Your greed and ignorance are not harmless

The right wing in this country loves to blame the victim.

Poor people are lazy and don’t deserve any help.

Sick people are at fault for their own illnesses.

Women deserve to be raped.

People of color deserve to be shot in the street, even when they’re unarmed.

They also expect the things they want to be paid for — you know, the roads they drive on, the electrical grid and the water systems they use, the military that gives their tiny dicks a hard-on.

Their attitude is “I got mine, get your own,” as they pass laws that make it impossible for others to get their own.

If you haven’t seen it, you need to watch Jimmy Kimmel talk about how his newborn son almost died but was saved because he had good insurance.

No one should have to watch a child die from neglect the way I had to.

And then Rep. Mo Brooks (R., Alabama) claimed that if people live a “good” life, they won’t “get” pre-existing conditions.

I had someone come onto my timeline this morning on Facebook who buys into that crap, hook, line and sinker. He claimed that people with pre-existing conditions should have taken better care of themselves, that their conditions come from personal choices.

I called him on his bullshit and he claimed it wasn’t victim-blaming, but a harmless point of view.

No, your point of view is harmless only if the outcome doesn’t harm someone. If you take away the pre-existing condition clause of the Affordable Care Act, more people will die the way my son did. That is not harmless.

My son was in no way responsible for having a birth defect. It was in no way his fault that he couldn’t find a doctor in Savannah, Ga., who would let him pay for his care in installments. My son did not choose to get colon cancer, and nothing in his lifestyle caused it. But my son died because he didn’t have — because he couldn’t get — insurance.

I have been healthy all my life, but I developed asthma a few years ago. Having insurance means I can manage it and it doesn’t get worse — and more expensive to treat.

My best friend developed type 2 diabetes in her 50s because she has a genetic predisposition. She exercises every day and eats very, very well. Because her insurance also pays for glucose testing supplies, she can manage her diabetes. Without insurance, she would develop life-threatening — and extremely expensive — complications.

My husband’s family has heart disease all through it, so no matter how much he exercised, no matter how healthy he chose to eat, he still developed coronary artery disease and needed bypass surgery, which saved his life.

My son didn’t deserve to die, but people still try to place the blame on him.

When I went to speak to a newly elected state senator about health care and told him Mike’s story, his first question was, “Was he working?”

Not, “Oh, my God, how does this happen in America in the 21st Century?” but “Was he working?”

My answer was that he was working and he was a full-time student with a 3.75 GPA, and he was a volunteer.

But then I had a question for him: “When did being unemployed become grounds for the death penalty? When did death for unemployment become part of the penal code?”

He had no answer. But he’s still against expanding Medicaid in North Carolina because he still thinks it’s OK to blame the victims of our society’s greed and self-centeredness for their own suffering.

Perhaps that’s more comfortable for them than facing the truth — that public policy is a moral thing, and that their willingness to let people die rather than have compassion for them is immoral on its face.

The person on my Facebook thread this morning asked why I get so upset over his “harmless opinion,” and I told him his opinion is neither harmless nor correct. I had pulled four instances of people with pre-existing conditions that were not their own fault. I had told him about how his opinion had led directly to people’s deaths, and he persisted in saying people are responsible for their own pre-existing conditions.

What’s worse, he said I should know that children can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. He was unaware that that’s a piece of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s not my opinion, that’s fact.

Until 2012, you were off your parents’s plan at age 19, unless you were a student and then the cutoff was 21. And if you had a pre-existing condition like little Billy Kimmel’s heart defect or my son’s birth defect, you somehow deserved to die.

It’s time we face the immorality of our public policy on health care, on the minimum wage, on education, on workers’ rights, on the environment, on housing, on income inequality.

It is not the fault of the victim, it’s the fault of every one of us who believe selfishness and greed are “harmless opinions.”




So, we’re at “war” again

Really? You're outraged over a coffee cup design? Perhaps you need to rethink the meaning of "Christmas."

Really? You’re outraged over a coffee cup design? Perhaps you need to rethink the meaning of “Christmas.”

Once again, “Christians” are claiming they’re being attacked, this time because Starbucks has introduced plain red cups for the holiday season.

Let me say a few words to “Christians” who are disturbed by this.

