Stupid GOP tricks

Michael Steele, chairman of the RNC, was on NPR recently and Steve Inskeep repeatedly pressed Steele to explain how the Republicans are going to explain health care reform without resorting to scare tactics. Steele denied that he or anyone else in the GOP were using scare tactics.

I’ll admit it. I did a spit take.

After wiping the water from my keyboard, I figured I’d run to my blog and fire off yet another in what is promising to be a long series of rants on the lowlife tactics being used by the Republicans. But I just don’t have it in me. I will simply cite this one example:

The RNC recently sent out a survey to its members under Michael Steele’s name titled  the “2009 Future of American Health Survey.” It was 13 questions long and hit a lot of RNC talking points. One of the questions read like this:

“It has been suggested that the government could use voter registration to determine a person’s political affiliation, prompting fears that GOP voters might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system. Does this possibility concern you?”

Wow. I mean, wow. Is this not a scare tactic? The RNC is suggesting that the Dems are going to pass a law limiting health care for Republicans. Wow.

But I need to save my outrage because over the next few days the GOP is going to try and politicize Sen. Ted Kennedy’s memorial in an attempt to keep the Dems from politicizing Sen Ted Kennedy’s memorial.

Sen. Kennedy called universal health care his life’s cause. There is every reason to believe that the Dems will want to use his death as a rallying cry to get the bill passed. I wish them success, even as some on the right celebrate his death.

Come play, my lord . . .

I read a lot of web comics, blogs and other forms of online puffery. After a while, you see the same banner ads pop up at different sites. Lately, one that has been showing up nearly everywhere I turn has been for an online game called Evony.

HT to Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror

HT to Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror

As a marketing and advertising professional, I can appreciate their yearning to create buzz and draw attention to their game. But these banner ads are . . . well . . . misleading is the best term I can come up with. All the banner ads feature gorgeous women with their cleavage on display. The woman beckons the viewer to “Come play, my lord” or “Play now, my lord.” Still others tout the ability to play the game discretely while at work.

Again, I’m not knocking the concept. Sex is a tried and true way to sell any product. However, the game itself has nothing to do with anything even remotely related. As far as I can tell, It’s a pretty typical turn-based, empire-building strategy game.

About the only thing this ad has in common with the actual game is the fact that it’s set in something akin to the medieval period. The game creators fully acknowledge that the images were for marketing purposes only. That means they were designed to get guys to click through to the game to try and see more of them. These gamers must have been disappointed. As bad as this is, at least one banner ad dropped any pretense of being about the game:

Again, go read Codinghorror.com
Again, go read Codinghorror.com

As you can tell, this is scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of advertising to the lowest common denominator. It is poorly constructed, badly designed and might as well have read “click for free lap dance” for all the real information it conveys.

I have no clue as to the success of the game, but the ads have been popping up everywhere I turn. The Guardian ran an article not too long ago asking if Evony was the most despised game on the internet.

Bruce Everiss is currently being sued by Evony for his reporting on the underhanded marketing techniques being used.

See, the lurid female photos are just the surface. Evony has been setting up multiple Google Ad accounts and spamming the ads across the gaming blog sites. Since they used several emails and referral links, it becomes difficult for bloggers to filter them out.  Additionally, the company uses netbots to spam comments on gaming blogs that are thinly veiled ads for the game. You’ll see several comments that say things like “I just found this cool new game called Evony. It’s great. You should play by clicking here.”

So, while I appreciate their inventiveness and willingness to set the bar waaaay low. I wouldn’t recommend you support them in any way.

I want my corners . . .

There is an amazing scene in the HBO series “The Wire” in which Stringer Bell and D’Angelo Barksdale discuss the changes that are taking place in the drug trade on the streets. While Barksdale was away in jail, Bell had been taking business classes and had arranged for all the drug dealers in Baltimore to form a cartel. That way, everyone profited and no one had to get shot over territory. Barksdale didn’t like this arrangement because, despite the financial gain and the relative safety of the new system, he was a street fighter at heart and it was more important to him to claim territory than it was to be successful.

