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Transphobia of Wilkes

20 Mar

A year ago the Wilkes County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing the Charlotte ordinance that gave protections to transgender citizens and the Obama administration’s work to support these Americans. The resolution was pointless, and should be filed under “Look Busy.” It defies logic and common sense and continues an arch-conservative tradition of scaring voters and fearmongering against a vulnerable class of Americans.

Transgendered people feel like their body (sex) doesn’t match their self-identified gender. Because they make up a small portion of our society, the odds you’ve shared a bathroom with them are pretty remote—but the odds of them having to use a public bathroom are 100%. Those are pretty good odds to remind everyone we’re a country of majority rule and minority rights. We should not make other people feel guilty simply for being different than those in the majority. They already know what it’s like to be different.

People who are transgender do not make the decision quickly or flippantly. They self-identify as the gender and sex opposite the one assigned at birth. They have determined over years of frustration, pain, and dysphoria that their body does not match the gender they see themselves. They make a transition, hormonally and/or cosmetically, after talking to their family, faith leaders, friends, therapists, and other medical professionals. The transition takes years and has to have specific portions approved by medical professionals for insurers to pay. It’s a regular, defined process and procedure acknowledged by healthcare agencies and professionals worldwide.

These people can be in many stages of their transition, and those who have completed it can pass as their intended gender without suspicion. And do you know what they’re doing in the bathroom? Using the bathroom. I’m sure some may be hiding from their in-laws or managing a panic attack, but mostly using the plumbing as intended. It’s really none of my business. It’s none of your business.

The resolution the Wilkes County Commissioners passed was not in the spirit of America, freedom or liberty. The resolution does nothing to help marginalized groups, although it mentions protecting women and young girls. The ordinance does a great deal of work to point out that kind of predation and falls short of striking any balance that young boys can be victims, also. Supposedly, the same people who the commissioners are afraid of preying on females have been in the bathroom all this time with our boys.

We already have laws against indecent exposure and peeping in North Carolina. The notion people of opposite sexes should not and cannot enter a specifically assigned bathroom fall apart once you dose the argument with pragmatism: Parents (especially mothers) often have to take their children of the opposite sex into bathrooms. Who would get arrested in this situation? The minor or the parent? Also, cleaning staff in a lot of offices are typically female. Who’s going to clean the men’s bathroom? Should we have a resolution that men must be hired to fulfill this role? Of course not.

This resolution is a malignancy on our society and culture. Transgender people deserve protections against bias. Elected officials should not manufacture unnecessary law casting them as pariahs when they’re not. They’re people, and this resolution should be rescinded.

The Gump/Sessions

8 Mar

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a name that sounds like a plausible Civil War Era villain in any work from Ernest Hemmingway to Mel Blanc, is having a bad couple of weeks. And by “couple of weeks” I mean “tenure as Attorney General of the United States”. Despite the quickly developing narrative that he met with the Russian Spybassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, while a technically a senator but really as a Trump campaign surrogate, Sessions cannot seem to shake the racist overtones that shadow his past and darken his Southern accent.

In a recent article by “The Blaze” they assert SNL (Saturday Night Live) mocked him in their March 4, 2017 cold open in a way they would never have mocked previous Attorneys General Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch. They are totally 100% correct. Because Holder and Lynch probably didn’t get turned down by the Senate for a federal judgeship due in part to a letter from Loretta Scott King outlining their inability to be anti-racist. The sketch, which is obviously a parody of “Forrest Gump”, puts talented comedic actor and chameleon lady Kate McKinnon as Sessions on a park bench. As a dim imitation of Gump, earnest and overly polite, Session recalls some of the finer points of current events. The impression holds true as Session blatantly over-communicated and tells too much truth, which sparked the scrutiny he’s been facing recently concerning Kislyak when Sessions over-answered a question Sen. Al Franken (D-MI) asked him during confirmation. (The sketch did have a sense of coming full circle as Sen. Franken is an SNL alumnus. At best, Sen. Franken probably crossed his arms, tilted his head to the side, and said, “Well, imagine that.”)