First of all, Starbucks is a business that serves people of all faiths,” not just yours.

Second, if you are so self-centered that you think your particular brand of Christianity is the only faith that ought to be recognized, you are about as far away from the teachings of your “Savior” as it gets.

Jesus taught humility. He taught love and acceptance. And he didn’t celebrate Christmas. He did celebrate his birthday, I imagine (I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t), but it was at the time of harvest — most likely in September, not December.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth was moved to December to recruit Pagans into the new religion, since this is when most major religions celebrate the winter solstice, or the return of the light. The Christmas tree is another Pagan tradition. You don’t think Jesus actually bought an evergreen tree and decorated it do you?

As for the Christmas avarice, that’s a relatively new invention. Originally, there was a feast to celebrate the birth of the Christ. Then people started giving foods — nuts and fruits, mostly. Then came small gifts — children left their shoes or stockings out to be filled.

Then came the greed. By the mid-20th century, people were going into debt to buy crap recipients didn’t need and often couldn’t even use.

Now comes the hubris of demanding everyone recognize your holiday, whether they observe it or not. Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists, atheists — it doesn’t matter. Not only are they expected to wish us a merry “Christmas,” we are allowed to wish them the same, no matter what they observe.

And “Christians” seem to see nothing wrong in this. They have become so self-absorbed that no one else matters — the exact opposite of what Christ (whom they claim to worship) taught.

So, yes, I will wage war against “Christmas,” as long as it is a celebration of greed and consumerism.

I will, however, celebrate Christmas. I will spend money only on materials for handmade gifts. Sorry, kids, no Target gift cards this year. Perhaps I will give you art and craft supplies and offer to teach you to knit or crochet. Perhaps, if you have asked me for recipes, I will print our a bunch of mine and put them in a binder so you can start your own cookbook.

When my younger son was alive, he celebrated Christmas by making a huge dinner and inviting people who had nowhere else to go. And he was never, ever offended by someone who wished him happy holidays, because like me, he believed that phrase included every holiday between Halloween and Martin Luther King Day.

This “war on Christmas” was designed to distract people from real issues like disastrous social, economic and ecological policies. You can’t fight for the climate, for education, for health care, labor rights, voting rights, etc., if you’re obsessed with fighting a supposed war on a holiday.

You claim to worship Christ, then perhaps you should look to the red print in the New Testament for guidance on how to treat people and for the real reasons to be outraged, because you should be really furious about the things going on around you.

I am outraged by the war on the poor, and even more on the impoverishment of millions of people whose jobs were shipped overseas and then replaced by low-paying jobs that don’t provide enough to make ends meet, even though people are working harder.

I hate everything “Christmas” has come to stand for in our culture. I hate the must-have attitude. I detest the car commercials that suggest someone deserves a $25,000 gift for Christmas. I hate the way children start making lists in September because they’re taught greed is good.

I hereby declare a war on “Christmas,” so that I can celebrate Christmas.

I will not set foot in a mall between now and New Year’s. I will go to the yarn store and the art supply store. I will buy handmade from local people or make it myself.

I will not go further into debt.

I will drop off some handmade scarves and hats at Beloved House here in Asheville to help keep people warm instead of vilifying poor people and blaming them for their circumstances. After all, I don’t recall Jesus asking people if they made bad choices as teenagers before he helped them.

I will send cards to Christians wishing them a merry Christmas, but for those I know to celebrate other holidays, I will send cards wishing them happy holidays. I will not take offence at cards that wish me happy holidays.

I will attempt to be kind and generous in the spirit of the one whom I celebrate.

So, to all my Christian friends, I wish you a merry Christmas; to those of other faiths, I wish you the happiest of holidays.


The budget deal is a raw deal for Americans

So, we have a “deal” to precent the United States from defaulting on its debts.

I might be willing to call it a deal made in good faith if the thing had contained any tax increases on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, or maybe if it had closed a few tax loopholes on big corporations.

But the last-minute deal to raise the debt ceiling — which many Constitutional scholars say is unconstitutional itself — did nothing for everyday Americans. It tied the hands of those in Congress who do give a damn about the jobless, homeless and sick people in this country, making it nearly impossible to do anything to help those in need.

And the crisis it averted was manufactured by right-wing idealogues to disable the government’s ability to do its job.

