Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An "Obamacare" Tale

I almost forgot that today is the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Fortunately, the Rude Pundit remembered, and today told a story that puts in in perspective for us all:

So Dallas Wiens was working when it happened in 2008. He was standing in a cherry picker, painting a Fort Worth church. That detail seems kind of important, considering. His head hit a high-voltage power line, and it pretty much incinerated his entire face off. A series of miraculous operations got Wiens to a point where he had skin on his face, but no nose or lips. He went blind in one eye, and a skin graft covered the other eye. He pretty quickly started seeking out how to go about getting a face transplant just so, as he says, he could smile and feel his now 4 year-old daughter's touch on his face. Also, so he doesn't look so godawfully disfigured (let's be brutally honest here).

Now here's where we veer into the lesson: Medicaid paid for his hospital care and other expenses until his disability payments got too high for him to qualify. His parents set up a fund to take contributions for the incredibly expensive operation and recovery (not to mention the six months of being in Boston for treatment). But in two years, the guy who had his face burned off while painting a church did not collect enough money for the operation from people who might, you know, follow the teachings of one church or another (or, truly, from any of us).

And that might be the end of the story, except for one thing. See, the president when Wiens got injured was George W. Bush, and George W. Bush couldn't have given a jolly rat fuck about anyone's medical care unless it involved bizarre pharmaceutical donuts. However, Barack Obama became president, and that situation changed.


But here's the deal: Dallas Wiens got a face transplant because of it, not because good, conservative, church-going folk stepped up and had cookie sales, not because the myriad organizations that have "family" in their name gave a goddamn. No, Wiens received the first full face transplant in U.S. history because of the government. The operation itself was paid for by a grant from the Defense Department, which is looking for ways to help soldiers who get horrible scars from combat. And the $1300-$2000 a month in drugs that he will need to take for the rest of his life to prevent his body from rejecting the transplant will be paid for by his father's insurance. That's because Wiens is 25. And that inhuman law mockingly called "Obamacare" raised the age that a child can stay on a parent's insurance to 26. Wiens will turn 26 in May. In June, again, because of changes in the law, he will qualify for Medicare as a disabled person.

No, the Affordable Care Act (and above is the first and last time you'll hear me call it by that  insulting and demeaning term, "Obamacare") isn't perfect, and it damn sure has room for improvement, but here's a positive, concrete example of how things are getting better. These are the kind of things that a just, mature society does for its citizens, the kind of things that are remembered in the heart, if not in the history books.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tim Pawlenty Doesn't Know Any Black People

Former Minnesota governor Tim "Whitebread" Pawlenty has released another Jerry Bruckheimer-esque video, this time announcing the creation of an exploratory committee for his bid for the presidency. Wow, whatever happened to "Just Do It"? Does Nike own the rights to the action as well as the words? But, I digress. Guess what's sorely lacking in Pawlenty's new video? People of color!

It's got a lot of white people, plenty of flags, Founding Fathers, a promise to "take back" our country, and Ronald Reagan—who will apparently be the official mascot of the 2012 GOP field—a Republican must be announcing he's running for president.

[...]It turns out that out of the very few minorities featured in Pawlenty's video, most were taken from Getty stock footage.

Now, contrary to popular belief (and an old Chris Rock routine), there are indeed more black people here in Minnesota than Prince and the late Kirby Puckett. However, it doesn't seem that Gov. Whitebread got to know too many of us during his eight years in the governor's mansion. Damn sure he's never said as much as "Boo!" to me. Poor Tim--he had to go to "Rent-A-Negro" to find some dark faces for his video.

