Why Obama warning the Supreme Court is a "bad thing"

A country’s highest elected representative warns its most important judicial body that their review of a controversial piece of legislation against the terms of the constitution is judicial activism and an attack by an unelected body on the needs of his government.  He promises to set up a judicial review to look at and, potentially, rewrite the powers of that judicial body.

Barack Obama before the Supreme Court?  Almost.  South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma before the Constitutional Court.

And that is the real danger when America or European countries threaten the judiciary or free speech in these terms; it creates the moral authority that real bastards crave to justify their own attacks on the rights and protections afforded their people. Continue reading

Heads up, Denver: Hot Coffee director in town for Wednesday night screening

American propagandists and PR hacks have developed remarkably innovative ways of making words lie. Back in the ’80s we had “freedom fighters,” which was the way we described death squads who were friendly to America. “Pro-life” can be used to describe those who bomb clinics and murder physicians. “Enhanced interrogation,” of course, means “torture.” And so on. In some cases this Orwellian distortion of the language falls under the category of “euphemism,” but the more insidious innovations can be so subtle that we don’t recognize the way the language is being gamed unless we think about it very hard.

One of the most dangerous new lies: “tort reform.” Continue reading

Postcard from the End of the Earth? Galapagos

Marine IguanaOn Thursday at 1 a.m., my wife and I arrived home from the Galapagos Islands.

As anyone who has read this series knows, I have a morbid fascination with what lies at the end of the road. Who is there? Why? How did they get there? Why does our societal centrifuge pull some people into the very center and send others flying outward? Are they different from us? If so, is it because those places attract the different, or is it that living there makes you different?

The problem is that while the Galapagos may be the edge of the world geographically (literally, it’s where sailing ships used to take on water before the big jump across the Pacific,) it’s not the edge of the world culturally. You don’t see any of the quirky types that you usually see in such places. Indeed, it’s just the opposite. This is the ultimate bucket list destination. It’s about as fringe as Aspen.
Continue reading

War. On. Everything: the Republican prescription for America isn't safe for anyone

[NSFW WARNING: Graphic content. You do NOT want to see the images here, but I think maybe you should.]

I’ve been wanting to write something deep, something analytical, something based on solid policy on the subject of the Republican war on everything, especially women and the poor, and just haven’t been able to do it. Why? Simple. There’s just too damned much material. I’m only one writer. I have but so many resources. I know only but so much, don’t have the experience, and have a list of excuses longer than Ron Jeremy’s arm. Besides, there are already millions and millions of dollars being poured into generating tons and tons of perfectly rational, articulate reasons why government needs to fund little things like health care for women and the poor, why government needs to regulate everything from what may be pumped into the air we breathe to the rapacious behaviors of bankers and power brokers.

Words. Words. Words. Continue reading

It's not the mandate that's the fatal flaw in the Affordable Care Act

As you’re no doubt aware, the Supreme Court spent the last week debating the legality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) — specifically, the individual mandate, which requires everyone of legal age to buy health insurance (though subsidized to some extent for those who can’t afford it) or be penalized. The mandate’s purpose is to broaden the risk pool and remunerate the health-insurance companies (whether they really need it is another matter) for new costs generated by one of the ACA’s chief selling points: that pre-existing conditions won’t disqualify Americans from health-care coverage.

Coverage for pre-existing conditions would be cause for celebration were it part of a bill that actually did provide affordable care for all. You may be one of those lucky few whose employer pays the bulk of your premium, but that’s increasingly rare for the middle-class. Currently, for most of us, if your employer is providing you with healthcare insurance, you’re likely paying around $850 a month (pre-tax), and at least a couple hundred more if you’re self-insured. In our household that’s known as Second Rent. Continue reading