“I want my corners,” he told Bell.

“But you don’t need to worry about corners anymore,” he replied.

“I just want my corners.”

I thought about that scene because I’ve been getting so frustrated lately with the health care reform “debate.” My frustration isn’t with the right-wingers who are disrupting public meetings and spreading misinformation. That’s expected. My frustrations are with the Dems and specifically President Obama.

The president has been hinting lately that the lack of a public option in the bill would not be a deal breaker for him. That has sent the left wing into fits. How much more do we have to give up to a Republican party that wants no reform at all? I’ll admit it. I was mad. But then I thought about Barksdale. Is the public option my corner that I just refuse to give up?

That may be the case, but before I’m convinced of that, I need to understand some things. For one, I need the president to stop spending his public time telling me what’s not in the bill and explaining what his plan really is. The Republicans are going to lie. So don’t respond. Just be straight with me and explain how a bill that lacks a public option is still going to provide affordable universal coverage, hold insurance companies accountable for their misdeeds, control costs and improve the quality of my health care.

I’m not D’Angelo Barksdale. I don’t have to have my corners. But I do have to understand that what you’re doing isn’t simply a watered down bill that lacks any sort of real reform. I just turned 41 years old. I’m not getting any younger or in better shape physically. I need this reform. My family needs this reform.

President Obama has left it to the Congress to work out a plan and that doesn’t give anyone any confidence. If you expect us to trust you, you’re going to have to give us a reason to, because until I can see a better alternative, I’m going to fight for my corners.

Computer trouble (is there any other kind?)

My friend Greg recently gave me a computer. It was very generous and I was (and still am) amazingly grateful because I had determined that this would be the year that I stopped paying for TV. This bit of free hardware allowed me to tell DirecTV to go pound sand and, shortly thereafter, Bellsouth to do the same.

Friends have asked how this experience has been. And while it has been a challenge, I’m glad I did it when I did (that is to say during the summer before the new fall season starts) Because by then I should be an old hand at seeking out the programming I want to see.

Because, while the experience of watching TV hasn’t changed all that much (I don’t use a remote control any more, I use a mouse); the act of finding something to watch has become more involved than hitting the “guide” button on the remote.

A few days ago, the new computer wouldn’t power on. It tried to. The lights lit for a few seconds and the cooling fans spun, but it just couldn’t fire up. So, I figured it needed a new power supply. I called around town and found one for less than $40 and figured I’d install it myself. It seemed simple enough, you just follow the distributor cap model – replacing each old connector with a new one as you work your way around the drives and motherboard.

All seemed right with the world. I closed it up and hit the power button. It powered up. But I got a message that the drive had no OS and to put a boot disk in. Uh oh. One of the drives wasn’t hooked up. I opened it up again and, for the life of me, couldn’t tell which one wasn’t connected (and didn’t know which one was the C drive).

So, I asked Dollie to pack it all up and take it to the shop where she bought the power supply.

Incidentally, Joe’s Computer Shop in Murfreesboro does great work. They sorted the problem and fixed it quickly and cheaply. They have my business from now on.

During the day or so that the computer was down, I mentioned the trouble to a co-worker and how my computer repair skills aren’t as great as I thought they were.

“Won’t your friend fix it?”

“Huh?”

“Your friend that gave it to you? Can’t he fix it?”

“What? No. I’m not going to ask him . . ”

And thus we come to one of the great conflicts of the 21st century. I’m not sure what the corollary is for the pre-information age. When one finds oneself with an overabundance of computers (which can happen easily for the tech-savvy) giving one to a friend is an act of charity and kindness, but it is also a way of decluttering your home.

It is bad form to come running back to him if the computer has issues. I’ve heard countless anecdotes about it from friends who are the designated free tech support for their families. I’ve heard tales of it on podcasts and read blogs about the anger and frustration the giver feels because he thought he was doing something nice for a friend and it turned into a huge headache.

No sir. I don’t roll that way.

Incidentally, when I hooked the computer up yesterday, it booted normally, but one of the drives wasn’t there. I cracked open the case, found the loose connector and hooked everything back up. It made me feel good that I wasn’t completely helpless.

