Hear the Angels Singing Again.

I found at Kos this Atlanta man's moving description of watching Obama's speech at a suburban Jeep dealership. The whole story is really worth reading:
I pulled up to my dealership, just down the street from an Air National Guard base, near the Lockheed plant that builds C-130s and F-22s for the Air Force. The guy who took my car was friendly. The salesman inside who showed me a diesel Jeep was friendly. Everyone's real friendly in the suburbs. But I kept thinking that I was in the suburbs, not friendly territory for my "Brite Blue Dot" and Obama stickers...

I'll just say that I was watching intently, pleased with what I was hearing. When, after about 5 minutes, the guy who was working on my car came by to tell me that the car wouldn't be ready until the afternoon, I thanked him and stayed right where I was to watch the rest of the speech. But something curious happened. I was snapped out of the moment of the speech by the mechanic's visit, which was fine because Obama was, in a very real sense, giving the speech about race in America that I've wanted to hear my entire life: genuine, personal, intelligent, and direct. I've watched the speech again since this morning, and it didn't disappoint, but just at that moment I stopped watching it ...

... and started watching the people around me. The young black man. The elderly white couple. The two white women, one college-aged, one in her late-20s. One middle-aged white woman. Two white men, one college-aged, one in his late-30s. One Asian couple. All of them were watching the speech. Rapt. Nodding.

Gradually, the twentysomething white woman went back to her laptop, but kept smiling when Obama would say something important. The elderly white couple whispered in their Southern accented way: "He's really good... He's saying good things... He's a good young man..." The young black man chuckled when Obama said that Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America, but was otherwise simply watching. And at one point, the middle-aged white woman asked one of the dealership folks, in another thick, thick Southern accent if she wouldn't mind turning up the volume, because she really wanted to hear this speech.

She, this white Southern woman from the suburbs, wanted to hear this speech, delivered by a Black man with a funny name running for President. And she was nodding.

But she wasn't the only one. Folks from the dealership, passing through on their way to and from whatever they do (most of them for not a lot of money) stopped and watch for 3 or 4 minutes. A young mechanic of ambiguous ethnicity stopped by at least a half-dozen times (hours later he stopped me as I was walking to the cashier to pay and said "That was some speech," then paused awkwardly, and said, hushed, "It's good that folks our age are getting involved, I think, right?"). Two salesmen, white, mid-40s, Southern as sweet tea, stopped and watched. And nodded. And I wasn't the only one to stick around to watch the speech after my business at the dealership was done.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free the Angola 3

From Color of Change:

For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a murder everyone knows they didn't commit.

Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the 2 remaining "Angola 3" prisoners (one has been exonerated) spend 23 hours each day in 6 x 9 cells at Angola--the site of a former plantation--because they challenged the violence and segregation inside the prison1. Prison officials--and the state officials who could intervene--won't end their horrible confinement. They've locked them up and thrown away the key.

Just like in Jena, we can turn things around by making it a political liability for the authorities to continue the racist status quo. Join us in calling on the Department of Justice, which funds Louisiana's prisons with our tax dollars, and Louisiana Governor Jindal, to investigate and intervene:

"Angola", sits on an 18,000 acre former slave plantation and its history is telling: considered among the most violent, racially segregated prison in the 70s, almost a prisoner a day was stabbed, shot or raped2. Inmates were often put in inhumane punishment camps for small infractions.

Although not activists when arriving in prison, brutal, squalid conditions and news of a civil rights movement on the outside prompted the Angola 3--Herman, Albert and Robert King Wilkerson--to begin routinely speaking out against injustice. They organized hunger and work strikes and a Black Panther chapter within the prison to protest corruption and horrific abuse, including systematic rape3, facing the largely Black prisoner population.4

Shortly after these protests became public, the Angola 3 were charged with murdering a prison guard and quickly convicted with fake evidence, by all-white juries. The bloody fingerprints at the scene don't match any of the Angola 3. Both men have alibi witnesses, with nothing to gain--the witnesses who testified against them have admitted to being coerced by prison officials. Even the widow of the correctional officer who was murdered does not believe Herman and Albert killed her husband; she's urging state and federal officials to find the real killer.5

The Angola 3 don't pretend to be saints. They committed crimes many decades ago, and more than served their time. They should not be held in solitary confinement for standing up against unimaginable conditions in prison--including violent segregation and 16 hour, 6 day a week work schedules.

