Queer Stuff

News, commentary, and other miscellanea from the queer left

Our National Shame: Proposed Healthcare Bill Forces Individuals to Buy PRIVATE Insurance

Posted by Jeff on September 17, 2009

Max Baucus’s Senate Finance Committee’s proposed healthcare bill shames our nation. The bill mandates that all individuals buy insurance, despite the omission of a government-run public option. Those who do not buy insurance will be fined annually ($950 for individuals, $3,800 for families); those who cannot afford insurance may be waivered from the fine. In addition, the bill includes $500 billion dollars in cuts to Medicare, stipulations on the use of federal money for abortions (rape, incest, and health concerns only), and a prohibition on illegal immigrants to prevent them from purchasing healthcare. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the over $800 billion dollar bill will reduce the amount of uninsured in the country by a mere 26 million over 10 years (compare that to the 40-some million who are currently without healthcare now).

How on earth does this bill improve healthcare? Forcing people to buy private health insurance merely serves to increase the amount of customers for the healthcare industry. Instead of improving healthcare delivery or providing greater access to healthcare through more affordable options, this plan keeps the current system intact and forces everyone to endorse it. As Nancy Pelosi said, “How can we give all these consumers to the health insurance industry with no accountability?” This pseudo-reform bill is an unabashed effort to subsidize the healthcare industry at the expense of the American public, the opposite of what the bill should be doing. Fascism instead of socialism, if you will.

More importantly, feeding private healthcare providers more customers will not help control costs. The Kennedy bill (also known as the HELP committee bill), which included a public option, cost $200 billion less than the current plan ($611 billion versus $800+). Furthermore, a public option would be designed to help control costs, as evidenced by Medicare which uses government cost controls in order to manage its expenses. The Baucus plan attempts to address this concern with a “co-op” system that allows groups of subscribers to buy insurance together at lower premiums. Nevertheless, the amount of people needed to make co-ops successful is inordinately large, and few experts have shown how this system is in any way practical. Personally, I feel the co-op system is a cheap ploy to “co-opt” the entire healthcare reform effort.

Let us also quickly address the current racist, xenophobic concern over illegal immigrants. Since any of these healthcare reform ideas, including the public option, requires people to pay for their insurance, why should anyone be denied the right to pay for healthcare? Excluding illegal immigrants makes no economic sense: those who could potentially buy healthcare may not, and those without it will simply rely on costly emergency care, which the healthcare system ultimately subsidizes. Without a clear economic rationale behind this exclusion, I believe that the concern over illegal immigrants is a pathetic appeal to the racist and xenophobic segments of the American population. These attitudes are best left unendorsed by public figures.

Democrats and Republicans have already come out against the bill. Despite Baucus’ peculiar effort to make this bill bi-partisan (we elected a democratic majority, so why are republicans being given equal weight?), Republicans are dismayed by the cost of the bill and its cuts to senior services (Medicare), while progressive Democrats are outraged over the omission of a public option.

I am personally appalled by what I saw come out of the Senate Finance Committee today: this bill is an affront to all of us who voted in an administration that we believed would push through progressive reform against the will of big business. While I have always been too cynical to believe that the Democrats were ever inclined to socialist, progressive, or even liberal reform, I am nevertheless disappointed by these latest developments. I hope that liberal Democrats block the measure and force the bill to be rewritten to include a public option.

For additional information about what is contained in the proposal, check out Time’s article here.

Posted in Capitalism, Healthcare | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

U.S. Military Raid Kills Suspected Terrorist in Somalia

Posted by Jeff on September 15, 2009

The U.S. claims to have “likely” eliminated a top suspected terrorist in Somalia during a military raid. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan is accused of attacking an Israeli hotel and airliner in Kenya in 2002. The attack entailed a helicopter strike on a vehicle suspected of containing Nabhan. 

It intrigues me how America conducts these kinds of anti-terrorist military operations around the world without officially declaring “war” on the country under attack. While the U.S. may argue that these operations are surgical strikes on specific terrorist targets, I think that this kind of behavior amounts to imperialism. Without declaring war and attacking targets within the borders of sovereign nations, America shows that it believes its national interest to supersede international legal decorum. Even if America claims that these attacks are in self-defense, it needs to disclose its intentions before the international community. Moreover, the American public should be included in this process. It appalls me that attacks like these may occur without the consent of Congress or the American public; it simply is an abuse of the powers of the executive branch. Ultimately, the attack in Somalia shows that the Obama administration is continuing the long-standing American policy of ignoring domestic politics and the international community in pursuing its interests.

