HOW SICK is America's health care system? So sick that James Richard Verone decided the only way he could get health care was by going to jail.
Verone had worked as a delivery man for Coca Cola for 17 years, but was laid off three years ago. According to ThinkProgress.org, "He eventually found employment as a convenience clerk, yet he began to notice a protrusion in his chest. He developed arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, and soon the pain became too much for him to bear. He filed for disability, but he was denied any sort of coverage by the federal government."
Increasingly desperate, Verone decided earlier this month that his only option would be to land in jail--where the state would be forced to give him health care.
According to the Gaston Gazette, on June 9, Verone drove to a local RBC Bank and told the teller he was robbing them for a dollar. He said he wanted to rob the bank in order to go to jail and get medical coverage:
THE FESTIVAL of reaction in Texas government marches on.
Last year, the Texas Board of Education approved a host of curriculum changes to history and economics textbooks that are the stuff conservative dreams are made of.
By a 10-to-5 vote, the board voted for curriculum changes "stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers' commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light," according to the New York Times.
Now, the Texas House of Representatives has set its sights on higher education. Specifically, the House recently passed a budget bill that would require any public college with a student center on "alternative" sexuality to provide equal funding to create new centers to promote "traditional values."
In other words, colleges that have student centers for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students would be required to have equal funding for centers that promote "traditional values" like heterosexuality and straight marriage.
MINNESOTA REP. Michele Bachmann's bid for the Republican presidential nomination is quick becoming a delightful treasure--of eye-popping inaccuracies.
Bachmann formally announced her campaign on June 27 in her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa. In a speech that quickly circulated around the Internet, Bachmann proudly told Fox News, "Well, what I want [people] to know is just like, John Wayne was from Waterloo, Iowa. That's the kind of spirit that I have, too."
Except, of course, deceased Republican actor John Wayne was not from Waterloo. She's getting him confused with John Wayne Gacy--a serial killer who raped and murdered 33 teenage boys in the 1970s and made his living dressed as a clown--who lived in Waterloo for a time.
The Bachmann campaign seems fairly light on fact checking overall. According to an Associated Press report, Bachmann recently claimed that she's "never gotten a penny" from a family farm that's raked in huge government subsidies.
THIS SPRING, the Jasper County Courthouse in Carthage, Mo., and the Jasper County Courts Building in Joplin, Mo., were fitted with signs with the words "In God We Trust," after the posting was approved by Jasper county commissioners.
The approval follows a request by Springfield, Mo., attorney Dee Wampler, the author of the book One Nation Under God, and advocate for a "grassroots" group making similar requests nationwide.
In a letter to the commission, Wampler said the motto has been posted in about 200 public buildings so far and in Missouri, most recently in Branson, Marshfield and Buffalo [Missouri].
Commissioners unanimously passed the request. Norman Rouse, legal counsel to the panel, said the action did not raise issues on the separation of church and state, because it followed a pattern already set by the federal government.
Noting Wampler's letter to the panel, he cited the motto on some U.S. currency, and engraved on the wall in the chambers of U.S. House of Representatives.
ARIZONA SEN. John McCain has a novel explanation for the wildfires which have raged across the state of Arizona for much of June: it's the fault of undocumented immigrants.
At a press conference after touring fire damage, McCain claimed, "There is substantial evidence that some of these fires are caused by people who have crossed our border illegally...They have set fires because they signal others, they have set fires to keep warm, and they have set fires in order to divert law enforcement agents and agencies from them. The answer to that part of the problem is to get a secure border."
Nevermind that officials are still trying to figure out the cause of the fires, and that, when asked specifically which of the multiple fires still raging were started by immigrants, McCain was unable to answer.
Perhaps disturbed by the growing numbers of people who are against hydraulic fracking--an environmentally destructive process in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped into the ground at high pressure to fracture rock formations and release pockets of natural gas--Talisman Energy is going on the offensive...by producing a coloring book aimed at kids.
"Talisman Terry's Energy Adventure," is a handout for kids that explains the natural gas industry with the help of a "friendly Fracosaurus" dinosaur named Terry.