 

Sessions is going to be a target for all kinds of ridicule the longer he’s out front of the Trump administration. He’s not a sympathetic character, whatsoever. In fact, his name alone is a hyperbole of the societal norms that sired his worldview. In the first sketch McKinnon’s AG Sessions was unveiled in a cold open press conference, with Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer, the character started by saying something that you could imagine the real Sessions saying, “There are two kinds of crime: Regular and black.” After a history of being repeatedly accused of saying racist things (including the KKK was okay until “I found out they smoked pot” and calling black men “boy” and not really wanting any part of civil rights cases IN ALABAMA) the words sound lifted from his journal. As an Attorney General of the United States his entire job is twofold: Defend the people of the United States by challenging the Presidency as necessary, and ensure there is no obstruction to any citizen availing themselves of protections of federal law. Voters especially need this protection as unnecessary and even racist laws have been enacted since the rollback of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with Shelby County v. Holder in 2012. There is literally nothing in Sessions career that has suggested or intimated that he has those abilities or proclivities. Even as recent as the past weeks as Attorney General he hasn’t even addressed the desecration and destruction of Jewish gravesites or commented on the threats against Jewish Community Centers. The fact he hasn’t said anything about it proves he either doesn’t understand what his job covers or he doesn’t realize the optics and his position to get out in front of the story.

Sessions was offered Attorney General because of his fealty to Trump. He doesn’t have the savvy or steel to perform the ultimate tasks of the office. He only wants to be rewarded for his loyalty and ultimately execute some form of revenge against the system that shunned him in the 1980s. Thankfully he has recused himself from any investigation on the Trump administration’s ties and communications to Russia, but he needs to take a page out of Forrest Gump and just stop running.

When Sentiment Contrasts Essence

2 Mar

I’m going to have come out and say it: Being anti-immigrant is anti-American and anti-Christian. People who come to this country build our economy and evolve our culture. Some may be here illegally, but they are our friends, family, and greater community. They are America.

The only counter-argument I’ve heard is that some of these illegal immigrants are committing violent crimes. That is a sobering fact, but tainted by media with confirmation bias. Those who suspect immigrants mainly commit violent crimes see and focus only on news stories of murder and rape. In that situation, you would think everyone you suspect of being an immigrant was prone to violent behavior. The data simply doesn’t bear out the opinion or deeply held belief. Immigrants, especially those who have entered or stayed here illegally, are going to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. That obviously doesn’t negate the impact violence has had in the lives of people who have experienced it, and never will.

What’s being done with this demonizing and demagoguery from the highest office in the United States is finding a scapegoat for political capital and a distraction in times of mismanagement. It fractures our unity and proves hypocritical to our tortured national origins and history. We were welcomed into this land by many of its natives, and we repaid it shamefully. We stole people from their homes and families and brought them here to be enslaved. A powerful nation was built, but not without original sins to acknowledge and edify our culture. They should never leave our conscience. The simplest recompense we can offer readily without malice is to constantly remind ourselves and the world we welcome everyone in this country. We have written it into our songs and laws. Our inclusiveness is the fire burning in the ashes of our iniquity.

The fundamentals of the predominant Christianity so heavily entrenched in American society oscillates from fire and brimstone for the wicked, to humble Jesus, meek and mild with measured patience and interminable acceptance of others, regardless of their ethics or nation of origin. The greater emphasis has always been on the behavior of Jesus. Had Jesus been an insufferable jerk or preached razing towns and slaughter no one would have grasped the message of divinity. Jesus was more or less consistent with everyone unless severely vexed. The sentiment of the New Testament, especially the New Covenant in Christianity, oversimplified is all are equal in the eyes of God: Jews and Gentiles have no lesser or greater favor. Coupling this with the sentiments of brotherhood, community, kindness to strangers, selflessness, love (phileo), anti-discrimination, and overall tolerance of everyone alien the idea of bigotry, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. requires a level of cognitive dissonance that dismantles American Christianity as a radical liberal counter-culture of embracing differences. This Christianity turns into a conservative cesspool of establishment, with harmful mores and folkways turned against a specific outgroup: brown people who speak the lingua franca with weird accents. Ironically, this is not too dissimilar from the actual origins of Christianity.

