Friday, June 19, 2009

Is Capitalism Christian?

I haven't written anything pertinent to Christian Faith in quite awhile, so I wanted to get back into it with a couple of blog entries that have been brewing in the back of my head for awhile.

"I never been to the Sem-in-air-ee, but I been to Cal-va-ree." So goes the main line to a song by the Reverend Dan Smith, a Gospel Blues Singer/Harmonica Player from the South who passed away in the Mid 90's. I've tried in vain to find a way of posting his song "I Never Been to Seminary" for all to hear, but I did find out that you can hear a snippet of it if you go here. Such a neat sentiment, y'know? If someone was deprived of the privilege of a good education, it's great that they can say that they have been at the most important place, at the foot of the cross.

Of course, it would seem to me that he should also pay attention to that fact that if it weren't for "Sem-in-air-ee" training people to translate the Hebrew and Greek texts into readable English, perhaps Dan Smith wouldn't even have ever been able to hear about Calvary?


Here's the problem : What happens when we devalue education altogether, and make a lack of education a virtue? After all, there was a time when being a well-trained Theologian got you somewhere in life. At least, a guy named John Calvin seemed to do very well in his career as an Attorney/Theologian/Magistrate. More recently, American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhrwas featured in the 1900's on the cover of TIME Magazine's 25 Anniversary edition.

We live in an age where "folksiness" is a virtue - or at least has been. Somehow having an education is held up as suspect and a thing to be feared as part of a greater cabal to undermine society's cherished values. Folksiness is considered next to Godliness. But what have we traded on, in coming to this? Is the Church as a whole being listened to? Well if you have taken the temperature on how we are doing on the debates on homosexuality and abortion, you'd have to agree: not very well.

You are no doubt by now wondering what Rev Dan Smith, John Calvin, Rienhold Neibuhr and Folksiness all have to do with the title of this essay? Well I'm getting to that through a sort of long route series of thoughts. Bear with me.

Speaking of "Calvary" -it was in a local expression of the organization known as Calvary Chapel that I ran into "Get out of Bible college" sentiments, from the Pulpit no less. I think they relished that in the timber and farming industry town in Klamath County, Oregon. It's less threatening. An area that went almost 70% for Ronald Reagan in 1984 is most likely to be made up of meat-and potatoes thinkers who have no time for deep theological questioning.

And the local college there? It's a technical school with little tolerance for liberal arts. Get your education in something that will make you money is the mantra there. When I moved away from the area and started attending a community college at the other end of Oregon, I was surprised to hear a woman who dropped out of the major we were in exclaim that she wasn't bothered at all by not finishing her degree. As she said with robust pride: "Why? I now have a whole vast area of knowledge that I didn't have before!"


Why is knowledge not valued for it's own worth?


Why is anti-intellectualism such a deeply entrenched part of American life?


I don't pretend to know all the answers to those questions but I will definitely try to offer a few good clues before I'm done writing this. One better question to answer is: how do we get back from this long and winding road of hayseed-edness being so highly regarded?

Perhaps if Education were considered a basic human right, even up through the University level? After all, we consider it a basic human right up through grade 12, and society foots the bill. Then people would spend more time getting educated and gaining knowledge for it's own sake, not for it's sake as a commodity that produces financial results. And thing such as theology and philosophy will be more highly regarded as fields of study. Not that they aren't now, but face it: whens the last time TIME has put a Bible Scholar on the cover?

I like getting ahold of magazines and books that libraries often throw out. You never know what little gems can be found that will be of great use down the road. I recently came across the 12/11/2007 issue of Christian Century magazine, and was stimulated to though by an interview with Nicholas Lash, a Catholic theologian I'd never heard of before. You could say that this entire essay was stimulated by my having read this interview.

On page 32 is the following hot potato question by the interviewer and Lash's response:

CC: You’ve also written sympathetically about Marxism. After the collapse of communism, is Marxism still a philosophy that Christians need to engage? Why is it that some viable Christian version of socialism is so difficult to imagine in England and America?

Lash: "Those who doubt that Christians still need to engage with Marx are as foolish as those who doubt that we still need to engage with Aristotle, Kant or Hegel. At the heart of Marx’s analysis of the capitalist mode of production was his insight that it led, with almost mechanical inevitability, to what he called "the universalization of the commodity form," the transmutation not only of all things, but also of all relations, into commodities.

"I can understand why, in a culture as driven and absorbed by messianic capitalism as is the United States, versions of socialism of any kind are hard to comprehend with sympathy.

