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Proud Nations

rainbow-wallpaper-18Congratulations to everyone out there who can now share equally in the benefits of marriage that the state provides. That’s justice. No longer will same sex couples find themselves locked out of hospital rooms, denied tax breaks and excluded from other benefits that heterosexual couples have taken for granted for centuries.

Just out of curiosity, I girded my loins and went over to Fox News to check out the reaction from the hysterically nauseated homophobes who think that this ruling is going to precipitate the end of civilization as we know it. It’s always amusing to watch their reactions, especially since they seem to be in denial about what modern heterosexual married couples do to each other in bed. But, whatever. Not my problem.

But I did see this little bit of stupidity on their breathless “the-World-is-going-to-end-now-that-the-gays-can-marry” page. Take a look:

We don’t have to guess about the sociological implications of Friday’s decision. Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, contends that the legitimization of same-sex unions in Scandinavian countries has caused the heterosexual marriage rate to drop dramatically, while the number of children born out of wedlock has risen, resulting in numerous societal problems.

The reason for the drop in the heterosexual marriage rate is clear:  if marriage can be redefined to include any and every relationship, then why bother to marry at all? Anytime you counterfeit something, you cheapen the value of the real thing, and gay marriage is “counterfeit marriage” (In fairness, heterosexuals have also been cheapening the value of marriage for years through adultery and divorce.)

As a Christian, I am most concerned about the spiritual implications of Friday’s decision. During the oral arguments for this case on April 28, Justice Kennedy noted that the traditional definition of marriage “has been with us for millennia. It’s very difficult for the Court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’”

Friday, the Supreme Court said in essence, “We know better than God how to define marriage.”  For thousands of years both Christians and Jews have believed in both the Old and New Testament definition of marriage that was  written by Moses and affirmed by Jesus Himself when He said that God “made them male and female … For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:4-5).

Jesus taught that sex was a gift from God between one man and one woman in a marriage relationship. Any variation from that—premarital sex, adultery, polygamy, unbiblical divorce, or homosexuality—is a deviation from God’s original plan for sex.  Friday’s Supreme Court decision represents a collective shaking of our fists in God’s face saying , “We don’t care what You say about life’s most important relationship. We know best.”

The guy who wrote this about the effects of marriage in Scandinavia clearly doesn’t understand the research but this is really how these people think.

They don’t get it that the reason why marriage rates are down in Scandinavia is because the social safety net there is so strong, and, I’ve heard from people who have actually lived in Sweden that the culture worships children, that there is no need to get married if you become pregnant. The parent-child relationship is considered so important that the state makes sure that it’s strong with economic assistance and job security. In Finland, for example, each new baby gets a gift box of clothes, diapers, blankets and other goodies (including condoms for the parents). The maternity box even serves as a first bed complete with a mattress. How cool is that? I’ll tell you, it’s very cool. And it doesn’t matter how much money you have. Every child is entitled to the same start in life in Finland. That’s so, so, what’s the word? Enlightened, or kind, or fair-minded or something.

Commie slacker parasite newborns in Finland get these things in a maternity box without putting any of their delicate scrumptious skin in the game

Even if Scandinavian countries didn’t force their citizens to get gay married, they would still have this incredible safety net for children and their parents regardless of marital status. There is no shame or economic pain attached to having children out of wedlock in Scandinavia so there’s no need to get married. Imagine that! Having children because you want them regardless of whether you are married. Why, that would almost make abortion unnecessary.

As for cheapening marriage, the exact opposite is true with this supreme court ruling. In fact, it shows just how valuable marriage is to all people who can derive real tax benefits and other privileges from the state sanctioned married state. It kind of reinforces how important that license is. If you’ve got it, your retirement bennies are transferable, your property is covered, you can give your trusted partner the authority to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated. You know, important stuff. Now, gay and lesbian couples can have those very valuable benefits. That’s all this ruling means.

