Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All That Glitters Is Not Good

So, Pacific Rim (a large Canadian mining company), is aggressively proposing a gold mine in El Salvador, where opposition to this mine has been mounting over the last few years. In the last few weeks, a number of outspoken community leaders opposed to the mine have been murdered. Just last Saturday, Dora "Alicia" Recinos Sorto, eight months pregnant, was shot dead while walking with her two year old son. Uhhhh, I'm appalled. How about you? So, we have a big, powerful mining company that really, really wants to mine and mounting opposition standing in their way, so...why not hire some hit men to take some of this opposition out? Pretty sick. What's also pretty sick is that this crap happens all the time.

A friend of mine sent me the transcript of a
Democracy Now interview
with Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. It's short, but informative. Why should you care? (Besides the fact that, y'know, being an formed citizen of the world isn't a bad thing and all...) First off, this is silver mining and chances are, you are wearing or have worn gold and silver and knowing where and under what circumstances the items we adorn ourselves with is a good thing to know. Also, the United States has El Salvador (along with pretty much all of Latin America) in its pocket and El Salvador is pretty dependent on the US thanks to the fact that for the last twenty years the country has been run by the right-wing ARENA party, one of the United States' closest allies. So, El Salvador needs our support more than anything.

Unlike so many stories of injustice out there now, there is the potential of some real support behind this movement. Stoumbelis says,

This is a really incredibly important moment in El Salvador. After twenty years of a very hard-right government, they have—the Salvadoran people have elected their first progressive government. The FMLN is now in charge of the presidency and in the majority—well, not the majority, but having the most seats in the legislative assembly. And so, there is really a role like we’ve never had before to hear the voices of people be reflected at the top levels of the government. And Mauricio Funes spoke out last week, specifically around the assassination of Ramiro Rivera, and vowed to investigate fully and not to allow this case to continue in impunity, which was very exciting...

...The FMLN, as a political party, made a very strong denouncement yesterday against the violence and a commitment to investigating, and they have also made a public commitment against mining and have actually introduced a bill in the legislative assembly, which is going to take a huge push, to actually ban all forms of metallic mining, which would be the first in the world.

All of this is important to know because there is REAL injustice happening here and it's the result (as it almost always is...) of big, corporate bullying. People are taking a stand and lives are being lost, BUT there is a real courageous movement going and the push is being felt. The FMLN commitment and bill introduction are proof of voices being heard...but how many lives need to be lost in the process?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Insurance Companies!

It seems as though the insurance companies will be having the merriest Christmas this year (in lieu of the coal that many of us hoped they'd find in their stockings). Santa Obama and his senatelves really delivered the corporate America. They can boast that we got what was on our list (REFORM!!!!!!), but that's like asking for a new pair of shoes and getting an empty shoe box. What will keep our feet warm?
Americans awake to find empty shoe boxes, while the insurance companies sneak out the back door, adorned with new kicks.

I, like many, am heartbroken with this turn of events and can't help but feel that the joke is on us. Our representative democracy has failed us yet again. Do you feel you had a say in this? I don't. We went from public option to medicare buy-in to complete CRAP. Suddenly the insurance companies power has expanded; individuals will be forced to buy insurance with NO cost control. Jigga wha?!?!

Last Thursday, Howard Dean took to the Washington Post:

And on Monday, the National Nurses Union cited "10 fundamental flaws" in the bill:

1. The individual mandate forcing all those without coverage to buy private insurance, with insufficient cost controls on skyrocketing premiums and other insurance costs.

2. No challenge to insurance company monopolies, especially in the top 94 metropolitan areas where one or two companies dominate, severely limiting choice and competition.

3. An affordability mirage. Congressional Budget Office estimates say a family of four with a household income of $54,000 would be expected to pay 17 percent of their income, $9,000, on healthcare exposing too many families to grave financial risk.

4. The excise tax on comprehensive insurance plans which will encourage employers to reduce benefits, shift more costs to employees, promote proliferation of high-deductible plans, and lead to more self-rationing of care and medical bankruptcies, especially as more plans are subject to the tax every year due to the lack of adequate price controls. A Towers-Perrin survey in September found 30 percent of employers said they would reduce employment if their health costs go up, 86 percent said they'd pass the higher costs to their employees.

5. Major loopholes in the insurance reforms that promise bans on exclusion for pre-existing conditions, and no cancellations for sickness. The loopholes include:

· Provisions permitting insurers and companies to more than double charges to employees who fail "wellness" programs because they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol readings, or other medical conditions.