"As millions of destitute Americans continue to be deprived of adequate access to good health care, people of all parties in the UK regard the retention of the National Health Service, "free at the point of delivery," as essential to our cultural health."

"All things... all relations" ...turned into commodities. Health Care being charged an arm & a leg for because of the justification of an earned income that reaches the stratosphere. Degrees pursued because of their monetary value in "getting a job." Pastors of churches taking outside jobs, and the community is impressed that they are willing to work with everyone else, even though in Biblical times that situation of life was considered an albatross. Such a thing really points up the lowered esteem of the Church in our day and age.

Back to what I was stating earlier: Ever wondered why The Church is losing the debate on Homosexuality and Abortion?

Have we accommodated the language of democracy too deeply into our self-understanding?

Can we really tell that Doctor that he or she can be free to make $3 million per year and not just a paltry $1 million? And then out of the other side of our mouths tell that woman she can't have an abortion? Or that Gay Couple "you cannot marry?"

No. Not in a society that regards relationships as commodities and values individual freedom above all else. The only arguments we will soon be engaging is the Rush-Limbaugh-like "good old fashioned middle class values" dribble. Those don't hold up very well in a society where autonomy is sacrosanct.

Any arguments to the contrary regarding the assumed freedom of terminating a pregnancy or marrying a person of the same sex should be rooted in Communitarian understandings. The fact is, every culture which has held together throughout time and even mass immigration to other parts of the world has honored the sanctity of traditional marriage and the unborn. The Eastern Orthodox, Conservative Jewish Faith and even Old Order Amish and Mennonites tend to come to mind. Split of these communities happen when toleration of dessent leads them to conclude otherwise.

How did God go about keeping society in Ancient Israel from devolving into a mess of commodity-worshipping free for all? The year of Jubilee was one way. It didn't matter if you still owed money on the cusp of the 7-year period, and you had sold yourself into slavery to pay off your debts & feed your family. Your debts were to be forgiven and you were to be set free if you wanted. That kept the economy form freefalling into the type of financial mess much like today's Subprime Mortgage Crisis. And it was Redistribution of the Wealth, a cornerstone of Socialism. Today, if you get a debt forgiven it is income to you. The Government sends you a 1099C in the mail.

In this day and age where lawlessness and disregard for management of God's creation extends beyond personal reproductive morality, and into how we manage our fiances on a mass scale affecting society as a whole, this is a timely debate. Let the Church enter into a debate: Just how in line with the Judeo-Christian God's values is our Economic system?

Oh, I'm well aware that this would be an issue that would touch on so many things that couldn't possibly be covered in a single blog entry. But I'm ready and willing to engage it. One immediate question comes to mind: How would life in Christian perspective look like when implementing such changes as I am doing? Or what might get to the heart of what some may be thinking: Am I advocating a return to unhealthy church/state liaison's of the past that caused untold oppression & bloodshed?


In point of fact, advocating an "other-centeredness" about life, which is at the heart of my advocating a Christian-based repudiation of Capitalism, is exactly what will address these issues quite nicely. The Church ought to think of itself as like The Red Cross (an apt if imperfect analogy I cant remember where I heard): As a separate entity from Government that engages with society, challenging everyone towards implementations of peace & justice, as much as is humanly possible.

And what if future generations feel the need to go to war on behalf of the Secular Nation? Try the best to talk them out of it. but if they must go, make sure that when they come back, they are handed 2 things: A Bible and a Shovel. One for preaching to the lost and the other for rebuilding. And then send them back into the field from which they just came. And then begin to think about where else we can implement other-centeredness at the heart of Christian life.


Some other issues need ot be addressed in regards to this. No doubt people will talk about the simpleness of the disciples and Paul calling all his accomplishments in the flesh as refuse for the sake of the Kingdom as a rebuttal to my pro-education stance. That will be taken up soon, in anothe rentry.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Unjust Sex Offender Laws and Prosecutions: YOU could be the next victim!

Trailer for the Sean Penn Documentary "Witch Hunt"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0C2aQprdIM&feature=player_embedded

I've seen this documentary and it's very good, if also very disturbing. It's scary to think we live in a country that allows such "Cowboy Law Enforcement" -as they call it. Except my Dad, God rest his soul, was an actual Cowboy and he wouldn't be anywhere near as stupid. Good that this movie was made, and that Sean Penn is lending his name and clout behind raising awareness of this travesty- of falsely accusing adults of sexual crimes against children. More can be learned about it at http://www.witchhuntmovie.com/.

