Saturday, March 18, 2006

Wal-Mart Says No To Legislation And TennCare's 1st Annual Report

The state legislature is facing a battle with Wal-Mart over dollars mandated by government to be spent on health insurance. Some 33 other states are also considering similar legislative action, which would require that a company with 10,000-plus employees to pay 10 peccent of their gross payroll toward health care - either directly to workers or to a state-led health care fund, according to reports.

Wal-Mart is lobbying against it, saying it's an unfair "union tactic" though supporters note that about 25 percent of Wal-Mart employees are TennCare recepients, the largest percentage of any company in the state.

Other than Wal-Mart, the other companies that would be affected include FedEx, Kroger and Vanderbilt. The article makes interesting reading.

The state is continuing to track down fraud and abuse of TennCare - something the Bredesen administration demanded and previous Gov Sunquist avoided. But they've also made it easy for anyone to report fraud and abuse of TennCare.

The first-ever annual report of TennCare is available at the state's website and has these comments:

"This is the first time the Bureau has produced a report that very clearly spells out to the taxpayers how the program works and how their tax dollars are being spent in the TennCare program,” said TennCare Director, Dr. J.D. Hickey. “As the single largest component of the state’s overall budget, we felt compelled to produce this report and believe it will be a useful tool in better understanding the TennCare program and thechanges we’ve made during the past year.”

"The Annual Report chronicles TennCare’s efforts to rein in program finances by implementing dozens of pharmacy utilization control measures, expanding drug purchasing power, launching five statewide disease management programs and aggressively managing the program to return the program to financial stability. Statistics on the TennCare population, county-by-county enrollment breakdowns and funding source breakouts with actual expenditures and growth percentages are highlighted in the report for quick reference."

You can report suspected TennCare fraud by calling 1-800-433-3982 toll-free from anywhere in Tennessee, or log on to

Friday, March 17, 2006

Camera Obscura - Alan Moore's Vendetta

The mainstream world is about to encounter what readers around the Western world read and thought about the rise of the Ronald Reagan years, though now re-told as the Neo-Conservative battle playing out in today's political world in the new move release "V for Vendetta." The writer and creator of the original 12 issue comic book series Alan Moore, has, once again, had his name removed from this film based on his work which was published in 1988.

Moore has given up rights to his works already made into film - "Constantine," "From Hell," "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen". He still writes intriguing tales in the comics and remains a most unusual character. A recent interview has these comments about "V for Vendetta":

As far I'm concerned, the two poles of politics were not Left Wing or Right Wing. In fact they're just two ways of ordering an industrial society and we're fast moving beyond the industrial societies of the 19th and 20th centuries. It seemed to me the two more absolute extremes were anarchy and fascism. This was one of the things I objected to in the recent film, where it seems to be, from the script that I read, sort of recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism. There wasn't a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged."

I had been reading Moore's award-winning work thru the late 1980s on "Swamp Thing" and "Miracleman", just prior to the release of the astonishing masterpiece called "The Watchmen." More on that later (and please, God, don't let them ever make a movie of it). It was in late summer in 1990 in a small apartment in Brooklyn where I ran across the V for Vendetta series.

The character of V takes action not so much for some Moral Code - it's more that he wants to destabilize the status quo, encourage the individual to establish self-determining skills, and ultimately the reader has much to wonder as to whether V is just an insane anarchist, a tortured artist or just the presence of non-conformity.

In 1990s Manhattan, riots had raged in Bensonhurst and Times Square was still home to porn theatres and crime - as opposed to its role today as a sleek and clean place to see the latest Walt Disney Broadway musical. The rap band Public Enemy was playing Radio Center under heavy police security and economic ravages of trickled-on-and-down Reaganism left a funky sense of smoldering rage through the city. I remember seeing stretches of the Brooklyn Bridge marked with graffiti which read "Yuppicide".

To the movie's credit, I understand there's more actual dialog than just action - but we'll see. The film itself is dedicated to the memory of the late, great cinematographer Adrian Biddle who died in Dec. 2005. And it stands to reason to stake out the story with the current political debate noting single-party government and morality versus ... well, reviewers have referred to "liberalism", but I see little of that in America and more concerns of maintaining the Bill of Rights. But that's another post.

First in V for Vendetta and later in "The Watchmen" Moore presents the idea that someone, with or without some super-hero power, who dons a mask and takes the law into his or her own hands is -- well, a little crazy, isn't it? And his epic graphic novel, "The Watchmen," Moore provides a leftover collection of deeply disturbed superheroes enacting their vision for humanity which isn't really very sane. There are many levels of storytelling here and all brilliantly presented - in my opinion, it's the pinnacle of storytelling in comic books and nothing has reached beyond it since it first came out in the late 1980s. The ideas there have been picked up in Hollywood and anime and television ever since. Moore seems content to just continue writing as he wishes.

In some other movie/comics news, writer Mike Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro are teaming together again for a sequel to the highly underrated "Hellboy" movie. For my money, it's the best adaption of a comic book to movie I've ever seen. Rumors also claim the director is being wooed to take the lead for the movie adaption of the videogame "Halo."

And as of this morning, I read that actor Benicio del Toro has signed on to play The Wolf-Man in a new Universal movie.

