Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The ObamaCare Ads Keep Getting Worse


Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about some of the outrageous ObamaCare advertisements that have been produced. Today, I feel the need to write a follow-up review of some new, even more absurd ads.

Organizing for America has launched a campaign called “Healthcare For The Holidays”, wherein they encourage people to discuss the new healthcare options with their loved ones over family holiday gatherings. There’s even a page on the site where people can “Pledge to Have the Talk”.

I must admit, this is a very clever advertising strategy. Mobilizing the citizenry to sell the new plan while making them feel helpful and important is a smart way to build support.  While the online portion of this campaign may prove effective, I do not think the results will be as favorable. I’m not sure about your families, dear readers, but if people started discussing the pros and cons of ObamaCare at my grandmother’s Christmas dinner, someone would likely get kicked out and my mother would end up crying.

The photos that go along with this campaign do little to assuage my misgivings. President Obama posted this on Twitter yesterday:

 

In real life, I try not to judge people based on their appearance. But in advertising, specific choices are made because appearance is the key to the success of an ad. This photo shows a college-age boy, dressed in a manner typical of the “hipster” subculture. The message here, then, is that ObamaCare is hip and trendy? Sorry, but I need to see facts, not social implications. I have met many people that would fit in perfectly with the young man in this ad, and they are very often exceedingly left-leaning. Unfortunately, I have little faith in the persuasive ability of an able bodied adult whose plans for the holidays is to wear a fuzzy onesie, drink cocoa, and convince people of the merits of ObamaCare. Once again, I draw from personal experience when I say that wouldn’t go over too well in my house. (And my parents are liberals!)
 
This photo has gotten a wide range of feedback in the day since its release, but by far my favourite is that of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:
 

Voluntary charity, community spirit, and a proactive attitude. Yes, Governor Christie, I agree this is a far better way to spend the holiday season.

While this new campaign is likely to result in little more than quite a few family arguments, there is another group that is producing much more distressing advertisements.

Out2Enroll is “a coalition of organizations who want to help lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people stay healthy by making sure that one of the major benefits of the Affordable Care Act – access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance coverage – reaches LGBT communities” . Before voicing any concerns about their advertising techniques, I must first comment on the questionable nature of this entire organization. Why is it at all necessary for there to be a specific group related to the LGBT community’s access to ObamaCare? If it is needed for them, do other groups require it as well? Should we expect to see specific organizations for Hispanics, African Americans, or women cropping up in the near future? I think this will only serve to overcomplicate the already intensely convoluted Affordable Care Act.

Putting aside for the moment the questionable necessity of this program, I have some concerns about the way in which Out2Enroll is promoting its cause. The following is a video released by the organization:

 

**Pauses a moment for readers to recover from the shock of seeing that video**

This ad is supposed to encourage members of the LGBT community to get covered under ObamaCare. Okay, Out2Enroll, so that’s what you think will entice the gay community? Glad you think they’re all so horrendously trashy. Yes, it says right in the video description that it is “a holiday parody, produced by our friends at Full Frontal Freedom” but immediately goes on to note that it “aims to bring awareness to the final week of health marketplace enrollment”.  In other words, yes they’re being funny, but they honestly do think it’ll encourage LGBT people to look further into ObamaCare.

I hope that most people, regardless of sexual orientation, have enough modesty and prudence to find this over the top, and completely ineffective as an advertisement. I love funny commercials! Here, look at this one! But men wearing sexy holiday underwear and dancing provocatively to a Christmas carol about healthcare is just plain icky.

Even more importantly, however, it plays into negative stereotypes about the gay community. Beyond being not clever, this video is just plain rude. I hope that LGBT people tell Out2Enroll that this isn’t how to get through to them or help to support them.

As more and more outrageous ObamaCare ads surface, I find myself wondering what sort of a campaign would catch my interest. I wouldn’t need music or cute outfits or appeals to popular things; I’d need facts. The utter lack of facts in all of these ads is just further proof that behind the fuzzy pajamas and Christmas ornaments, this legislation is riddled with severe, debilitating problems.
 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Great Gift For That Special Fiscal Conservative In Your Life


Christmas is drawing rapidly near and I’ll admit I haven’t quite finished all of my shopping. I am now at the point of desperately searching for gift ideas, and I am sure I’m not alone in this dilemma. I therefore would like to offer a helping hand to my fellow shoppers.

I found my way to the Liberty movement through the writings of Ayn Rand. I therefore admit some bias when I say that the best way to get new people to explore the ideas of Freedom, Individual Rights, and Capitalism is to illustrate the points in a story. Fiction books are also great entertainment and wonderful gifts.

