I’ve always thought a full-on H.P. Lovecraft revival would be a lot of fun. The Hellboy movies have made their contribution, of course. There’s Lil’ Cthulhu. It may just be because I’ve taken a field trip to the dude’s grave, but I think there’s plenty of space left over to explore both the depths of horror in Lovecraft’s work (the Great Old Ones are so much scarier than most other action-movie creations), and the goofiness of his vision (not to mention his, uh, deeply problematic racial views). But as a result, even if it’s minor, and kind of dopey, this makes me pretty happy:
Woman With Colon Cancer Turns To Pasta Fundraisers To Finance Chemo After Insurers Deny Her Coverage
One of the worst abuses of the private insurance industry is its practice of excluding people with certain pre-existing conditions from coverage, effectively denying them the right to get adequate health care coverage because covering them is not profitable enough.
Iowan grandmother Deb Robben knows what life is like with a pre-existing condition. Four years ago, she shopped the insurance market, looking for a company that would cover her. Unfortunately, after a lengthy search, she was unable to find a single insurer that was willing to offer her coverage; the companies denied her coverage because they considered the benign cysts in her breasts to be a pre-existing condition.
Last December, Robben was diagnosed with colon cancer. Because she has been unable to obtain insurance, she has had to pay the costs for treatment out-of-pocket. For chemotherapy treatment alone, Robben expects to pay almost $2,000 a month. “She’s only two months into chemo and already she’s at $50,000. Oh my, what is another four months going to bring,” says Melissa Gradischnig Nelson, a friend of Robben.
In desperation, Robben’s friends and family have turned to local fundraisers to try to pay for her treatment. Over the weekend, they held a $5-a-plate pasta dinner in the hope of putting “a dent” in Robben’s massive health care bills.
Local news station WHO-TV recently interviewed Robben, who told them, “It’s kind of hard when you can’t get insurance. To say, lady you’re going to die or figure out how to come up with the money. It’s not right.” Watch it:
As Think Progress has reported previously, women face especially high barriers to being approved for coverage by health insurers. The insurance industry has in the past refused to cover maternity care, disqualified women from coverage who’ve had a Caesarean-section pregnancy, and considered domestic abuse a pre-existing condition.
It is worth noting that the United States is the only developed country without a universal, cradle-to-the-grave health care system. Nowhere else in the industrialized world would a woman have to turn to holding pasta fundraisers to get the money to pay for her chemotherapy.
Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that some “high-profile Republicans are adopting a softer vocabulary on immigration” in an effort to woo alienated Latino voters. However, in his bid for reelection, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) hasn’t just toughened up his immigration platform, he’s also adopted a strategy which seems to consist of feigning ignorance of the troublesome civil rights issues that Latinos in his state are facing. In a weekend interview with a local Arizona news station, McCain presented himself as naively optimistic, at best:
HOST: Arizona is getting a national reputation as a latter-day Alabama or Mississippi when it comes to civil rights for Hispanics. Have J.D. Hayworth and his supports gone too far?
MCCAIN: Nah. Look, I don’t think Arizona has that reputation. I think Arizona has a reputation of being the one of the most wonderful places to live, work, and retire –
HOST: If you’re Hispanic?
MCCAIN: Yeah, I think if you’re in this country legally, you are happy to be here. We have a growing Hispanic citizen population here in Arizona. I just do not accept the premise.
McCain is understandably proud and defensive of his home state, however, his oblivious dismissal of the plight of Arizona Latinos demonstrates just how out of touch McCain is with a Latino electorate which used to constitute a large part of his base.
