Thursday, May 7, 2009

Health Insurance Denied

Still waiting to hear back from Blue Cross on why they deemed me unworthy of health insurance.
I'm reminded highly of this post by Miriam on Feministing:
The bottom line is that we have no protections against the arbitrary and discriminatory policies of the health insurance companies.
I wonder when President Obama will live up to his many promises on health care reform, and work to require Health Insurance Companies to cover pre-existing conditions.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why are Democrats Supporting Arlen Specter?

Arlen Specter, in his own words (emphasis mine):

At several other points, Specter did lay out areas in which he had "diverged materially from the Republican line," including raising the minimum wage, the stimulus package and abortion rights. But he went to great lengths to insist that he did not, as reported, tell Democratic leadership or the White House that he would be a loyal party member.

"I did not say," he told host David Gregory, "I would be a loyal Democrat. I did not say that."

The Democratic Party should not support this man's run for office. We should all support a challenger. Perhaps Joe Sestak?

Pet Issues and Condescending Centrists: The Third Way

Matt Bennet, Vice President of tact for the centrist group The Third Way, has a zinger of a quote in this AP article (emphasis mine):

But the process to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter could pump new oxygen into national debates over abortion, immigration, minority rights, limits to privacy and other matters that often animate large grassroots organizations, which have been comparatively quiet in recent months.

"There's no doubt these debates are coming back," said Matt Bennett, vice president of the centrist Democratic group Third Way. They might create more noise than suspense, he said, because there is little doubt that the Democratic-dominated Senate will confirm Obama's eventual choice. Liberal activists will "fall in line" even if they are not entirely satisfied with the administration's progress on their pet issues, Bennett said.

Fuck that! We are not "falling in line" if Obama replaces a liberal judge with a mushy centrist who will collapse on essential issues such as consumer rights, gay rights, women's rights or human rights. The President will find that as he continues to adopt Bush administraiton positions, he will begin adopting the popularity of the former President as well.

Iran Executes Innocent Woman Convicted as a Child

Iran hung a 23 year old girl for murder. A few facts stand out about this case (Huffpost, emphasis mine):
Authorities executed the 23-year-old woman Friday in northern Iran without informing her lawyer or allowing the family to be present, said the lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei. She was 17 at the time the crime was committed, in 2003.


The prisoner executed Friday, Delara Darabi, initially pleaded guilty to killing her father's cousin, but later retracted her confession and said her boyfriend carried out the killing. She told a judge that she had initially confessed because her boyfriend told her that, as a minor, she would not be executed and she could save him from being put to death, her lawyer said.

Her boyfriend, who was 19 at the time of the killing, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for complicity in murder.


Mostafaei said the court did not seriously consider his arguments in the woman's defense.

For example, he said, Darabi was left-handed, while all the evidence suggests the crime was committed by someone who was right-handed.

An innocent girl took the fall for her boyfriend. He gets 10 years, she is killed.
The lawyer said Darabi called her parents just moments before the execution. He quoted her as saying, "Oh, Mother, I see the hangman's noose in front of me. They are going to execute me. Please save me."
This is murder, plain, simple, brutal. The US State Department (contact info) should call Iran out on this. Iran deserves to be shamed in front of the international community.


I find the practice of framing to be a bit annoying, so I've instituted a small script to close frames automatically. Hopefully this makes reading this blog a more enjoyable experience.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Some Justices Think Systemic Racism is Gone

Justices are weighing whether or not to throw out the 2006 renewal of the Voting Rights Act. Its come down to liberals vs conservatives. I'm stuck wondering if our highest court really is as predictable as the political leanings of its membership. Does empirical evidence still have a place in modern law?

Let's check in with the liberals:
Justice David Souter, who was among the most active questioners in defense of the Voting Rights Act, said Coleman's claim seemed "to deny the empirical reality" of the contemporary instances of bias Congress documented in the states.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg suggested by her questions that she, too, believed the law was necessary to prevent backsliding in voting rights. Similar sentiment was expressed by the two other liberal justices, John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer.
And quite the empirical reality there is. Take Voter ID laws, for example:
Texas is considering such a law. Unfortunately, these types of laws typically adversely affect the poor, people of color, people with disabilities and the elderly. Some estimates suggest that the number of eligible voters without acceptable identification is as high as 12 percent.
Note that Coleman, the attorney arguing against the Voting Rights Act, is representing a district in Texas. Voter ID legislation is one of many scurrilous tactics employed by the right wing to suppress votes. And this is done precisely because a legal avenue opened up:

The U.S. Supreme Court has said that states may require identification other than a voter registration card. That doesn't mean Texas should. It would be wrong to make voting more difficult for law-abiding citizens without good reason. Having enough votes to do it isn't a good reason.

So what do the conservative judges say?
The more conservative justices appeared to strongly believe the law has run its course. Chief Justice John Roberts said of Congress' repeated renewal of the 1965 act: "At some point, it begins to look like it's going to go on forever."

Justice Antonin Scalia said that much of the evidence of government bias against black people and other minorities was documented "a long time ago."
Just what universe does Justice Scalia live in?
Look, I understand the value of healthy debate and differences of opinion. But when some show flagrant disregard for the truth and remain impervious to evidence to the contrary, are they still qualified to act as judges? Its not as if the evidence presented was easily dismissable (emphasis mine):
Defending the law were Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal and Debo Adegbile of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Both lawyers emphasized the difficulty of bringing individual voting bias cases and said Congress wanted to ensure that unfair policies could be caught before they took effect.

Katyal said Congress compiled 16,000 pages of testimony and determined that its work in this area was not done.
16 thousand pages of testimony!

