Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Protect Life Act…

The House just passed the Protect Life Act, which true to its name ensures that all U.S. citizens have access to affordable health care, nutritious meals, and safe housing. It also eliminates capital punishment and reduces our military presence abroad. No, wait, I confused the U.S. with a first world country; the bill actually does the following:

Limitation on Abortion Funding-

‘(1) IN GENERAL- No funds authorized or appropriated by this Act (or an amendment made by this Act), including credits applied toward qualified health plans under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or cost-sharing reductions under section 1402 of this Act, may be used to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion…

So, what’s the point of this? House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says it’s to “ensure that no taxpayer dollars flow to health care plans that cover abortion and no health care worker has to participate in abortions against their will.”

Cantor must think we live in some sci-fi movie in which everyone, after their birth from a futuristic gestation matrix, is assigned a career with no option to choose something else — such as the vegan who got randomly assigned to the slaughterhouse that specializes in cute animals. If you are distinctly anti-abortion, it might behoove you to consider a career in which it will never come up. It’s not that hard. I have friends who are real estate agents and accountants. To my knowledge, they’ve never had to participate in an abortion — even when the market was at its worst.

The bill does make the usual exceptions for “rape or incest,” so apparently the life is less worthy of protection if the father is a bastard and the mother did not actually enjoy the sex that led to conception. There’s also an allowance if the woman might die. However, that only gets her through Level 1 of the government-approved misogyny video game. Level 2 is still the potential refusal of the service if it offends the sensibility of medical provider.

OPTION TO PURCHASE SEPARATE COVERAGE OR PLAN- Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as prohibiting any non-Federal entity (including an individual or a State or local government) from purchasing separate coverage for abortions for which funding is prohibited under this subsection, or a qualified health plan that includes such abortions, so long as–

‘(A) such coverage or plan is paid for entirely using only funds not authorized or appropriated by this Act; and

‘(B) such coverage or plan is not purchased using–

‘(i) individual premium payments required for a qualified health plan offered through an Exchange towards which a credit is applied under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986; or

‘(ii) other non-Federal funds required to receive a Federal payment, including a State’s or locality’s contribution of Medicaid matching funds.

I’m not a lawyer but basically, if you’re rich, you can still have an abortion — just have your butler hand over some gold bars to the doctor. This seems to put abortion on the same medical footing as a nose job and breast enlargement.

There is a section the prevents “nondiscrimination on abortion,” but that actually is intended to protect medical providers who are anti-abortion and don’t wish to perform them (sort of like the dentists who don’t like root canals):

‘(1) NONDISCRIMINATION- A Federal agency or program, and any State or local government that receives Federal financial assistance under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act), may not subject any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination, or require any health plan created or regulated under this Act (or an amendment made by this Act) to subject any institutional or individual health care entity to discrimination, on the basis that the health care entity refuses to–

‘(A) undergo training in the performance of induced abortions;

‘(B) require or provide such training;

‘(C) perform, participate in, provide coverage of, or pay for induced abortions; or

‘(D) provide referrals for such training or such abortions

I think this is how you ban abortion while people are too busy watching primetime TV to notice. Who needs to bother with Roe v. Wade? Reading this bill, it seems a woman has a better chance blowing up the Death Star than getting an abortion.

Laura Bassett from the Huffington Post reports further:

H.R. 358, introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), goes beyond the issue of taxpayer dollars to place actual limits on the way a woman spends her own money. The bill would prevent a woman from buying a private insurance plan that includes abortion coverage through a state health care exchange, even though most insurance plans currently cover abortion.

An even more controversial aspect of the bill would allow hospitals that are morally opposed to abortion, such as Catholic institutions, to do nothing for a woman who requires an emergency abortion procedure to save her life. Current law requires that hospitals give patients in life-threatening situations whatever care they need, regardless of the patient’s financial situation, but the Protect Life Act would make a hospital’s obligation to provide care in medical emergencies secondary to its refusal to provide abortions.

I suppose the bill is appropriately named after all: Its stated desire to “protect life” certainly is an act.


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The Politics of “I’m Sorry”…

Johnny Depp’s recent foot-in-mouth incident was not as egregious and did not have the immediate repercussions as country music singer Hank Williams Jr’s comparison of President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler.

In an appearance on last week’s “FOX and Friends,” Williams said that Obama golfing with House Speaker John Boehner was “like Hitler playing golf with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu.”

OK, let’s go to the dictionary.

