My ‘Obamacare’ Rant

I’ve seen many people and news sources, mostly on the right, taking fresh aim at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The most recent being a seemingly “gotcha” moment about healthcare costs.

The federal government recently released the news that private insurance companies are requesting massive hikes in insurance premiums. In some states like Illinois and Pennsylvania, the increases could be as high as 40%, maybe more.

But let’s take a look at what some of these pundits are saying. Sean Hannity and the like keep saying that “Obamacare prices are going up.”

First off, by calling it “Obamacare” in this context is just inappropriate. There is no such thing as “Obamacare.” The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (from here out referred to simply as either the Affordable Care Act or ACA) does not have its own form of healthcare. The original form of the legislation did, which was referred to as the Public Option. The Public Option would have set up a government funded healthcare similar to that of private health insurance. This was scrapped and replaced with the individual mandate that was so hated by many conservatives (even though it was proposed by Congressional Republicans as a compromise).

To further go down this tangent, it may be appropriate to refer to the ACA as “Obamacare” when talking about the legislation as a whole, including the reforms that were made to the healthcare system (e.g. no longer being denied insurance for a pre-existing condition, staying on your parents’ insurance until 26, insurance companies having to spend a certain amount on actual healthcare, etc.). That would be a bit more acceptable but still a bit misinformed.

Nonetheless, the point that “Obamacare prices are going up” is a moot one, because of the lack of the aforementioned Public Option and the fact that it is private insurance companies that are increasing their prices.

Of course, many people conflate the ACA with the private insurance that is offered through the federal exchange, which is merely as a marketplace for people to easily compare and pick out private insurance and to possibly qualify for federal tax subsidies (unless you qualified for Medicaid). The point remains that the insurance bought through the exchange is private and not a form of government healthcare.

But let’s look at the price increases a little bit. In the pieces I have looked at that have tried to explain the requested increases, the main points are:

1: The increases are what the insurance companies want, not what they will ultimately get. It is up to the individual states to negotiate with these companies on what the prices will be. Many conservative commentators are leaving this caveat out, either on purpose or because they simply don’t understand the law. This should be a state’s rights advocate’s dream come true, because the federal government is leaving the states to do this, not forcing a one size fits all approach to healthcare costs, which could severely burden some of the less wealthy states or potentially unfairly burden wealthy states to pay for the healthcare of another state’s citizens.

2: Due to the fact that people can no longer be denied health insurance for having pre-existing conditions, people who were previously unable to qualify for insurance are now able to get it. Now, because these people, some of whom have chronic and expensive ailments, are now able to get the healthcare they need to, you know, not die or constantly be sick, insurance companies are eating the costs of finally being forced to care for them (which is a good thing). Ergo, healthcare costs are bound to rise in the immediate future. That being said, with healthcare now more readily available to Americans who would otherwise not have it, the cost of having health insurance should eventually go down not too long from now.

But then I read another piece that also seemed to poke holes in the Afforable Care Act. The article was about how ER visits have not gone down, something that was a big selling point for the ACA. The argument being that with more people having insurance, they wouldn’t need to go to the emergency room, because they would have the insurance to take care of any healthcare before it got worse enough to need an emergency room. With less people going to the ER, much of which is charged by the hospitals to the federal government due to the steep costs that many simply can’t afford, the federal taxes used to pay for these ER visits would go down, saving people money.

The people who go to the ER post-ACA probably can’t afford private health insurance, even with federal subsidies, and most likely live in a state that did not expand Medicaid, such as Texas, where upwards of 1.5 million Texans are in the so-called Medicaid Gap, meaning they would have qualified for Medicaid if Texas had expanded it. These people, many times referred to as the “working poor,” are unable to get healthcare, either out of the inability to pay and/or because their state government refuses to do the fiscally responsible thing by expanding Medicaid. Texas would get $100 billion over ten years to expand its Medicaid program. Texas would have to be insane to not take this money, because not taking this money would bring with it various consequences, other than the obvious fact that 1.5 million Texans don’t have healthcare.

That $100 billion doesn’t just go to Texas in some other way though. It’s just staying there. Waiting. But that money was already taxed. We aren’t able to use our own tax money, because the Texas government thinks that’s a good idea for some reason. As well, we are still paying the taxes for other states that have expanded Medicaid.

