Monday, December 28, 2009

Procrastination Blogging. . .

As some of you know, I'm a lawyer by trade, and a good portion of my work involves writing briefs - think term papers. As you can imagine, writing briefs can be a real pain in the ass, and unfortunately, I'm pretty good at it (so I'm on the first team as far as brief-writing goes). Anyway, I'm writing a brief now, but I need a break and a chance to open up my imagination. So, here are a few things that have caught my eye in the last few days. . .

Iran is burning: Well, Iran has been in turmoil since the June presidential elections, but with the death of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri (liberal cleric who technically outranked the Supreme Leader), all hell has broken loose. A quick read of Juan Cole's website, indicates that the regime is willing to do things that Shah wouldn't dare do.

On one hand, this makes sense, religion and politics, despite being great discussion topics, don't mix. When religion and politics mix, both politics and religion (especially religion), gets dirtier. If anything, the fact that within thirty years of the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the regime is willing to violate all norms of behavior is a great indicator of why religion and politics don't mix.

At the same time, I am almost offended by the amateurish attempts at oppression. Rather than sow fear, Khamenei and Ahmadenijhad have only sown hatred. And make no mistake, when the people hate the regime, that's the end. The only question is what will happen next. Thus far, there hasn't been anyone who's willing to be the face of the protest movement. At the same time, politics abhors a vacuum, and at some point, someone will step up.

Avatar: I liked the movie. Despite a less than weighty script (hello, its "Dances with Wolves"), the characters were somewhat believable, and the effects were amazing. James Cameron didn't make a movie, he created a world unto itself. That's pretty cool. It was definitely worth the $15 to see in IMAX/3D. I probably wouldn't buy the DVD, though.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Why the TSA is Stupid. . .

On September 11, 2001, the passengers of United Flight 93, upon realizing that the terrorists who took over their plane were going to kill them all, retook the airplane, and ended up saving hundreds, if not thousands of lives in the process. On December 22, 2001, Richard Reid attempted to blow up an airplane with a bomb located in his shoe. After seeing what he was up to, his fellow passengers promptly beat the fuck out of him. And yesterday, or the day before, some jackass attempted to blow up an airplane. As before, the other passengers promptly beat the fuck out of the guy.

Okay, here's where I go off the reservation as far as liberal politics go - these three attacks occurred despite all of the terrorists went through security. As a result of Richard Reid, I have to take my fucking shoes off every time I go through security. That sucks. More importantly, though, individual action has been more effective than government action. So, allow me to tip my cap to my conservative friends. So long as the government can keep guns off the airplanes, the passengers will have no problem taking care of these terrorists. Okay, maybe having a government agent on board to lead the passengers would help.

So instead of making me walk through in my underwear, can you please just inform us of the threat? Each one passenger will happily assist in beating the fuck out of whomever tries to fuck with the plane - they didn't do it in the first three flights on September 11, because you told us to take no action.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why I'm Pissed About the Health Care Bill. . .

Under the recent Senate bill, 30 million uninsured Americans will have access to health insurance, and preexisting conditions will be covered. While all of that is great, here's my problem with the bill: what happens if your insurance company screws you?

Currently, every single American is at risk. Make a claim for a serious illness, and the insurance company could very well find something left off the application and use that to rescind coverage. As of right now, cancer is the number one cause of bankruptcy (and most of those who declare bankruptcy have insurance). And insurers will do just about anything to drop insurance coverage.

And let's face it, as corporations, profit-motivated entities, insurance companies are supposed to do this. To improve profitibility, insurance companies can either raise rates or cut coverage. In most areas, there's competition to keep companies honest. But insurance companies have government sanction to become monopolies, so there is no competition.

The public option was supposed to fix this. The reason why it was so popular (over 60% of the public supported the public option, without it, health care reform is favored by 32%), is that the public option was a safety net. Get screwed by your insurance company, get the public option. Private insurance too expensive, get the public option. Quit your job and can't get individual coverage? Get the public option. In other words, the public option was a get-out-of-jail card that would've protected everyone. So, naturally, it was phenomenally popular, and couldn't be enacted into law.