What McCain fails to recognize is that the immigration issue doesn’t draw a neat line between citizens and non-citizens — particularly in Arizona. To begin with, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has admitted on national television that his officers use “speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior” to determine if an individual is an undocumented immigrant. That might explain why there are 2,700 lawsuits collecting dust on Arpaio’s desk — many, if not most, filed by Arizona Latino citizens who were mistakenly identified as undocumented immigrants by Arpaio’s deputies before being arrested and denied their most basic civil rights. Even former Arizona Police Chief George Gascon stated that Arpaio’s immigration policing program has brought the “police profession back to the 1950s and 60s.” Arpaio isn’t the only problem facing Latinos. Hate groups and hate crimes are on the rise in Arizona, with 19 hate groups that call the state home. A report by the Arizona Latino Research Enterprise entitled “The State of Latino Arizona” points out:
An increase in hate crimes against Latinos, legislative efforts by ultra-conservative politicians and other public officials, and stepped-up and sometimes abusive law enforcement activities targeting immigrants— including federal legislation that grants local police the authority to enforce immigration law—have added up to a widespread and increasingly institutionalized assault on the rights of Latinos…
“It’s more subtle than it used to be,” said Daniel Ortega, a leading civil rights attorney and community activist in Phoenix. “We find ourselves, as Latinos, whether documented or not, in a social situation in which our civil rights are not being respected.”
In his 2004 Senate re-election, McCain earned more than 70 percent of the Latino vote. However, during the 2008 presidential elections, McCain was unable to even carry the Latino vote of his own state. McCain is right that Arizona is home to a growing population of Latino voters. And if the former maverick doesn’t stand up to his state’s radical right to defend them, McCain runs the risk of being voted out of office and sent back home where he might end up learning firsthand how Latinos are really faring in his state.
Bloomberg has more from the annals of stimulus hypocrisy:
Alabama Republicans Jo Bonner and Robert Aderholt took to the U.S. House floor in July, denouncing the Obama administration’s stimulus plan for failing to boost employment. “Where are the jobs?” each of them asked.
Over the next three months, Bonner and Aderholt tried at least five times to steer stimulus-funded transportation grants to Alabama on grounds that the projects would help create thousands of jobs.
Bonner and Aderholt, echoing the conservative orthodoxy on ARRA, took the public position that it was doing nothing to boost employment. But in their capacity as incumbent elected officials, they knew perfectly well that ARRA would increase employment and they wanted to benefit from that increase. It’s shameful. Fox News spent much of ARRA’s birthday touting a poll that showed that few Americans believed the stimulus has created jobs. What they left out was the fact that people have false beliefs about the stimulus largely because political leaders they trust—like Bonner and Aderholt—have been cynically lying to them for partisan advantage.
At CPAC last week, blogger-activist Mike Stark caught up with Dr. Eric Wargotz, one of Maryland’s Republican candidates for U.S. Senate. Stark asked Wargotz — who described himself as the presumptive GOP nominee — if he thinks President Obama should be impeached. “Not at this point, but I think the birth issue is still out there,” Wargotz replied. The GOP senate candidate later stated definitively that he believes the President was not born in the U.S.:
WARGOTZ: What I understand about [Obama’s] upbringing and his background is he grew up in a system very different than the American culture. And so I think his tendencies are to more socialist tendencies than capitalist society and free market society we have today. [...]
STARK: Do you believe Barack Obama was born in the United States or not?
WARGOTZ: No, I do not believe he was born in the United States.
Watch the interview:
I won’t waste any time with Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz’s assertions about the efficacy of gas sanctions, as I’ve already dealt with the issue in some detail. The authors trot out the usual claims, along with the usual absence of actual evidence to support them.
But I do want to take issue with Gerecht and Dubowitz’s claims about Iranian dissidents’ supposed support for gas sanctions. Responding to the view (held by the overwhelming majority of Iran analysts and Iranian opposition figures) that gas sanctions would actually weaken the opposition while strengthening the Revolutionary Guards, the authors insist that events since the June 12 presidential elections have “changed the entire political dynamic“:
If sanctions are waged in the name of the Iranian people, we are much more likely to see Western opinion remain solidly behind them. These sentiments will likely be reinforced by prominent Iranian dissidents who’ve moved from adamant opposition to severe sanctions to hesitant acceptance of the idea (Nobel Prize winner Shireen Ebadi, for instance).