Speaking of false or specious accusations, the blog ConstitutionalFights has this to say about the Sex Offender Registry and why many who are on it don't belong there:

1. Romeo and Juliet liaisons, false accusations of vindictive teens against an older teen (18 or 19).

2.False accusation by vindictive parents in child custody cases and/or family feuds- There are more of these than most people would believe. There are many reports of people who admit to having lied about being molested when they were younger. Now they would like to have the person wrongly convicted on their testimony set free.

3.Mutual consensual sex- but being 3 yrs. and 1 day older than the willing teen (can bring and has brought multiple felony indictments).

4. Sex between consenting teen prostitute (who looks older and even may have lied about her age) with an adult male.

5. Criminal charges that later are dropped for insufficient proof but not appealed in time, so still on registry.

It's a good thing that Jesus wasn't born in 21st Century America, or Joseph would be in jail right now for supposedly getting 14 -15 year old Mary pregnant. Nice thought, eh?

I realize there should be some limits on personal freedom or society will be in chaos. But when I compare US laws to age of consent laws around the globe, I gotta think we are way too Draconian.

Some more good resource websites:

Reform Sex Offender Laws Dot Org

Corrupted Justice For those who think Perverted Justice and "To Catch A Predator" are a blight on society. Reports regularly on civil Suits being brought against PJ, and Dateline NBC.

Cyber Stalking Law A state-by-state compendium of links to cyberstalking laws around the country.

http://www.freedommarchusa.org/ Infortmation about the upcoming June 27th 2009 march for awareness of wrongful convictions.

http://falserapesociety.blogspot.com/

http://www.falserape.net/index.html

http://moraloutrage.net/

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What Ralph Nader Was Right About (So Far)

Well a few of my friends who voted for Obama thought I was just "throwing my vote away" by supporting the Oregon Progressive Party candidate for President in 2008, Ralph Nader. It's true, I am bullheaded and voted for Mr. Nader three times. But in previous times, the loyalist Democrats could accuse us "Nader-traitors" of delivering the election to George W. Bush and denying Gore & Kerry the election. This despite the fact that it could be argued both men defeated themselves.

Well, they still do that. Last year while out campaigning for Nader, I met a motorist who told me that Nader had "millions of dead at his feet," for stopping Al Gore. Of course, this ignores two facts 1) Joe Lieberman was Gore's VP running mate and 2) Gore himself said Iraq had ties to terrorism and Weapons of Mass destruction:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Chn1qAn1f3w



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFBl0fnMUVc



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JE48XHKG64



Well the dreaming is now officially over. A Democrat is in the White House. So instead of talking about how much better off we COULD have been, we can now get to more important buisness at hand: The fact that we most certainly are not better off at all.

The following is a breakdown of some of the issues raised or touched on by Ralph Nader during his 2008 bid for the Presidency, and how he and we tried to warn you all. Obama is looking ore and more like Bush's 3rd term all the time.


HEALTH CARE:

As Nader put it, Canadian Style Single-Payer Health Care Insurance was off the table according to Obama. So far Mr. Obama has refused to allow single payer advocates to speak at conferences he's held with Health Insurance Industry officials on Health Care reform. Mr. Nader was in support of Single Payer during the 2008 election, and he and his supporters continue to speak out in favor of it.




IRAN:



Accoring to Counterpunch.org, Obama is talking doublespeak on Iran. On the one hand, pomises of dialogue, on the other, rhetoric about Iran developing Nuclear bombs and supporting intenational terrorism very similar to his predecessor, George W. Bush.




According to an interview with Nader on Democracy Now!, the longtime Consumer Advocate stated:

"The point is that we are exaggerating that threat instead of using diplomacy, number one. Number two, Iran does not have nuclear weapons; they're nowhere near nuclear weapons, according to intelligence estimates. Number three, Israel has 250 nuclear weapons. Does Iran really want to commit suicide? And number four, two major national security experts in Israel have been reported as saying Iran is not a problem." "Ralph Nader on Barack Obama: 'It is Quite Clear He is a Corporate Candidate from A to Z'," "Democracy Now!" interview, June 18, 2008.

FAIR TRADE:

On the Nader/Gonzales website, a call was made to replacing NAFTA with "open agreements that pull up, rather than pull down... environmental, labor and consumer standards." Evidence is that the current administration may be talking out of both sides of it's mouth as far as renegotiating NAFTA goes, as evidence in the recent debacle over trucking restrictions with Mexico. This is a shift from Obama's having campaigned on supposed intentions to renegotiate NAFTA.


