Exposing Tort Reform as a Sham

It sounds reasonable: “People are suing for crazy-pants reasons!  Its out of control and we all pay for it!”.  Except its all bullshit.

Pajiba is more of a place for excellent movie reviews than politics, but when they do dive in damned if they don’t get it perfect.  On Tort Reform:

Tort reform is a sham, folks. It was something dreamed up by huge billion dollar conglomerates in order to increase their profit margins. Really, all you need to know is that one of the major engineers of tort reform law in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s was Karl Rove. Guess who benefits the most from tort reform? People like Karl Rove. Big oil. Credit card companies, The insurance industry. Tort reform was basically designed to take the jury out of the equation.

Dead on (emphasis mine):

There’s such a huge corporate-funded marketing campaign behind tort reform that few people understand the reality: It mostly benefits corporations at the expense of taking away a jury’s right to make a decision. A jury can still decide if someone can get the death penalty, of course, but apparently, a jury is just too wild and unpredictable to be allowed to decide how much an insurance provider has to pay if 1,000 kids get sick because of lead in toys. They tried to give Stella Liebeck $2.7 million, or two day’s worth of profit on McDonald’s coffee as a message to the restaurant to lower the temperature of its coffee (it has since done so) and to improve the lid design so that even more people don’t end up with severe burns. How unreasonable!

Support for Tort Reform is unapologetic class warfare favoring the corporate class over the rest of us.  So how do you respond when your “reasonable” centrist or republican friend brings up tort reform?  How do you respond when they complain jury awards are “out of control”?

First – make the above point clear – “How are juries responsible enough to determine the death penalty – but not to determine a fit punishment in a “Company poison’s water” case?”.

Next, you have a few options.

Are you dealing with a numbers person?  Go into the incredibly small size of the largest jury awards when compared to actual income for the guilty company. Ask what is going to give a company incentive to stop their criminal behavior if the penalty is small enough to be considered a minor tax increase?

Are they concerned about frequency?  Ask what it means for consumer protection in this country if so many companies are successfully sued?  Just what the hell is going on here?  If they are truly liable for doing this much damage – why the hell aren’t they being regulated more?

Tort Reform opens the discussion to how the American public is largely left unprotected from the abuses of corporations.  This is the corporate world’s attempt to strip away even that last remaining shred of protection.


Depressing Corporate Shit

Hello Dear Readers.  My my, its been a while since my last post.  How about something thoroughly soul crushing?

Our Supreme Court has gone against the grain and showed us the appointment of Roberts and Alito won’t always lead to pro-corporate rulings by issuing a fucking ridiculous pro-corporate ruling: Exxon needn’t pay up for its oil spill, HAHA ALASKANS YOU DUMB FUCKERS.  Seriously they might as well have individually slapped every Alaskan.  Though Palin would still be shouting “thank you sir, you may drill another!”.

Barack Obama has decided he needs to do more to live up to his campaign promises of promote transparency and delivering change we can believe in by doing the exact fucking opposite.  This shit deserves to be quoted:

only through leaks that we tend to learn of the incompetence and fuckery of the government. When stories surface that show how various government agencies are screwing the pooch, the only correct course of action is to fix the fuckups, not punish those who made the fuckups public.

Prosecuting, nay, persecuting whistleblowers is an anti-freedom, anti-transparency move.

Great move oh Hope inspiring one.

Finally let’s have a look see at the economic writing on the wall.  Will the middle class thrive into the future?  Will we realize that asking the middle class and poor to suffer to support the gambling habits of the ultra rich is not only unsustainable but utterly unjust, and rise up to at least make a fucking peep?  Nope.  Now click the shit out of this link and read the whole article.  Come back when you are done.  I’ll be waiting.

Holy shit, right?

So that’s our glorious new world.  To keep from plunging into utter despair I will leave out the current economic/environmental disaster known as BP, the gaping holes in our government that let the oil spill through, the fact that a larger rig with safety violations galore (operated by BP as well) is being allowed to keep running, the massive displays of racism in Arizona, etc etc.

We live in interesting times.

The Hard Work of Change

Thank You, President Obama, for your commitment to represent young voters.

We are the future of this country, and together, we are ready to do the hard work to make this country stronger, safer, and more just for everyone.

The Bible is Wrong: Part 1: Mercy, Suicide and Homosexuality

Religion is a political beast wherein spirituality plays a varying part.  It is therefore apt to go beyond discussing the role of religion in public life, to discussing the nature of religion itself.  It is essential to balance respect for beliefs and people’s freedom to have and express them, with one’s own freedom to express one’s own beliefs and criticize others.  Aside from a few brave atheists, the discussion in this country thus far has been tilted grossly towards the Conservative Evangelical Christian worldview, with liberal Christians, secularists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, Atheists and others meekly keeping to the Church vs State debate.  Its time to step past that, and the only way to do that is to speak for one’s own beliefs, and use that as a platform to counter the beliefs you find harmful.

We need to be honest with ourselves.  It isn’t simply that we oppose conservative Christians using their religion to oppress homosexuals, it is that we abhore the belief itself that homosexuality is a sin (and all that entails).  So let’s bring that criticism into mainstream discourse.  In its absence we create a society where fear of blasphemy de facto retains its power unweakened by our distance from the dark ages.  The only way to move the frame of discussion back to a place of strength and equality is to make our opinions loud and clear, and no longer shrink back from voicing them.

Which brings me to my first topic in this series.  I was *finally* spurred to write about this after reading this post by Father Joe (and a particular comment in response), but I’d been meaning to write about the concept of suicide and mercy for a while now.  I’ve been hearing Disturbed’s Inside the Fire for a bit on the radio, and understanding the song plays a role in revealing how twisted a psychology the concept of hell and mortal sin raises.  The song is essentially David Draiman fighting the temptation to commit suicide and join his girlfriend.