Tim, Tim, Tim....we always suspected it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Help for Japan


Here is a list of organizations to which you can donate. We will add to the list as events develop.
  • Red Cross. The Red Cross has called up several groups of volunteers and has disaster relief stations in affected regions. You can help immediately by texting REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. You can also donate at the Red Cross site or through
  • The Salvation Army. You can text the word "Japan" to 80888 to make a $10 donation to support the Salvation Army's relief efforts. A one-time donation will appear on your bill.
  • Global Giving. Donate to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. This project will disburse funds to organizations providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami. You can also Text JAPAN to 50555 to give $10.
  • Save the Children's Emergency Fund. Save the Children is mobilizing its global resources to respond to the needs of children and families affected by the earthquake and its aftermath, and an international emergency team has been dispatched to assist staff in Japan.
  • Network for Good. There are several organizations on the Network for Good list that are mobilizing to help. You can donate right through the Network for Good website.
  • Oxfam Emergency 365. This global charity is mobilizing to help with volunteers and on the ground help in Japan.
  • CARE. CARE has offices in Asia and is preparing an emergency response to the earthquake and tsunami.
  • AmeriCares. AmeriCares emergency team is on full alert, mobilizing resources and dispatching an emergency response manager to the region.
  • WorldVision. This charity, focused on the welfare of children, has Global Rapid Response Teams in the Asia-Pacific region, ready to respond.
  • MercyCorps. Mercy Corps is accepting donations to help survivors of Japan's earthquake and tsunami through its partner, Peace Winds Japan.
  • At FirstGiving, anyone can help raise money for a variety of nonprofits working on disaster relief for Japan.
  • The blog for has listed several organizations to which you can donate through that application,
  • Google has put up the Japan Person Finder which helps victims of the disaster share and access information about loved ones.
Unsure about texting a donation? See How to Text a Donation to Help Japan.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Shock Doctrine: Now In A State Near You!

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine is perhaps one of the two or three best books I've ever read for explaining the politics and economics that's really driving the world today. (I even have a spare copy, for anyone who's interested in reading it--no way am I loaning out my hardcover of this book!) I think it's the one book that unifies and makes understandable the global changes in the political-economic system we fondly call capitalism.

I'd intended to post this video of Klein's appearance Tuesday night on The Rachel Maddow Show earlier this week, and after today's Japan earthquake, I think it's even more timely. What we're seeing now in Wisconsin, in Michigan, in literally dozens of states across the country - and what I think we'll soon see in post-quake Japan - is a prime example of what Klein calls "disaster capitalism." Please give the video your utmost attention, and remember, I still have a spare copy of the book.

MADDOW:  Do you see disaster capitalism at work in these state budget fights?  Because I do.

KLEIN:  Yes, I definitely do.  And—but it‘s important to remember that these guys have been at this for 30 years.  I mean, they‘re part of an ideological movement and they believe in a whole bunch of stuff that‘s not very popular.

You know, there are some policies in the ideological Republican playbook that a lot of people like: everyone likes a tax break.  But if you talk about you‘re privatizing the local water system, busting unions, privatizing entire towns, things like this, if you run an election and say this is what I plan to do, you—chances are you will lose that election.  And this is where crises come in.  They are very, very handy, because you can say we have no choice.

You don‘t have to win the argument any more.  You just have to say the sky is falling in.  We have to do this.  You can consolidate power.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wisconsin, WTF?

The Wisconsin State Senate tonight illegally passed a bill denying public employees in that state the right of collective bargaining.

Capping a dramatic turn of events, the Wisconsin state Senate on Wednesday night passed a new, stripped-down "budget repair bill" -- which now excludes all the fiscal elements of the original budget repair bill, and simply includes the original's provisions to roll back the collective bargaining and organizational rights of Wisconsin's public employee unions.
With all 14 Democrats absent, having fled the state weeks ago in order to block the three-fifths budget quorum, the bill passed by an 18-1 margin, with only moderate Republican Dale Schultz voting no.

Let's see...No quorum?--OK!
No public review?--OK!
No Democrats save one, in attendence?--Damn right that's OK!

"The Great Orange Satan":
By taking this portion of the bill out of the budget. Republicans are laying bare Scott Walker's lie about how stripping workers of their rights is supposedly a fiscal issue, or Scott Fitzgerald's lie about how the bill supposedly can't be changed. As Fitzgerald admitted earlier today, this is about defunding their political opponents.

I say, recall 'em all. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Condolences to The Rude Pundit

Our condolences go out to the Rude Pundit, whose mother passed away last weekend.