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BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Arianna Huffington finally decided that religion -- along with "Lindsay Lohan," "Dogs" and "Rod Blagojevich" -- is now such "big news" that it huffpo religion 1needs its own page.

As Media Bistro puts it, um, Hallelujah?

"Religion" is the second section of the HuffPost to launch this week; the site rolled out HuffPost College on Monday. In a bitter stroke of irony, "College"'s inaugural series, "Majoring in Debt," is written by unpaid student contributors. Lucky for the "Religion" section, most priests have already taken vows of poverty...

Today's top story is an open letter from [page editor Paul Brandeis] Raushenbush to "Religious (and sane) America." In it, he promises that "HuffPost Religion will demonstrate the vibrant diversity of religious traditions, perspectives and experiences that exist alongside and inform one another in America and throughout the world." He goes on to highlight the positive aspects of religion and -- of course -- invites users to submit content to the site. Below the article are images of books written by Raushenbush. Click on one, and a pop-up window invites you to buy it.

Other articles focus on the issues one typically sees addressed on the HuffPost, with a God angle tacked on. Examples: "Gays in the Military: A Religious Issue?"; "Judaism, Ethics, and Ecology"; and "The Great Recession: A Spiritual Crisis." 

Oh, and what Media Bistro didn't mention? It's purple! Granted, that is also the color that signifies Lent, so maybe HuffPo is planning on changing its religion page's vestments with the liturgical season.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

The latest Obama-as-Muslim conspiracy theory may strike you as laughable. I certainly stifled a giggle when I saw this on Think Progress today:

Frank Gaffney, a protégé of Richard Perle and an influential figure in right wing national security circles, has firmly entered the world of right wing tin-foil hat paranoia.

Media Matters documents the development of a new right wing conspiracy theory, claiming that the Obama administration manipulated the redesign of the Missile Defense Agency to look like his campaign logo. This theory then evolved to claims that the new logo incorporates the Islamic crescent as well.

Gaffney said the logo change represented just one of the many "acts of submission to Shariah by President Obama and his team." If you're curious to see the supposed visual similarities of the logos, I highly recommend the silly FOX report on "logo-gate":

Now, we've heard this "Obama is made out of muslin" theory before. It's very much not true, as you can see here. Nor is there much truth the the logo-gate story. The agency has been using the new logo since before the 2008 election campaign, so any similarity to Obama's campaign logo is imagined.

But untrue does not equal unpopular, particularly on the Internet.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

As you may have seen in my piece from earlier today, I was impressed by the eloquence of the Anthem Blue Cross policy holders who testified before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations today.braly CEO wellpt.

I was significantly less impressed with the arguments offered by the second panel of witnesses. Angela Braly, CEO of Anthem's parent company WellPoint, Inc. and Cynthia Miller, WellPoint's chief actuary, spent most of their time trying to justify the 39 percent increase in premiums they'd requested by falling back on some pretty tired defenses.

They said that young, healthy people were dropping their insurance due to the recession. They blamed the increase in costs on doctors and hospitals charging more for services. They defended multi-million dollar retreats in Hawaii as ways to connect with their corporate customers.

"The elephant in the room is rising healthcare costs," said Braly. "We're the tail on the elephant."

There was a lot of self martyrdom, as Braly complained that insurance companies are getting all the blame for the healthcare crisis. Even the ranking Republican had trouble feeling sorry for the Anthem representatives, though.

"You had to know this was going to be trouble. I mean, a 39 percent increase in this climate?" questioned Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). "You knew you were going to get bad publicity."

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

The House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on the widely criticized 39 percent premium increases by California's Anthem Blue Cross Wednesday, one day before President Obama's bipartisan healthcare summit convenes in Washington.

If you were to interpret today's hearing as a preview of tomorrow's summit, you wouldn't be feeling all that positive.

One disappointing moment was found in the opening statement of Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), the newly-minted ranking member of the subcommittee. Directly after Chairman Bart Stupak (D-MI) said he looked forward to working with him in his new leadership position, Burgess said, "We'll see if you still feel that way after a few months."

Burgess went on to express deep skepticism that the coming healthcare summit, which he called a "six-hour photo op," would amount to anything. The only one of his Republican colleagues to make much of a mark on the hearing followed suit.

"Here we sit, without a health reform bill because Washington continues to pursue a plan they cannot sell to the American people," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA). "The American people simply do not want the Obama plan."

Gingrey had some immediate push back from Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who said there was no need to "disparage people's motives."

"I'm offended by some of the things my colleague from Georgia just said... I would ask that Mr. Gingrey and everybody else stop painting people with the same broad brush," DeGette said. "There really is a problem here that we're trying to deal with."

While the lawmakers were snapping at each other like children, the witnesses on the first panel were impassioned advocates of a real solution. Contrary to Gingrey's claims, the American people selected to represent Californians who had their rates jacked up by Anthem Blue Cross in Washington today were very much in support of healthcare reform.