And so far, I've been most impressed with the new Tuesday night TV series "The Unit" created by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet -- someone called it "Desperate Housewives Meets G.I. Joe", but it's much better than that. It follows a group of covert-ops military agents and their wives, but the lingo is realistic and each episode stands alone - you don't have to follow a season-long storyline to keep up with it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

$2 Billion And A Law Which Isn't Legal

A two billion dollar federal typo about how long oxygen used in home should be paid by Medicare; the vice-president has to fly in to make the tie-breaking vote; House and Senate bills that don't match, but which is made into law with the signature of the President.

But what if none of this is legal?

GOP Fakes Integrity

To prove they are the embodiment of integrity, members of Congress have bravely submitted to giving up receiving free trips from lobbyists until the after the November elections - then it's back to fawning at the feet of anyone with money.

The pretend approach to "ethics reform" considered by the House of Representatives is likely to get another touch of pretend-to-stop-getting-gifts before the full vote on the fake reforms.

More info on how GOP-led Congress feasts on cash here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Green Party Candidate Seeks 1st District

The open race for Congress here in East Tennessee has one candidate that isn't much like the usual choices - not that there has been much of a choice since Jimmy Quillen took the seat in 1962. But Green Parrty candidate member Robert N. Smith has announced his campaign as of last week with some scathing comments for both Republicans and Democrats.

Smith is a 20-year vet from the Navy and hhs announcement story can be read here at the Greeneville Sun. What are some of his views on national politics?

During the last 40 years I have seen the Republican Party go from a party of financial responsibility and small government to something I can only call National Socialism.

“The Democrats in the same time have gone from representing the little people to Republican Lite. Nether party represents me or most people I know.”

He has a "19-point campaign platform" which the article mentions too:

1- Impeach Bush/Cheney and lesser officials for treason, the one charge that the president cannot grant a pardon for;

“2- Pull out of Iraq/Afghanistan and allow U.N. forces to do the job of peacekeeping, rebuilding;

“3- Rescind the unconstitutional Partriot Act;

“4- Call for sharp reductions in defense spending, with the savings going to essential social/environmental programs

More is in the article.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Tennessee's Abortion Plan

States legislatures, like the one in South Dakota and now Tennessee, seem to place a high priority on going through the U.S. courts systems waging a war, one they see as implicity moral, to end the currently legal medical procedures of abortion.

This happens in a campaign year, of course, giving life to much grandstanding by politicians. The sad truth is the volatile issues of abortion will never be answered by a court verdict or opinion. In fact, it further prevents and stalls meaningful debate and discussion and education about human sexuality. Instead the public is given a sideshow of sleight of hand - one political party is moral, another is immoral, one politician is moral, another immoral - all based on their votes or lack of votes to outlaw or keep legal abortion. Certainly, a voter has the right to base their vote on a single issue such as abortion if they wish. But I must say if you believe that making this medical procedure illegal will end it in the nation, then you are wrong and naive.

It happened before the infamous Roe v. Wade ruling, it happened 600 years ago, it happened as far back as you care to trace human history. What changed after Roe V. Wade? It became a process controlled by laws and medically safe methods. And it became a choice for a woman, or a couple, or for parents to make. To end the choice now, or rather, to argue about the choice in courts ignores so many larger issues.

Let's face it - people have sex and they have it a lot. Always have, always will. Sometimes it is consensual and sometimes it is abuse. The more recent trendy notion of just abstaining is moored to strong beliefs and fine intentions. But it also denies the basic functions of a human body.

Want to reduce unwanted pregnancy, break the chains of child abuse, drop the number of abortions performed? The answer is Sex Education. Factual accurate information about the human body and how it works - well, even that remains debated. Yet, the more plain and honest the discussion about our bodies and our sexuality, the better each person will be when their bodies and minds bring them to sexual situations.

Stop the game of amendments and court battles.

The real questions of sex education can should replace it - what information, who should teach it and when should the information be provided are far more critical and important and will lead to better decisions.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Thought readers might like to make note of the changes to the Rocky Top Brigade site, which still works pretty much as before and has a nice new look. Brigade members are now listed on the right side of the page rather than the left side of the page (insert yer own political joke) and on the top left, you can also peruse RTB members by area. Many thanks to Just Johnny for all the work and help to provide a home and a gathering place for free thought and free expression, as revolutionary an idea today as the day it was penned into the laws of this nation.

Some other items caught my attention this weekend too - well, when I wasn't busy hacking up entire sections of my lungs and ribs thanks to the some virus which gave me nightmares and a fever.

One such item was the post from High Country Conservative, who notes that his state Senator Tommy Kilby wants to introduce legislation to ban "violent video games" in Tennessee. Since literally any genre of video game is available for sale to the public, wouldn't it make more sense to simply require immediate jail terms and fines for any parent who buys a child a "violent game"? Last time I read the Constitution, there are no requirements that parents supply each child they bring into the world with their own video game system, remote control television, DVD player, CD player, iPod, radio,cell phone or computer system.

Maybe it's just my fever talking, but I'm sick to death of the urge to turn the government into a "governess" or "nanny", the ultra-moralizing invasive tactics to police each and every element of culture and society someone might find offensive. Instead of all these warning labels on products, maybe people should carry warning stickers on their foreheads that read: WARNING - Having a child means YOU will be responsible for the various influences you provide them.

Once I regain some health, say Monday or Tuesday, I will add some more talk - which means my opinions - about a truly serious issue the state's legislature is voting for (and some against) which concerns abortion laws in Tennessee. There have already been many writers debating this issue, with a fine collection of viewpoints at No Silence Here and another at Nashville Is Talking, and more at Knox Views.