NBC Nightly News6 just aired a piece this week about the plight of the Angola 3. And it's time to finally get some justice for Herman and Albert. When we spoke up about the Jena 6, it was about more than helping six Black youth in a small town called Jena7. It was about standing up against a system of unequal justice. That broken system is at work again and we're joining The Innocence Project and Amnesty International8 to challenge it in the case of the Angola 3.

It's now time for the Governor of Louisiana and the Department of Justice to step in and say enough is enough. Please join us in demanding that they both intervene--to ensure justice for the Angola 3 and to bring about reform and accountability in Louisiana's prison system:

Thank You and Peace,

-- James, Van, Gabriel, Clarissa, Mervyn, Andre, and the rest of the team
March 18th, 2008


1. "Justice for the Angola 3," Comment is Free Blog, February 21, 2008

2. "Free the Angola 3,", March 4, 2002

3. "Ending the hidden, savage routine of prison rape," The Huffington Post, March 17th, 2008

4. "Lawyers call for release of 'Angola 3'..." (The Times-Picayune), March 17, 2008

5. "Angola 3: approaching 36 years in solitary confinement,"

6. "Cruel and Unusual?," NBC Nightly News, March 16, 2008

7. Jena 6 campaign page

8. Amnesty International Public Statement,, September 19, 2007

Update: Thanks Rent Party: And let's not forget Gary Tyler.

Obama on Race and Politics

Friday, March 14, 2008

Has John McCain Rejected the Support of This Man?

(Photo Credits: 1. Old Shoe Woman 2. Raford2)

From Huffington Post:
Hagee on Hurricane Katrina
"All hurricanes are acts of God because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

Hagee on Islamic Beliefs
Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked if Hagee believed that "all Muslims have a mandate to kill Christians and Jews," to which Hagee replied, "Well, the Quran teaches that. Yes, it teaches that very clearly." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

Hagee on African-Americans
The San Antonio Express-News reported that Hagee was going to "meet with black religious leaders privately at an unspecified future date to discuss comments he made in his newsletter about a 'slave sale,' an East Side minister said Wednesday." The Express-News reported:

"Hagee, pastor of the 16,000-member Cornerstone Church, last week had announced a 'slave sale' to raise funds for high school seniors in his church bulletin, 'The Cluster.'

"The item was introduced with the sentence 'Slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone" and ended with "Make plans to come and go home with a slave." [San Antonio Express-News 3/7/96]

Hagee on Catholicism
"Most readers will be shocked by the clear record of history linking Adolf Hitler and the Roman Catholic Church in a conspiracy to exterminate the Jews." [Jerusalem Countdown by John Hagee]

Hagee on Women
"Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist." [God's Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, Sarah Posner]

"[T]he feminist movement today is throwing off authority in rebellion against God's pattern for the family." ["Bible Positions on Political Issues," John Hagee]

Hagee on LGBT Americans
"The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

Hagee on Iran
"The coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty," Hagee wrote [in 2006] in the Pentecostal magazine Charisma. "Israel and America must confront Iran's nuclear ability and willingness to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. For Israel to wait is to risk committing national suicide." [The Nation, 8/8/2006]

The Truth Hurts

(Photo credit: eggmoney)

I can't make sense of any of John Hagee's comments (above), but Jeremiah Wright's comments make a lot of sense to me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Does Bobby Jindal Have Against Children Receiving Health Care?

I promised to keep you updated about the local youth correctional facility in need of a direct patient-care provider. The position was not exempt from Jindal's hiring freeze on state positions (despite the state's current sizeable budget surplus). It was over a month ago that the facility submitted an exemption request. It still has not been approved. And again, if the facility's chosen candidate accepts another position, the facility will have to start over again by submitting another request.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Funky Drama

Yesterday, I attended a 6-hour seminar, populated by people I don't know. The subject matter was serious--serious as in if you do a good job, people's lives will be saved. It was draining but for an excellent cause. I instantly liked almost all these strangers and felt that by the end of the day we'd developed a bond.

I'd noticed throughout the seminar the keen analytical ability and quick thinking of one woman in particular. She quickly uncovered some dangerous assumptions inherent in one speaker's discourse. At the end of the day, she asked where I live and it turned out that we're practically neighbors. She needed a ride home. No problem.

This is where it gets weird. Although anyone who reads this blog will not believe this, I do not go out and about discussing politics unsolicited. I wasn't wearing my Obama shirt. And I don't embark on rants except here and in the company of close friends who, bless their hearts, tolerate them.

