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a jim jividen blog

Here's the thing. I'm watching one of these shows on the Cooking Channel featuring food trucks. There's a Scottish expat making fish and chips; in a thick brogue he somewhat wearily explains his irritation with Americans who habitually order a side of tartar sauce: "tartar sauce is basically gherkins." That's this blog. I claim no particular insight, no revelation. If you enjoy the flavor, great, but this blog is basically gherkins.

Dead Peasants

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I've yet to see Michael Moore's new movie, but I will, and I'll buy the DVD (although I will not enjoy it as much as my newly discovered favorite thing ever - Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, which I encourage you to rent, and if you do, you must watch the musical commentary track.  I know, you are unlike me; you do not share my obsessive devotion to all things commentary, you have no opinion as to the best feature commentary track ever {Boogie Nights} but you are doing yourself a disservice if you (a) do not immediately put Dr Horrible to the top of your netflix queue and (b) slavishly devote yourself to the musical commentary track, which literallty will double the pleasure you receive from the Dr. Horrible experience.  Seriously, you shouldn't be reading this blog right now.  Click on a new window and go get yourself some Dr. Horrible.  No, a torrent is insufficient unless you can get the commentary track too.  Which you can if you try, but that would be wrong) I'm aware though that one of the elements of the film is Moore's discovery of what is known euphemistically as "dead peasant insurance" - that being the corporate practice of taking out life insurance on employees, naming the company as the beneficiary, all without the employee's knowledge. 

I was unaware of this practice.

In fact, had you asked me prior to this film if this was legal, I would have said no.

You:  Don't you teach a course in law?

Hey, as long as I'm 36-14 against the spread picking college football games, it doesn't so much matter what I know about your "laws".  Seriously, it's the kind of run that would get me booted out of casinos.  If I had a broader readership, it's the kind of run that would set me up for years as "The Professor of the Pigskin"; I'd have a 900 number and a subscription based tout service. I'd be able to stop teaching 7 courses a term..

You:  7?  Isn't that a lot?  How do you live?  How do you love?

These are insightful questions.  I will share with you my foodstuffs.

There are public policy principles that require in order to take out life insurance on someone, you have to have an "insurable interest" in that person.  The rationale for this isn't complicated - if you take out a life insurance policy on your neighbor, it creates for you an incentive to want him dead.  On the other hand, if the policy is on your dad, we decide that the familial bonds (no, I'm not returning to the Mackenzie Phillips piece) will outweigh the financial gain.  The idea, of course, behind having life insurance in the first place is that someone who is financially dependent on another isn't abandoned, left to the charity of others, upon the death of that person.  That's what insurable interest means.

I don't have the slightest idea what the insurable interest is that Coca-Cola has in its employees. 

In fact, given the level of control that corporations have over the health insurance of their employees - business has an extraordinary ability to see to it that their employees die.  And profit from that death.

Coke couldn't take out life insurance on its customers.  Say, get the names of the highest quantity drinkers of its product and take out life insurance policies (if I'm not being clear enough here - imagine a tobacco company or a vodka manufacturer, say asking for personal data through a website, giving away product to customers who are willing to provide it - supplying, heavily supplying legal, but obviously harmful product to those special customers - and taking out dead peasants policies on all of them.)

Illegal.  Least I thought so. 

Because imagine the corporation which controls a worker's hours, grinding a worker down with increasingly heavy course loads, packing dozens and dozens of students into small rooms, increasing the number of courses, the numbers of subjects - treating that worker as if he is just a piece on a chess board to be maneuvered at the whim of the corporation.  Then you slice his vacation in half - that's good - then you cut the medical benefits such that it will reduce the number of routine doctor visits.  Work him harder, for more hours, for more weeks, and take away his medical coverage.  Then take out a life insurance policy on him and wait for him to keel over during a discussion of the 14th Amendment. 

Um, I mean, not that I'm talking about anyone specific.  It's more of a general observation on the American worker.

So, there is an answer to this question.  I'm sure it's a good one.  I just don't know what it is.

(note - the Tigers just took the lead in the tenth, they're a slightly tougher matchup for the Yanks than are the Twins, but both would be heavy, heavy dogs - I'll put up my playoff picks tomorrow.  Oh, Cuddyer just tripled.  It's a thing.)

So, while I'm unlikely to write a full piece about it - something happened on Fox News today, Shepard Smith went all socialist/nazi/death panel on Barrasso from West Virginia:

As the costs have gone up, the insurance industry's profits, on average, have gone up more than 350 percent. And it is the insurance companies which have paid, and who have contributed to Senators and Congressmen on both sides of the aisle to the point where now we cannot get what all concerned on Capitol Hill seem to believe and more 60 percent of Americans say they would support, which is a public option

Which is, you know, exactly right.  Ups to Fox News.

What? 

(and now it's 5-5.  Oh - Casilla got thrown out!  Who will win?  Who?  Who?)

Oh - and the next time the conservatives say they're the real Americans, and "country first" and claim that liberals with their, you know, dislike of war and inequality "hate America" - consider this.  Good to have a little insight on what drives these people, as if you needed one. 

Except, apparently, for Shep Smith.  Huh. 

And leave Dave alone.  We had a deal.

And here is Oklahoma's new law requiring abortion details to be posted online.  So that happened.

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