The victims of this state of mind are all Americans. The people anger and fear are directed constitute the fabric of our country. We’re not hurting them. We’re hurting ourselves in the worst form of moral cannibalism. Sadly, the same people who want to tout their patriotism and religiosity in America find themselves at odds with the fundamentals of their heritage and identity.

We Own DC Superheroes and Villians

7 Aug

I have quite possibly never seen so much hand-wringing and vile human verbal bile than when it comes to the casting and costuming of theatrical comic book characters. I’m willing to admit I was a desk chair critic for a while and still have thoughts and feelings when it comes to who is cast in certain roles. What I realized recently though is I haven’t seen nearly as people with their hair on fire about Marvel characters. Robert Downey, Jr. is Tony Stark. Chris Evans is wholesome and American-y. Scarlett Johannsen is convincingly convincing as a spy.

The real issue seems to be mostly, in the arena of public opinion, with DC Comics:
• Can Ben Affleck be the Batman?
• They cast Jared Leto as who?
• How can Superman be English?
• WHO DESIGNED THIS WONDER WOMAN COSTUME?

What is there a stronger feeling of certainty about how members of the Justice League and their villains should dress, behave, and appear? I think it has to do with these characters being viewed psychologically as paragons in our mind. Superman is a Boy Scout, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way” paragon of virtue. Batman is an archetypal anti-hero. Wonder Woman is a warrior princess. The Joker is the model of criminal insanity, Lex Luthor is the corruption of power and wealth and ego, etc. That’s what lures us into these characters: we have our version of who and what constitutes these characters based on their presentation because we feel we own that virtue, and likewise that virtue is a resemblance of us.

Stating the obvious on HB2 in NC

3 Apr

For those who missed it the NC General Assembly passed legislation at the end of March that overruled all other NC law in two main categories: First, no counties or municipalities can pass any form of statute that gives extra protections to specified groups and second, those same smaller governments cannot raise the minimum wage above the state level.
The law, HB2, has gotten a lot of flack because of its status as a “bathroom bill” due to its immediate effect being that transgender and transexual citizens have to legally use the bathroom that matches their biological (at birth) sex. This is regardless of whatever stage in transition the person who has too many coffees may be in. It has been described by proponents as a law that’s utility is found in protecting children and other other adults from sexual predation of any form. The law presents itself a solution without a problem because we already have laws in NC concerning indecency.
Proponents also say that this law expands uniform civil rights across the state. Gov. Pat McCrory has supported his signing in baffled tones illustrating examples that this increases liberty, nevertheless it disallows counties and municipalities from passing stricter laws.
The current list of NC protected classes leaves outs gays, lesbians, trans, queer, veterans, and seniors. If the City of Winston-Salem wanted to pass a statue that said veterans had a protected status in employment practices the state can overrule it. If the City of Durham wanted to pass an ordinance saying all restaurants must serve Muslims then only the state and federal laws would have any jurisdiction.
Why is that important? Because this opens the door for ultimately more discrimination statewide because the state law reduces the ability of citizens to have legal recourse locally and forces them to seek action where it is more difficult and expensive: state and federal court. It’s also contrary to the hallmark argument conservatives give about Federalism: It allows people at the local level the ability to make the decisions concerning those people.
Additionally HB2 attached the mercantile carrot to the quagmire stick: local governments cannot increase the minimum wage. So if Asheville or Wilmington wanted to pass legislation that raised minimum wage even the slightest amounts (on the heels of West Coast cities doing so) it’s not legal. Businesses have that added legal protection to insulate from even having to pick a position.. However, in the public relations nightmare this has created it’s cold comfort no insulating can help.
A wedge issue has stripped North Carolina of its dignity.

Darrell Issa and Chris Christie

17 Mar

All in all it was a pretty exciting couple weeks for the GOP, especially with the Russian Menace looming, invading, and being all decisive, giving every Republican a valid reason to mention Reagan. It’s natural Republican Viagra!

 

Darrell Issa, the richest occasionally working man in Congress, abruptly concluded a hearing this week with Lois Lerner dissatisfied with her audacity to not self-incriminate and make “IRS” the new “Benghazi” after “Fast and Furious”, it was discovered, only reminds conservatives that Paul Walker is dead. May he rest.

