Friday, July 24, 2009

That's A Lot Of Oysters

As a follow up to my recent post about the American fight for healthcare, here's another important perspective from Bill Moyers. Thanks to Brandie and Olga for the video tip.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

So You Think You Can Make Me Cry?

This performance piece on So You Think You Can Dance made me fall apart. The choreography was inspired by, and portrays, a woman's fight against breast cancer, and it is one of the most beautiful works of art that I've ever had the privilege of viewing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hypocritical Oath of Conservatism

President Obama has promised massive reform of the American healthcare system. He's letting the nation know that "we're going to get it done," and that the goal is to have his public-option plan in place by the end of the year. While 46 MILLION of us, who currently have NO health insurance and absolutely NO access to preventative healthcare wait and hope, the fucking Republicans are on the attack and unveiling their plan through slick television spots and town-hall meetings.

And just what is this Republican plan? Well, actually, there isn't one...other than to paint President Obama as a socialist and to fill their coffers with insurance industry money. Of course, just a small portion of that money is used to run ads like this one...

The level of dishonesty and outright deceipt is un-fucking-believable, even considering that this ad is paid for and sponsored by the Americans for Prosperity group - which is an extremely misnomered, extremely right wing organization, headed by Tim Phillips (of Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed money-laundering fame). The AFP is an "astoturf" organization - meaning that it is a group which portrays itself as a grassroots-from-the-people coalition, when in fact it is a very deep-pocketed, industry funded political machine. Americans for Prosperity was set up to fight against environmental regulations and regulations on climate changing pollution, to fight against oil drilling bans in national parks, to fight against tobacco regulations and indoor smoking bans, and the AFP is one of the leaders behind the recent Tea-Bagger protests which have served as rallying points for anti-government secessionists and militia wackos. They're a bunch of charmers, for sure. Oh, did I mention that the funding for the AFP is pretty easily traced to Koch Industries - the nation's largest privately held company that has been built on oil trading and refining and operates oil pipelines all over the North American continent.

So, while these anti-healthcare tycoons are pouring millions of dollars into these ads, to try to convince Americans that it's a bad idea to institute a comprehensive plan that would institute a public OPTION...

* Over 46 MILLION Americans do not currently have health insurance.

* 10.7 percent of all American children do not have access to the healthcare system.

* The United States is spending 15.3% of its GDP on healthcare, while Canada is spending 10%.

* Life expectancy is longer in Canada than in the United States.

* Infant mortality rates in Canada are significantly lower in Canada than the United States.

* More than 40% of Americans do not have adequate access to healthcare, while just 5% of Canadians are left out.

* More than a third of U.S. employers do not offer any health insurance assistance.

* The average rate of inflation in the U.S. has been 2.5%, while the average rate of health insurance increases is over 12% per year.

* About 20% of uninsured Americans are using the emergency room as their main source of healthcare. The American taxpayer pays the emergency room rate, instead of the cost of a visit to a primary care physician. This costs about $100 billion per year.

* Almost a third of Americans who do have health insurance are actually underinsured, and would be unable to cover any major medical expenses. Most of the uninsured don't even know that they are uninsured.

* The number of deaths in the U.S. among adults ages 25-64 due to being under-insured is about 18,000 per year...more than diabetes.

* Republicans are hammering on "frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits" as the real problem in healthcare costs, all malpractice lawsuits - frivolous or otherwise - actually contribute less than 1% of all healthcare cost in the United States.

The saddest part of all of this is that these corporate fat cats seem to be gaining in convincing working-class folks that they should stand against Obama's "socialist" "Canadian-style" healthcare. plan Most working-class families don't have the time or resources to check out the facts, and Americans for Prosperity knows it. So, they simply put together a quick, slick ad, filled with lies, and air it on prime time tv.

The Canadian citizen in this particular ad lets us know that she had a brain tumor, and that she would've died in her native country. She tells us that she would've had to wait 6 months to see a specialist in Canada. The fact of the matter is that the median wait time to see a specialist in Canada is about 4 weeks. In the United States it's a little more complicated. If she had been an American citizen with a brain tumor, and she had top-notch health insurance, she would have been able to see a specialist in about 2 weeks. If she had to rely on Medicaid, the wait would be about 12 weeks, and if she had no health coverage, she would have been completely out of luck. Luckily, she is obviously wealthy enough to cross our border, and pay for her diagnosis and treatments in cash. (The truth is that she flew to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale Arizona fo see one of the best specialists in the country, and she spent over $100,000 to do so).

In this ad, we're told by that oh-so-scary voice that in Canada, "some patients wait a year for vital surgeries," when, in fact, the median wait time for surgeries in Canada is less than 4 weeks. In the United States, without insurance, the wait time is closer to never.

Then, we're back to Shona Holmes, Canadian citizen, who lets us know that she was able to recieve "world class treatment" in the United States. Personally, I think it's a little offensive to have this super-wealthy woman foreigner speak to the tens of millions of Americans who have no access to healthcare systems about the top-of-the-line care that she received in the country that they live and work in.

Next, the old big bad "government should never come between you and your doctor" line. Of course, the having the sweet-faced, kind-hearted insurance companies between you and your doctor is ok.

And, finally, the foreigner, Ms. Holmes, lectures us "don't give up your rights." I'm a little confused as to which rights we would be giving up by providing a public OPTION where anyone without insurance could be covered, and anyone with coverage that they were happy with and could afford would be able to continue being happy with it.