"I'm an American, and I support Obama's healthcare plan," said Lauren Meister, a 49-year old policy holder from West Hollywood.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

There's been a lot of silly posturing about word count and document length in the healthcare reform debate on both sides of the aisle. So, after I downloaded the president's proposal for overhauling the healthcare overhaul, I thought I'd do a quick key word search of the document, which weighed in at just over ten pages.

I typed into the search tab the word "abortion."

"No matches were found," Adobe Reader told me.

OK, what about "women"?

Nope.

Turns out that when the president's plan boasts that it "will end discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions," it's not being entirely truthful. At least one preexisting condition will remain: being a woman.

The Associated Press reports that the president's plan "includes Senate-passed restrictions on federal funding for abortion adamantly opposed by abortion foes as well as abortion rights supporters," but in reality the president's proposal doesn't address the issue directly.

Not that it really matters which side of Congress wins in this battle to be the legislative body that can take the most credit for eroding women's rights. The basic difference between the House and Senate bills on abortion is a sort of separate-but-equal distortion.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

I shudder to hear the amorous sighs of conservative commentators over Rep. Michele Bachmann's history lecture at CPAC Friday. Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey introduced her as "a tea party activist since before the tea bachmann at cpacarrived."

Shortly after, she took the stage, set to the music of Tom Jones' version of "She's a Lady." Oh, goodness, I thought. Here comes the crazy.

Thing is, I was wrong. Sort of. Bachmann seems to have heard about the recent survey in which a majority of Minnesotans said that they were "embarrassed" by the congresswoman representing their sixth district.

Bachmann did her best to be not quite so embarrassing by masking her paranoia in an obscure religious rehashing of American history. If there's any thing at all that Glenn Beck has taught her it's that the intersection of TEA and GOP is twisted history.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

A majority of Texans do not believe that humans "developed from earlier species of animals," according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll published Wednesday. The article publishing the findings, called "Meet the Flintstones," noted that one-third of respondents believe that dinosaurs and humans roamed the earth at the same time.

As a reader of a progressive site such as BuzzFlash, you may be laughing at the poor fools in Texas. But it's not just Texas Republicans who responded thusly. A whopping 46 percent of self-identified Democrats in the study disagreed with that evolution question as well.

Furthermore, the anti-science disease is spreading geographically. Laugh it up, but in ten years, this story could be about your state. What's going on here, and how are these backward beliefs coming to a public school near you?

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

On the eve of the annual conservative meeting known as CPAC, an effort is afoot to bring the tea party movement into the Republican fold.

I'm not talking about the pow wow GOP Chair Michael Steele attempted with the teabaggers yesterday. No, the tea party movement proudly rejects all efforts on the part of Steele to woo them to the table.

"We're not Republicans," they proclaim. "We're American citizens!"

Clearly there's a bit of confusion between nation of origin and political affiliation. Thankfully, there's a group ready to take advantage of such confusion.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

Retribution is not gazpacho in February. On the contrary, regardless of temperature, revenge is a dish best served appropriately.

Therefore, while an investigation into the war crimes of the Bush Administration would be a long-awaited (and perhaps satisfying) occurrence, the idea that it would play into a revenge fantasy is not a good enough reason to avoid it. I'd say that's a reason to embrace it.

Revenge has gotten a bad rap. But it is an element of justice that, while we might like to, cannot be ignored. After all, where do you think we got the notion that the punishment should fit the crime? The use of measured and appropriate revenge, of course.

Revenge has played an important part in human history. The position of judge in a tribe or small community often materialized as a way to mitigate cyclical revenge killings between rival clans. In his 2008 article in Annals of Anthropology, Jared Diamond explores revenge killings in Papua New Guinea, concluding that while most modern societies have given over the job of seeking justice to government organizations, vengeance remains one of the strongest of human emotions. Furthermore, he finds that when justice is not carried out correctly, it can damage us on a fundamental level.

The problem is, our culture sees revenge almost exclusively as a savage response to a personal affront. As a result, we're somehow ashamed of our anger over the elimination of basic human rights and civil liberties in this country. And by that shame, we allow ourselves to be painted as part of a bloodthirsty witch hunt, when it's truth and reconciliation we desire.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Published in Analysis

BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White

With the news of Sen. Evan Bayh's retirement at the end of his term this year breaking this morning catching pundits off-guard across the nation, readers should prepare themselves for a barrage of speculation. Not to be left out of the fun, I'm wondering if this announcement (which is already being branded as bad news for Democrats)shouldn't be looked at from a vantage point outside of the two major parties.

Barring another surprise announcement along the lines of an apology or checking into rehab, I'd say this isn't the last we'll hear of Bayh on the political scene. In his prepared statement, the junior senator from Indiana said the following about his future, insisting that the retirement was not due to political machinations:

I can best contribute to society in another way: creating jobs by helping grow a business, helping guide an institution of higher learning or helping run a worthy charitable endeavor.

But when he denied a political motive, it was merely the motive of being spared an election loss, not the motive of seeking a higher office:

My decision was not motivated by political concern... Even in the current challenging environment, I am confident in my prospects for reelection.

Published in Analysis
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