As you may have gathered from the fact that the authors couldn’t find a single Iranian dissident to quote in support of their argument, the idea that Iranian dissidents would be interested in providing political cover for measures that would severely impact the same Iranian masses who they’re trying to recruit for their struggling movement is simply daft.
As for Shirin Ebadi’s “hesitant acceptance” of gas sanctions, here’s what Ebadi said earlier this month:
“I am against economic sanctions and military attacks. However, if the Iranian government continues to violate human rights and ignore people’s demands, then I start thinking about political sanctions,” Ebadi told a human rights forum on Iran. [...]
“Wider economic sanctions only hurt innocent people and we are against that,” she said.
Ebadi’s view tracks with what I’ve heard from other Iranian activists — sanctions that target the regime can be good and helpful, but sanctions targeting the population, such as gas sanctions, will hurt the pro-democracy movement.
I’m trying to come up with a way in which Ebadi’s statement “I am against economic sanctions” could be plausibly interpreted as “I hesitantly accept economic sanctions,” but I can’t. So I’m left with the conclusion that Gerecht and Dubowitz are simply being dishonest. Which is entirely consistent with the rest of the arguments we’ve been seeing in favor of gas sanctions.
The Washington Post has a strong editorial on climate change:
The earth is warming. A chief cause is the increase in greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Humans are at least in part responsible, because the oil, gas and coal that we burn releases these gases. If current trends persist, it’s likely that in coming decades the globe’s climate will change with potentially devastating effects for billions of people.
Contrary to what you may have read lately, there are few reputable scientists who would disagree with anything in that first paragraph. Yet suddenly we’re hearing that climate change is in doubt and that action to combat it is unlikely. What’s going on?
Shockingly, however, in their discussion of “what’s going on” they completely neglect to mention the fact that The Washington Post—home of one of the most influential op-ed pages in America—consistently publishes climate denialist tracts that seek to deliberately mislead the paper’s audience.
Something the world certainly won’t miss when the Post and the vast majority of its fellow big city dailies are out of business is this kind of prissy evasion. If the rationale for publishing liars in the Post’s opinion section is that it’s important for the opinion section to represent the full range of the debate, then the Post needs to take into account the fact that this editorial stance is part of “what’s going on” in the climate debate. Alternatively, if they want to take the stance that accuracy matters to the owners and editors of the Washington Post then they need to stand up to inaccurate and misleading writing in their own pages.
I’m sorry that the controversy over Gerard Depardieu’s casting to play Alexandre Dumas, who was biracial, is getting more coverage than the fact that the movie has the potential to be fantastic. It’s focusing on the relationship between Dumas and one of his most significant collaborators, Auguste Maquet, who helped him write, among other works, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. There’s significant, wonderful drama there: Maquet was excluded from the title pages of the works he helped Dumas with, a significant slight, but he ended up quite well-off, while Dumas died bankrupt after an extraordinarily, happily profligate life.
That said, the racial controversy over the casting decision is, I think, significant. The producers, idiotically, said they didn’t think they could find a black or mixed-race actor who could both play Dumas and be as significant a draw as Depardieu. Anytime someone says something like that, it’s pretty clear evidence that they’re not trying hard enough. But I do think there are some interesting questions to consider about casting for biracial characters, something I think will be more and more common as racial lines continue to blur (and of course, there will be more mixed-race actors, too). Dumas, for example, had blue eyes and a somewhat dark complexion. Depardieu has blue eyes. Would the situation be better if a black or mixed-race actor had been cast to play Dumas, but worn contacts? Would the controversy be less if Depardieu was tanning rather than wearing makeup?
I don’t know that I have the answers to any of these questions. But like Dumas, I agree that folks who make racial assumptions, whether it’s about the availability of qualified black actors, or about the abilities of a mixed-race author, only end up hurting themselves. As Dumas once said to a man who insulted him on the basis of his race, “My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.”