Years ago I saw a documentary about a celebrity cemetery and about the only salient fact I recall is that a businessman is buried face down in the tomb directly above Marilyn Monroe. It turns out the guy’s name was Richard Poncher and he bought two plots from Joe Dimagio when he and Marilyn were going through a divorce.  Poncher’s hope, of course, was that he and Marilyn would be raised from the dead in some sort of black mass to have zombie sex at the turn of the millennium. I guess that didn’t happen. I don’t know, I don’t read the LA papers.

Regardless, the man’s widow has a Beverly Hills mortgage to pay off, so she plans to move her dead husband one space over to her burial plot so that she can sell the spot directly above Marilyn on eBay. As of this writing, the auction has four days to go and is at $4.6 million. Hugh Hefner, by the way, bought the tomb next to Marilyn a few years back.

Now I’ve seen some of her movies and yes, she was attractive and sexy and an iconic figure. But where is the cache in being buried near her? How is that possibly worth $4.6 million?

Creepy

Murfreesboro doesn’t have a Whole Foods. I doubt we’re missing much. But Whole Foods is seeing a little backlash because John Mackey, the company CEO, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal against the public option for the health care reform bill. Suddenly all these crunchy granola types were shocked, SHOCKED! that the head of a large corporation might not be walking the walk and talking the talk that his company espouses.

If you shop at Whole Foods, you’re paying higher prices to make sure the products you buy are cruelty free, organic, fair trade, dolphin friendly etc… So the idea that the CEO would be conservative or even libertarian was seen as outrageous. So the customers have organized boycotts on Twitter and Facebook:

“A lot of people have been paying a premium for the Whole Foods brand for years,” said Mark Rosenthal, a playwright living in Massachusetts who founded the Boycott Whole Foods group a few days ago. It has nearly 14,000 members. “A lot of people are sad to look at this corporation and see that it is just like any other, if not worse.”

Whole Foods spokeswoman Libba Letton said that Mackey was expressing personal opinions in the op-ed and that the company has no official position on the issue. Whole Foods has sent letters to customers apologizing for any offense and created a forum on its Web site to discuss the issue. There are more than 10,000 posts, compared with 77 posts on the raw foods forum.

Like I said, Murfreesboro doesn’t have a Whole Foods and even if we did, I doubt I’d shop there. I find it amusing that these granola heads believed that this corporation was somehow different than all the others or that the CEO was motivated by anything other than the bottom line. I also find it funny that the CEO didn’t realize his customers would take offense to such a public statement. I wonder if his flaks were given the head’s up before it was published.

What he wrote was a diatribe on the public option that, for some reason, wound up calling for tort reform. I don’t think he intended to speak for Whole Foods and certainly wasn’t trying to piss off his customers.

For the record, it is my understanding that Whole Foods provides high-deductible health insurance for employees as well as $1,800/ year for health care expenses. That’s not too shabby.

On turning two score and one

In my 40th year on earth, I’ve settled into a weight that is slightly more than I’m comfortable with. My body has begun to break down and I’ve developed aches and pains that I presume I’ll have with me forever. I grunt when I get up out of a chair and I find myself reminiscing about being 35 again.

But my life isn’t as maudlin as all that. For one, I have a wonderful family, a good job and high spirits. I am surrounded by good friends and well-wishers. I’ve managed to live this long without going to jail, becoming a public spectacle or suffering any serious injury.

So far, I have to say, life is pretty sweet.

The Prince of Darkness Perishes

Bob Novak has died. That struck me hard, when I read that because he has been around as long as I can remember. When I first started reading and pretending to understand politics, Bob Novak was one of the columnists I looked to for information about the conservative argument. He was as intelligent and contemplative as he was bullheaded and completely wrong. He didn’t mince words or wax eloquent, which I appreciated. You always knew where you stood with Novak – to the left. Also, you pretty much always knew where Novak stood on any given topic because he never changed, never swayed from his government-bad/capitalism-good/screw-the-poor mentality. There is some comfort there and it is through this frame that I will experience any sense of loss.