Of course, it's not always possible to get people to read something as lengthy and complex as "Atlas Shrugged".

It was with great pleasure that I stumbled across A. G. Fredericks on social media. His Twitter "bio" presents him as "#Libertarian, son of a US Marine, Fiscal Conservative Author of acclaimed Indie thriller #TheTroyStandard & #LibertyGulch."

I quickly procured a copy of his first book, "The Troy Standard", and was very impressed. It is the story of a man who is courageous enough to point out the problems with the status quo and suffers dearly for his convictions. It is also an engaging discussion of Austrian economic policies.

In the words of Evey from "V for Vendetta", “Artists use lies to tell the truth”. Encouraging friends or family to read an engaging story is often much easier than handing them an economic treatise, or scholarly article. “The Troy Standard” is 192 pages long and contains touching emotional drama, harrowing suspense, and action-packed thrills. In short, it is a perfect holiday read. (Just add hot chocolate and a fireplace!)

Amidst these elements is a clearly defined lesson in economics. Allowing the government and bankers, the people Fredericks calls “the men behind the desks” to control the value of money can never end well. An inordinate amount of control is granted to these men, giving them power over all who trade with their fiat currency. Both the economy and personal liberty suffer as a result. These issues affect every person within our society. Many feel that the concepts of fiscal policy are out of their grasp. Fredericks’ book will make all readers think about these issues in a new way. I am sure that it will also motivate many to continue to explore them and search for the return to an accountable fiscal policy.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The War on Men at Vassar College

This past semester, the students at Vassar College have reported a series of hate speech being posted on campus. Messages such as “Hey Tranny, know your place” and other profane comments insulting a variety of minority groups were painted on campus, including on a student’s door. Vassar College takes incidents like this very seriously; they have a committee called Bias Incident and Response Team  (BIRT) specifically designed to respond to incidents such as this. As stated on their website, after an incident of bias occurs, “the Associate Dean of the College for Campus Life will convene the BIRT team within 24 hours or as soon as possible to determine initial steps and to identify additional offices or members from the campus community who can assist with the college’s response tothe incident or situation being addressed”.

On November 13th, 2013, the students received an eMail reporting these repeated incidents and assuring the campus community that the BIRT team was working to address the situation as quickly as possible. Six days later, on November 19th, another eMail was sent out. The following is an excerpt from this second letter:

It is our unfortunate duty to report that two Vassar students have admitted responsibility for creating a number of recent bias and hate-speech messages in public spaces on campus. They also falsely reported these as anonymous messages.

At the same time, it was noted by several students that one of the members of BIRT had resigned. Further questioning from concerned students and the Daily Caller revealed an ugly truth. Genesis Hernandez, a transgendered, minority student who served as a member of the Bias Incident and Response Team as well as the Vice President of Student Life, was one of the two students responsible for the falsified hate speech. This shocking news is now being covered by major news sources such as Fox News.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time this year that Vassar has been in the news regarding issues of discrimination and bias. Earlier this year, a student named Peter Yu sued the school, claiming that gender discrimination led to his expulsion. In February of 2012, Yu and fellow classmate Mary Claire Walker had sex. Yu claims that it was a consensual act, and the first time he had ever engaged in sexual intercourse. Friends of Yu claim that afterwards, Walker bragged to other students about how she had taken his virginity. She also sent him a message on Facebook to tell him that she “had a wonderful time”.
 
A year after their night together, Walker reported to the school that what had occurred that night was actually rape. According to Vassar's policies policies, Any charge of Rape requires concurrent charges of Sexual Abuse and Aggravated Sexual Abuse. The minimum sanction for Rape is immediate suspension for the remainder of the current semester and the entirety of the following semester. More serious sanctions may include, but are not limited to, immediate expulsion from the college”. Based on Walker’s allegations, Peter Yu was expelled.

Yu is now suing the school, claiming that male students who are accused of sexual crimes are “invariably” found guilty. At the time of his expulsion, he had a 3.8 GPA and was in good standing with the school. He argues that the evidence against him is weak and that the process Vassar used to handle the matter was unjust. At the hearing in March, he was not allowed to have a lawyer present.

Based solely on the evidence, it seems that the case against Peter Yu is shaky at best. What makes matters worse is that his accuser is the daughter of a university employee. Mary Claire Walker’s father, Jeffrey R. Walker, has been a professor at the school for several years.