Respect for the truth and empirical evidence is central to a functioning judiciary. The conservative judges on our highest court, especially Scalia, are doing a fine job of undermining our confidence in the stability of the institution.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Best Description of Republicans Ever

August Pollack is a genius (emphasis mine):
this insane "we've got them right where we want them" whining from the right and the pseudo-libertarians sems desperate to imply that Democrats are inherently just as big a pile of screw-ups as Republicans, so naturally they're going to crash and burn just as badly as... umm... they did.

It's like a bunch of arsonists telling firemen as they rush into a building "you guys suck. That building is totally on fire."


PUMA Tea Parties

Remember when, during the primaries, speculation began that the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) crowd were really Republicans? When during the general election their widespread defection to the McCain/Palin ticket showed how their respect for Democratic ideals (including a women's right to choose and separation of church and state) were beyond flimsy?

Apparently they've joined the extreme fringe of the Republican party, the proud tea-baggers alliance. And boy, is their crazy chock full of irony:
Obama is so obsessed with batting down his domestic “enemies” that it doesn’t matter if America’s real enemies are strengthened in the process. What was Obama’s goal in releasing the CIA torture memos, against the advice of his top terrorism and intelligence advisors?
There isn't even a trace of self-awareness or accuracy to be found. While Bush did attack political enemies domestically (and enemies of choice internationally) at the documented expense of our national security, Obama has focused his energy on solving problems directly and at their source. The CIA torture memos were already public.

PUMA bloggers are essentially concern trolls attempting to fustigate meaningful analysis of fringe Republican activity with deliberately false and misleading statements.
Citizens engaged in a grassroots Tea Party movement clearly are perceived as a bigger threat to Obama than evil forces intent on destroying America.
The Tea Party "movement" has been funded and organized by all the usual players intent on using astroturfing strategies to fake grassroots support for an otherwise unsustainable politics. It is clear that the so called PUMA movement is a part of that right wing strategy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Reconsidering Pork: Factory Farming and Swine Flu

After reading this excellent Rolling Stone article (via Mike@C&L), I'm reconsidering pork, and I think you might want to as well. Here are some choice quotes:
The floors are slatted to allow excrement to fall into a catchment pit under the pens, but many things besides excrement can wind up in the pits: afterbirths, piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, old batteries, broken bottles of insecticide, antibiotic syringes, stillborn pigs -- anything small enough to fit through the foot-wide pipes that drain the pits.

Taken together, the immobility, poisonous air and terror of confinement badly damage the pigs' immune systems.

When a pig nearly ready to be slaughtered grows ill, workers sometimes shoot it up with as many drugs as necessary to get it to the slaughterhouse under its own power. As long as the pig remains ambulatory, it can be legally killed and sold as meat.
The cruelty towards these animals and alarming lack of health concerns are quite apparent. But how they treat the refuse from these pigs is nothing less than startling (emphasis mine):

Smithfield's holding ponds -- the company calls them lagoons -- cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.

Even light rains can cause lagoons to overflow; major floods have transformed entire counties into pig-shit bayous. To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes pump the shit out of them and spray the waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as "overapplication." This can turn hundreds of acres -- thousands of football fields -- into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit.

Just how toxic is this stuff? Fucking scary as hell, you go in you don't come out toxic (emphasis mine):
The lagoons themselves are so viscous and venomous that if someone falls in it is foolish to try to save him. A few years ago, a truck driver in Oklahoma was transferring pig shit to a lagoon when he and his truck went over the side. It took almost three weeks to recover his body. In 1992, when a worker making repairs to a lagoon in Minnesota began to choke to death on the fumes, another worker dived in after him, and they died the same death. In another instance, a worker who was repairing a lagoon in Michigan was overcome by the fumes and fell in. His fifteen-year-old nephew dived in to save him but was overcome, the worker's cousin went in to save the teenager but was overcome, the worker's older brother dived in to save them but was overcome, and then the worker's father dived in. They all died in pig shit.
That can't be good for the people stuck living nearby, can it?
People who breathe the shit-infused air suffer from bronchitis, asthma, heart palpitations, headaches, diarrhea, nosebleeds and brain damage. In 1995, a woman downwind from a corporate hog farm in Olivia, Minnesota, called a poison-control center and described her symptoms. "Ma'am," the poison-control officer told her, "the only symptoms of hydrogen-sulfide poisoning you're not experiencing are seizures, convulsions and death. Leave the area immediately." When you fly over eastern North Carolina, you realize that virtually everyone in this part of the state lives close to a lagoon.
At least they aren't feeding pigs dead pigs:
Millions of factory-farm hogs -- one study puts it at ten percent -- die before they make it to the killing floor. Some are taken to rendering plants, where they are propelled through meat grinders and then fed cannibalistically back to other living hogs.
That's just begging for prions to spread.

The whole article, a stinging takedown of factory farming and Smithfield Foods specifically. Is worth a read. Smithfield Foods is worth a visit too, if only to see their cynical slogan "Good food. Responsibly" with a whole section devoted to their supposed responsibility.

Given the people stuck living next to these farms where the smell of concentrated chemical-infused pig shit can literally knock you unconscious, Smithfield Food's claim of a commitment to food safety is a cruel joke. It is an even harsher joke in the light of their lobbying efforts.

It looks like that joke could cost us all. Smithfield Foods might be linked to the recent outbreak of swine flu.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Idea! Moon Resolution for Texas

Texas, boldly showing tea-bagging patriots the way forward, has run into yet another tricky liberal commie .. trick: Reality! Bill Nye made some Texans upset by claiming that the moon wasn't a "lesser light", but rather, a reflector (Hat Tip Jesus' Very Own General).

Well, if Illinois can declarify Pluto a planet, why not can has Texas legalize the Moon as a lesser light?!

Brilliant, you say?

I bet Texas Republicans would luv the chance to help Church and State snuggle just a lil bit closer.