2007 - %3, May

Orwellian Language Obscures the Health Care Debate

| Thu May 3, 2007 6:37 PM EDT

Healthcare is complicated enough without doublespeak like this in the Wall Street Journal: "Too much government support risks crowding out private-sector insurance alternatives Mr. Bush wants to promote." That's the Bush Administration's spin on scrimping on a federal grant program that boosts medical care for poor children by insuring their parents. Obviously, private insurance is not an "alternative" for families who can not afford it. Or maybe the reporter means "alternatives" for the government, like subsidizing private insurance?

The Bush Administration may believe that market forces make health care more efficient. But the market doesn't always its magic everywhere. (The invisible hand has students at the top of their medical school classes going into dermatology. They can make easier money injecting Botox and Restylane than saving lives).

The truth is, the private insurance maze makes health care more expensive. It's the reason why Americans spend 50 percent more per capita than any other country does on medical care. How so? Private medical insurance actually takes up a dollar out of every three spent on health care in this country. If only this money went straight to the hospitals that serve the poor, it would pay for a lot more care and medicine.

But no. So we still have tragedies like the 12-year-old in February who died of a tooth infection that spread to his brain before his mother could find a Medicaid dentist to extract the tooth.

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Weird Weather Watch: Last Month Was Britain's Warmest April on Record

| Thu May 3, 2007 6:29 PM EDT

Last month was the warmest April since records began in 1659 in the UK. Temperatures peaked at more than 79F. That heat means 2007 is likely to surpass 2006 as the warmest year on record, according to forecaster Paul Knightley.

LAPD at It Again: Beatings of Protestors and Journalists Caught on Tape

| Thu May 3, 2007 5:08 PM EDT

This May Day, immigrants again rallied in Los Angeles. Though not as well attended as last year's national news-making rallies in L.A. and Chicago, the L.A. event drew tens of thousands of participants. The event was peaceful—until the end, when police tried to clear out a city park after having a few bottles thrown at them (8 officers were treated for minor injuries on the scene).

I saw this story yesterday, but decided against blogging it because the video clip made the hubbub look pretty tame. But apparently the clip I saw was misleading. The police "wielded batons and fired 240 'less-than-lethal' rounds at demonstrators and reporters" In the process, they injured 10 people—including 7 reporters who were covering, rather than participating in, the incident.

The LAPD is like one big cautionary tale for insensitivity. The officers had told everyone to clear the park—in English only. Seriously? In Los Angeles, at a rally for Latino immigrants? And here's what the cops did to reporters:

[KPCC reporter Patricia] Nazario said she was walking away from riot police when she was hit in the back.

Wearing a press pass and holding a microphone, she turned around and told the officer, "Why did you hit me? I'm moving. I'm a reporter," Nazario recalled.

Then the officer hit her on the left leg, she said, knocking her to the ground and sending her cellphone flying.

"I was shocked, trying to scramble to my feet," she said. "At that point, I just started crying…. I just felt totally vulnerable."

Pedro Sevcec was anchoring the evening news for Telemundo when he saw the riot police moving slowly toward the news crews.

…Police knocked over monitors and lights and hit reporters and camera operators with batons, he said.

Sevcec said police hit him three times and pointed a riot gun at his face before pushing him out of the park.

The best thing those in power have going in this country is that the middle class really likes to believe that life is fair and that authority operates with equanimity. Most members of the media share that bias. Making them feel under attack is a huge strategic mistake: When a reporter is beaten to the ground, that reporter is going to get up radicalized—and pissed off.

L.A. news crews won the right to cover public protests even when police declare it an unlawful assembly as part of a lawsuit brought on behalf of a handful of journalists who were assaulted by the L.A.P.D. while covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention in L.A.

These guys never learn!

No Frills For Spike Lee

| Thu May 3, 2007 4:24 PM EDT

The 50th San Francisco International Film Festival honored Spike Lee last night with the SF Film Society's Directing Award, and praised Lee as a prolific director not afraid to tackle not just race, but also class and gender issues in his films.

Lee's personality – humorous and political, honest and deadpan – was on full display during his Q&A with Boston Globe film critic Wesley Morris in San Francisco.

Lee was a tough interview. Wearing his trademark thick-rimmed glasses, his brief and somewhat reluctant responses often left interviewer Morris grasping at straws. Lee chose his words wisely. He playfully teased Morris. He recognized the larger race issues behind the Don Imus incident, and affirmed for audience members that the people of New Orleans are still hurting. He also joked that his wife, who reads all of his scripts, has been influential in changing the depiction of women – a common point of criticism – in his films.

The audience was treated to a montage, featuring clips from the biggies – aka Spike Lee Joints: She's Gotta Have It (1986), Do the Right Thing (1989), Mo' Better Blues (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Malcolm X (1992), Clockers (1995), Four Little Girls (1997), Summer of Sam (1999), 25th Hour (2002), and Inside Man (2006). Lee's latest is the award-winning When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, and judging by the two acts shown at the event, is not to be missed.