Posted in Colonialism/Neo-Colonialism, Military, Obama administration, Terrorism, War | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Because Kanye and Taylor Make Bigger Headlines than Crazy Conservatives Attacking the President

Posted by Jeff on September 14, 2009

I enjoyed how my Facebook filled up with status updates containing rather strong opinions about the Kanye West/Taylor Swift debacle at the 2009 VMAs. I have no desire to recount it as it has been plastered across the internet already. I particularly enjoyed this video remix that came out shortly after the event.

 

If Kanye attacked Obama’s healthcare reform bill, might people have paid more attention to his speech? Is it strange that most people probably heard about the Kanye/Taylor debacle sooner after the fact than they did about Joe Wilson being a bigot and yelling at Obama? Is it even stranger that people have such strong opinions on Kanye  than they do about Joe Wilson?

Well it is interesting to note the power of the media machine behind the VMAs and to contrast it to that of Obama’s speech. MTV apparently had enough time between the occurrence of the debacle and Beyonce’s speech later in the night to find Taylor Swift a matching red dress so that she could match Beyonce when the latter invited her out on stage to finish her speech. That’s pretty impressive if you think about it. Imagine if Wilson came out in a matching dress and apologized to Pelosi at the end of the speech. MTV is a well-oiled media machine, and it knows how to deal with controversial events so as to maximize the amount of publicity its station receives. Obama’s team, on the other hand, might be one of the worst PR campaigns in recent political history. Crazy protestors have brought guns to his speeches, priests have announced that they actively pray for his demise, the Right have completely warped and misconstrued his ideas, nutcases have compared him to Hitler, and some bigot politician has heckled him during a Congressional speech and  yet no one seems to really care. Parts of the media seem to not really care either. Not only were most of these events underreported, FOX News actually refused to broadcast his speech and showed the premiere of the show Glee instead! Unfortunately, their tactic seemed to work: my facebook was cluttered with more comments on Glee than about Wilson’s outrageous behavior. 

I simply do not know what to make of this situation: political apathy in this country threatens to keep meaningful reform from ever becoming a reality. The rightist crazies continue to organize to attack Obama and we sit by watching it in silence. But when some meaningless bullshit like the Kanye/Taylor drama occurs, we get up in arms and righteously denounce the offender. Apparently, the prospect of expanded healthcare coverage isn’t glamorous enough to catch the attention of a public so thoroughly distracted by the manufactured nonsense of the media machine. But then again, how do you compete with an industry that is built upon manufacturing the very need that it seeks to fulfill?

Posted in Conservatives/Right-Wingers, Healthcare, Media, Obama administration | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obama Speaks on Healthcare Reform

Posted by Jeff on September 10, 2009

If you haven’t seen it already, watch Obama’s speech before Congress on healthcare. Watch it here.

Again, I dislike Obama’s argument that single-payer (which received cheers from the audience upon its mention) is too radical for Americans. Nevertheless, a public option will at least be a step in the right direction.

The Republican reaction, however, is disheartening. One representative, Joe Wilson, cried out “You lie!” when Obama addressed the issue of healthcare reform and illegal immigrants (I love how Nancy Pelosi gave him a death stare when he said that). Apparently, the American Right believes that our welfare system is this benevolent, all-encompassing cornucopia of largess that freely dispenses care to all who need it. No my dears, government benefits barely accrue to those who need it in this country, and those without government documentation and identification certainly do not receive it. It is sad that some people in this country are more concerned with denying people benefits than with making sure that everyone living in this country has what he or she needs. Immigrants, legal or not, are people too.

Posted in Conservatives/Right-Wingers, Healthcare, Obama administration | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party’s 55-Year Reign Comes to an End

Posted by Jeff on September 1, 2009

According to exit polls, Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the country’s ruling party since 1955, has been defeated by its liberal counterpart, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). Yukio Hatoyama will succeed the LDP’s leader and incumbent prime minister, Taro Aso, as the next PM of Japan. Voter turnout at the election was 69%.