Of course there’s more to it than that from a societal point of view. It does give married same-sex couples the dignity they’ve been forced to carry all by themselves. By the way, is there something seriously wrong with Clarence Thomas or what? I’m beginning to think he has some kind of personality disorder. But if what Atrios calls “the Olds” don’t want to join the party and celebrate, fine, let them go sulk in a corner. Their opinions are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

It’s really too bad that so many people felt coerced into marriage back before the Pill and are projecting their envy and bitterness on the rest of society. They do have a choice. They can be Calvinistic crepe hangers or they can let their Grinchy little hearts grow 5 sizes by enjoying other people’s happiness. But they seem determined to not only refuse to evolve but also to prevent other people from evolving too. And their chosen media seems willing to support their stubborness. I ask myself, what’s in it for Fox News and the wealthy people it represents? Because when they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. Well, Fox News is catering to the olds now but that’s not going to last forever.

Anyway, that brings us to the whole silly so-called “Christian” thing.

I don’t care.

No, seriously.

I don’t care what you believe. It’s none of my business. In any case, if the bible is nothing more to me than bronze age and iron age writings and not some divinely inspired rule book, then it’s useless to keep bringing it up as something I need to pay attention to. There are better sources of morality than that book.

Just like it’s none of your business to decide what people do in the privacy of their own homes between two consenting adults. There’s absolutely no reason for you to get involved in that. I’m not interested in your reasons for why you think this is your business or why it makes you feel superior to judge and criticize people so wholly unconnected with you in an attempt to shame them and deprive them of their happiness.

If that’s what it means to be Christian these days, it’s not a very good recruiting tool. That’s what the current research is showing as well. It’s anti-evangelical. Not only is it not working, it’s turning people off from the Republican party. That’s got to be of some concern to the small evil group who runs Fox News and the world to whom no one we know belongs.

Republican cruel, harshly punitive “you’re on your own” brand conservatism and fundamentalist evangelical so-called “Christians” are inextricably tied to one another in the minds of voters now. You just wait and see, somehow, the party has to ditch you people to make itself look cool and attractive again. It’s coming. And if it’s as cruel to you as you have been to the LGBT community, African Americans, poor hungry children and the unemployed, well, you have it coming. It will probably look something like the Republican party aggressively courting libertarians and younger people who have been forced to pay the freight on every little thing your generation took for granted. They’ll start looking at your Social Security benefits as something they shouldn’t have to pay for. Generational warfare.

But for you diehard “Christian” homophobes, I just think that’s a waste of time to be grumpy, unattractive, religious bigots, After all, it’s not gay people who are making working peoples’ lives miserable and eroding our quality of life. Where people, gay or straight. put their naughty bits, has nothing to do with the erosion of the middle class or income instability or exploitative profit mining of American working people by the wealthy and well-connected or whether the conservatives that frequent Fox News really, really hate Social Security with a white hot passion (because they do).

Funny that Fox News would spend its fury on same sex marriage and abortion when the plight of the long term unemployed gets completely ignored.

I don’t think that Jesus would approve.

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Good Luck, Indiana!

Indiana, how very Van Gogh.

I crossed the country 5 times by car when I was a kid and passed through Indiana on four of those trips. It’s a little unfair to say that Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa are boring states but I just can’t remember much about them except straight roads and a hynotically homogenous landscape. I think I might have left a bathing suit in a motel bathroom in Indiana. The pool was nice, that much I remember.

Other than that? Fields and fields of fields. So, you know, Indiana doesn’t have much going for it to begin with.

Now, it has even less.

Well, at least the religious fundamentalists who were violently oppressed by female pro-contraceptive guerrillas and gay men demanding wedding cakes can sleep peacefully at night now. They can unbar their barn doors and beat their swords into ploughshares, which are much more useful in Indiana.

You’re free! Free!, I say!

(Let’s not go to Indiana, it’s a silly place.)