—Gary Moskowitz

4/29 an Inside Job

| Thu May 3, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

MoJoBlog provoked a hot discussion about the tanker explosion that warped two highways in Oakland at the same time on Sunday. Now two independent Websites are unraveling the case. One brings us this photo of Cheney fleeing the scene of the "accident." My question is, why aren't the mainstream media reporting the fact that NOT A SINGLE Israeli was driving on that part of the freeway when it collapsed?

Cheney-4-29.bmp

Are You "Devoting Your Life to Weasels"? If So, Rudy Giuliani Hates You

| Thu May 3, 2007 1:42 PM EDT

Rudy Giuliani had a well-earned reputation for strong-arm tactics when he was mayor of New York. Whether it was homeless people, graffiti artists, or ferret-lovers, nothing was going to stand in his way of enacting the change he deemed best for the Big Apple.

Wait, ferret-lovers? Yup. In 1999, Giuliani unloaded on a caller who phoned in to the mayor's radio show because the caller was a ferret-owners advocate and Giuliani supported a law that took away the poor guy's pet. Prepare to be entertained. Audio here and a transcript here.

I'm guessing presidential hopefuls will avoid hosting their own radio shows in the future. Or they'll get better call screeners...

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Bush: And You All Thought I Was 'the Decider'

| Thu May 3, 2007 12:43 PM EDT

Bush is at it again, giving himself great little nicknames that I think are meant to assuage our fears that he makes extremely important decisions without paying mind to Congress, the military, or the American people. Yesterday, Bush, in his explanation as to why he vetoed the $124 billion war spending bill that passed in both the House and the Senate last week, which would have set a timeline for withdrawal, designated himself "the Commander Guy." It's priceless:

The question is, 'Who ought to make that decision, the Congress or the commanders?' As you know, my position is clear – I'm the commander guy.

Thanks to Think Progress, you can watch it here.

Republicans Debate Tonight in LA, 10 Candidates Attending!

| Thu May 3, 2007 11:58 AM EDT

When the Democrats debated last week, nothing happened. I think that's largely because there is little ideological difference between the candidates: all they can really do is disagree on how to achieve the goals they all value.

Not so with the Republicans. When 10 GOP candidates get together tonight in Los Angeles, there will be some who support abortion (Giuliani) and some who are violently against it (Brownback). There will some who hate illegal immigration in their bones (Tancredo) and some who have a kindlier position on the issue (McCain, Giuliani). There will be true conservatives (Huckabee, Brownback, others), some mushy conservatives (Romney, McCain, Giuliani), and one libertarian (Paul). I think the frontrunners will play it safe, but the rest of the pack might take a few nasty stabs in order to distinguish themselves.

Should make for good times. You can find a full lineup and a list of things to watch for at the New York Times' political blog, The Caucus.

Army Cracks Down On Military Blogs, Emails

| Thu May 3, 2007 10:15 AM EDT

If you are the husband or wife or sibling or parent of a U.S. Army soldier serving in Iraq and you blog (and according to the new rules, email) about the war, you are now in official trouble with the U.S. Army.

The Army is getting strict about its rule that soldiers sending emails or posting items on blogs must first clear the content with a superior officer. Since, to avoid possible court-martial, a soldier would have to check with her commanding officer before making every blog post, soldiers' blogs about the Iraq war can safely be called a thing of the past.

The guidelines also appy to civilians working for the Army, Army contractors and soldiers' family members.

"This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging," said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. "No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has--its most honest voice out of the war zone--and it's being silenced."

Pepsi's Good For You, Miracle-Gro Grows Greedy

| Wed May 2, 2007 9:00 PM EDT

PepsiCo, makers of soda and beef jerky and Funyuns, may not be the healthiest company you could buy from, but it is one of the greenest. Earlier this week, the EPA issued its top 25 Green Power Partners list, and PepsiCo was top dog. The EPA attributes the company's position to its "commitment to purchase 100 percent green power," which would be enough to power nearly 100,000 homes.

Green power is great, but wouldn't it be better if they didn't use so much power to begin with? Or if they didn't use so much packaging for their products? At least PepsiCo's 20 oz. plastic bottles are lighter than before (by 13%) and contain 10% post-consumer material, so they cost less in transportation costs and use less plastic. The company says that 48 million of its drink containers are recycled every day.

Some of those old Pepsi bottles head to a small New Jersey organic plant food company, TerraCycle, which reuses many of the bottles to package their totally organic fertilizer. Now TerraCycle, with 33 employees and a measly $1 million in revenues, is being sued by Scotts (makers of Miracle-Gro), a mega-company that owns 59% of the plant food market. Scotts is outraged TerraCycle is using yellow and green packaging with pictures of flowers, similar to Miracle-Gro. Thus, their lawyers say, TerraCycle MUST be trying to trick gullible people into thinking the products are the same. Both products even use the same label: "all purpose plant food." Egads!

The pictures of the products should give any person with common sense the answer as to whether or not the lawsuit is warranted. And besides, pictures of plants on plant food? Who'd a thunk? My question: Miracle-Gro launched its "Organic Choice" line of products a year before TerraCycle was created, and is very publicly trying to make more environmentally-friendly packaging. Is it coincidence that they're suing an organic, sustainably-packaged product, not one of the 81 other plant and lawn products with green-and-yellow labels, or is it just a paranoid attempt to secure their monopoly?

You decide.

—Jen Phillips