WAR IN IRAQ:
Accoring to Votenader.org: "The current political strategy of pre-emptive war in the Middle East is a disaster... It has bloated the already wasteful military budget and has cost at present over 4,000 American lives, nearly 100,000 American injuries, and over a million Iraqi civilian lives. Nader/Gonzalez propose a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq. A target of withdrawing troops in six months will be set. The war is costing taxpayers nearly $4,600 every second — and that doesn’t include the long-term reconstruction costs."
Obama originally promised a 16-month timetable for withdrawl from Iraq, then fudged on that goal. It is thought that what our government may be correuntly pusrsung is not withdrawl, but long term occupation of Iraq. According to a recent Bill Moyers brodacst, the US is maintaining a fortress that passes itself off as an embassy in Bahgdad, and a similar project has been in the works for a fortress-like embassy in Pakistan, all run by independent mercenary contractors such as Blackwater. In fact, such projects have been underway since the Bush administration.
WALL STREET/AUTOMOTIVE FINANCIAL MELTDOWN:
Ralph Nader predicted the recent Wall Street meltdown, stating that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were on track to follow the same path to financial ruin the savings and loan industry headed down in the 80's & 90's. He opposed the vary same bailout that both Senator McCain and then Senator Obama voted for last year, and laid out a 10 point plan for dealing with the crisis and potential future bailouts.
Concerning a General Motors bankruptcy, Mr. Nader has said it would launch "a conclusive Death Star to tens of thousands of jobs, thousands of small businesses and adverse effects to hundreds of communities around the country." He also blasted Obama's automotive task force for forcing Crysler to cut 789 dealerships that will cost jobs and put more people in need of the government dole, costing taxpayers more to support the unemployed.

PRE-CONCLUSION:
Well, I've about burnt myself out doing this particular blog entry. I will likely pick up on these same themes as I continue to blog, and anyone can look at what I've already written for more info. It appears there is so much to talk about, and that others have does similar research to critique Obama's record and have readily avilible breakdowns of the issues at hand. Consider visiting the following:
Nader.org - Not to be confused with Votenader.org, this is Ralph's ongoing blog where you can view open letters he's written to the current adminsitration regarding various issues of the day. Suffice it to say, he lets them have it!
The Trail of Broken Promises - Written last October by Matt Gonzales, Ralph's Vice Presidential running mate. He details a long history of captulating ot the Republicans by Obama, even going back to his record as an Illinois Stare Senator. Pelosi and Reid get some of his side-swipes as well.
All I can say at this point, in regards to how much we are being taken down the primrose path- beleive me it depresses me to even type these very words- but it needs to be said:
TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Sotomayor Sorta Slimed by Pugnacious Partisan Pundits : Get OFF it and confirm her, already!

The Republican Party is fast becoming irrelevant with each passing day. No other recent event than the nomination of Federal Judge Sonia Sotomayor by President Obama to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court proves this fact.

Barrack Obama was elected President last year by a landslide. He's a Democrat. His opposition, the Republicans, want him to fail. 'Nuff said. You can't possibly get any more to the core of it than that. IF John McCain were the current president and she was nominated by him, not a peep would be coming out of their crooked mouths.

That last statement is not in the least as far out as it may seem on the surface. Ms. Sotomayor was originally appointed to the Federal Courts by then President George H.W. Bush, and none other than Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato was one of her early backers. Later, she stood with then President George W. Bush's Mexico City Policy, which prohibited the US form contributing to entities that promote abortion, writing that "the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position, and can do so with public funds." In the 2002 court case Pappas vs. Giulianni, Sotomayor dissented from her colleagues’ ruling that the New York Police Department could terminate an employee from his desk job who sent racist materials through the mail. As Wikidpedia reports, "She warned the majority about 'gloss[ing] over three decades of jurisprudence and the centrality of First Amendment freedoms in our lives just because it is confronted with speech it does not like.'"

So she was originally appointed and supported by Republican officeholders and has sided with a Republican President on abortion at least once.

And yet Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich have the balls to call her a reverse racist?

This absolutely incoherent, intellectually dishonest, and lacking in any credibility whatsoever move by individuals desperate to bring Obama down is exactly why the GOP should pack it in. Give it up, clean out your desk, call it a day. When we can't depend on an opposition party to tell us the unvarnished truth in it's pursuit of giving us access to a varying opinion and promote democracy, it's time to retire!