The problem is with the concept of judgment, which is central to the judeo-christian-muslim tradition (growing up in conservative Judaism, we made a big deal out of the second most important holiday, Yom Kippur, the day of judgment).  In the case of a murderer, judgment, whatever the punishment, appeals to our sense of justice and revenge.  We want people who do bad things to suffer (however unholy that desire itself is).  However that same concept of judgment is extended to people who have not hurt anyone, or who themselves are suffering from a disease.  On this we should be perfectly clear.  Homosexuality hurts no one.  Suicide isn’t the act of a person who in a moment of weakness gave up on life.  Suicide is a fatal expression of clinical depression.  Condemning someone to hell for eternity for having cancer would be just as “just” and “compassionate”.

Father Joe writes:

When the topic of homosexuality is raised, immediately there are those who deny that we can make a moral evaluation. We are told, “It is not for us to judge, only God.”

Yes, it must be admitted that God is the judge of such things, but that verdict is not pending but has already been expressed by his revealed Word:

To those of us who do not buy the idea of “God’s revealed word” (finding the circular argument of “The Bible Says its So” unconvincing), that is a very hollow stance to take.  And it is one that serves a vision of God that is petty, vengeful, mean, flawed, violent, and utterly unholy.  What kind of God would condemn someone to an eternity of torture for loving another human being in a mutual relationship?

This is why I detest seeing the Bible used as a source for how to live one’s life, let alone how all Americans would be forced to live our lives.  The Bible describes a God who judges people for forbidden love, for depression, for believing in the wrong God, and condemns them.  Is that merciful?  Is that loving?  Is it holy?

Such beliefs have no place, no place at all in the running of our country.  And frankly subjecting people to them is a cruelty we seem unfortunately far from recognizing.  Its painful to think of the faithful relatives who think their loved ones are burning in hell, and whose hearts weep, confined by the belief that they will always be imprisoned there.

Immaculate Rape

Immaculate Rape (noun) – Rape in which there is no rapist, merely a victim who may be found culpable due to one or more of the following: ingestion of alchohol, wearing of revealing clothing, living in a society that permits sex outside of marriage, being near a male in the throes of the evolutionary perogative.

Immaculate Rape as an accusation usually grows out of a right-wing religious cosmology, yet any attempts to link right-wing religious cosmology with mysogyny are met with accusations and derision.

Peter Hitchens makes this argument in an article eviscerated by Jessica and Melissa.  The crux:

Of course she is culpable, just as she would be culpable if she crashed a car and injured someone while drunk, or stepped out into the traffic while drunk and was run over.

Getting drunk is not something that happens to you. It is something you do.

I think Melissa shuts that down very effectively (Trigger Warning) in her post.  Jessica does it in the following line:

Hitchens can’t seem to get his head around the idea that rapists rape women, rather than women magically “getting themselves” raped.

But maybe Hitchens and purveyors of the immaculate rape myth ought to be taken at more than face value.  If alcohol is an invitation to get raped, why aren’t we making it a felony to serve rape juice to women?  Why doesn’t every bottle of rape beer contain a surgeon general’s warning: “may excuse rape”?

One things for certain, I wouldn’t be caught dead drinking with Peter Hitchens.

(image source)

Democrats vs Republicans: Law and Rove

The important vote to hold Karl Rove in contempt for skipping his hearing was an essential step towards confirming that we are still a nation of laws (emphasis mine):

Voting 20-14 along party lines, the House Judiciary Committee said that Rove had broken the law by failing to appear at a July 10 hearing on allegations of White House influence over the Justice Department, including whether Rove encouraged prosecutions against Democrats such as former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

This vote is an honorable and appropriate move by the Democrats, and a disagrace to the Republicans.

Is Karl Rove Above the Law?

Karl Rove skipped out on a subpoena.  Will he be held accountable for breaking the law?  From a Brave New Films advisory (emphasis mine):

LOS ANGELES – A coalition of organizations has launched a new campaign urging the House Judiciary Committee to hold Karl Rove in contempt and send him to jail.  In a clear violation of the law, Rove has refused to comply with a Congressional subpoena calling on him to testify under oath about his involvement in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.  Brave New Films, The Nation magazine, Campaign for America’s Future, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Progress Now Action and CREDO Mobile will host a press conference in Washington DC next Tuesday, prior to delivering a petition to the House Judiciary Committee urging committee members to “let Rove know he can’t decide which subpoenas he obeys and which he ignores.”

The online petition, created by Brave New Films and housed at SendRoveToJail.com, has amassed almost 100,000 names in less than six days.  The website also includes a short YouTube video outlining Rove’s involvement in the Siegelman case and making the case for holding Rove accountable.


“Karl Rove is not above the law,” said Robert Greenwald, founder and president of Brave New Films.  “Rove’s refusal to comply with a Congressional subpoena makes a mockery of the justice system.  Even former high government officials like Rove are accountable to the law. Rove needs learn that we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship.”

“Karl Rove has built a career out of bending the law, but now he seems to feel entitled simply to break it,” says Michael Kieschnick, President of CREDO Mobile.  “We expect the House Judiciary Committee to agree that Karl Rove is in contempt and should be sent to jail if he persists in his flagrant disregard for the laws of this country.”

This isn’t civil disobedience.  This isn’t an unjust law.  Rove is acting above the law to cover up deeper crimes committed by the Bush administration.

Karl Rove should go to jail.