Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Little Less Conversation and A Lot More Action: Join the Virtual March for Real Health Care Reform

If you follow me on Facebook, pieces of this post will sound familiar.

President Obama released his proposed health care reform legislation this week; you may find the proposal as well as highlights and summaries at whitehouse.gov. The hue and cry that President Obama's health care reform proposal doesn't include a public option began immediately following the release of his proposal. The public option has become both the boogeyman and the holy grail of health care reform.

Loud voices on the progressive left have repeatedly stated that they would rather see no health care reform than have reform without a public option (the holy grail of health care reorm). They've made the inclusion of the public option the litmus test of health care reform legislation. Loud voices on the conservative right, have demonized the public option and are just as vocal in asserting that they will not accept a public option.

The folks opposed to the public option and the supporters of it have both placed way too much emphasis on the exclusion or inclusion of that single piece of health care reform efforts to the detriment of getting some of the larger issues addressed.

So let's look at what the President's proposal includes:

(1) Provides federal authority to regulate insurance rates in direct response to the super rate increase attempt in California;
(2) Creates marketplace competition and consumer choice via the provisions for the exchange plan;
(3) Closes the donut hole in Medicare prescription drug coverage, which will provide immediate relief for seniors on Medicare;
(4) Increases tax credits for health insurance premium;
(5) Provides waivers for low income families and individuals regarding mandatory insurance;
(6) Prohibits denying health insurance to persons with pre-existing health conditions;
(7) Extends consumer protections against heath insurance practices; and
(8) Adds new protections that prohibit all annual and lifetime limits.

The above is not a review of all of the provisions of the President's proposal. I think that we are a nation with the attention span of a one-year-old. The Internet has made it possible for each of us to carefully review primary documents rather than rely on the news media to tell us what those documents say. Before you decide what you think of the President's proposal, READ IT! Once you get to the site, follow all of the links to ascertain what each proposed Title does.

When you're done, if you share my belief that we don't have the luxury of waiting possibly another decade for health care reform, then take action. MoveOn.org is conducting a Virtual March for Real Health Care Reform on tomorrow, February 24. All that you have to do is take less than three minutes to register for the virtual march and then indicate when you will call your Senators on tomorrow. MoveOn will send a fax to your senators from you (see photo to the left). I've checked out the participation numbers on the map on MoveOn (just roll your cursor over the map to see the numbers) and the numbers are pathetic. When you don't participate in telling government what you want, you can't complain about what it does. MoveOn is a progressive organization; this is our chance to drown out the voices of the tea party protesters. If we truly want change then we have to act; the campaign slogan was always, "Yes we can!"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sex, Race, and John Mayer

I like John Mayer's music and the man can really play a guitar. Unfortunately, he's not so good when it comes to giving interviews. He seems to have two basic topics--sex and race. He touched on both and even mixed the two together in his interview with Playboy magazine.

The two remarks that have put him on the hot seat are:
MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"
PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?
MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.
Check out the entire interview for more context and a few more doozies from Mayer. I also suggest that you check out Mark Olmsted's insightful blog entry about Mayer's faux pas, What John Mayer Should Have Said.

I intensely dislike the word nigger, no matter who uses it. I spent 20 minutes debating whether or not to spell the word out in this post or use the euphemistic "N-word." I refuse to defend anyone's right to use it, but as I've pointed out before, under no circumstances does a white person get to use it. You just don't have the right, sorry.

However, rather than think that Mayer's use of the word was an indicator of racism on his part, I think it was more about youthful arrogance. He wanted to appear to be real and down with it (whatever it is), so he chose to demonstrate how in touch he is with his inner black person by casually dropping the word even as he acknowledged that as a white man he could never fully appreciate the racial discrimination endured by black people. If you read his initial observation without the n-word that becomes evident. I don't think that John Mayer even came close to being racist in his intent or in what he actually said. He was a bit incoherent and probably needs to stop attempting to address serious topics in interviews. Perhaps he needs to write his notes in his palm.

As for his comments regarding relationships with black women, I suspect that he was trying to appear hip and humorous when he should have simply stated, "I've never opened myself up to a romantic or sexual relationship with a black woman."

The media and bloggers have been making mincemeat out of Mayer, accusing him of being a racist. Mayer has apologized repeatedly and even shed a few tears. I feel sorry for Mayer, but I suspect that he will survive.

The hoopla has moved me to again consider the color line. We use the term racism far too liberally; there is a qualitative difference between prejudice and racism. We are all subject to prejudices against groups with whom we do not identify. Racism goes beyond prejudice. Racism is predicated on a belief that certain groups of people are "other," and therefore undeserving of fair and equal treatment. Racism is based on believing that any disadvantages or hardships that the other faces are because of their negative qualities such as laziness or a propensity towards violence. Racism allows the racists to feel superior in all ways to the victims of their racism.