But for every dollar Texas spends on Medicaid expansion, it would earn $1.30 back. Expansion would mean generating $3 billion in economic activity over the next ten years and creating 300,000 every year right here in Texas. Expanding Medicaid is not only the moral thing to do. It is the responsible thing to do, but the GOP’s blind hatred of our President has led them to betray common sense, fiscal conservatism, and the 1.5 million Texans that are being denied access to affordable healthcare.

For those of you who managed to stick around long enough to read this whole thing, thank you. You are brave individuals.

An Open Letter to Texas Representative Debbie Riddle

Adam Briggle

Dear Representative Riddle,

Your proposed legislation HB 1748 and HB 1747 will make it illegal for a person “at least seven years of age” to use a bathroom “that is designated for use by persons of a gender that is not the same gender as the individual’s gender.” You define the gender of an individual as whatever is on a government document or established by chromosomes.

It just so happens that my seven year old son has been having bathroom issues at school lately. I don’t know what chromosomes he has, but his birth certificate identifies him as female. Thus the issues. He last wore a dress when he was two. He’s always been into ‘boy’ things – star wars shoes, ninjas, and matching haircuts with dad. For a while, we just said things like “all colors are for everyone” and “there are different ways of being a girl.” That…

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Lewisville family flies traditional Islamic flag, threatened to have house burned down

A Muslim family in Lewisville, a town 25 miles north of Dallas, was threatened by a local man for having a traditional Islamic flag, calling for people to burn the house down.img54919422e5a79

The flag (pictured to the right), which is meant to commemorate the martyrdom of Al Abbas ibn Ali, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, looks vaguely like those used by the terrorist group known as ISIS for its white Arabic text and black background.

ShababNow, the flag commonly associated with ISIS, called a Shabab, says, “There is no God but God and Mohammed is His Messenger,” and does not resemble in any way the flag used by this North Texas family.

In fact, the Lewisville family are Shia Muslims, and ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group that has called for the extermination of Shia Muslims and has carried out countless murders of Shias and other groups in the Middle East, including Christians.

But don’t let facts get in the way. It looks kind of like (but not really) a terrorist flag, so it must be one, right?img54919475d175b

At least, that’s what one area man must have thought when he posted this message onto Facebook.

The comment reads:

Let’s burn his house down –f. Cling muzzies !!!


“Muzzies,” for those who don’t know, is a common racial-esque slur for Muslims.

According to the Lewisville Texan:

Last weekend, one Lewisville woman’s post on a Flower Mound Facebook group resulted in a raging debate, complete with anti-Muslim rhetoric, first amendment arguments, and even a threat from a local man to burn the house down before the thread was deleted.

I hope the police take this threat very seriously, because someone could easily get hurt.

We often see rhetoric of how Muslims are the terrorists. What about this man? He’s (probably) a Christian and is threatening violence to silence someone from expressing their beliefs. That right there is most definitely terrorism.

For more information on how to not mix up Islamic flags, here’s a piece from Mother Jones.

Poll: 1-in-3 nonreligious believe torture ‘sometimes justified’

A new poll has found that, across ideological lines and regardless of demographics, many Americans believe torture can be justified.

CIAThe poll, released Tuesday by the Washington Post and ABC News, found that the three groups that had the most support for torture, answering that torture was “sometimes” or “often” justified, were Conservative Republicans (40% and 32%), Republicans (46% and 25%), and White evangelical Protestants (45% 24%).

The three groups that had the least amount of support for torture, answering that torture was “rarely” or “never” justified, were Liberals (23% and 30%), those with No Religion (26% and 32%), and Liberal Democrats (26% and 33%).

What’s surprising is that most demographics said the same thing as conservatives and evangelicals. Moderate Democrats answered 44% and 7% that torture was “sometimes” and “often” justified, while only 22% said it was never justified.

Even those who are 18-29, answered 46% and 18% that it was “sometimes” and “often” justified.

Overall, 40% of American adults said torture was “sometimes” justified and only 20% said it was “never” justified. No group had a majority saying torture was never justified. Then again, no group had a majority saying it was often justified either.

Is torture ever a justifiable act in the name of homeland security? It has been declared by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recently released 6,000 page report on torture conducted by the CIA to be “not an effective means of obtaining accurate information.”

Why should we, as humanists who care about the wellbeing of everyone and skeptics who value evidence so heavily, justify this? More so, how can we?

Wendy Davis and Secular Politics

Last night, I was at the event where State Senator Wendy Davis (D-10) announced her candidacy for the Governorship of Texas.

Here’s a picture of her of me at the after-party later that night!