IF we were to believe the narrative offered by the President's opponents regarding the state of the economy, and how Obama's spending is simply going to take us further down the road to ruin, then let's focus on that issue, and stop giving up unsubstantiated moonbattery! In other words, people need to Fact Check the claims of our elected and appointed leaders. But more importantly, we need to leaders to spare us the grandstanding.

As has been constantly repeated
ad nauseum by the talking heads who make up our Television news media, the basis of the claim of some that Sotomayor is a racist rests on her "wise Latina woman" comment in her 2001 speech to the University of California, Berkely School of Law. <-- Click that link to get the full text of her speech. I'll leave to your judgment as to whether or not she deserves the caricature that has been foisted on her by certain pundits in love with the sound of their own voices. As far as I'm concerned, such fatheadedness as displayed by these two White Males in particular makes me think she had every damn right to say what she said even if she literally MEANT that a Latina Woman had better judgement than a White Male!

Furthermore, who is Limbaugh, of all people, to go around talking about Racism? The truth is, he's made several unambiguously racist statements. Click here to research verification on these, complete with audio from Youtube to back it up! Furthermore, it is a matter of historical record that the Republican party has been courting verified racists in order to win elections. Check Bob Herbert's column in the NY Times for a breif breakdown on this.

Further into the eye of the storm of controversy over Ms. Sotomayor is her taking part in a decision involving Firefighters seeking promotions in New Haven, Connecticut. From the Wikipedia article on Sonia Sotomayor:

"Sotomayor was a member of a 2008 Second Circuit panel in the high-profile case Ricci v. DeStefano that upheld the right of the City of New Haven to throw out its test for firefighters and start over with a new test, because the City believed the test had a "disparate impact" on minority firefighters. (No black firefighters qualified for promotion under the test, whereas some had qualified under tests used in previous years.) The City was concerned that minority firefighters might sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The City chose not to certify the test results and a lower court had previously upheld the City's right to do this. Several white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter who had passed the test, including the lead plaintiff who has dyslexia and had put much extra effort into studying, sued the City of New Haven, claiming that their rights were violated. After an appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case April 2009, and a ruling has not yet been issued."

Note the following about the above case: 1) A Hispanic was involved in the suit against the city of New Haven, and Sotomayor still went with how she interpreted the law. 2) The city had every reason to believe that they could be liable for a civil rights lawsuit if they didn't throw the test results out. 3) The decision upheld the precedent set by a lower court. 4) NO ONE, Black, White or Hispanic received favoritism by the city's decision, because ALL the test results were thrown out by everyone who took it. 5) It can be seen in and of itself as a case of judicial restraint, since the panel Sotomayor served on refused to override local government authority.

How does any of this amount to "Reverse Discrimination?" Answer: It doesn't!

Taking the larger view of this, one had to see the clown circus we are enduring as politically motivated by the Party Not Currently In the Whitehouse. Am I saying it's wrong to oppose and criticize President Obama? Not at all. But how about following Ralph Nader's example, and criticize the President on actual policies and things he's concretely done since taking office, instead of chasing after ghosts and fairytales?

But then you have to hand it to the Republicans, they perfected ghost stories & fairytales when the got us into the Iraq war. Ouch! Did I say something to step on someone's toes?

Many on the Right will of course, not back down from the character they have tried to paint of Ms. Sotomayor. Worlnetdaily.com, a website never noted for doing a lot of Fact Checking about anything, wallows in the longstanding traditional Conservative tactic of guilt-by-association concerning the new Supreme Court Nominee. They do this by linking her to groups that advocate the Southwestern U.S. be returned to Mexico by virtue of her membership in the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic Civil Rights Advocacy group. It didn't occur to them to ask her if she actually agrees with that idea, did it? Never mind that it's actually not really a policy of La Raza's, so much as it is one held by groups they are connected to.

But according to many pundits, her membership in La Raza makes her Racist, despite the fact that her records as a judge doesn't always side with liberal views on issues such a civil rights.

However, even pundits such as Rush Limbaugh aren't impervious to backlash, as seen in this recent video clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WpUY_SmYFyI&feature=player_embedded


And then there's the fact that she has sometimes sided with he Pro-life position. That little fact is starting to dawn on Rush Limbaugh.
Personally, I think it's great that she allowed Pro-life people to have their convictions and I say if that's any indication of how she makes decisions, confirm her now! Gasp! You mean people who aren't favorable to abortion can have their convictions and not be vilified? Can they really be seen as they are, simply people who believe in the sanctity of life, rather than as a cabal with an agenda to restrict women's freedom?