For the record, my ideal public option is simple - a full-cost Medicare buy-in. A friend of mine gets Medicare (she's permanently disabled and gets healthcare through SSI), and loves it. At the same time, not everyone wants government health care, so let's make it optional.

Unfortunately, doing what's popular and what's good policy is simply too much for the Democrats too bear. I will now go light myself on fire. Ugh.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What to do with the Health Care Bill

As a progressive. . .fuck that. I'm not a progressive, I'm a liberal. I believe that the free market/capitalism system is a good system, but the real world being what it is, we need government intervention when the market breaks down. I believe that women should have full autonomy over their own bodies, and that everyone should be free to spend their money on what they want, so long as it doesn't affect anyone else. My previous work in housing rights was primarily correcting the market inefficiency of housing discrimination.

Anyway, as a liberal, and someone who cares deeply about the status of health care in this country (which I've blogged about ad nauseum), I'm left to wonder what to do about the Senate Health Care Reform bill. Sure, there are a number of good things in the bill, but there are huge corporate giveaways. For instance, under this bill, everyone has to get health care insurance or face government sanction. But health insurance companies still get anti-trust exemptions, and can dump people for forgetting to disclose even the most trivial of medical issues. So, the bill guarantees corporate profit.

Moreover, the bill doesn't have a public option or a Medicare buy-in, both of which are critical to bringing down the cost of health care insurance. In the ideal world, people at risk - small business owners, people with preexisting conditions, kids out of college - would have a place to go for relatively inexpensive insurance. I believe the best provider of that kind of insurance is the government (I'll spare you the details as to why).

Without a public option, should liberals and progressives deep six the bill? If I had to guess, I'd say that they won't but strategically, maybe we should. The health care negotiations were largely made between moderate and conservative Democrats, with liberal/progressives left out in the cold. The reason for this is that the Democratic leadership assumed they'd have our vote. And traditionally, they would.

Here's the problem that the Democratic leadership doesn't get that Republicans do - its all about turnout. Right now, the parties are more or less balanced, with the Democrats doing better now. Independents swing back and forth based on the conditions of the day and based on the general enthusiasm of the two bases. The party that gets its base to turnout wins. And so while liberals might not vote for Republicans, they will simply not vote, and the GOP comes back into power. Of course, the Democratic leadership doesn't understand this because those voters have been so disaffected for so long that the Democratic leadership didn't believe these votes existed until Obama convinced them to vote.

To get the Democratic leadership to understand the importance of keeping their base happy, maybe its time to kill something big, like health care reform. Let me expand by drawing an analogy. Anyone who's listened to Jim Rome on the radio knows that, for the most part, he gives softball interviews. His guests are given plenty of latitude to speak their minds, and he doesn't go the jugular. At the same time, Jim Rome has the reputation of being a tough interviewer. Why? Because in 1994, Rome called quarterback Jim Everett, "Chris Everett," to Everett's face, and almost got his face punched in. That's all it took for Rome to be considered a tough interview, and guys still duck his show.

Maybe that's what we progressives should do with the health care bill. Kill it to make it clear to the Democratic Party leadership that we're no longer going to accept getting shit on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Conservative Media Bias

While Bogart in Towne guffaws at the title, I thought I'd rant a bit about the media biases, specifically when it comes to state/local politics. Last Friday, I was listening to the "Editor's Roundtable" on KPBS - which, as you can imagine, was a group of local news editors from San Diego. At the roundtable, San Diego's budget was discussed, and more specifically, how the Mayor and the City Council were ducking the main issue - that the City's taxes are so low that it can't provide the services the people want or need.

One of the editors complained about the lack of honesty by these politicians and the consensus was that the Mayor should level with the people of San Diego. All valid points to be sure, but they forget one thing - if the Mayor did that, another politician would claim he/she has a better way and undercut the Mayor. And the media would either praise this new politician, or not tell their readers the truth - that the new politician is lying to them.