Sen. Wendy Davis and Me!My hair looks like shit…

I stood outside in the heat and annoying wind for at least an hour before they let us inside. Once there, I stood for two hours waiting for Wendy Davis to even appear.

An hour before she spoke, the official sign of her campaign was revealed. Here’s the photo I took the second the veil was lifted from it:

Wendy Davis Campaign Sign

Needless to say, I was very excited about this. I was very excited to see Sen. Davis and to hear her speak, een though my legs were about to give out by the time she took the stage.

While I was there, I was very optimistic about the future of Texas. The feelings I had while I was waiting for her to come out were elated and pumped. I have never been to a political rally like this before (I guess, the Reason Rally kind of counts), so these are kind of new feelings for me to experience.

It was also great meeting somewhat like-minded people and being able to converse with them, which was mostly bitching about Republicans and the government shutdown that they caused.

Although I realize that Texas is still very red, I know that if real progressives work at it, Texas can at least become a valuable swing state within this decade.

About half an hour before Sen. Davis came out at five o’clock, we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance. That, I can understand. Sure, I don’t understand the nationalistic aspect of it or the part about “Under God,” but I do understand somewhat why this happens at nearly every public event in America.

Next came out (who I assume was also a State Senator because I honestly can’t remember who they were) someone who delivered an invocation. This is where Shayrah and myself started having a problem with the event. While nearly everyone had their heads bowed, some with their hands in the air like at a megachurch, Shayrah and I kept our eyes on the speaker with a look merely of disapproval.

It didn’t really seem like an invocation though. It felt like preaching. He was very loud and passionate about the things he was saying, throwing in God every few words or saying that something was a gift from God. He said that Wendy Davis was a gift from God. He said that God was a rock and Davis was our anchor to that rock. Religious metaphors that I understood but didn’t see the need for.

Usually at political rallies, they have someone who introduces the candidate with a sort of pre-speech. This “invocation” seemed more like that than invoking the power or blessing of a deity.

If this man had been commissioned by the organizers of this rally to not give an invocation but to simply give an introductory speech for Sen. Davis, would anyone have noticed?

If they had left out the invocation completely, would anyone have noticed?

If the speaker had left out all mentions of God, would anyone have noticed?

Would anyone have noticed or really even cared?

Do political rallies somehow require God to be constantly mentioned? Can’t there be political rallies or public events that simply don’t mention deities or how much we supposedly need them to make our country better? Can’t we make a better world without God?

Why do politicians feel the need to mention God so much? I understand that many of these politicians are Christians, but what good does it do to constantly thank or mention God? You can’t thank the American people or the things that they actually did?

Astrophysicist and popularizer of science Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said that for every football team that thanks God for a win, there is an equal number of teams that can blame God for a loss. Well, if both Democrats and Republicans say they have God on their side or invoke God in some way in hopes of winning an election, the same argument can be made, so what point is there in invoking God?

American politics has created a culture where God has to be mentioned, or else. It has created a culture where there must be a prayer before a rally, or else. If you don’t, then you get called out by the religious right for hating America or for being a godless heathen (which for many Americans is worse, Democrat and Republican alike).

If politicians simply did not mention God all the time or have invocations all the time before events, then they would be seen with less and less importance by the American people, regardless of political party or ideology. Politicians would no longer feel the need to be the most Christian-ey Christian of all the Christians in Christian Land.

This would not only create a secular culture in politics (I’m talking about politics, not government), where one does not need to appease the religious majority anymore, but it would also allow for nonreligious candidates to no longer feel like they need to hide or that they don’t belong in American politics.

Religion and religious affiliation should be irrelevant though. It should not be something that is even worth noting.

I didn’t care that Mitt Romney was a Mormon or that Paul Ryan was a Catholic. I cared that they believed that gays should not have the right to marry and women should not have the right to control their own bodies, among many other things. Whether they justified that through their religion or through secular means was irrelevant to me.

I’m not saying for Christian politicians to hide their Christianity (far from it), but in order to make all people, of all religious beliefs, feel more welcome, that requires a secular culture in politics and in the broader society as a whole.

Simply don’t have invocations before rallies. What purpose do they serve? We’re attending a rally, not a church service.

Again, I have to ask. Would anyone have noticed if they just did not have an invocation before Sen. Wendy Davis spoke and announced her candidacy? Probably not.

