Emergency Rations

Along with canned goods, bottled water, and first aid kits, it looks like the ladies of the federal government might want to add contraception to the list of things they’re stockpiling in the bunker.

On Sept. 13, OPM officials announced the launch of a faith-based health insurance program for federal workers in Illinois. Operated by OSF Health, which is run by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, the plan specifically will prohibit payment for contraceptives, abortions, sterilization or artificial insemination.

Call me crazy, but if you don’t “believe” in those things, wouldn’t you avoid participating in them? Do insurance companies get to legislate your faith-based medical choices? Why is it that organizations that insist on not paying for abortion also insist on not paying for contraception?

“This is, in effect, a kind of backdoor way to try to limit this [coverage] down the road, to try to get family planning services out of the program” Martinez said. “You shouldn’t be designing government health programs based on religious doctrine.”

I’m a watchdog over precendent these days, and establishing a plan like this as a “choice” means that it’s okay for insurance providers to establish faith-based exclusions. Combine this with the FDA eyeballing RU-486, and new justices soon to be on the bench, and we’re looking at the bad old days all over again.

The ACLU and Planned Parenthood are two good places to send money right about now.

The Mind Is a Funny Thing

Over 34 years, an Ohio man squirreled away more than one million pennies— organized by year of minting and mint— in 575 cigar boxes. (Organizing by president would have been simpler.) For a relaxing evening, the 78-year-old man enjoyed going down to the basement and counting some of what became about five tons. I suspect smoking might also have been involved.

A different article on the same story (which I was only able to view once before being required to create an account) reveals that Mr. Sukie also has collections of playing cards, matches and pencils with logos on them, and about two thousand Hot Wheels.

I’ve had collections, too. When I was in my first couple of years of elementary school (and would have been ecstatic about having two thousand Hot Wheels), I liked to collect sugar packets from the diners that my family seemed to frequent, because they typically had pictures printed on them. (And they contained one of my favorite drugs.) I especially liked those that commemorated the nearby tourist attraction. Later, I got more space-conscious, and I’d empty the sugar from the packets prior to storage. I’m not sure when I stopped collecting sugar packets, but I do remember that for quite a while, I couldn’t find a sugar packet that had anything but a company logo on it. The thrill was gone.

War Is Hell, As It Should Be.

The latest news from Iraq has a US Marine shooting an unarmed Iraqi prisoner inside a mosque. After instant media disapproval and outrage, the incident is under investigation.

I saw an edited clip on CNN this morning and was neither shocked nor disturbed. I may be wrong on this, but, isn’t that war? You kill people. Lots of them. You face death 24 hours a day. Ostensibly within minutes of landing in Baghdad on your tour of duty, you learn to hate the enemy. A seething, animalistic, survivalist kind of mentality takes over. If it doesn’t, you’re more at risk that the next.

This––I could only imagine, for I have never served in an armed force––is normal behavior. What that soldier did, in my opinion, wasn’t wrong. He’d been shot at for days, maybe even lost a few friends along the way, and rather than calculate the possibility that the injured and unarmed man slumped over in front of him wasn’t concealing a weapon, he chose to protect himself and his fellow soldiers as efficiently as humanly possible.

What’s ultimately wrong is that he, along with every other brave, hungry, and tired US soldier beside him, is in that very position. War is fucked up. But again, that is war. This wasn’t the first time something like that happened, nor will it be the last.

The only reason that video is controversial is because it’s on video.

Help GI Joe call mom

Maybe it’s because I have strep throat and am doped up on vicodin, but this post on Steve Gilliard’s News Blog made me cry. The upshot: the soldiers lying in beds at Walter Reed Army Hospital with broken bodies and missing limbs, can’t call their families. Because the damn government doesn’t provide them with free long distance. Is that too much to ask–that the people who come back from BushWar III (that’s Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq, if you’re counting) should be able to call their families? A lot of the poor kids (and I mean that literally) who are there now will be stuck there through the holidays.

I’m going to go to Costco and get a whole bunch of phone cards– you can get 100 minutes for $5– and write “From a Democrat in WA” on them, and send them to this address:

Medical Family Assistance Center
Walter Reed Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20307-5001

It’s not much of a Christmas present, but it’s a start.

Ohio Recount Ready To Go

Thanks to the presidential candidates of the Libertarian Party (Michael Badnarik) and the Green Party (David Cobb), there will apparently be a recount of ballots in Ohio. After raising about $150,000 for costs related to the recount, the candidates are now looking to raise another $100,000 for costs associated with fielding observers. There’s more information— and an opportunity for you to donate— on Cobb’s web site.

There’s no doubt in my mind that we as a country need to resolve ballot-counting problems, both those lingering from November 2 and those likely in the future. I also have no doubt that we and the world would be in a better state in four years with Kerry at the helm. However, I’m not so upset that Bush is the one in office with the meager majority of support and facing the resolution of problems that he started or stirred up. I’m hopeful that the country can learn some lessons from four more years (barring impeachment) of Bush that it might not if his supporters could pin blame on Kerry. A landslide election for Kerry would have been great, but I’m not sure about a win from a tiny majority.

Who we’re fighting for, and the unexpected allies we have

I don’t know how I missed thisWaPo article about a gay teen from a small town outside Tulsa. Whatever fears we have can be easily put aside when we think of the hardships kids like Michael Shackleford face. Read the article. (Update: then read part II, which starts with Michael’s suicide attempt. Crushing.)

Then read the followup from this month, when the writer goes back to Sand Springs to cover the town’s response to Fred Phelps’ sick attack on the poor kid. Amazingly, the town comes together to support Michael–moving from “fag-bashing” to “leave our homos alone.” This gives me so much hope–even the reddest corners of a red state know what hate is when they see it. And they reject it. Our challenge is to show how there is a Phelps hiding under every Dobson. When these hypocrites are unmasked, even deeply conservative and religious Americans will reject the division and discord they sow.

Now I want to figure out what organizations are doing the most to help kids like this.