For what it’s worth, 11/06/15

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It’s War on Christmas time again! And just in time for the holidays!

See those red cups up there? Where are the snowflakes? Where are the reindeer? Where are the sleds? Where’s Santa, fer chrissakes?!?!?!?!

I’m telling you, Starbucks really hates the Baby Jesus. Continue reading

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I dare you to match my score

Fourth of July Quiz (Gail Collins, New York Times)

The year is now half over, people! So it’s time to see how closely you’ve been following all the political news of 2013 so far. No cheating!
I don’t know if I should be proud or embarrassed, but — honest to god — I got 11 out of 11.
Take the quiz. And post your score. I DARE you to match me.
And no cheating!

Why should childbirth bust a budget?

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American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World (New York Times)

From 2004 to 2010, the prices that insurers paid for childbirth — one of the most universal medical encounters — rose 49 percent for vaginal births and 41 percent for Caesarean sections in the United States, with average out-of-pocket costs rising fourfold, according to a recent report by Truven that was commissioned by three health care groups. The average total price charged for pregnancy and newborn care was about $30,000 for a vaginal delivery and $50,000 for a C-section, with commercial insurers paying out an average of $18,329 and $27,866, the report found.

Women with insurance pay out of pocket an average of $3,400, according to a survey by Childbirth Connection, one of the groups behind the maternity costs report. Two decades ago, women typically paid nothing other than a small fee if they opted for a private hospital room or television.

This is essential reading today.

Having a baby won’t just put you in debt; it could cripple you financially.

There’s a disconnect here that goes way beyond astonishing. Political and social conservatives across the country want to ban abortion and drastically limit or extinguish sex education and the availability of birth control.

Sex ed? Nope. Condom distribution? Nope. Plan B? Nope. Abortion? Nope.

Sounds to me like a prescription for a skyrocketing maternity rate.

So why aren’t conservatives rallying to do something about the skyrocketing cost of having a baby? Who’s going to take the lead on this?

Palin? Huckabee? Bachmann? Perry? Rubio? Cruz? Paul? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Are you listening, Mr. President?

The Up-in-the-Air President (Timothy Egan, New York Times)

It was cool, as media moments go, when President Obama called from Air Force One to congratulate the plaintiffs in the California gay marriage case on Wednesday. They were in the middle of a live television interview when the voice of the president was delivered, via cellphone, from high over the Atlantic.

But it was also emblematic of the leadership style of this brainy, tightly drawn president: too often, he phones it in from 35,000 feet, far from the sweat, grime and blood of the battlefield of politics….

It’s the way he runs the executive branch, his fear of taking the fight to Republicans, that is so maddening….

[H]e’s defensive, forced to defend his presidency as still being alive and well. Obama doesn’t have to be Lyndon B. Johnson, twisting elbows to shape history. But maybe he can hire an L.B.J. Leaders find a way.

This is essential reading today, because Egan is right on every point. Is it too much to hope that Obama finds time to read it?

Worth reading, 06/28/13

The Service of Snowden (Roger Cohen, New York Times)

So what is Snowden? A self-aggrandizing geek who betrayed his country and his employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, exposed the United States to greater risk of terrorist attack, and may now — wittingly or unwittingly — have made his trove of secrets available to China and Russia, nations that are no longer enemies but are rival powers?

Or a brave young American determined to fight — at the risk of long imprisonment — against his country’s post-9/11 lurch toward invasion of citizens’ lives, ever more intrusive surveillance, undifferentiated data-hauling of the world’s digital exhaust fumes (for storage in a one-million-square-foot fortress in Utah), and the powers of a compliant secret court to issue warrants for international eavesdropping and e-mail vacuuming?

As the old Miller Lite ad used to say, I feel very strongly both ways.

This is an excellent analysis. Make sure to read this today.

Must read

Wendy and the boys (Gail Collins, New York Times)

The Texas filibuster rules are suitable for a place that regards steer wrestling and bronco busting as the official state sport. We made a big fuss when Rand Paul stayed on his feet for 13 hours in the U.S. Senate to filibuster over drones. But that was a walk in the park compared with what [State Sen. Wendy] Davis went through. Paul got help from his friends, who orated while he rested his voice. And U.S. senators can speak about anything when they filibuster. (Paul read from Alice in Wonderland.) Davis was supposed to stick to her subject.

The crowd was reasonably quiet until Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled that Davis had to sit down because she had gone off topic by referencing a state law requiring that women who want abortions must show up a day earlier for an ultrasound.

A wonderful read today by Gail Collins. Of course. Don’t miss this.

And why are we here, exactly?

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In the Bible Belt, Offering Atheists a Spiritual Home (New York Times)

BATON ROUGE, La. — It would have been easy to mistake what was happening in a hotel ballroom here for a religious service. All the things that might be associated with one were present Sunday: 80 people drawn by a common conviction. Exhortations to service. Singing and light swaying. An impassioned sermon.

There was just no mention of God.

Billed as Louisiana’s first atheist service and titled “Joie de Vivre: To Delight in Being Alive,” it was presided over by Jerry DeWitt, a small, charismatic man dressed all in black with slick, shiny hair.

I’m always happy to see people who are happy, but this just seems ridiculous to me.

“Atheist church” is an oxymoron. And congregating with other like-minded people to sing songs and celebrate your communal disbelief in an imaginary man in the sky is just . . .

Well . . . silly.

I’d much rather go to the ballpark.