The DPJ’s victory reflects the public’s displeasure with its pro-American conservative government. Since 2001, the LDP has had 4 different prime ministers: Junichiro Koizumi (2001 – 2006), Shinzo Abe (2006 – 2007), Yasuo Fukuda (2007 – 2008), and Taro Aso (2008 – 2009). This period of Japanese politics was characterized by an ill-conceived commitment to Bush’s foreign policy in the Middle East and a regrettable insensitivity to East Asian affairs. At the beginning of this era, Koizumi sent Japan’s Self-Defense Force to Iraq to aid the American effort there, the first instance where the American-controlled Japanese military has gone abroad to fight since the end of World War II. In addition, he paid six visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese victims of World War II, including war criminals accused of committing atrocities against other Asian nationals. Koizumi’s successor, Shinzo Abe, continued this policyof pandering to Bush by supplying Japanese soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan; he also visited the controversial Yakusuni Shrine. During his reign, the LDP lost its majority in Japan’s upper house of parliament, where it had maintained control since the end of WWII. After Abe’s sudden resignation in 2007, Yasuo Fukuda faced even more pressure from the DPJ about the LDP’s pro-American security policies and its management of the country’s stagnant economy. Opponents in his own party thwarted his attempt to allow a refueling mission go to the Indian Ocean to aid the Americans operating in Afghanistan. Taro Aso, another conservative, succeeded Fukuda after the latter’s resignation in 2008. With the DPJ’s recent electoral victory ending his reign,  Aso has literally apologized for the failures of his party and his inability to satisfy the public.

The DPJ’s historic victory will certainly have a profound effect on America’s influence in Japan and East Asia more generally. Unlike the LDP, the DPJ is critical of American economic and foreign policy. Hatoyama has vowed to separate itself from America’s security objectives and denounced American capitalism as “void of morals or moderation.” In the past, he even traced the current global economic crisis to the world’s blind faith in American economic policy:

The recent economic crisis resulted from a way of thinking based on the idea that American-style free-market economics represents a universal and ideal economic order.

To the chagrin of Japanese and Western neoliberals, the DPJ desires to reverse the deregulatory economic reforms of the Koizumi period.  The New York Times, showing its neoliberal nationalist bias, criticized a “presumptive” Hatoyama for railing against American economic policies; in fact, they seem to agree with Japanese conservatives that more deregulation is necessary! Nevertheless, the DPJ hopes to stimulate productivity and spending in Japan through its expansion of social welfare and the subsidization of families with children.

Whether America likes it or not, East Asia is in ascendancy, and this ascendancy is increasingly appearing to be somewhat unfriendly to American interests in the region. Taiwan had its historic election last year, where the pro-China Guomindang replaced the nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, signaling the desire of Taiwanese leaders to strengthen ties with the mainland, which will no doubt affect Taiwanese-American relations. The South Korean public has also displayed displeasure with its government’s ties to America: last year the public rioted when their government bowed to American pressure to reallow U.S. beef imports (which were banned in 2003 because of concerns over mad cow disease). Ultimately, America had better begin to cooperate with the countries of East Asia as equals: it is completely untenable for America to continue its neo-imperialist Cold War relationship with the region. America currently has a wonderful opportunity to work with East Asia to construct a more stable, equitable international economic and political order, one from which America may very well benefit once it no longer exists as the world’s singular hegemon.

Posted in Colonialism/Neo-Colonialism, Conservatives/Right-Wingers, Democracy, Japan | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Personal Update

Posted by Jeff on September 1, 2009

I apologize for neglecting my blog this past week. I have recently decided to apply to law school this fall, which means I need to take the LSAT as soon as possible. Consequently, I have been spending all my free time studying for the LSAT! Once I take the test in late September, I will post regularly again. Until then, do not expect daily posts.

Sincerely,

Jeff

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Lawyer Argues that Statistics Show Gay Parents Unfit to Adopt

Posted by Jeff on August 28, 2009

The Advocate reports that an attorney argued before a Florida state court that there is statistical evidence to justify the 1977 state ban on gay adoption. The attorney claimed that gays were statistically more prone to relationship instability, psychiatric disorders, and domestic violence. An attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union countered these claims, saying that there is no statistical difference between gay and straight families on these matters. The case’s plaintiff, Frank Martin Gill, and his partner desire to adopt their two foster children for whom they have cared for four years. Oddly enough, Florida laws allows gays and lesbians to serve as foster children but not to adopt.

I am certain that the advancement of such a heinous argument against any other group of people in this country would elicit a strong negative public response; however, the flippancy with which discriminatory arguments like these are lodged against LGBT people is a testament to the profound heterosexism in our society. I hope that Mr. Gill and his partner succeed in challenging this egregious law that prevents children from finding a loving, non-heteronormative home.

