Mojo - December 2007

Why the Dems Won't Fix Health Care

| Wed Dec. 26, 2007 5:30 PM EST

As the Democratic presidential candidates' positions on health care policy reform have solidified, the issue of mandates has become increasingly important as it is one of the few differences between the various plans. While the right has towed the free market company line on health care, and while the Democrats' paths differ from the Republicans', the destination is the same: a huge payday for insurance companies. According to Shum Preston of the California Nurses Association (CNA), "Individual mandates are a step backward…Insurance companies support individual mandate plans because they guarantee them more customers, revenues, and influence over medical decision making. What's not for them to like?" Any health care proposal that includes mandates without addressing the problems that corporate health care and insurance companies pose maintains the status quo. Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's plans differ in that Obama's plan doesn't include mandates, while Clinton's does. What remains identical between the two candidates' plans is the desire for universal health insurance, which is not to be mistaken for universal health care. John Edwards' populist message includes a mandate and an option between public and private care, which detractors say will compromise the public option in the end.

Mandates, say Preston, "Force patients to sign up for expensive, wasteful, for-profit insurance products without guaranteeing care or protecting them from cost increases." The CNA and its national wing, the National Nurses Organizing Committee, are a major lobbying force in the health care debate, one of the only organizations pushing for a universal single-payer model.

In a whirlwind past couple of weeks, CNA and NNOC placed advertisements in 10 Iowa newspapers that made national news, went on a two day strike in Northern California, and organized a national protest against the health insurance company Cigna HealthCare, which let a young woman die by refusing to cover her liver transplant. The message they are trying to convey in all of these actions is that the problem with the health care system isn't just that not everyone is covered; it is that the companies that run it succeed financially by denying access and care. Mandated care doesn't solve this problem.

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'Get Outta Our Town (Caucus Lament)'

| Wed Dec. 26, 2007 3:37 PM EST

No matter how sick you get of the presidential elections, always remember—the good folks in Iowa have it worse.

"Get out of our town, get off of my phone / Don't wanna to be pushed, don't wanna to be polled." Bravo, sir. (H/T PrezVid)

New Face of Lawsuit Abuse Looks A Lot Like the Old One

| Wed Dec. 26, 2007 1:25 PM EST

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is apparently gearing up for a new round of legislative fights over the nation's civil justice system. The Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform has unveiled a slick new PR campaign to convince Americans that the little guy, and not, say, the enormous corporations that fund the campaign, is at risk of personal disaster at the hands of a greedy trial lawyer. Not surprisingly, the campaign is headlined by the now-famous Chungs, the owners of a D.C. dry cleaners sued for $54 million for losing a man's pants.

The Chamber raised more than $70,000 for the Chungs' legal bills, and has turned them into the poster children that corporate America has been waiting years to find. They are featured prominently in YouTube videos and Internet ads that link to the Chamber-sponsored site I Am Lawsuit Abuse. What happened to the Chungs is tragic and indefensible. It's also extremely rare, and very little of the Chamber's legal "reform" agenda would have prevented it, either.

While the medium is new for the Chamber, the new lawsuit abuse videos consist of the same old corporate propaganda bashing the civil justice system, and most of it is highly misleading. One of the segments features a "victim" that was actually a plaintiff in a lawsuit. Particularly egregious is a video of a Georgia professor who specializes in studying "play." She sweetly contends lawsuits are making children obese because they've taken dangerous playground equipment out of the school yard. The junk food companies that fund the Chamber should be especially pleased with that one.

Hillary, Romney Up in Iowa, We Think

| Wed Dec. 26, 2007 10:12 AM EST

The latest statewide survey in Iowa shows that Hillary Clinton is up five points to 34 percent of voters, with a surging John Edwards at 20 percent and Barack Obama falling into third close behind at 19 percent. On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee lost five points, dropping to 23 percent to Mitt Romney's bump up four points to 21 percent.

Worth noting that the American Research Group may not be the bellweather for accurate polling. A little digging shows that the group is backed by New Hampshire pollster Lafell Bennett, and that ARG was widely off the mark in New Hampshire in 2004 when it called a victory for Bush, only to see John McCain take the state by an 18-point margin.

Also, turns out ARG doesn't believe in including cell phone numbers in its random draws, which of course lops off a chunk of Obama supporters. He defended his rationale telling the New Hampshire Business Review that he omits cell phones because mostly young people "don't vote."

Bottom line here is that polls are polls, and while they give us all something to talk about they are by no means the beating pulse of a horserace.

Another Baad, Baad Santa

| Mon Dec. 24, 2007 1:53 PM EST

I didn't want to laugh at this, but in the end, I had to.

Ashton Kutcher and his production company made a far too vulgar, but irresistible, video about a drunk, horny Santa looking for work during the writer's strike. Don't watch this at work, but it's Xmas Eve; if you're at work today, nobody's caring what you're watching.

Why Not Smoke 'Em Since you Got 'Em?: The "Boys of Satire" Returning to Work Much, Much Too Soon

| Mon Dec. 24, 2007 11:07 AM EST

For an armchair sociologist and culture critic, I'm hilariously wrong about how people will behave.

When I heard that Stewart and Colbert were returning to the air just after the New Year, I had two responses: bafflement and fear. First, my bafflement.

Given the pace, the stress, the monstrous pressure of being funny four nights a week about stuff that had happened only hours before, I'd thought the 'talent' would be secretly thanking the gods for this unplanned vacation from their own success. I assumed that was why they were being so ostentatiously generous with their support of the writers - so they could stay out til spring and the big names could sleep for six months and luxuriate in their ignorance for a change. I pictured Colbert and Stewart showering their gleeful families every morning with confetti made of unread NY Times, then spending the day in their jammies ginning up fake emails from the network brass dissing the writers and threatening their families. Instead, these guys are so desperate to get back on the air, they're willing to humiliate themselves to do so. I know these guys are innately funny, but nightly-broadcast-with-no-help funny? Why on earth are Letterman, Colbert et al so desperate to get back on the air?