CNN’s political coverage was built, in part, on Novak’s reputation. It is my sincere hope that he is remembered for that, rather than his ugly break with the network.

Health care lies are making me sick.

So Sen. Chuck Grassley – supposedly one of the “good” Republicans cited by President Obama as really trying to work on a bill that he could support – has been bragging to his constituency back home that, were it not for his interference, we would already have a health care reform bill and all this town hall brouhaha wouldn’t have happened.

Wow. You mean if you hadn’t dealt in bad faith you and your Republican cohorts wouldn’t have had the opportunity to spread lies and fear monger and please your puppet masters in the health insurance industry? Well, thank you, Sen. Grassley. Thanks for looking out for the people of Iowa and protecting them from quality health care.

Now, you’ve managed to strip the provision from the bill that would allow Medicaid to pay for end-of-life counseling for terminal patients and their families. Despite the fact that you had to know it had nothing to do with so-called “death panels” or forced euthanasia or suicide reviews. You, sir, are a demagogue.

I despise this mindset that, because it is a government program, it is automatically bad. Medicare is a good program that’s very popular. Expanding Medicare to everyone would mean a universal, single-payer system that would solve a lot of problems for us and cause a few for the health insurance industry. I’d feel bad, but it’s not like the health insurance industry is looking out for my interests.

These townhall meetings are ridiculous. Let me share some pointers for these gatherings offered up by Freedom Works, Dick Armey’s astroturf group:

– Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”

– Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep’s presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early.”

– Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”

Unbelievable. Read that last one again: “Try to ‘Rattle Him,’ Not Have An Intelligent Debate:” What does that tell you about the quality of their arguments?

On Facebook, I foolishly voted in a poll about health care reform. This allowed me to see which of my friends voted and how. Seeing the ones that voted against it made me want to confront them and ask why. But that only leads to arguing with people I haven’t seen face-to-face in more than 20 years. It’s not worth it.

Here is something for freshmen congressmen to consider: would you rather serve two years and pass an historic piece of legislation that will help save the lives of thousands of people and extend the lives of countless others before going back home to your car dealerships or would you prefer to spend 20 years in congress and still be debating this issue while the situation worsens.

I think I know the answer and I pity you.

We need reform. There are millions of people who have no insurance at all. Who do you think pays for it when they go to the emergency room for ailments that could have been caught early with proper preventative care? We do.

Critics complain of health care rationing, decisions being made by bureaucrats instead of doctors, long waits, growing debt and rising costs if we have government-run health care. They cry “socialized medicine.”

But what we have now is corporatized medicine. That means your doctor has to wrestle with bureacrats from the insurance companies for every treatment. He doesn’t get to decide which medicines, labs, treatments, hospitals or colleagues to use. Your insurance company tells your doctor what they will pay for. Under the corporatization of health care, we get health care rationing, decisions made by bureaucrats, long waits, growing debt and rising costs. Plus, between 45 and 50 million people get nothing and if you get really sick, your health insurance company can drop you.

Under a single-pay system, every doctor, every lab, every hospital, every available option will be open to you because everyone is on the same system.

The status quo cannot stand. One side wants reform that will improve health care and cover more people. The other side wants to make asses of themselves at public meetings, rattle their congressmen and not have an intelligent debate.

Here is my prediction: We will get a bill passed. Whatever is in it will be called “reform” and everyone will pat themselves on the back for either pushing it through or fighting to keep it from going through.

Here is what I’d do were I President Obama: Call together the Democratic members of all the committees that need to sign off on a bill. Hammer out a bill that the Dems can agree on and that will pass the floor vote in both houses without a single Republican vote. You’re not going to get them anyway, so why waste any more time trying?

Then take the bill to the floor of congress, vote and pass a good, strong bill without the GOP. Let them rage, wail and rend their garments. Remind them that they didn’t want Medicaid and Medicare either. Remind them that they voted against Social Security and Civil Rights legislation. Remind them that they have always been on the wrong side of history because they do not know how to govern. They just know how to make noise at meetings.