Everyone smiles in Terry's world. Mom smiles, Dad smiles, the worker smiles, the dog smiles, the cat smiles, the deer smiles, the fish smiles, the sun smiles, the moon smiles, the flower smiles, the rock smiles. Even the helium balloon--used to demonstrate how "natural gas is lighter than air"--smiles.
WASHINGTON STATE Gov. Christine Gregoire has a novel way to "transform" higher education--by cutting the actual funding needed to sustain it.
As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently noted, in early June, Gregoire was scheduled to appear at Cleveland High School in Seattle with representatives from Microsoft and Boeing to sign four higher-education related bills:
The governor's office sent out an advisory saying she'll "take action on several bills that will transform higher education in Washington state. After Gregoire acts on the bills, (Microsoft and Boeing leaders) will speak to the audience of students about the importance of education."
IF YOUR kid's summer camp is just too darn liberal, preaching togetherness and all that kum-ba-yah crap, never fear--there's a solution!
Those who want a little dose of Ayn Rand with their kids' summertime crafts can now book their kids for a stay at the Tampa Liberty School.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, the camp comes courtesy of the Tampa 912 Project, an organization "which falls under the Tea Party umbrella, hopes to introduce kids ages 8 to 12 to principles that include 'America is good,' 'I believe in God,' and 'I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.'"
The five-day program, available for up to 40 kids at the bargain price of $15, will "impart to our children what our nation is about, and what they may or may not be told," according to conservative writer and camp organizer Jeff Lukens.
IN THE drive to cut budgets, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials recently settled on a novel premise: attack librarians.
According to the Los Angeles Times' Hector Tobar, in May, LAUSD more than 80 school librarians were systematically interrogated about their qualifications as the school district's attorneys attempt to show why they should not continue to receive a paycheck:
Some 85 credentialed teacher-librarians got layoff notices in March. If state education cuts end up being as bad as most think likely, their only chance to keep a paycheck is to prove that they're qualified to be transferred into classroom teaching jobs.
Since all middle and high school librarians are required to have a state teaching credential in addition to a librarian credential, this should be an easy task--except for a school district rule that makes such transfers contingent on having taught students within the last five years.
U.S. ATTORNEY General Eric Holder took a break from serious business recently to call on the creators of hit TV show The Wire to revive the show.
At a panel organized by the Justice Department about the effects of drug abuse on children. Holder told the audience, "I want to speak directly to [Ed] Burns and [David] Simon," referring to the show's creators.
"Do another season of The Wire," he said, adding, "I'm reminded of how great the series was. I want another season or I want a movie. I have a lot of power, Mr. Burns and Mr. Simon."
David Simon wasn't laughing, especially since the show consistently made the case that the government's "war on drugs"--a war Holder is now the chief officer of--punished the poor and vulnerable in society.
The two men, who are developmentally and intellectually disabled, arrived at the pool accompanied by staff from Mending Hearts Inc. The organization provides support for people with certain disabilities and helps guide their behavior in public. "Neither of these young men was exhibiting inappropriate public behavior as witnessed by their direct support staff," said Julia Oiler Spiegel of the Kentucky Equality Federation.
Shirlyn Perkins, Mending Hearts' Executive Director, told the Kentucky Equality Federation that "Pavilion staff immediately entered the pool area and asked my clients and their staff to leave the Pavilion."
In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society...about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the "greatest living writer of English prose," was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: "I don't think so." Of [Jane] Austen, he said he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world."
He felt that women writers were "quite different." He said: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me."
MASSACHUSETTS REPUBLICAN state Rep. Ryan Fattman has some interesting advice for undocumented immigrant women who might be victims of rape: don't think you should be able to report the crime to the police.
As Marie Diamond of ThinkProgress.org recently reported, "while defending a controversial federal immigration program that many say will damage the relationship between law enforcement and immigrant communities," Fattman essentially stated that he thinks undocumented women who are raped should be afraid to go to the police:
Mr. Fattman dismissed concerns of some law enforcement officials--cited by the governor--who said using local police to enforce immigration laws could discourage reporting of crime by victims who are illegal immigrants.