Fully Raw Cannibals and My Obamacare Nightmare

Re: Conservative reactions to marriage equality, Atrios wrote the following last week:

Marriage equality was supposed to be a “conservative” gay rights issue. And, yes, more lefty queer people (speaking generally) weren’t initially thrilled with it becoming the central gay rights issue of our time. As homophobia is the last truly acceptable bigotry (deeply held sincere beliefs!!!), conservatives were never going to be on the correct side of that issue, no matter how many times Glenn Reynolds tells us that Dick Cheney was a gay marriage pioneer.

Unfortunately, homophobia is not the last truly acceptable bigotry. It is far more likely that fully raw cannibals will achieve acceptance and equality before women do.

***************************************

Now that Sebelius has taken the fall for the fiasco that is Obamacare, I thought I’d relate my own experience with it. Disclaimer: I am not a Republican. I don’t hate Obamacare because it is a government program that saps “freedom” (aka tax money) from Jahb Creaturz. No, I am in favor of a national health care policy that uses the best practices that other industrialized countries have put in place. You know, universal mandates for individuals AND employers, cost controls on the medical industry, public options. I was brought up on military medicine and if it was good enough for my sister with chronic severe asthma, by golly, it’s good enough for me. I don’t need frills.

Anyway…

I recently attended a younger cousin’s birthday party. My relatives sat around and compared plans. This group was a mix of ages, employment situations, number of dependents, personal wealth. The bad news for the Democrats is that no one likes Obamacare. Not one of them. In Pittsburgh, the effect of Obamacare is pronounced because two major insurance carriers in the region are battling and one of them, UPMC, refuses to contract with Highmark BC/BS. That leaves Highmark customers scrambling to find new doctors and praying that if they do have an emergency, they don’t get carted off to one of the ubiquitous UPMC hospitals where they will get socked with a massive out of network price structure. They played nicely before Obamacare but no more.

The problem of insurance plans is particularly acute for those of us who fall into the precariat class and Obamacare falls severely short there. Let me explain from my own experience.

Last year, I got a full time job. Unfortunately, it was a temp position. Temp positions mean no benefits and because it was pre-Obamacare, I paid premiums that were out the wazoo. Because it was a position in an academic lab that was facing economic stress from the sequester, it only lasted until December. Thank you, House of Representatives, Senate and Executive branch. At that time, I could no longer afford the $992/month premium on my health insurance policy. Fortunately, my now non-existent salary meant that kid now qualifies for Medicaid. Ok. Kid taken care of. Great. Now for me.

I went on the Obamacare website and looked for a new policy from my existing carrier. By the way, my carrier called me to tell me the “good news!” that due to Obamacare, they could shave the cost of my old policy down from $992/month to $750/month! Isn’t that great?? The new policy came with supercool new features too. I tried to explain to the customer service rep that I was between jobs and $750/month for a healthy person my age was out of the question but I don’t think she was really listening. I decided to try for a subsidy.

On the healthcare.gov site, I saw some policies in the $400-500 range with reasonable $1000/year deductibles. Great! With the amazing subsidies I’ve been hearing about, I should get a pretty reasonable rate. But I found that there’s always a glitch to these sites or something that needs to be explained to a real person so I decided to apply on the phone instead. This was a mistake.

The navigator asked me questions about my income, (um, non-existent? but only temporarily) and started going through the plans. They weren’t anything like the ones on the website. They were more expensive, had higher deductibles and even the silver plans sounded much more like the bronze plans. It was like the online site and the phone assistance sites were totally different. He quoted me a plan that was similar to the one I already had but it was a more restrictive HMO and the deductible is $3750/year. This was a silver plan. I asked him the price and as we were talking the price of the plan went up. Yeah, it was like buying a plane ticket. The price was changing before his eyes.

Then I asked him what kind of subsidy I was going to get. The answer: none. I was startled. Why am I not getting a subsidy?? Because, he said condescendingly, you don’t have an income and aren’t paying taxes.

I have to stop for a second, oh best beloveds, because I suddenly became livid remembering the decades past where I paid more in taxes in a year than I expect to make in income this year. That really scorched my oatmeal. Apparently, to this smug asshole, I am just a deadbeat.