The time for us to fix the broken system is now. We can't afford to wait any longer. At a rate increase of 12% per year, how long will it be before 50% of us don't have health coverage? And when will we hit 75%? And 85%? And just exactly what is the Republican plan? Well, I'll let Republican Senator Chuck Grassley tell you...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Some Truth In Reality

I'm not a huge fan of "reality" television. I've never seen "Big Brother," "Survivor," or "Fear Factor," and I don't even get whether "Hills" is a reality show, or not. I'll admit that I exposed myself, just once, to "The Housewives of New Jersey," and I really dig "Project Runway" and "Top Chef." Mostly, I'm content to watch re-runs of "The Golden Girls," "Roseanne," and "I Love Lucy" - and, admittedly, too much "Rachel Maddow" and "Anderson Cooper."

I do think that television affects society, at least as much as reflects society. I'm not sure what the current state of television, in particular the ridiculous popularity of "reality" shows based on the spectacle of instant celebrity and humiliation, says about our current state as a society. And, tonight we'll have a brand new spectacle to soak up - "Miami Social."

As devoted Nibblers here at the Lair know, I recently moved to Atlanta, after living in Miami for 15 years. Twelve of those years were spent in South Beach. I wrote about my long-term relationship with South Beach a few years ago, and I knew then that my Miami chapter was coming to a close. I arrived in South Beach as a 23 year old kid, and I became an adult there. I found and built strong friendships with people who I will never stop missing. And I will always dream of the endless ocean and pink, purple and orange skies.

But, unfortunately, the reality of "Miami Social" has a lot of truth in its depiction of current South Beach culture - and that I will never miss. Sure, there are a lot of people in South Beach who aren't as vapid and artificial as the "cast" of this new show...but I think most would be surprised by how many are. And, the problem is that if you work in real estate or hospitality (basically the only legal industries in Miami), you have to deal with these types of people all day long.

I'm surprised by how much I don't miss Miami. I don't miss the rude drivers, or the lack of common courtesy. I don't miss the cashiers and waiters who wouldn't acknowledge my presence, or the tacky plastic VIPs. And, I definitely don't miss the reality of "Miami Social."

Friday, July 03, 2009


I loved this letter to the DNC, posted on (I was tipped to it over at Joe.My.God.). Tony sent an abridged version in response to a written request for more money....

Thursday, July 02, 2009

On The Sidelines

I grew up in Pittsburgh. And the first things that come to mind when most people think of Pittsburgh are steel mills and professional sports. For most people, the Steel City conjures images of the grimy, smoky city of the Deer Hunter era - a place where beer drinking steelworkers cheered "Mean "Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, and Willie Stargell on to make sports history.

And, when I was a kid, Pittsburgh wasn't far from the imagined. The steel industry was already on the decline, but football and baseball held the city together. Even for a kid, like me, who couldn't be less interested in team sports, there wasn't a day without terrible towels, "We Are Family," and the distinctly Pittsburgh voice of Myron Cope. I go back to visit once or twice a year, and I can assure anyone that, while the steel mills have been replaced with tree-lined, mixed-use shopping districts and "green" technology start-ups, Pittsburgh is still very much a sports town. So, it always comes as a real surprise to others when I mention that I have never attended a professional sports game. Yep. I'm from Pittsburgh, and I have never - not once - attended a Steelers game. Or a Pirates game. Or even a Penguins match. Never. I suppose it's like someone from Italy who's never had pasta.

So, on Sunday, I became a professional sports spectator for the first time. One of Tony's colleagues had a couple of extra tickets to the Atlanta Braves vs. Boston Red Sox game, and he was kind enough to invite us. It was a great introduction, despite the scorching 98 degree heat. We were seated at first base, in the third row, and we had a great view of everything.

Having now had the inside spectator experience, I can now say, with full authority, "I just don't get team sports." I'm actually fascinated by how much I don't "get it." I'll concede that, had I had a more clear understanding of all the rules and such, it might've been a little different. But, I'm sure that my not "getting it" is much more fundamental than that.

For one, I just don't get what makes people so passionately devoted to a team. So, most of the people sitting around us were from Atlanta. And, they were passionate Atlanta Braves fans. They jumped up and down with joy when the Atlanta team scored a homerun or a stole a base. And they heckled and booed the Boston players every chance they had - and at times were really fucking obnoxious about it. Here's what I don't get...few, if any, of the Braves players are from Atlanta, or have even ever lived in Atlanta. The Atlanta Braves are a marketed franchise, like Subway or McDonald's. The franchise buys players from all over the world. But, these people from Atlanta put their hearts and souls into being Braves fans. I just don't understand why folks feel so passionate about an Atlanta team that in no way at all represents anything about the City of Atlanta.

Second. I don't get the behavior of heckling and booing the other team. I just don't understand what joy people get out of screaming "you suck!" and "papi, you're a big loser!" And, I don't get how that's acceptable and expected behavior, just because of the game setting. People actually pay money, so that they can sit in stadium seats and hurl insults at other people. Weird.

Lastly, I just don't get why the masses are so attracted to team sports, as opposed to individual athletic achievement. I actually love watching many of the Olympics events. And, I'm not sure what that big difference is for me. I'm sure that the big spectacle of team sports stimulates some genetic militaristic tendency that I just don't have, but the sociology of team sports is just so intriguing to me.

Any thoughts?