Cases such as this are overseen by the Sexual and Violence Prevention Committee (SAVP), which is made up of a combination of faculty and students. One of the student members on this year’s committee is Genesis Hernandez, whose name is still listed on the webpage. The SAVP has a diagram on its webpage that describes the process for reporting sexual misconduct. The diagram was created by Imani Wong, the girlfriend of Genesis Hernandez. Although Vassar has not officially reported the name of the second perpetrator of the bias, leaked records of discussions among members of the Vassar Student Association state that she is, in fact, the second actor in this hoax. Like Genesis, Imani has also left the school. If people who can commit such devious, fraudulent acts are on these committees, how can students trust that they will be treated fairly? The simple answer is that they cannot.

The falsified bias incidents at Vassar College have highlighted a very real problem of bias on the campus. This bias is not toward women or transgendered people or any of the other groups “targeted” by the falsified hate speech. It is toward the men and the white students at the school, the students who are perpetually cast as the villains, even when they have committed no crime. Genesis and Imani obviously didn’t think the school would suspect transgendered, minority, or female students of writing such horrible things about the groups of which they themselves are a part. They were attempting to frame an entire demographic group by making themselves appear victimized. If all that is required of a woman is a declaration of rape for a man to be punished, what is to stop any bitter ex girlfriend from doing great harm to her former lover? The school does not appear to have a handle on this bias, as students who are falsifying hate speech are chosen to serve on committees meant to protect people from these very actions. To maintain its integrity as a fair institution, Vassar must take this issue very seriously and investigate how widespread this discrimination is on campus.

**Note- This article is cross-posted on Watchdog Wire at: http://watchdogwire.com/pennsylvania/2013/12/09/the-war-on-men-at-vassar-college/

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Cool" ObamaCare Ads Target Kids With Poor Morals



Attention Americans! This weekend, the ObamaCare website woes will (supposedly) be over. Since the website opened for business, it has been nothing but a nightmare. Still, as the government fails again and again to repair the website and justify its shortcomings, they are still trying to sell this program to the American people.

The people in charge of marketing the Affordable Care Act have come up with some exceedingly creative ways to entice the citizenry to participate in the program. To be perfectly honest, I find some of the advertisements a little unsettling, especially this television commercial produced by Cover Oregon. But hey, the song is stuck in my head, so good job, I suppose.

The state of Colorado has produced a website designed to encourage its citizens to explore their new healthcare options. Part of this site is a series of ads that are meant to target teenagers and young adults. Frankly, I find these ads almost uncomfortable to look at, but I know, much to my disappointment, that they are actually very likely to be effective.

These ads feature teenagers and young adults getting themselves into situations that may require them to make use of their insurance. In other words, they picture kids doing dumb stuff. The costumes and actions are exaggerated, turning these incidents of potential injury into laughing matters. As young Americans look at these ads, they are expected to respond by identifying with the subjects, thinking, “Haha, yeah, I would totally do that, man.”

One of the biggest problems that I see with my generation is that we seem to have no concept of when our behavior is wrong or inappropriate. Since early civilizations, I am sure that kids disobeyed their parents and got into trouble. Our grandparents all had too much to drink at some point and even the generations before them most assuredly attended some rocking parties in their youth. I am equally as sure that they did not flaunt it as my peers do today. Were I to partake in these irresponsible activities, especially if I got hurt in the process, I would be rather embarrassed and would likely not tell people. I certainly wouldn’t buy a product that highlighted those mistakes as normal, acceptable parts of life.

One of these ads features a young man doing a “keg stand”, bearing the caption “Keg stands are crazy. Not having health insurance is crazier”. Because we are supposed to identify with him, it must be assumed that keg stands are considered a normal part of life, and that crazy in this context means the sort of wild and cool stuff that really awesome people do.



The girls in this ad want to work out “to stay smokin’ hot”. Their healthcare plan consists of exercising, drinking red wine, and having insurance. True, studies have shown that a glass of red wine each day may promote cardiac health. But might I suggest that vegetables are a more important part of a health plan? What’s that, Colorado? Veggies aren’t cool? Wine is very popular amongst college girls? Oh, okay. I suppose that’s fine then...



This next ad is, in my opinion, the most offensive. The sentiment being expressed here is that this new healthcare will pay for birth control, so girls can now devote more energy to scoring hot dudes. My favourite part has to be the footnote, which warns “The pill doesn’t protect you from STDs, condoms and common sense do that.” Nothing about this ad says common sense to me. It screams risky behavior and hook-up culture. A footnote disclaimer doesn’t make the rest of this ad okay.