Posted in Heterosexism/Homophobia, Law | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The GOP Makes an Unsettling Joke about Obama, Again

Posted by Jeff on August 28, 2009

The GOP has added yet another unsettling “joke” to its vast collection of jokes and slurs about Obama, this time about buying tags to “hunt” the President. Rex Rammel, a Republican from Iowa with plans to run for governor, made the remarks at a GOP rally in Twin Falls. When discussing buying wolf tags to participate in the upcoming state wolf hunt (I can’t believe that you can legally hold a wolf hunt), someone in the audience yelled out a question about buying “Obama tags.” To this Rammel replied, “The Obama tags? We’d buy some of those.” He later assured the media that his joke was harmless, that he “would never support him [Obama] being assassinated.”

While I do not think a reasonable human being would interpret the off-color joke as a call for Obama’s assassination, I fear that the gun-toting crazies at these town halls may not necessarily interpret the joke in the same way. I know the media did a pretty poor job of reporting this, but there have been a few incidents where armed crazies have showed up at Obama rallies. Unfortunately, the American public has become so complacent and numbed that these displays of violent contempt for Obama have failed to elicit the smallest of public reactions. While the America public remains trapped in its apathetic stupor, the GOP continues to drum up anti-Obama fear and hate. And if any of this hate results in tragedy, you can be sure that the GOP will be the first to jump up and claim that they were “just kidding.”

Posted in Conservatives/Right-Wingers, Race/Racism, Terrorism | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Climate Change to Devastate the American Midwest

Posted by Jeff on August 28, 2009

It is ironic that Americans living in the Midwest fear terrorism more than their counterparts living in the Pacific West and Northeast, areas much more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. In light of new scientific data, it is just as ironic that Americans living in the Pacific West and Northeast care more about climate change than Midwestern Americans do: today, the Huffington Post presented an analysis from The Nature Conservancy, the largest environmental non-profit in America, that claims that climate change will devastate the agricultural productivity of the American Midwest–most notably, the states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. The report projects that the climate there will rise by over ten degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Even if the warming process is slow, crop yields in these states will decrease between 30 and 46 percent. One could imagine what effect this decrease in crop yields may have on the American and even the world food market.

Nevertheless, conservative  Midwestern legislators do not seem to be changing their stances on climate change anytime soon: in the three states projected to be most affected by climate change, only Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa seems to be open to legislation which would attempt to reverse the effects of global warming. Unless the people of the Midwest wake up and oppose the recalcitrance of their representatives in the climate change debate, the Midwestern conservatives’ stranglehold on power will certainly have dire consequences for the region, the country, and the rest of the world.

Posted in Conservatives/Right-Wingers, Economy, Environment | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Video Games Beginning to Incorporate LGBT Characters

Posted by Jeff on August 27, 2009

I love video games. Before I went to college, I was a huge video game fiend, a nerd if you will. These days, I have had less time to indulge in my passion for video games, but I still try and check out the latest titles for the PC, Wii, and PS3 (no, I never owned an Xbox or an Xbox 360). Despite my love for video games, I could not help but notice the profound level of homophobia present in the gaming community: you couldn’t play a single game online–be it a first-person shooter or a fantastical role-playing game–without encountering homophobic slurs. I personally attribute this conspicuous amount of homophobia to the male-dominated video gaming community’s attempt to reconcile its masculine identity with its more feminine, “nerdy” identity. Through homophobic slurs and other heterosexual male posturings, male video gamers feel that they can prove themselves to be just as manly as their high school athlete counterparts. But according to The Advocate, all of this has begun to change.

While LGBT characters have not become normative in the video gaming community, the video game industry has begun to attempt to build its “gay gamer” consumer base through the inclusion of LGBT themes in games. From Fable II to Persona 4 to Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony, the article cites examples of recent and soon-to-be-released games that feature homosexual characters and themes. Yet we cannot expect a gay revolution in gaming until the industry begins to incorporate more LGBT video game designers and producers. I would also add that the masculine-bias in video gaming, which has begun to weaken since I started gaming, will have to continue to diminish in order to attract those who do not relate to the omnipresent titular male video game hero.

Nevertheless, I am impressed by the progress of the video game community over the years. Not only have I encountered an increasing amount of LGBT gamers online, I have also been impressed by the rising amount of LGBT gamer networks. Perhaps one of the most popular of these networks is Gaygamer.net, which is a gaming site that caters to gay men. While the gaming community has a long way to go in terms of defusing its homophobic masculinity complex, I am glad to see that both LGBT gamers and the gaming industry are beginning to bring an LGBT presence into the gaming world.

Posted in Entertainment/Media, Heterosexism/Homophobia, Video Games | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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