For the past 30 years, I've seen the dismantling of the "California Dream" based on this very tactic. California has gone from having the best infrastructure in the U.S. to the worst, from the best education system to one of the worst, from rainy day funds to structural deficits. Why? Because politicians tell the public that they can cut taxes and maintain spending, or make only cuts to government waste. No one calls them on it. There are Republicans who spent their entire career in Sacramento voting against every budget the State produced. No one says anything. Budget tricks are hailed, and honesty is punished.

Moreover, outside of sports stadiums, the local media takes pleasure in pointing out the failures of local projects. Little wonder the interest and money for these projects is dwindling.

The one thing that makes me optimistic is the internet as a medium. Unlike TV, the internet is a collaborative process. If you hate what I'm writing, you can comment, and I'll comment back. But its going to take a long time before the internet outpaces TV. I just hope we can last that long.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fuck You Joe Lieberman!

In wake of Lieberman's decision to filibuster the health care bill, allow me to point out a few things. First, prior to 2004/2006, Joe Lieberman was a known as a deficit hawk, very pro-Israel, and socially moderate with conservative leanings (hated Hollywood, supports abortion rights).

During the 2004 Presidential campaign, Lieberman was killed in the primaries due to his support of Iraq War. Worst of all, he was a pussy about it, and ducked out of speaking at the California Democratic Convention to avoid getting booed (ironically, John Edwards, who we now know to be a swarmy fuck, actually had the balls to show up and take his booing like a man). So he lost. Of course, he would've gotten his ass kicked by Bush in the general anyway.

In 2006, after seeing Lieberman act as a cheerleader for Bush for six years, the liberals of Connecticut (and there are a lot of them), decided to rally behind a political novice during the primary and Lieberman. And he lost on the issue of the day for Democrats - the Iraq War (damn, if it were only that easy now). But Lieberman managed to win in the General Election, thanks to Harry Reid and Barack Obama, who CAMPAIGNED FOR HIM.

To repay this debt, Lieberman has decided to rat fuck the Democratic Party by filibustering health care reform. And make no mistake, this is a rat fuck. Unlike the Republicans, who generally disagree with the proposed bill because it goes against their priniciples, Lieberman has promised to filibuster a bill because it lowers the deficit (the public option), and contains a provision he supported and campaigned for (the Medicare buy-in). Oh, and when the most recent compromise was worked out, Lieberman's people were at the table, and agreed with all the provisions.

According to the grape vine, the reason for the Lieberman's disapproval is because he wants to punish liberals for failing to back him in 2004 and 2006. Now its also possible that he wants to protect the health insurance industry of Connecticut, but the insurance industry has been in Connecticut a long time, and Lieberman is just changing his position.

So, what should the Democrats do with Lieberman? I think that anything, and everything has to be on the table. Lieberman should be stripped of everything possible - his Chair position, his committee assignments, his staff, his office, everything. His intransience on health care - which comes from a personal vendetta - will kill thousands of Americans. He is beneath my contempt. Now, will Reid do this? Of course not. If anything, Reid will cave to Lieberman's demands and set up another opportunity for Lieberman to rat fuck the Democrats again. And so begins my near daily ritual of banging my head against a wall.

A quick word on the Republicans and health care - I don't put the Republican Party in the same category as Joe Lieberman. Republicans oppose the current health care reform bill because they believe the bill will make bad policy and harm the country. Yes, there's political reasoning at play (no health care reform bill will hurt the Dems in 2010), but if politics was taken out the equation, these guys would still oppose health care reform. To that extent, they're honest. Wrong, but honest.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Short Word on Iran. . .

So, apparently the Iranian Government is now going after its critics who live outside of Iran, by threatening their families and whatnot (see Bogart's link to the "What chaps my ass" post. As someone who has followed the upheaval in Iran over the summer (wherein, I learned the value of Twitter), and who has publicly criticized the Iranian regime, let me say the following:

Bring. It. On.