Then he recommended that I just pay the penalty and skip signing up for a plan. That made me really mad. So, now I am going to be a burden on the taxpayers if my conversation with this navigator gives me a stroke and I end up in a UPMC hospital.

I considered my options. I don’t want medicaid for myself because I don’t want my heirs to end up penniless when the state of Pennsylvania swoops down to recover assets from my estate to cover the medicaid premium. This scenario reminds me of the starving Irish who had to give up the last quarter acre of land before they could get food in a workhouse. I worked very hard for decades for the house that I have. I do have money from the sale of my house in NJ in savings but due to the nature of the job market, I have to hold on to that money to pay for the now perpetually temporary nature of making a living. I have TAXES to pay to my municipality for trash pickup, libraries, roads and schools, all of which I am happy to finance.

I reluctantly signed up for the $500 plan. Then I found a job. BUT it’s only part time and, of course, it doesn’t come with bennies. I don’t know if I can get a subsidy now and until my job situation improves, I’m very reluctant to pay the premium on this crappy plan. I am now without health insurance for the first time since 1986.

But wait! There’s more!

It turns out that temp jobs and part time work is very in fashion this year. It is extremely difficult to get a full time job with benefits. There are such jobs to be had but getting through the HR filters is like tilting at windmills. (If anyone in the Pittsburgh area has an opening, let me know. I have great references.) I think I got my current part time job because I aced the online assessment test. Unfortunately, not enough sites have such assessment tests so we are forced to mind read what most job posters have in mind.

So, my relatives and I compared plans. It turns out that I have the worst plan at the highest price. One cousin had to change her doctors completely. Another cousin has a serious heart condition but hasn’t landed any work yet, so, no coverage. When his prescription from another state expires in August, he’s screwed. Another cousin just lost his job. He’d been working for 6 months but just when his health benefits were supposed to kick in, he was laid off. How conveeeeenient. Ironically, it is my self-employed cousins who have the best policy. We share the same insurance carrier but, for some mysterious reason we can’t figure out, he pays something like $450/month for 4 people and has a low deductible. It makes me wonder how the rates are determined.

The relatives that are doing well under Obamacare are the young, single male relatives. Their rates are something under $100/month. The ones who are doing the worst are the ones 45-65 and who don’t have steady jobs. The number of relatives with crap jobs is steadily rising. If you own your own business, rates seem to be fairly reasonable when obtained directly from the carrier.

And here is where the rumors start. We are all convinced that the reason there is so much part time and temp work with impending layoffs just when you reach the bennies mark is because employers do not want to have to pay benefits and Obamacare means they don’t have to. The mandate only applies to the individual. It won’t kick in for employers for another year- if ever. BUT if you can only get part time and temp work, you do not have the money to pay for the premiums. It’s a catch 22 scenario.

Was there no one running the models when this law was written??

I really wish Paul Krugman would stop crowing about Obamacare. It’s a conservative Republican plan passed by Democrats and it now has a “liberal” sticker on it, whether it is deserved or not. It has opened the door to a race to the bottom in terms of benefits and it’s going to damage the Democratic party. It was an ill considered, poorly implemented plan with long ranging consequences to the working class (that is, everyone not making an income from their investments). AND since I read the new Michael Lewis book on compromised stock exchanges, it has dawned on me that the health care exchanges are equally prone to exploit the unaware. We don’t know what our neighbors are getting in terms of plans but it seems like each premium is calculated to optimize profits for someone.

You don’t have to be a Republican to hate Obamacare. Democrats should be very afraid.

 

 

 

 

Justice Ginsburg is right about Roe

It looks like my writer’s block is over.

The NYTimes has an editorial about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s thoughts on Roe v. Wade.  This is prompted by her tepid approach to marriage equality and that a grand sweeping ruling may become the new political football that provokes a backlash.  I’m not sure that’s true in this case because as I wrote in my previous post, the right has some potentially good reasons for trying to steal the gay voting bloc away from Democrats.  They may try to present marriage equality as a fait accompli to their more religious base that is dying out anyway.