Last week, on the one year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ThinkProgress released a report detailing 110 Republican lawmakers who hypocritically opposed the stimulus, but later asked for more money or claimed credit for successful stimulus programs. Republicans, who voted largely in lockstep against the legislation, have been spinning to justify their opposition. Last Wednesday, as House GOP members fired off press releases reaffirming their sentiment that the stimulus had been a “failure,” ThinkProgress caught a House GOP leader releasing a statement taking credit for millions in stimulus funds.
Adding clarity to the depth of GOP hypocrisy, Bloomberg News has obtained 300 pages of letters from anti-stimulus lawmakers requesting highway stimulus funds. Many of the lawmakers in the Bloomberg article have been exposed previously by ThinkProgress for requesting funds while calling the stimulus a complete mistake. However, the personal letters reveal that the most staunch conservatives believed — behind closed doors — that the stimulus was “vital”:
– Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the NRCC leader who called the stimulus a “massive spending binge” and an “abject failure,” wrote three times to administration officials asking for four projects in Dallas. Sessions wrote that the stimulus projects will “create jobs in the region and improve the quality of life for North Texans.”
– Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN), who called the stimulus a “sham,” wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood requesting $80 million in stimulus funds that he believed were “vital to the economic health of North Central Indiana.” At the end of the letter, Buyer wrote, “Ray, I appreciate your personal attention. Steve.”
– ThinkProgress’ report found that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), along with Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), fought for stimulus highway funds for I-73 in South Carolina. According to letters obtained by Bloomberg, Graham proclaimed that the stimulus project would “create 5,789 jobs.” Graham apparently sent “a dozen” similar pitches for stimulus funds. Even though the stimulus contained one of the largest middle class tax cuts in modern history, Graham had called the stimulus a “failure” for focusing on spending instead of tax cuts.
Many of the stimulus opponents called the entire stimulus a failure that didn’t to create “a single job.” But stimulus opponents have loudly, and privately, demanded tens of thousands of stimulus jobs and billions in stimulus projects.
Senior Armed Services Committee member Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) — who opposed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the 90s — has confirmed that he will introduce legislation repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the coming week. “I see this as an extension, the next step of the civil rights movement,” Lieberman told New York Daily News’ James Kirchick. “When you artificially limit the pool of people who can enlist then you are diminishing military effectiveness”:
“My own experience as a member of the Armed Services Committee, visiting our troops on bases here in this country and abroad, particularly in war zones, the most remarkable quality you’ll find is unit cohesion,” he told me. “What matters is not the gender of the other person in your unit or the color or the religion or in this case the sexual orientation. It’s whether that person is a good soldier you can depend on. And that’s why I think it’s going to work.”
While it’s unclear if Lieberman’s proposal will reflect the House’s repeal legislation, set a firm day for repeal (as one group has proposed) or attract the support of Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), repeal advocates are arguing that the best way for Congress to counteract the Pentagon’s feet-dragging (and win over enough support for the measure) is to include the repeal language in the Defense Authorization bill. “The President can have the repeal policy included in recommendations sent from the Pentagon to the Senate. That would show the President’s sincerity on the issue,” John Aravosis is suggesting.
Lieberman’s legislation can also benefit from some fortunate timing. On Tuesday, the Palm Center will release a “new study on foreign militaries that have made transitions to allowing openly gay service members concludes that a speedy implementation of the change is not disruptive.” The study concludes that “in foreign militaries, openly gay service members did not undermine morale, cause large resignations or mass ‘comings out.’ The report found that ‘there were no instances of increased harassment” as a result of lifting bans in any of the countries studied.’ Interestingly enough, the review did not study a gradual repeal — which is what the Pentagon seems to be suggesting — because “no foreign military has ‘tried it.””
Lieberman will have an opportunity to discuss the need for a swift repeal tomorrow when the Army’s Gen. George Casey and the Air Force’s Gen. Norton Schwartz will testify before Armed Services Committee. “Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, who is said to oppose changes to the policy will testify on Wednesday.”