Definition of Hitler:

1. An Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party:

2. Most commonly associated with the rise of fascism in Europe, World War II, and the Holocaust:

3. Gained support by promoting Pan-Germanism, antisemitism, and anti-communism with charismatic oratory and propaganda.

4. Probably not someone you would compare to a U.S. president who represents everything he would have detested.

Thanks to FOX and the Tea Party, Obama is probably the president who has been compared the most to Hitler even though — with the possible exception of wheelchair-bound FDR — he’s the only one who would have been shipped off to Dachau.

It’s interesting because historically speaking previous presidents have done worst things than passing health care reform. There’s Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to the Trail of Tears. And 12 U.S. presidents owned slaves (eight of them did so while in office). Can you imagine the trouble Obama would get into if he owned slaves?

Surely, you ask, Williams did not mean to compare Obama to Hitler? Unlike Depp, the nice people at “FOX and Friends” gave Williams the “Idiot Retraction Option.” This is preemptive to the “Apology Due to Public Outcry.”

Williams declined this option and further embraced the “Sinking Ship Statement.” He stated that “they’re the enemy” and clarified that by “they” he meant Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

I don’t believe that comparisons to Hitler should be off-limits, as many commentators seem to think, but they just need to make sense and be grounded in reality. Too often they reflect the sad reality that the speaker is unaware of any other appropriate bogeyman aside from Hitler. If you want to ignore body counts but at least have an internally consistent position, compare Obama (godless socialist, per FOX) to Stalin (godless communist, per his MySpace page).

Williams later issued the “Half-Assed and Too Little Too Late” Apology:

“The thought of the leaders of both parties jukin and high fiven on a golf course, while so many families are struggling to get by simply made me boil over and make a dumb statement… I am very sorry if it offended anyone.”

This is similar to Newt Gingrich’s claim that he cheated on his wife because he loved his country so much. Williams made his “dumb statement” out of righteous anger.

ESPN reacted to this by pulling Williams’s intro from Monday Night Football. The song’s title “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” was also the text of the telegram Hitler sent Poland prior to invading. This later prompted a sermon from Sarah Palin on her FOX show “Strawman Arguments with Sarah.”

“Hank Williams and what he is going through now, I think it’s a very clear  illustration of a greater societal problem and that is the hypocrisy on the left  — the liberals who can throw these stones at a conservative and they knowing that they’re not going to be held accountable… It’s a one way street and we’re always walking on eggshells, aren’t we? … you know, like, oh geez, if I say that is  somebody going to misinterpret it or spin it as something that is quote unquote  racist or sexist or anything else? But the other side … they can say whatever  they want and nobody calls them out on it. I think it’s pretty disgusting.”

The “nobody” in this case would be FOX News, which calls them out on a daily basis. Shirley Sherrod was fired for statements taken out of context that FOX and conservative bloggers made a stink over.

And isn’t this the example of free-market capitalism that conservatives love so much? The big corporation (ESPN) decided that an individual (Williams) was a liability and parted ways with him. This is business. And his first amendment right to free speech protected him in that the government didn’t arrest him for comparing the president to a genocidal maniac.

I don’t get the priorities here: I should lose my job in the military because I’m gay. I should go bankrupt because I’m uninsured. But I should be able to say stupid things on TV with no repercussions? Well, I guess, the latter freedom does ensure that Sarah Palin remains employed.


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Steve Jobs, Willy Wonka, and You…

When Steve Jobs died on October 5, there was a flood of condolesences online. “Online” here generally defined as Facebook and Twitter. According to the people Twitter hires to measure such things, its users commented on the Apple co-founder and former CEO’s death at a rate of 6,049 tweets per second. That’s more that the Twitter-verse cared about the death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden (around 5,000 tweets per second) but significantly less than the comments on Beyonce Knowles’s pregnancy during the MTV Video Music Awards (8,868).

It’s hard to imagine any other CEO’s passing receiving such attention. Warren Buffett might but only if you factored in the people on Facebook and Twitter who confused him with the “Margaritaville” singer.

Jobs was practically as popular as Barack Obama once was and even the president’s fame took a nosedive when he actually became the country’s chief executive. However, the iPad was arguably a more successful product launch than health care reform.

It would probably not offend Jobs to state that he himself was a product, perhaps Apple’s most effective. In his death, he’s been repackaged as a “visionary” and “innovator,” which are nice ways of saying he was more than just an extremely competent businessman. After all, the executives we don’t like wear suits not turtlenecks and jeans. It’s safe to assume the protestors at “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations took time to mourn Jobs.