At any rate, half of the gay population is already in the privileged class simply because they are men.  As long as they kept their sexual orientation under the radar, there was nothing stopping gay men from partaking of all of the benefits of being male in this society.  In a way, I think the success of marriage equality depends on men standing their ground and refusing to give up those privileges.  The fact that lesbian couples may also benefit is just icing on the cake.  So, maybe Ginsberg’s concerns are less grounded this time around.  Besides, what are the Bible Belt states going to do?  Become more obstinate, belligerent and Republican than they already are towards gay couples?  Is that even possible?

But it’s a different story when it comes to Roe v. Wade.  My theory is that Roe dealt a huge blow to the movement for women’s equality because once it was decided, many women had the mistaken idea that the battle was won.  Instead, Roe became the political football for BOTH political parties.   It’s the primary criteria for which party voters decide they belong.  It’s the fear tactic that Democrats use to corral women to vote against their economic interests as much as it is the tactic that Republicans use to rally their constituents to feel power and control over other people’s lives.

Not only is Roe a political football, it has had major repercussions in setting back women’s equality.  Because abortion has been such a cultural hot potato, we tend to see women as a collection of body parts, primarily reproductive body parts.  We are uteruses and vaginas and breasts and all of our discussion is about who gets to control those body parts.  I am not a man or a male hiring manager but I have to wonder what crosses men’s minds when they see a female colleague.  Do they consider her intelligence, determination, ingenuity and hard work or do they secretly thank god that they weren’t born with ovaries that are subject to religious and governmental regulation?  There are things the state can compel or forbid a woman from doing that men don’t have to worry about.  I cannot believe that this doesn’t have an effect on how women are perceived in all the various aspects of her life.  Maybe if she were a bit smarter, she wouldn’t have to put up with that.

I do not agree with the NYTimes editorial board that women wouldn’t have won their reproductive freedom without Roe.  This is going to sound weird but when I was on the cusp of puberty back in 1970 when New York allowed abortions, feminism was vibrantly alive and kicking, unlike 2013 when it’s barely visible, tepid and calling yourself a feminist is outré and derogatory.  You younguns don’t even know.  You had to be there.  Women were on a roll. I was brought up in a religiously fundamentalist household and yet I was a raging feminist back in the early 70s just like many of my friends.  The world was our oyster and we could do anything. The zeitgeist was definitely and defiantly feminist.  Roe brought that to a screeching halt.  If Roe had failed, there would still have been states where you could have gotten an abortion and the fight would have intensified, not slackened because the effects of abortion restrictions elsewhere would still be vividly real.

So, if Bader-Ginsburg’s concerns are that Roe short circuited the political drive and momentum for women’s full equality, then I totally agree with her.  There were a million reasons why Roe should have been decided as the law of the land but the best one is that women are free and equal persons whose rights should not be abridged simply because they have different genitalia.

Instead, what we have is a hollowed out right to abortion and no equality because we stopped fighting.

Dump Roe.  Revive the ERA.

David Brooks is seriously f%^&ed up

Matt Taibbi has a brilliant take down of David Brooks’ latest column on the perils of gay marriage.  According to Brooks, marriage is bad for gay people because it imposes constraints on their animal instincts and what freedom loving, irresponsible hedonist would want that?:

Ostensibly, the column purports to make a single ironic point, which is that by petitioning the Supreme Court for the right to marry, gays and lesbians were not expanding their freedoms – and thus continuing, as Brooks implies, a long and perhaps-regrettable winning streak for people’s right to “follow their desires” that dates back to those hated Sixties – but rather constraining them. Brooks puts it this way:

But last week saw a setback for the forces of maximum freedom. A representative of millions of gays and lesbians went to the Supreme Court and asked the court to help put limits on their own freedom of choice. They asked for marriage.

Brooks here apparently expects his gay and lesbian readers to scratch their heads here and think, “Gosh, what does he mean by that? I thought we were seeking new freedoms with this campaign?”

What does he mean? Well, the self-appointed hetero-in-chief is here to enlighten us as to what marriage is – and he’s here to tell you, it’s no bowl of freedom-cherries!