And if she turns out to be a closet Pro-lifer, good on Obama for having the foresight to pick her. And it if wins him re-election buy virtue of mollifying some of his critics, that's life in the big city, Homie!

I haven't yet touched on the issue of empathy vs. rule of law- a side show to all of this clown circus that's been swirling around Sotomayor's nomination.
But I have to say: when it comes to a human being judging another human being as opposed to the concept of "techno judges" opening their books and mechanically making rulings based on a piece of paper, I'm all for empathy! That's why- as I believe- in the Bible we find the Year Of Jubliee implemented by Yahweh partly for the purpose of economic justice - and interpretation of that particular set of laws often being used for debt cancellation.

But the most important underlying issue here is simply that any such critique of elected and unelected leaders needs to be sober, factual, and without partisan agenda. If the Republicans can't help us get there, then I repeat my earlier assertion: pack it in.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Insurance Companies Hold Billions in Tobacco Stocks

Insurance Companies Hold Billions in Tobacco Stocks � Single Payer Action

SERIOUSLY - You trust the industry to do what's best for us after this? Oh, but of course, "The Market" can correct all our problems! Ya'right! So what's our lovely "Private Sector" solution for htis kind of conflict-of-interest? It's hard for me to explain this to Pea-brained Neo-Capitlaists, because they don't have a clue how complex things really are.

Where's the "Invisible Hand" that's supposed to punish bad behavior when you need it? Obviously firmly wedged inside someone else's Cookie Jar!

More than a decade after Harvard researchers first revealed that life and health insurance companies were major investors in tobacco stocks – prompting calls upon them to divest – the insurance industry has yet to kick the habit.

A new article on insurance company holdings, published in today’s New England Journal of Medicine, shows that U.S., Canadian and U.K.-based insurance firms hold at least $4.4 billion of investments in companies whose subsidiaries manufacture cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and related products.

Tobacco products currently contribute to the deaths of 5.4 million people worldwide annually, according to the World Health Organization.

Tobacco use is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, lung disease and cancer.

“Despite calls upon the insurance industry to get out of the tobacco business by physicians and others, insurers continue to put their profits above people’s health,” said Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, the lead author of the article. “It’s clear their top priority is making money, not safeguarding people’s well-being.”

To illustrate their point, Boyd and his colleagues point to Newark, N.J.-based Prudential Financial Inc., which sells life insurance and long-term disability coverage.

With total tobacco holdings of $264.3 million, Prudential Financial is a major investor in three tobacco firms, including Reynolds American, whose subsidiary R.J. Reynolds manufactures Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes, and Philip Morris, maker of the popular Marlboro brand.

Sun Life Financial Inc., based in Toronto, sells life, health, disability and long-term care insurance. It also owns slightly over $1 billion in stock in two tobacco companies, including $890 million in Philip Morris.

London-based Prudential Plc, which offers health, disability, and long-term care insurance, has holdings of $1.38 billion in two tobacco companies, including British American Tobacco, which markets Kent and Lucky Strike cigarettes.

The researchers also itemize the substantial tobacco holdings of Northwestern Mutual of Milwaukee and Massachusetts Mutual Life of Springfield, Mass., along with those of Standard Life Plc, a health and life insurer based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Boyd and his co-authors, Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler at the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, culled their data from Osiris, a proprietary database of industrial, banking and insurance companies. Osiris draws upon Securities and Exchange Commission filings and news reports from providers like Dow Jones and Reuters.

“Although investing in tobacco while selling life or health insurance may seem self-defeating,” the authors write, “insurance firms have figured out ways to profit from both. Insurers exclude smokers from coverage or, more commonly, charge them higher premiums. Insurers profit - and smokers lose - twice over.”

The same researchers, all of whom are affiliated with Physicians for a National Health Program, first published data about the “tobacco-insurance company connection” in 1995 in the medical journal Lancet.

They say that because private, for-profit insurers have repeatedly put their own financial gain over the public’s health, readers in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom should be wary about insurance firms’ participation in care.

“These data raise a red flag about the prospects of opening up vast new markets for private insurers at public expense, as has happened in our state of Massachusetts, whose recent health care reform is often cited as a model for national reform,” the researchers found.

Randy Stonehill: "Lung Cancer Lament"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0xzZMfM44s&feature=player_embedded