Over use of the term racism denigrates the seriousness of the term. Applying the term to every incident of insensitivity merely detracts from the seriousness of actual racism and makes the use of the term racism akin to the boy who cried wolf--when real racism rears its ugly head, people tend to dismiss it as much ado about nothing.

Racism is not a fiction perpetrated by black people simply to annoy white people. Racism is real. Nor do I believe that we should simply ignore remarks that do not rise to the level of hate implicit in racism but are nonetheless based in prejudice; we should use them as starting points for honest discourse about racial prejudice and racism. The first step is identifying what we mean by the words that we use. As long as all we do is toss about accusatory language, we will never understand each other.

As for Mayer, saying something stupid isn’t the same as racism. Perhaps John Mayer, Tiger Woods, and John Edwards could form a support group for men who screw up publicly.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

If Ignorance Is Bliss There Are Some Very Happy Folks in America

My friend Jack (Self-Sufficient Steward) posed some questions to me that I've been mulling over for a bit:

What would happen if Senate Democrats MADE the Republicans actually use the filibuster to kill a decent health care bill? (Perhaps a bill without the pork, but with a public option.) How would the country respond if they saw the Republicans reading the phone book day after day to kill health care reform?
I don't think that it would matter. I think that the people who support health care reform would continue to do so and become even more disgusted with the Republican party, and those who oppose health care reform would continue to express their opposition and cheer the Republicans on for protecting them from Obama's plans for advancing socialism.

I wasn't certain of my answer when I read Jack's questions a week ago, but yesterday I read the results of a recent poll that confirmed what I have suspected for some time--how do I say this in a civil fashion--there are a lot of people who can't think their way out of a paper bag. The reality of the Republicans carrying on a marathon filibuster to prevent health care reform should offend the sensibilities of the American public but I don't think that those already opposed to health care reform would find it offensive. On the contrary, I think that they would applaud the Republicans.

The poll was commissioned by Daily Kos and conducted by non-partisan independent pollster Research 2000 and included 2,000 people who identified themselves as Republican. Believe it or not, I actually have friends who are Republicans (okay only two that I can think of) and I don't consider one's choice of political party affiliation to be a sign of ignorance. I accept that my view of the role of government differs considerably from the view of government traditionally espoused by the Republican party. However, responses to this poll reveals a level of paranoid belief in utter nonsense that cannot be challenged by logic because anyone who believes this idiocy is immune to logic and truth.

The subtext to all of the opposition by some members of the public to any health care reform is a belief that undeserving people will gain benefits at the expense of hard working Americans. Who are these undeserving people? Well in the minds of the tea party followers they are non-white or in the U.S. illegally or don't speak English, or triple whammy--all three! The anti-health reform folks never imagine the people needing help looking just like them even though the reality is that it's not only minorities who need an improved health care system.

I don't think that Americans who do not already support health care reform will be offended in the least by watching the Republicans publicly demonstrate their commitment to blocking health care reform by filibustering. Instead, they will applaud their champions. I am reminded of a line from a poem by Erica Jong, "The best slave doesn't need to be beaten; she beats herself." Jong was writing of women cooperating in their own oppression, but it is applicable to the health  care reform mess as well. The majority of people working so avidly against health care reform are themselves vulnerable to the capricious whims of the health insurance industry, nonetheless they choose to reject reform as a socialist plot cooked up by President Obama to destroy the country, filling message boards with cries of, "Stop Obama care!"

Dont't take my word for it. Decide for yourself, but first read some highlights from the Daily Kos poll:

63% of Republicans believe Obama is a socialist while 21% disagree and 16% are not sure.

42% believe Obama was born in the U.S. while 36% do not, with 22% undecided. 

53% believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama while 14% do not and 33% are undecided. (I'm betting they also believe that the world is flat.)

31% believe that Obama is a racist and hates white people, while 36% say he is not a racist and 33% are undecided. (Clearly these people haven't been victims of racism long enough. I've never been undecided as to whether or not someone was a racist.)

24% say they believe Obama wants terrorists to win while 43% say Obama does not want terrorists to win, and 33% are undecided.

Not surprisingly, given that they believe Obama to be a foreign born, terrorism supporting, racist purveyor of socialism, 39% say Obama should be impeached; 32% disagree and 29% are undecided.

All of the questions were not about Obama:

67% say the only way for an individual to go to heaven is through Jesus Christ while 15% say it is possible through another faith, and 18% are undecided. (For some reason it gives these good Christian folks a real charge to think of others burning in hellfire.)

91% support the death penalty, 4% do not, and 5% aren't sure. (It's the undecided folks that really bug me. It's either yes or no, make up your mind!)

68% oppose Congress making it easier for workers to form and join labor unions, 7% favor it and 25% are undecided. (Now that corporations are persons, if they treat their workers unfairly, we can send the corporations to therapy to learn how to deal with their issues.)

For more results from the poll, check out Daily Kos. To read an interesting analysis of the poll results click here.