I am an American, and I have no friends or family who live in Iran. Rather, I am one of many concerned citizens of the world who see Ahmadenijhad and Khamenei for what they truly are - dictators of the worst order. You may dress up your regime under the auspices of Islam, but I see right through you. Your regime is composed of thugs, murderers and rapists. As Jesus has said:

And when thou prayest, thou shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou has shut thy door, pray to thy Father which seeth in secret. (Matt. 6.27)

That is all that you are - hypocrites, rapists, thugs, murderers and thieves. To have you as enemies would only speak well for my character. Hell, a half-decent attack on me would spur a career in American politics. So, if you want me, here I am. Come and find me. Oh, and in the words of the Sea of Green - Allahu Akbar!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A quick word on Christmas. . .

Those of you who are pushing the religious angle on Christmas should remind yourselves that Christmas was set on December 25 as a way to preempt pagan winter celebrations. Christ was, most likely, born during spring when shepherds would sleep outside with their flock. So, lighten up about Christmas. If you want to nitpick, nitpick over Easter, which is far more Biblically centered. The whole chocolate bunny thing is complete bullshit (though the eggs, ironically, are based in the Christian tradition - Mary Magadalene supposedly explained the Resurrection using a colored egg).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's Chapping My Ass This Week: On Tiger Woods, Afghanistan, and Gay Marriage

Now, if I was a more fastidious blogger, I wouldn't have to do these compound posts. But the realities of my profession (not just the stress, but the time necessary to come down from said stress), is such that I don't blog as much as a I should. So, again, without further ado, I'm unveiling a new-ish feature on this blog: What's chapping my ass this week. Its a feature dedicated to whatever the hell bugs me.

Tiger Woods: I have to admit that I'm following this story for the sheer spectacle of the thing. Watching Tiger Woods the past few days is like watching Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan, etc. And to be honest, when I first heard the news, I assumed that Woods was drunk. After all, why else would someone drive into a tree at 2:30 a.m.? Being caught by your wife cheating (allegedly) is a pretty good reason too. But here's what chaps my ass - people are saying that Tiger Woods should apologize, as if he owes the world something or another. That's completely ridiculous. Tiger Woods is a golfer and a corporate spokesman. He doesn't tell people how to live their lives, he doesn't necessarily hold himself out as a perfect person, and he certainly doesn't moralize about other people's choices. So, who cares what the man does with his time? Well, his wife does - and believe me, its going to hurt if she divorces him - but I certainly don't feel betrayed. And neither should you (provided, of course, that you're not related to Tiger Woods or his wife).

Gay Marriage: Speaking of moralizing. . .Actually, this post has less to do with gay marriage than with the recent happenings in Uganda. Apparently, Uganda is about to pass a law that would make homosexuality a capital offense. Worse yet, this law comes as the result of lobbying by American Evangelicals. So much for hating the sin but loving the sinner. In the last few days, a Catholic cardinal, in direct opposition to Church doctrine, stated that gays never enter the Kingdom of God.

Here's my point, and what chaps my ass - is that more than a few "protectors of traditional marriage" don't want to protect traditional marriage, but rather, want to recriminalize homosexuality, which I find repugnant. I think that there are basically two types of anti-gay people out there - the ones who see homosexuality as strange and scary, and those who hate gay people. The first type, hopefully, are the majority, and the longer there there is an existing gay culture, the less this type will freak out. If I had to predict anything, I'd predict that same-sex marriage will be legal in all 50 states at some point in my lifetime. But that said, we can't forget the second type - those that have taken hatred into their hearts and call it religion.

Afghanistan To be honest, I'm entirely conflicted about Afghanistan. On one hand, I want to see Osama bin Laden, Muhammed Omar and every other Al Qaeda bastard dragged through the streets of New York and then ritually killed. . .err. . .given a "fair trial," and then sentenced to death. Went too far with my Italian roots. Sorry everyone, sorry. At the same time, Afghanistan is the epitome of a quagmire and I don't want the U.S. to stay there any longer than absolutely necessary. That said, what chaps my ass here is that if we took Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora, like we could have, we wouldn't need to be in Afghanistan.