Marriage is one of those institutions – along with religion and military service – that restricts freedom. Marriage is about making a commitment that binds you for decades to come. It narrows your options on how you will spend your time, money and attention.

Gee – really? Boy, those gays and lesbians are sure going to be in for a shock when they find out that being in a committed relationship involves constraints on behavior. That’ll be some unpleasant new ground they’ll be breaking there.

What an asshole!

I can only assume that Mrs. Brooks is illiterate.

Wait, why does David Brooks suddenly remind me of this character?:

I think what we’re seeing here is a glimpse into David Brooks’ blighted soul.  The guy would seriously love to lose the tie and let what’s left of his his hair down but it’s been beaten out of him and now he has to play the part of whip kisser extraordinaire for the rest of the world.  Maybe he assumes that everyone is like him, secretly harboring desires that dare not speak their names.  Without the mental chastity belt, we would all just throw off our chains of civilization and get down and dirty in the mud in a frenzy of orgiastic freedom and never get any work done because, let’s face it, work is drudgery and who wants to do that all day when you could be having lots of sex?

Or, here’s my new theory.  Republicans are going to abandon their opposition to marriage equality because they see the writing on the wall demographically and have to make up their numbers, replacing the dying religious conservatives with a potentially large group of voters with money- gay couples.  What better way to attract gay couples than with a militantly anti-tax message?  And where does that leave David Brooks?  Well, there’s always abortion to rail against since women are the LAST people on earth who will ever be allowed a taste of freedom and equality.  But people in Brooks’ class think discussing money is gauche otherwise he’d be writing silly, offensive screeds for the Wall Street Journal.

Well, whatever.

His attitudes about gay people and marriage equality are about as informed as any white supremacists and twice as ignorant.

People like Brooks need to be shunned by polite society.

Tweety and Barney Frank give Tony Perkins a Swirly Over Marriage Equality

What’s up with Tweety?  He almost seems to have a soul on occasion and then he goes and swills some cocktail weenies with Sally Quinn and declares that the only reason Hillary got elected to the Senate was because people felt sorry for her, unlike Scott Brown who is a braintrust. Jeez, it still pisses me off whenever I remember that but that’s not the subject of this post.

This post is about how Tweety and Barney Frank took on Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, the kind of guy some in my family adore like he is a dreamy uber-Christian demigod, striding the marbled halls of justice with the wind in his fists and the stars round his wrists.  Anyway, someone must have spiked Tweety’s tea because he went after Tony relentlessly going as far as showing instant replays.  It’s a thing of beauty.  Why can’t we see the conservatives get swirlied like this on a regular basis?  I might even reinvest in cable to see that.

But the best part (or worst part, depending on you perspective) is when Tony Perkins goes all psycho on special needs children.  Apparently, they’re not worthy of loving parents and no one wants to adopt them anyway.  Well, well, well, we can now see what Tony really thinks of children born to the wrong parents.  Nice white, asian and south american infants are peachy keen for intact heterosexual families but an older kid or a kid with the wrong skin color or HIV status or disability doesn’t deserve parents at all no matter what kind they are.  Anyway, check it out.

Yeah! Give’im hell, Tweety.  Ask him to explain that whole ugly business with Lot’s daughters and the bear that ate the kids who made fun of Elisha’s hair.  Why stop with Abraham?

**********************

Also, there’s this little bit on Fox where the hosts are discussing Obama’s drug use.  I guess it’s a tit for yesterday’s tat on Romney’s stupid and mean haircutting escapade.  If I were the Obama campaign, I wouldn’t have gone there because now, Fox is going to feel justified bringing out all of the drug stuff and even if they tip towards the racist side (and how could they not, they’re Fox), nobody is going to care when the Obama campaign cries “wolf!”. The crocodile tears and faux outrage over racism is going to backfire this year. Fox goes as far as accusing Obama of selling drugs- and then apologizes for getting that wrong.

What’s that saying about a lie making it halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on?