Y'all know I love me some satire shows. So much so that, pre-strike, I worried about my boys spiraling into drugs, drinking and sordid sex scandals - VH1 Behind the Music-style - from all the pressure. Turns out that they're as addicted to what they do as we are to watching them do it. I 'spoze I shouldn't be so surprised. God knows I churn out book after book, post after post for far less money and with every chance of being either ignored or excoriated (see: your comments). Wrong again. Note to self: performing is as much an irrestible calling as punditry. Who knew?

Now, my fear. I'd been trying to wean myself off television for a looong time now. With a personality as addictive as mine, It's such a time waster; I want my kids to grow up watching only in moderation, unlike their mother. I'd sooner show you nude, secretly snapped photos of me than tell you what, and how much, I watch. So, once the strike hit, I cravenly made the plunge, knowing I wouldn't miss much this time of year. Smugly, I dragged my 'leventy-seven boxes back to the cable folks. You'd have thought I was donating both kidneys to Iraqi war refugees the way I carried on. No one expected the strike to be over before the end of January by which time I figured I'd have detox'd enough to resist the siren call of Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock and...never mind. I couldn't wait to lord my cultural ignorance over you lowly TV gawkers at dinner parties - "The Office? What office, I don't understand. Oh. TV. I'm reading Proust" - obnoxious as those wankers who spend a semester abroad (in Canada) and come back pretending to have forgotten English.

I could never have given up TV with late night satire still airing, never.

What the f*&^ am I supposed to do now?

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Missing a Testicle? Say Goodbye to That Tour in Iraq You Were Hoping For

| Sat Dec. 22, 2007 12:59 AM EST

Hey, guess what? The Army isn't just intolerant of gays and transgendered Americans. It appears to object to anyone who has any sexual abnormality, no matter how large or small or completely unrelated to job performance. Here are examples of people who do not meet the official standards in the Army's Standards of Medical Fitness (available here):

Women who experience unusually heavy menstrual bleeding, or bleeding at irregular intervals, or no periods at all.
Women born without a uterus.
In men, "Current absence of one or both testicles, either congenital (752.89) or undescended (752.51) is disqualifying."
And, for both men and women: "History of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex (P64.5), hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism, or pure gonadal dysgenesis (752.7) or dysfunctional residuals from surgical correction of these conditions is disqualifying."

As Obsidian Wings puts it, "Unless I am very, very wrong about what exactly service in the military involves, I can't see that an undescended testicle would affect a soldier's ability to perform his duties."

Merry Christmas From the U.S. Military

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 10:20 PM EST

Politically%20Incorrect%20Guide.bmpIf you are a soldier in Iraq, is it alright to wish people a merry Christmas, or would "happy holidays" be better? Like, whatever dude. As Ann Coulter says on a poster hanging on the door of the military police office in Fort Riley, Kansas: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity." It's Jesus time!

That, at least, appears to be the way the military is heading according to a bevy of findings released by the of Military Religious Freedom Foundation this week, just in time for the holidays. MRFF founder Mikey Weinstein (see our recent profile) believes the military has been colonized at all levels by evangelical Christians bent on converting it into an army of God. The group's recent findings certainly support the idea:

Bill Richardson Is Pissed

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 4:11 PM EST

Remember when Bill Richardson was calling for the Democratic candidates to lay off Hillary Clinton and generally sucking up to her as best he could? As this incident with New York Times reporter Pat Healy demonstrates, that period is ovah.

I just got a phone call — unprompted — from Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democratic candidate for president, blasting Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying she would withdraw nearly all American troops from Iraq within a year of beginning redeployment.
"Senator Clinton's comments are a stunning flip-flop — she's been saying she would keep troops in Iraq for five years, until 2013, and now she comes up with an inconsistent, incredible turnaround," Mr. Richardson said.
Mrs. Clinton has maintained that she would leave a residual force behind in Iraq to pursue narrow missions, a position that her spokesman said she still holds. As her aides have done before, the spokesman declined to say how many troops Mrs. Clinton would leave.

Clinton has never really said that she would keep troops in Iraq until 2013. She's just said that she won't commit to pulling them all out by 2013.

Richardson, who hasn't caught fire in Iowa or elsewhere, must believe that (1) his campaign needs an adrenaline shot, or (2) his chances to be Clinton's VP pick are declining due to Clinton's lack of interest or decreasing poll numbers.

Just goes to show the trustworthiness of that old saw, hell hath no fury like a potential vice presidential candidate scorned.

Not Even Toastmasters Will Help Gonzales

| Fri Dec. 21, 2007 3:14 PM EST

gonzales-100.jpgAfter watching his lethargic public speaking engagements before the U.S. Congress, it is, perhaps, no surprise to learn that Alberto Gonzales is a wash-out on the college lecture circuit. The former attorney general has signed up with a talent agency that's been trying to gin up lucrative speaking engagements for him on college campuses, for $35,000 a pop. Gonzales needs the money to pay his legal bills stemming from the multiple investigations into his tenure at the Department of Justice, but the students aren't biting, reports the Washington Post. Not only are the schools refusing to pay his hefty fee, but when he has spoken recently on campuses, he's been greeted by hecklers. Gonzales is slated to speak in February at Washington University in St. Louis, where students are already looking forward to major protests of his appearance.