Fox News host ‘tired’ of atheists, says ‘they don’t have to live here’

There are a lot of things that I’m tired of. Traffic. Annoying advertisements. Going to the bank. People who don’t realize the left lane is the freaking passing lane.

But I’ve never been tired of an entire demographic of people. Yes, I disagree with certain groups of people, like conservative Christians, and I may even not like some of them, but it’s usually a prominent figure when they say or promote bigotry, but I’ve also never told them that the entire demographic should leave the United States.

That’s how Fox News host Dana Perino feels about atheists though.

While discussing the lawsuit currently in the Massachusetts Supreme Court brought by the American Humanist Association about the constitutionality of the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, Perino, who was also the Press Secretary under President George W. Bush, said on Wednesday’s episode of “The Five” that she’s “tired” of atheists.

I’m tired of them. I remember working at the Justice Department years ago when I first started right after 9/11 and a lawsuit like this came through, and before the day had finished, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives had both passed resolutions saying that they were for keeping ‘Under God’ in the pledge.

She also continued with this lovely statement:

…if these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here.

Okay. If you don’t like that women have the right to an abortion, you don’t have to live here, Perino. If you don’t like that people can marry those of the same sex, you don’t have to live here. If you don’t like that we have a separation of church and state, you don’t have to live here.

I guess, if you don’t like something, anything at all with American law or culture, you should just leave the country entirely. The only problem is that no one would be left.

I also just love that Bob Beckel, who started out the segment by saying that David Niose, the lawyer arguing the case, forgot to mention that students can opt-out of doing the Pledge, responded to Perino’s remarks by saying, “Yeah, that’s a good point.”

You know what I’m tired of? Not this!

I love hearing the stupid and bigoted things that people continue to say on an almost daily fucking basis about atheists, gays, women, and other minorities still fighting for their rights, which apparently is taking away the rights of the poor Christian majority.

Religious right prays against LGBT inclusion into San Antonio anti-discrimination ordinance

In San Antonio, a fight is underway over a piece of legislation that would update the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

The San Antonio Express News reports that a “majority of council members have already declared their support for the measure,” almost ensuring that the ordinance will pass.

It is great to see that more and more local governments are responding to change in a positive way and moving with the times, even when their own state governments refuse to.

Texas is just one of 29 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, where it is still legal to fire someone for being gay, while in 34 states it is legal to fire someone for being transgendered.

At city hall, supporters and opponents of the update showed up in force. Apparently everyone decided to be color coated to know who is who. Those who were in support wore red and opponents wore blue. San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was spotted wearing a pink shirt.

Those who opposed the ordinance update, most of whom were black and Hispanic clergy and their congregants, held a prayer group on the steps of city hall and prayed against the protection of another minorities rights while holding small, white signs that read “Vote No.”

KENS reported that one of the clergy in attendance was Associate Pastor Tyrone Lee Christian of My Friends House Christian Fellowship, who said, “[Those of the gay and lesbian agenda] have constantly been trying to attach themselves as a civil rights movement but it’s not a civil rights movement. It’s a movement of choice.”

Fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech to hundreds-of-thousands at the National Mall in Washington D.C., hundreds of blacks and Hispanics were in San Antonio fighting against the very ideals that he stood, fought, and died for.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Greg Abbott, who recently announced his plans to run for Texas governor, came out against the ordinance, saying that it would infringe upon the religious rights of others.

Abbott apparently doesn’t know the meaning of religious freedom. This doesn’t surprise me knowing the stances he’s taken on many issues involving the separation of church and state.

Crayon color can tell you if you’re gay or possessed by demons, claims ex-gay therapist

During an appearance on This Is Your Day with Benny Hinn recently, an ex-gay therapist claimed that he could easily tell if someone was possessed by demons.

What was his super scientific method for figuring this out, you ask? Was it brain scans? Was it intense research with psychologists, neuro-scientists, and other professionals?

Of course not. That would require actual science, which we know many on the religious right seem to have such a problem with, because it teaches us evil things like that men come from apes and that the Earth’s climate is changing.

No. You can tell someone is possessed simply by having them pick a crayon from a box and coloring in a drawing of the human brain.

Yes, you read that correctly. Jerry Mungadze is an ex-gay therapist from Zimbabwe that claims to have degrees in “Bible,” Biblical Studies, and even a Ph.D. in counselor education. This is all according to his website. I highly doubt that he has any degree, in anything.