Maryann Johanson of Flick Filosopher stated how hearing Jobs say in the unaired 1997 “Crazy Ones” commercial that “the people who are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do” makes her cry now. That’s quite an impact. And the morning of his death, my Facebook feed was filled with inspirational quotes from Jobs. He was not merely a guy who made a hell of a lot of money (reported net worth of 8.3 billion). He was one of the “crazy ones.” Keep in mind that the commercials featured artists (John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Maria Callas, Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, and Jim Henson), trailblazers (Muhammad Ali, Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Martin Luther King, Jr), and true geniuses (Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison). The only businessmen featured were Richard Branson and Ted Turner — the latter perhaps because they wanted to include at least one figure who was not just metaphorically “crazy.”

Upon reflection, this commercial makes me want to cry, as well, but for different reasons. It’s all rather cynical name dropping for a commercial whose ultimate aim to get you to buy something that most likely would not figure prominently in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Did Jobs really “change the world”? Everyone seems to think so, including President Obama, who said that Jobs “was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it.”

It would deny logic to claim Jobs did not alter our society, but this did not occur on a philanthropic level. According to Fortune, Jobs had “had terminated all of Apple’s long-standing corporate philanthropy programs within weeks after returning to Apple in 1997, citing the need to cut costs until profitability rebounded. But the programs have never been restored.” No, Jobs’s true legacy would be what Bud Tribble at Apple referred to as his “Reality Distortion Field” or what I consider his ability to crank up the public’s conspicuous consumption volume to 11. (The RDF might also explain why Jobs’s replacement Tim Cook came off during his first product launch like Doug Henning to his David Copperfield.)

Middle school teacher Heather Wolpert-Gawron wrote on the Huffington Post that she told her students that Job’s death was as if “Willy Wonka has died.” I consider this a not-unreasonable comparison: Wonka was not a farmer who used his factory to revolutionize means of feeding the population. He sold junk food to children and later punished a select few of them for demonstrating the very same gluttony that made him a wealthy man.

We buy a new phone every year. When I was a kid, there was one phone in the house and it was only replaced when it broke — not when Wonka showed up with a new, cooler one a few months later.

The question was posed recently as to whether the U.S., which barely has two nickels to rub together, can afford to provide aid to Somalia — a country that  ranks low on iPod penetration but high on famine penetration. It’s an astounding cognitive dissonance that anyone would ask that question during a time when Apple has revenue approaching $10 billion (although, apparently the company was not profitable enough for Jobs to resume its philanthropy programs).

But no one knows who Bob McDonald is and no one cares about the “hot, new” toothpaste, even if it might help prevent gingivitis. We all want to be able to make a phone call while posting to Facebook that we’re making a phone call while posting to Facebook.


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He’s Not the Only One…

So, Johnny Depp’s in a bit of trouble for saying the following to describe having his photo taken in an interview with Vanity Fair:

“Well, you just feel like you’re being raped somehow. Raped… it feels like a kind of weird — just weird, man.”

OK, let’s go to the dictionary:

Definition of Rape:

1. An act or instance of robbing or despoiling or carrying away a person by force.

2. Unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent — compare sexual assault, statutory rape.

3. An outrageous violation.

4. Probably not something you would describe as “kind of weird – just weird, man.”

Depp will take photos with fans but “…whenever you have a photo shoot or something like that, it’s like — you just feel dumb. It’s just so stupid.”

As expected when celebrities wander off from their handlers and say something unfortunate, Depp quickly apologized:

“It was a poor choice of words on my part in an effort to explain a feeling… I understand there is no comparison and I am very regretful. In an effort to correct my lack of judgment, please accept my heartfelt apology.”

Depp’s demonstrated eloquence does reinforce just how painful his participation in these stupid photo shoots must be for someone who lives with his French model girlfriend Vanessa Paradis in homes in Los Angeles, New York, the Paris suburb of Meudon, and a village in the south of France. He also has an island in the Bahamas — to get away from it all.

In Depp’s defense, it’s possible the arrangement he made with Satan on the set of 21 Jump Street in 1988 requires that he periodically submit himself to the demon Naberius. His only warning of an impending visit is someone taking his picture. Thus, the more famous he becomes, the more often Naberius ravishes him and Naberius is a notoriously selfish lover. Perhaps this was just Depp’s way of crying out for help, but as God Himself would say, “Go home to your island with your model and stop whining.”

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Pop Life


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