I’m not the only one who feels uncomfortable about this ad. Several sites, such as Breitbart.com and NPR.org have catalogued the negative response it has received. Still, the administrators who produced the advertisements have not backed down from their campaign.

The next issue these ads inadvertently illustrate is a lack of self-efficacy. Yes, I am aware that under the Affordable Care Act, children can stay on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26.  (I will save my disappointment at the mollycoddling of our young adults for a future post.) Still, the fact that these ads are encouraging college age students to ask “Yo, Mom, do I got insurance?” is a little sad. I am on my mother’s health insurance plan. But I carry around my own card for the plan and fill out the information for my doctor’s records. Yes, it is my mother’s plan, but it is my healthcare, and I take charge of my own personal health. These ads are encouraging young adults to make sure mom has got their back in case they get themselves into a situation where they require assistance.

Finally, I must comment on the language of these advertisements. Of course, one must always target wording toward the intended audience. A Hot Wheels racetrack that is billed as “the most aerodynamically sound course for model automobiles” would not appeal to very many grade school children. But evn if I wanted 2 market sumthing 2 gurls so there hair wuld look gr8, I’d still have 2 use words that makes me sound smart. It is an incredibly clever idea to write these ads in the sort of modern day language the target audience uses. I feel that these ads take it a step too far, however, and end up in the realm of satire and hyperbole. The name of the website is DoYouGotInsurance.com, for goodness sake! By doing this, the ad creators are either trying to be funny, or grossly underestimating the intelligence of their audience. I pray that it is an underestimation.

Unfortunately, these ads are brilliant. They’re simple, silly, and get their message across to a generation that wants easy fixes for everything without having to think too hard. To those of us who have morals and a sense of personal responsibility, they not only won’t work, they turn us away. But it will take more than clever ads to make this program function. The coming days will show whether the newest website repairs have been effective. If not, the ObamaCare plan will likely have as bright a future as “Sam Gargoyling Bro”.



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Parenting: Yet Another Task The Government Can’t Handle


This summer, the parents of two year old Alexandria Hill made what is quite possibly the most heartwrenching decision with which a parent can be faced. They chose to take their daughter off of life support after she had spent several days in a coma caused by a traumatic brain injury.

Her tragic death is all the more devastating because it was not the result of an innocent fall or car accident. Alexandria’s injury was caused by the blunt force trauma of being forcibly hit against a floor by her foster mother.

 Last November, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services removed Alexandria from the care of her parents for “neglectful supervision”. Father Joshua Hill admits that he and Alexandria’s mother were regular marijuana users and that this was the reason for the DFPS intervention.

The foster home where Alexandria experienced the abuse that ended her life was not her first. During scheduled visitations, her parents noticed bruises on her body and mold on her personal belongings. They reported the suspected abuse to DFPS, and new placement was arranged.
 

In January, Alexandria was moved to Sherill Small’s home, where it was believed she would receive better care. On July 29th, however, Small called 9-1-1 to report that Alexandria “was not breathing and unresponsive”. Small originally claimed that she had been playing with the child when she accidentally hit her head. When police confronted her with doctors’ statements that her story did not match the injury, Small amended her explanation. She now admits to slamming the toddler’s head against the floor.

 
Texas DFPS hires foster agencies to handle the placement of children, but is still ultimately responsible to check that these agencies are providing appropriate care. The agency employed to cover Alexandria’s case, Texas Mentor, “has been cited 15 times in the past two years, including four citations for failing to perform background checks on foster parents”.  The DFPS continues to employ this organization to find safe homes for children.

Joshua Hill told reporters, “We never hurt our daughter. She was never sick, she was never in the hospital and she never had any issues until she went into state care”. While I personally believe in the legalization, or at least the decriminalization, of marijuana, I understand that citizens must obey current laws until such reform takes place. Under the circumstances, it was appropriate for DFPS to remove Alexandria. But her parents cared for her wellbeing and loved her. They were working with authorities to correct their behaviour and regain custody of her. They visited her regularly, and identified the abuse she was suffering at her first foster home, which the DFPS had failed to notice.

 
It was the State of Texas, not Alexandria’s parents, who ultimately provided “neglectful supervision”. DFPS allowed her to be placed in a home where she was hurt and exposed to mold. When her parents intervened to protect their child, they moved her to yet another unsafe location. This time, the two year old girl sustained physical abuse severe enough to end her life. In this case, as with many other attempts of government to intervene in the lives of individuals, the government’s alternative to parents who use recreational marijuana has proven to be much more devastating than the problem they set out to fix.