Inhuman Swill : Politics : Page 4
            

Having watched Valkyrie recently, I've been thinking about the intersection of art, commerce and religion. I know, that's probably not the kind of discussion the filmmakers intended to provoke, but here we are. Germany started it.

Every so often a big kerfluffle flares up in the media or the blogosphere about what famous entertainer is or isn't a Scientologist, and why. Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Isaac Hayes, Beck, Chick Corea, Edgar Winter, Chaka Khan, Mark Isham, Greta Van Susteren—we're supposed to avoid giving them money so we don't inadvertently support their reprehensible "church." Leonard Cohen, Paul Haggis, Jerry Seinfeld, Courtney Love, Gloria Gaynor—once were Scientologists, but now they're on the okay list. Neil Gaiman—wait, what's the controversy with him? I'm not supposed to read him because his relatives are Scientologists?

Frankly, keeping score like this is ridiculous.

As much as I dislike Scientology, discriminating against artists because of their private beliefs is a losing game. I hate the fact that there were Crusades, and a Spanish Inquisition, and institutional coverups of child sexual abuse, but that doesn't mean I'm going to deny myself the work of Catholic writers like Graham Greene or Tim Powers, or Catholic filmmakers like Kevin Smith. Will some of the money I pay for their stuff end up in Vatican coffers? Possibly, but I'm not naive enough to think that any of the money I give or receive is pure. We live in a pluralist society. We can't help the fact that our money is going to circulate through parts of the body politic that we don't like. The only judgment we can really make is how we respond to the art, how pure and universal and human it is, how ennobling or demeaning or thrilling or dull, how free from or full of agenda or polemic.

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Hitler on Obama's education speech

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So there's something of a meme on YouTube where people take that memorable scene of Hitler's meltdown in the German film Downfall and replace the subtitles. My favorite example of this used to be the one where Hitler rants about the changed ending of the Watchmen movie. That one's now been eclipsed by this more brilliant, pointed, and timely version:

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I can't help myself. I have to share a couple more tidbits on the topic of health care. First is Johann Hari of The Independent, who takes the American right wing to damning task in yesterday's "Republicans, Religion and the Triumph of Unreason." Here are two of the almost amusing bits from a not-really-very-amusing article:

These increasingly frenzied claims have become so detached from reality that they often seem like black comedy. The right-wing magazine US Investors' Daily claimed that if Stephen Hawking had been British, he would have been allowed to die at birth by its "socialist" healthcare system. Hawking responded with a polite cough that he is British, and "I wouldn't be here without the NHS"...

For many of the people at the top of the party, this is merely cynical manipulation. One of Bush's former advisers, David Kuo, has said the President and Karl Rove would mock evangelicals as "nuts" as soon as they left the Oval Office. But the ordinary Republican base believe this stuff. They are being tricked into opposing their own interests through false fears and invented demons. Last week, one of the Republicans sent to disrupt a healthcare town hall started a fight and was injured—and then complained he had no health insurance. I didn't laugh; I wanted to weep.  [full article]

And Diane Francis at The Huffington Post makes the case that "LBJ Created Canada's Superior Health Care System":

As the health care establishment appears to be once again able to block any reasonable changes to America's sick health care system, it's important to note that, ironically, the "father" of Canada's universal, single-payer health care system was late President Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1964, his plan caused Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson to rush the same health care scheme into existence so that Ottawa was not beaten by the Americans, as was the case in 1934 with Social Security. As things turned out, LBJ compromised with the Republicans and scaled back his plan to a co-payer insurance for senior citizens, or Medicare. So it's hardly surprising that, again, a popular President cannot win out against the nasty tactics and enormous wealth of the medical vested interests.
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Every time I hear someone on the radio going on about how there's nothing wrong with the American health care system, I get so mad I can't see straight. I always wonder out loud what that person would say if he lost his job and his health insurance, or if she suddenly couldn't get coverage for a life-threatening disease because of some innocuous "pre-existing condition."

I have pretty good health coverage, but that's only because my wife has a good job. I don't want to think about what would happen if she lost her job. COBRA coverage would be available for 18 months, of course, but it's as expensive as half a month's rent. And even with our coverage, it's a tremendous pain in the ass to negotiate the thicket of requirements you have to go through in order to consult a specialist, which both Laura and I are currently doing.

In fact, yesterday I had to cancel a long-standing appointment I was supposed to have this afternoon with the urologist I've been seeing (in a professional sense, not the sense of having an affair with, although he's cute in a reassuring-older-guy kinda way) this year. Why? Because Laura's insurance just changed to a new company, and my procedure would not be covered unless I could get a referral form from my primary-care physician, but that office wouldn't cough up the form because we haven't received our new insurance cards yet....

Fortunately it's not an urgent procedure, but if it had been I would be, to put it crudely, fucked. I can reschedule for a couple of months from now, but how much easier and more sensible would this all have been under a single-payer system? I don't know how anyone with serious health problems manages.

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Barney, frank

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Barney Frank is one of my favorite American politicians. He sounds like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character but says things in that goofy voice that are more forthright than any other congressman I can think of. Who else would tell off a constituent like this with such obvious disgust?

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My first professional story, "From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left" (F&SF, February 1993), was set on Inauguration Day, 2009. Thank God the real 1/20/09 is an infinitely more hopeful occasion than the one in my story.

http://www.shunn.net/podcast?sf=4

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I found myself applauding Timothy Egan's guest column "Typing Without a Clue" from Saturday's New York Times. Not that I, as the author of a "riveting memoir" unsold "after 10 years of toil," feel any bitterness on the topic:

The unlicensed pipe fitter known as Joe the Plumber is out with a book this month, just as the last seconds on his 15 minutes are slipping away. I have a question for Joe: Do you want me to fix your leaky toilet?

I didn’t think so. And I don’t want you writing books. Not when too many good novelists remain unpublished. Not when too many extraordinary histories remain unread. Not when too many riveting memoirs are kicked back at authors after 10 years of toil. Not when voices in Iran, North Korea or China struggle to get past a censor’s gate....

With a résumé full of failure, he now thinks he can join the profession of Mark Twain, George Orwell and Joan Didion....

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I busted a gut watching Marc Shaiman's short revue "Prop 8: The Musical." Among the many celebrity cameos herein, my favorite is Jack Black's, who may be my favorite Jesus since Graham Chapman didn't play him.

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Attacks on gays = a tax on Mormons

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I don't know about you, but I am incensed about the LDS Church's over-the-pulpit exhortation of its members to mobilize and help pass California's Proposition 8, banning gay marriage. When I first heard about it, in fact, my first reaction was, "Damn, they need to have their tax-exempt status revoked."

Now you can help urge the IRS to make that happen. Here are all the instructions and supporting documents you need in order to:

File a Complaint Asking the IRS to Revoke the LDS Church's Tax-Exempt Status

If the Church is going to jump into the political arena (yes, okay, they've never not been a player in the political arena) and try to legislate a segment of our population out of their legal rights, then it's only fair that they as a corporation should share this country's tax burden. They pulled this same kind of nonsense 30 years ago to help defeat the Equal Rights Amendment,* and who knows what they'll try next if their actions are left legally unchallenged?

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Huffing and puffing

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The red states voted and voted until they were blue in the face.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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William Shunn

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