Anyway, the moment this woman, a relative stranger, was in my car, she got straight to the point: "I saw your Obama bumper sticker! Why Obama and not Hillary??" Although there was an accusatory tone in her voice, I assumed that this question was just an icebreaker and that we'd get through the moment pleasantly enough even if it were true that she was one of those unfortunate bark eating (TM) HRC supporters.

Not so. I explained that I had liked Hillary until she had a voting record and could not forgive her support for the war or for exploitative trade agreements, etc. (This was before I'd heard Ferraro's evil-bullshit comments, too). She proceeded to tell me that Obama voted for legislation that kills live babies (?), that he talks down to people, and, of course, that his popularity among voters has been based on a fairy tale. Then the real vitriol surfaced: "You're a woman!" she told me. "Don't you want a woman president? How can you be a woman and a feminist and vote for Obama? You know, the blacks support Obama, so why don't the women support Hillary? Why do you think that is?" I was aghast. But I kept my cool and explained the myriad logical fallacies in the above comments without ever using the word "you," as in "You don't know what you're talking about," keeping the focus on the points instead of the person (her). I have to listen to tons of bullshit from my students and manage not to pummel them physically or verbally, so I'm pretty practiced in this regard. At this point (and I swear, ya'll, I didn't raise my voice or a hand to this woman), she told me to stop the car and let her out right then, that she'd rather walk!

Damn. Back where I come from, the first lesson in Hitchhiking 101 is to make pleasant chitchat with the driver, even if she wants to talk about getting abducted by aliens or something.

I've been stunned ever since.

Is it just me or does HRC have some kind of bizarre karma? Whenever so much as her name comes up, people square off. And given that she is actually playing on this unique quality of hers lately as an asset rather than a liability, I'm starting to feel that she's so polarizing that she's capable of starting a war. No, not starting another one in the Middle East, starting one HERE!

And I hope that person enjoyed her walk home.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

It's 3 a.m...

and the little girl asleep in HRC's fearmongering attack ad is now 17 years old. The footage is owned by Getty Images and was captured years ago when she was working as a t.v. extra. Not only does she now support Barack Obama, but she has also been volunteering for his campaign for months. Ha. I'm not making this up:

Saturday, March 8, 2008

(h/t Cheap Thrills, a great blog)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

MSM and Mass Delusion: A Case Study

(Photo Credit: S2K Jaeger)

When HRC dramatically reduced her ever-dwindling budget last month by hiring "consultants" rather than funding substantial face time with the populous of remaining states, her new campaign strategy became extremely clear: to create the most effective spin in media history since the build-up to the Iraq War.

I would say that MSM blindly climbed aboard (if MSM had ever been off board to begin with). The proof that this type of "campaigning" works rests with Karl Rove's history of wins for candidates who demonstrate a blatant agenda to attack public interests in favor of private ones. Those who truly support public interests have a clear record of doing so and don't typically believe themselves to need this type of spin.

It seems to go something like this:
* Begin by suggesting there is a serious MSM bias against your candidate at a point when there is a media bias in your candidate's favor. MSM will both repeat the charge and attempt to disprove it by creating an even greater bias in favor of your candidate. This worked for Bush, and, once he was in office, laid a clear path for his agenda.
* Repeat and repeat and repeat in the simplist possible terms (no lofty terminology or sound arguments are necessary since history proves that repitition is more effective than logic) that your candidate favors the working class/"common (wo)man"/underdog. Also suggesting repeatedly that the candidate makes sense to this demographic is helpful since the majority of this demographic is now too busy working and meeting basic needs to have much time for other than sound bytes.
* Express extreme frustration about unfair attacks coming from your opponent at the moment you begin attacking him or her unfairly. MSM loves a fight.
* Scare people as often as possible. MSM is big on a scare.
* Visually distort reality as often as possible. Confetti balls while you're losing after which you will meet your husband (or father or uncle or whatever mutherfucker in your family lived in the White House last) in Washington are a good example. MSM loves confetti. It's very lively. This strategy is fun for the candidate, too. How often does a frat boy from Maine get to play a Texan ranch hand? And how often does an Ivy League former Republican and corporate lawyer get to play Flo, the Waitress?

As a highly paid advisor, I'd have suggested that Hillary adopt the theme song from "Nine to Five"...but the million or so bucks that this type of advice yields is not worth overlooking the reality that a candidate whose campaign is dependent on MSM delusion is not going to overcome that dependency once in office.