There’s a certain color someone uses that I won’t mention that tells me someone’s been demonized,” said Jerry Mungadze, “Everything that I talk about is based on numbers, is based on studies, which is what you do is when you’re a scientist” (emphasis mine).

There we go again, claiming things that just aren’t true. Mungadze is not a scientist, even if he had the degrees that he claims to have. This is as ridiculous as Ken Ham or Ray Comfort claiming to be a scientist.

He also added that “you can actually see demonization in people’s brains.” If that’s the case, I would love to see what that looks like. Can we see a little demon going around someone’s brains when we give them an CT-Scan?

Want to know what crayon color means you’re possessed by demons? Too bad. Mungadze won’t reveal it.

Except when he finally does later in the interview, saying that black, gray, and brown are proof that someone is demonically possessed or that they “come from the occult.”

Not only that, but if you choose to color in the brain diagram with pink, that means you’re gay. Sorry.

Texas Pastafarian student allowed to wear pasta strainer in photo ID

A Texas college student has been allowed to wear a pasta strainer in the photo for his driver’s license after months of calls to local and state officials.

Eddie Castillo, a student at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, is the first American to be allowed to wear “religious headgear” in a state issued driver’s license as part of his religious beliefs as a Pastafarian, also known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

A New Jersey man was recently denied that same right, but a man in Austria back in 2008 was allowed to do this, only after he was required to get a letter from a mental health professional on his mental state to see if he was fit to drive.

“You might think this is some sort of a gag or prank by a college student,” Castillo told KCBD, “but thousands, including myself, see it as a political and religious milestone for all atheists everywhere.”

I appreciate that Castillo is not being abrasive, condescending, or sarcastic about any of this but is instead keeping things lighthearted. I think it does wonders to show the wider public that atheists are good people, even if we do humorous and sometimes ridiculous things to get the spotlight on a certain issue. What’s that old saying? You attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

That’s what the whole Pastafarian “religion” is all about though. Poking fun at religion, Creationism, church/state separation issues, etc. The church itself began with a letter in 2005 to the Kansas State Board of Education mocking their proposal to teach Intelligent Design.

Since the argument was being made that students should hear multiple viewpoints on who or what created the Earth and decide for themselves, the church sent an open letter to the school board saying that students should other viewpoints too. The church offered the theory (and I use that word loosely here) that the Earth was created by the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

They also claimed that the warming of the Earth, as well as the increase in assorted natural disasters around the world, is due to the decrease in the amount of pirates in the world. This was a jab at the constant mantra from some on the religious right that natural disasters are happening because of God’s wrath over sins, such as homosexuality.

I also learned recently that Dr. Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus and Sex and God, is the High Priest of the Pastafarian Church. I had the pleasure of seeing him in his religious garbs at the American Atheists Convention down in Austin for their costume party. Surprisingly, he was not covered in spaghetti.

Nonetheless, I wish Castillo the best (and a quick shout-out to the SSA at Texas Tech). I hope he doesn’t mind getting pulled over by the police and having them think he’s mentally ill for having a driver’s license photo with a pasta strainer on his head.

American Atheists announce speaker lineup, including NFL, reality tv, and rock stars

On Wednesday, American Atheists finally disclosed its lineup for its 40th annual convention, which is to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah. The band of godless heathens will feature an NFL punter, a reality show contest winner, and an actual rock band member.

In a press release, AA announced that “speakers will include NFL Raiders punter Chris Kluwe, Survivor®: Philippines winner and sex therapist Denise Stapley, and Grammy®-nominated Spin Doctors bass player Mark White.”

“The convention will also feature an art show, workshops, childcare, and a comedy show the weekend of April 17-20,” it went on to say.

When the press release came out, NBC Sports picked up the story that the Raiders’ punter will be attending. In a quick post about the announcement, NBC Sports’ Michael David Smith noted the extreme religiosity that has become commonplace in major league sports, including pro-football:Tim Tebow, John 3:16

Lots of NFL players wear their religion on their sleeves, but it’s rare for an NFL player to publicly speak about his lack of religious faith. In NFL locker rooms, it’s common for the head coach to lead the team in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s usually just assumed that no one in the locker room would have any issue with that. So by speaking at an atheist convention, Kluwe is putting himself pretty far outside the NFL mainstream.

We all know about Tim Tebow (is he still on the Denver Broncos?) and how he would constantly kneel down to thank his god for making a touch down (but not when he lost a game). Not to mention his face paint that read “John 3:16.”

Read the rest of my piece over at Secular View!


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