· Insurers are permitted to sell policies "across state lines", exempting patient protections passed in other states. Insurers will thus set up in the least regulated states in a race to the bottom threatening public protections won by consumers in various states.

· Insurers can charge four times more based on age plus more for certain conditions, and continue to use marketing techniques to cherry-pick healthier, less costly enrollees.

· Insurers may continue to rescind policies for "fraud or intentional misrepresentation" – the main pretext insurance companies now use to cancel coverage.

6. Minimal oversight on insurance denials of care; a report by the California Nurses Association/NNOC in September found that six of California's largest insurers have rejected more than one-fifth of all claims since 2002.

7. Inadequate limits on drug prices, especially after Senate rejection of an amendment, to protect a White House deal with pharmaceutical giants, allowing pharmacies and wholesalers to import lower-cost drugs.

8. New burdens for our public safety net. With a shortage of primary care physicians and a continuing fiscal crisis at the state and local level, public hospitals and clinics will be a dumping ground for those the private system doesn't want.

9. Reduced reproductive rights for women.

10. No single standard of care. Our multi-tiered system remains with access to care still determined by ability to pay. Nothing changes in basic structure of the system; healthcare remains a privilege, not a right.

I have a "right" to post this blog but I don't have a right to get good, sufficient health care if my arm gets ripped off tomorrow. That's...W-R-O-N-G.

The bill gets pushed through and the hoity toities in Washington make it home in plenty of time to sip egg nog near the roaring fire. Honestly, what's it to them? About 2/3 of the US Senate are millionaires anyway.

Oh! We musn't forget Ben Nelson, the "democrat" with a pivotal vote in all this. The Nebraskan senator who "made is name and money in INSURANCE". Did you catch that? INSURANCE. Also, according to the Examiner...

Under the agreement struck between Harry Reid and Ben Nelson, Nebraska’s expanded Medicaid program will now be fully funded by the federal government. Nebraska is the only state to receive this sweetheart deal.

This should be a WAKE-UP CALL to not only Americans, but the whole wold. This is our HEALTHCARE. What is healthy about this? Who REALLY cares? This is not "reform". This is continued imperialistic greed in reform's clothing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Curiosity Killed the Tiger

I don't really care about this Tiger Woods drama. I'm not surprised; isn't this kind of the quietly accepted norm among professional athletes? However, when I came across Michael Bader's, "Everything You Think You Know About Tiger Woods is Wrong, So Shut the F**** Up!", I couldn't help but agree.

Okay, I admit it-I indulge in celebrity gossip. It's a guilty pleasure and when I say guilty, I mean it- I feel a little petty as I read about how Jennifer Aniston is "DONE with immature boys!" I know there are better things to be filling my head with and the more I learn, the more I see what a negative effect its focus has on society as a whole. SO, that being said, I've been limiting my indulgences.

Bader says,

But the main (and I think most accurate) point he makes is:

Pretty spot on, huh?

Monday, December 14, 2009


This isn't relevant news, but it did haunt my dreams last night:

RIA Novosti
computerUkrainian student killed by exploding chewing gum

21:57 08/12/2009 A chemistry student from the northern Ukrainian city of Konotop was killed when a stick of chewing gum exploded in his mouth, Ukrainian media reported on Tuesday.>>

I just...can't...imagine that. That is SO messed up!

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Music Monday

Happy Monday! I come bearing the gift of new music! I haven't been discovering or really even looking for new tunes as much as I used to; I'm just not that cool anymore, but these recent discoveries have me re-inspired. Drum roll please...

1) Explosions in the Sky (friend recommendation)- Yes, they're instrumental, but don't let that put you off; they're amazing, emotional and captivating. They're so freaking good that they don't need all those silly words. I find they're best for times when I'm writing, reading or y'know, just in the mood for some Explosions in the Sky.
Download- "Your Hand in Mine"

2) Patrick Watson (I heard him on NPR on Saturday night)- After hearing Patrick and his band interviewed and then perform, I immediately downloaded their Wooden Arms album. Now, this is more for the indie/folk crowd and is SO good. I was impressed to learn that the band often uses unconventional items like buckets, bottles and bicycles in their songs.
Download- "Big Bird in a Small Cage"

3) Kate Nash (friend recommendation)- Ladies, gay boys, straight men in touch with their feminine side- this one's for you. Kate Nash is a British singer/songwriter who just gets it, y'know? She's been there. Her accent is prevalent and her songs are conversational, yet moving. As I listened to her I thought, "I like this girl".
Download- "Nicest Thing" & "Foundations"