Asked if he would be concerned that a woman without legal immigration status was raped and beaten as she walked down the street might be afraid to report the crime to police, Mr. Fattman said he was not worried about those implications.
"It is a means of transportation that is occasionally used as the schedule demands," said Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak in an email. "This has historically been the case in prior administrations as well, and we continue to be judicious in limiting its use."
The governor had no public events on his schedule, offering no insight to where he might have been traveling from. He had a private meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion, in Princeton. He is meeting with a group of Iowa donors who have publicly expressed a desire to persuade him to run for president in 2012.
FLORIDA HOMEOWNERS Maurenn Nyergers and her husband were able to live out the fantasy of millions of American homeowners when they started to seize the assets of a local Bank of America branch earlier this month.
Nyergers and her husband paid cash for their home and didn't owe the bank a penny--but that didn't stop Bank of America from filing foreclosure papers on the home.
KANSAS STATE Rep. Pete DeGraaf has a novel way of talking about rape.
Last month, during a discussion of a bill that would ban insurance companies from covering abortions under general health care plans, DeGraaf said women needed to "plan ahead" for being raped--and the possibility that they might become pregnant as a result of that rape.
According to the Associated Press, when Rep. Barbara Bollier questioned whether women would buy abortion-only policies long before they have crisis or unwanted pregnancies or are rape victims, Rep. DeGraaf, who supports the bill, responded: "We do need to plan ahead, don't we, in life?"
It got worse:
Bollier asked him, "And so women need to plan ahead for issues that they have no control over with a pregnancy?"
DeGraaf drew groans of protest from some House members when he responded, "I have spare tire on my car."
"I also have life insurance," he added. "I have a lot of things that I plan ahead for."
FREE HEALTH care is good, even according to privatization-loving Republicans--for them, not for the rest of America.
Freshman Congressman Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) was caught on video in May lecturing a constituent about how terrible it was that she thought her former employer should provide retiree benefits. "Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall told the woman. "You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, 'When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?'"
Woodall was asked why--if he believes in such self reliance--he doesn't forgo his government health care plan.
"I have a question about taking care of you. You have government-subsidized health care, but you are not obligated to take that if you don't want to. Why aren't you going out on the free market in the state where you're a resident and buy your own health care? Be an example," said a constituent in the new video.
SOME MIGHT have thought that Scott Walker, the Tea Party, union-busting governor of Wisconsin couldn't get any worse.
In May, Walker asked a judge to allow the state to stop defending a new law giving same-sex couples the right to visit their partners in the hospital--because, according to Walker, the law violates the state constitution.
In 2009, Democrats, then in control of the state legislature, changed the law so that same-sex couples could sign up for domestic partnership registries with county clerks in order to be afforded some of the rights that married couples have.
The conservative group Wisconsin Family Action sued to stop the law, arguing that domestic partner registries violated a state ban on same-sex marriage and other similar arrangements.
Walker has now filed a motion to stop the state from defending the case.
"Governor Walker, in deference to the legal opinion of the attorney general that the domestic partner registry...is unconstitutional, does not believe the public interest requires a continued defense of this law," says the brief, filed by Walker's chief counsel, Brian Hagedorn.
JUNK SCIENCE is nothing new. But it may been taken to a new low by Psychology Today and "researcher" Satoshi Kanazawa.
Psychology Today was recently forced to pull an article by Kanazawa, an "evolutionary psychologist," after howls of outrage and a flood of furious comments that managed to crash the magazine's website. The title of the article? "Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?"
As ThinkProgress noted, the premise of the paper seemed to be "based on some scientifically unsound assumption that seemed to come from a 1940s eugenics fantasy." It included this "gem" of a premise:
KENTUCKY LAWMAKERS have been making what they call "tough choices" in recent years. The state has gone through several brutal rounds of drastic cuts to social services in the last three years that have, among other things, cut money for education and instituted a pay freeze for all teachers and state workers, in addition to cutting Medicaid by shifting enrollees to managed-care plans.