They keep talking about the debt as though it’s the most important thing and it isn’t. The most important thing right now is to get the economy back on its feet.

The Tea Party has won another victory in its effort to destroy our Democracy, and the rest of us have nothing to be happy about.

Why President Obama refused to just sign an executive order to raise the debt ceiling using the authority of the 14th Amendment, I don’t know. It seems he’s afraid of offending the very people who are destroying his presidency and this nation.

The economy is a mess because of hedge fund traders and other immoral, greedy Wall Street executives, who continue to make record profits and pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. They manage to villify people who are out of work and those who work harder and harder for less and less of the economic pie, they control the message to the point that many Americans believe they themselves are at fault for the troubles.

And President Obama caves to them as though he’s being blackmailed.

This deal is not good news. It’s more of what’s destroying us. I think it borders on treason.

700 more newspaper jobs cut

Just in case you’re wondering why newspapers are looking so bad, it’s because of greed.

Newspapers insist on a bottom line that’s above almost any other industry, and when it falls below about 30 percent, they make cuts. Big cuts.

Yesterday, Gannett Corp. laid off another 700 people across the company’s newspapers.

When I joined Gannett, at the Journal News in Rockland County, NY, in 1986, it was considered one of the top family-friendly companies to work for. Health benefits were excellent and time off was better than at most other newspaper companies. If you worked hard, you got ahead; there were incentives; there were rewards for people who did good work.

It was an ugly scene at newspapers across the company as people who had been loyal employees for decades were cut loose.

So, why are newspapers losing so much revenue and readership?

The company line is that newspapers are a dying industry because people get their news online.

But Gannett is cutting its online staff too. Here in Asheville there was a separate department dedicated to Web content. That got cut in the last round. The company spent millions on top-of-the-line video equipment and software and training four years ago, and then pretty much abandoned it.

As newsrooms get smaller, the people who are left have fewer and fewer opportunities for any investigative reporting. More time is spent processing press releases and covering events to fill what little space is left.

It used to be that ads filled in the spaces around editorial content; now editorial content is the filler for the spaces around the ads. The ever-shrinking news hole leaves less and less space for real news.

That means government and big business have no one watching what they’re up to. It makes it that much easier for Fox Noise to spread its lies about government takeovers and death panels and how we “need” to gut Social Secutity and Medicaid. They spread the fallacy of us being broke and no one is here to explain that we’re not.

Add that to the consistent de-funding of education over the last 30 years and you have the Koch Brothers’ dream scenario.

Newspapers don’t have to die; they need to become nonprofits. Then Craig Dubow, the CEO of Gannett will have to live on less than $10 million a year and people who cost the company $40,000 can have their jobs back and we can save our Democracy.


Aliens among us

I’m a lifelong “Star Trek” fan. Well, since the original series came on in 1966, anyway. I was almost 14, and I was captivated.

In the series’ second incarnation, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” a race called the Ferengi was introduced. They’re money-grubbing, power-hungry beings, guided by the “Rules of Acquisition,” which glorify greed and cheating.

Rule of Acquisition 1: “Once you have their money, never give it back.”

There are no labor unions among the Ferengi workers; the goal of every Ferengi is to become the exploiter. And women are forced to stay home and wear no clothing. When a Frenegi enters the home of a friend, he offers money for admittance.

When they die, their bodies are descicated and the family sells of pieces of it to raise money and so family and friends can own a piece of their loved one.

The Ferengi religion brings the dead to the Blessed Exchequer, where they can bribe their way into the Divine Treasury.

It was supposed to be fiction, but I saw this “photo” this morning and it dawned on me that these two really would make good Ferengi. Too bad they’re real and they’re ours to deal with.

For 30 years, the Kock Brothers worked behind the scenes, funding right-wing causes, buying influence, corrupting our political system and undermining Democracy. By the time they were outed last year by The New Yorker, their work was pretty much done. They had created the Tea Party astroturf movement and helped set up a system of disinformation that would tilt the landscape far to the right.

To the far-right, the Koch brothers are heroes, doing battle with the great villain George Soros.

Of course, Soros hasn’t poured but of fraction of the money into political movements has the Kochs have, and he’s always been above -board. I don’t think the Kocks and their ilk even begin to understand the difference.

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