After less than 20 minutes, Issa adjourned to get on with the rest of his day demanding the truth and hair coloring products. What happened next made many wonder if Chairman Issa was in desperate need of a nap and juicebox when he not only refused to allow any Democrats to ask questions but then cut off ranking member, Congressman Elijah Cummings’ microphone. As we all know, cutting the mike of an outspoken Civil Rights proponent completely disarms them. To his chagrin and numerous MSNBC footage reels, Rep Elijah Cummings wanted to ask a question in the way most middle managers give a performance evaluations–with all of the criticism getting around to one point justifying a generous 5 cents per hour raise. However, press mikes continued to record the entire exchange as Cummings lectured Republicans like it was Shakespeare in the House.

By the end of the exchange the future talking point that Lerner wouldn’t answer questions she hadn’t planned to answer to begin with was lost and we all learned a valuable lesson: gaveling just makes some people feel powerful. Also, the “cut the mike” gesture will now be referred to as the Issa instead of the O’Reilly.

 

CPAC was also this week showing us Mitch McConnell carrying a shotgun, because things in the Senate have gotten that bad. Bobby Jindal compared Obama to Jimmy Carter in material he’ll soon be turning into his own sitcom called “Tired False Premise”. Look for it this Fall on NBC. This was far better than Donald Trump who’s losing more of his toupe every time he appears in public, who thought Carter was already dead. He’s not certain as he has not seen the long form death certificate.

Chris Christie enthusiastically spoke and sounded very hungry….for the GOP to win in 2014. He was finally invited back to CPAC after upsetting conservatives in past years by working with President Obama to acquire Hurricane Sandy relief and expanding Medicaid in New Jersey. He remarked that the GOP cannot govern if they don’t win, but should have reminded everyone that constituents can’t vote if they aren’t alive. He also said that the GOP ideas were better than those of the Democrats. This coming from the guy whose playbook allegedly includes shutting down the busiest bridge in the world as political payback and withholding hurricane relief funds to the mayor of Hoboken. If his ideas get any newer he’s going to start taking the cannoli BY THE TRUCK.

Aside 16 Mar

Friday, March 14, 2014, was my last day in healthcare as a biller. Seven years in reimbursement. It’s been an interesting, frustrating experience at times. I’m not sad to be moving on, but the things I’ve learned really have opened my eyes to how flawed the American system really is when it comes to providing consistently affordable maintenance healthcare. 
So I thought I would write down a quick list of the things I’ve learned in hopes it may help you. Or the healing process (ha!). Really, I’m tired of working Medicare audits this week.
1. Insurance companies are assholes. They only care about their shareholders interests or the law. If they can prove any reason not to pay something they will. Every time.
2. If anyone says, “You’re insurance will cover it” punch them in the gut and give them my Twitter handle. Your insurance will accept the charges but everything is still subject to coinsurance, copays, and the DEDUCTIBLE. You should be hearing hushing, ominous music in your head. Learn what those are for your policy. Be discerning when suggested treatment and equipment. Discuss with everyone.
3. Most all equipment “rents” for several months THEN it “converts to a purchase”. Most of the stuff I dealt with was for aged and elderly: Hospital beds, nebulizers, wheelchairs, etc. Oxygen rents but never converts. Hey, there are no absolutes. Insurance and government payers do this to reduce costs. They have no way of knowing just exactly how long you will use whatever and they’re not medical equipment Santa.
4. This entire field and business is over-complicated, messy, and automated. Claims are flying out the door all the time, payments are coming in, errors errywhere. Ask someone how the billing works before you troll them how it’s supposed to work.
5. Due to the penalties, jail time, and sheer amount of work it would take (laziness wins) there are very few companies that are willfully billing fraudulently. It’s almost impossible to overbill a medical payer because of how claims are adjudicated and the established rate. I could bill Medicare all day $300 for a box of bandages. They’re only going to pay $2.10. Things are billed with codes, codes match dollar amounts and limits for time frames (only 500 bandages a month!), and if everything lines up there’s some payment. Medical billing is unlike any other billing. 

There’s plenty more, but really that’s the short of it. If you understand that much it’s not so scary, at least based anecdotally on the hundreds of phone calls I’ve taken.