But there's one thing they do have money for--a "full-size" replica of Noah's ark, a Tower of Babel, and other religious-themed amusements at a Bible-themed amusement park outside of Williamstown, Ky.
In May, according to ThinkProgress, "the state approved $43 million in tax breaks for the project. In addition to the tax incentives, approved unanimously by the state's tourism board, taxpayers may have to pony up another $11 million to improve a highway interchange near the site."
A BILL working its way through the Tennessee legislature would prohibit teachers from mentioning homosexuality before the ninth grade.
Sponsored by Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield, SB 0049--also known as the "Don't Say Gay bill"--would make it illegal for teachers and other educators to discuss any sexual behavior--apart from heterosexuality, of course--with students in kindergarten up through the eighth grade.
Campfield has made a name for himself sponsoring similarly draconian bills in the past--including a proposal to issue death certificates for aborted fetuses.
It is already against the law in Tennessee to "teach any sex education that is not part of the 'family life curriculum' adopted by the state Board of Education," making any objective classroom discussion of "homosexual practices" a misdemeanor. But Sen. Campfield insists that gayness is still being talked about, and he aims to stop it.
YOU HAVE to feel slightly sorry for a an anti-gay, "family values" politician whose last name has been turned by the Internet into slang for "the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex."
But former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum seems to delight in going out of his way to justify the ridicule that he's routinely subjected to.
The arch-conservative, who once compared legalizing same-sex marriage to opening a door to pedophilia and bestiality, is currently running for the Republican nomination for president (although he has little chance of getting it). The campaign slogan he chose was "Fighting to Make America America Again"--whatever that means--and has been prominently splashed cross his website and other campaign materials.
It turns out, of course, that "Let America Be America Again" is the title of a poem by African American poet Langston Hughes--who was not only a committed leftist, but was also gay.
REVEREND JIM Moats, a resident of the small town of Newville, Pa., had such a great life story that it could have been a movie.
Actually, it was.
Newville has been exposed as a giant liar after he boasted in a recent profile in a local paper of his days as a Navy SEAL following the assassination of Osama bin Laden by a team of SEALs. According to the profile:
When he learned of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, the Rev. Jim Moats almost got out his old Navy SEAL flag to run up the pole in front of his home in Newville.
Moats was a Navy SEAL four decades ago during the war in Vietnam.
Now 59, Moats was a brash athletic 19-year-old from a military family in northern Virginia, who enlisted in 1970...
Moats underwent SEAL training at Little Creek Amphibious Base in Virginia Beach in summer 1971.
Instructors hit SEALs and goaded them to quit. He was subjected to waterboarding, because the Navy knew that's what the Vietnamese did to SEALs and air crew members who were captured.
WAUPACA COUNTY Judge Philip Kirk apparently thinks child molesters are gay.
While recently sentencing 71-year-old former school bus driver Delton Gorges for molesting four boys over the course of several decades, Judge Kirk told Gorges that, "I think you were born gayer than a sweet smelling jock strap."
The judge went on to confirm his belief that Gorges' interest in molesting boys was a part of his supposed homosexuality, stating, "If anyone believes that in the last 10 years or 15 years all of a sudden you developed an interest in homosexuality and young boys, then I must have looked ravishing in my prom dress this year."
BEING A senator apparently means you can lie all you want in public. At least according to Arizona Republican Sen. John Kyl, that is.
During a recent debate on the Senate floor over the move by Republicans to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding, Kyl got caught telling a whopper of a lie.
During remarks, Kyl claimed that abortion is "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does." In fact, only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's patient care is abortion. The rest is things like screening for sexually transmitted infections and providing birth control and routine gynecological care to low-income women.
After being called out for his blatant lie, Kyl's office told CNN that the senator's "remark was not intended to be a factual statement."
Couldn't Make It Up is a blog for all those stories we read that are so outrageous we can't really--or don't want to--believe them. If you have something to suggest for Couldn't Make It Up, please e-mail it to Couldnt@socialistworker.org.