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Saturday, June 27, 2009

THE 100,000 FOOT VIEW ON HEALTH CARE (Part II)


"Everyone should have health insurance? I say everyone should have health CARE...I'm not selling insurance!"
- U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D, OH) -

"The truth is that the notion of beneficial competition in the insurance industry is all wrong in the first place. Insurers mainly compete by engaging in 'risk reduction' - that is, the most successful companies are those that do the best job of denying coverage to those who need it most."
- Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman -


Fabulous blog posts on the subject of national health care continue. Burr Deming's masterful "Fair and Unbalanced" site (http://www.fairandunbalanced.com/) featured a June 25 post called "Bully For Health Care" which gave us a clever parable exposing the hypocritical folly of the Insurance Corporations and their stooges, the Congressional Republicans, clearly showing in parable form how those two allies fear real competition in health care. Mycue23, in his June 24 post "The $60 Billion Solution" at his always thoughtful and impassioned "Random Thoughts" blog, (http://hamsandwich66@blogspot.com/) dissected and destroyed the major Republican arguments against a Public Option. And KeninNY over at "Down With Tyranny!" (http://www.downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/) featured a number of outstanding pieces over the past week attacking the anti-Public Option position. A visit to the abovementioned sites would be well worth the trip, and there are many others. Today, I offer my own humble two-cents-worth; part II of my 100,000 foot view on health care, and a proposed solution for the problem of our increasingly expensive and ever more exclusive private health "care" system.

Congressional Republicans, and most of their Corporate Insurance puppetmasters, want no part of government involvement in health care. They don't care that Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA are government-run systems which seem to be providing care for their respective recipients reasonably well and reasonably efficiently, and are all government-administered. They believe the private insurance industry is doing just fine at covering medical costs for the American people, and should have no non-private competition at all. Senator John McCain (R, AZ) has stated that if taxpayers were given a (woefully) little extra money in tax credits, they could start "Health Savings Accounts" for the purchase of private health insurance. He hypothesizes that insurance companies would scramble to compete for the great influx of insurance business these accounts would create, and that would lower health care costs. I say that is complete nonsense. For one thing, insurance companies are out for one thing, and one thing only: PROFIT, and as much of that as they can possibly get their greedy little hands on. They don't care in the least about the quality of health care, or who receives coverage and who doesn't. They just want MONEY---INCOME---at as least an expense as they can get it. To achieve that goal, they stop at nothing to exclude those whom they believe would pose too great a financial risk to cover, and even discontinue covering those on their rolls if that proves monetarily advantageous. For the insurance industry can and does employ a nasty little tactic called RECISSION. Just this week, I learned of the case of a woman being booted off her insurance policy immediately after a double mastectomy and before her prolonged chemotherapy sessions were to begin. Why? Because of a mere technicality the insurance company used against her. It seems the poor woman had once been treated for a completely unrelated condition, plantar's warts, and had forgotten to include this information when she signed up for the policy. They cut off support for her expensive chemo treatments on the preposterous grounds that she had withheld information on a preexisting condition! Outrageous, to be sure, but it can and does happen to people constantly, and it illustrates perfectly the cut-throat, uncaring, and greedy nature of that overly profit conscious industry. If you are a diabetic, or have had cancer or a heart attack, you may as well forget about getting health insurance on your own. It simply won't happen; you are considered too great a risk, even though you need good health care even more than a similar individual without your history. The ONLY way you will become insured is to become grandfathered in through a work or spouse's insurance plan. These examples prove Paul Krugman's quote at the top of the page. Another flaw in the McCain position is that, under his idea, health care would not by any means be universal. Insurance companies would still be able to cherry-pick whom they would cover, just as they do today. There would be no outside pressure to keep costs down as well. So McCain's plan, as well as those of other Congressional Republicans, is a lot of malarkey which wouldn't change a thing. Yet they press on, irrationally, with their opposition to a Public Option. Senator Charles Grassley (R, IA), even went so far this week as to say that any Congressional proposal for a Public Option would be a deal-breaker. I say McCain, Grassley, and all other Republicans and Democrats who take up this anti-Public Option, pro-private insurance status quo position should resign their seats at once and get off the public payroll permanently! For their advocacy is clearly not for the well being of the American people they are being paid to represent and look after, but rather for the protection of profit for an already overabundantly profitable industry which enriches a scant few to the detriment of a great many.

Conservatives (especially Republicans) are also trying to scare us away from a Public Option with exaggerated or even untrue horror stories of inefficiencies of public health care, long delays in receiving treatment, inability to chose your own doctor, etc., etc., etc. They threw all these terror tales out before to defeat the 1994 Clinton plan, and they are as false now as they were then. A liberal friend of mine forwarded me a May 25 conservative National Review piece this past week. It was a scare story written by John C. Goodman a fierce opponent of public health care and founder, president, and CEO of the conservative Dallas-based think tank National Center for Policy Analysis. Mr. Goodman has been named by the Wall Street Journal and other such pro-free market publications as "the father of health savings plans." It is easy to see which side of the bread slice he puts his butter on. His contention was that public plans in other countries are poor systems which have long, potentially deadly, delays in treatment. Another related report told the scare story of a 17 week delay for surgeries under the Canadian system. As I have stated in my prior post, my Canadian acquaintances have all told me that treatment delays are the exceptions rather than the rule, and that nearly all delays come in the areas of cosmetic, elective, or non-life-threatening procedures. As these people have actually experienced treatment under their Canadian system, I place far more credence in their testimony than I do in an article written by an anti-government involvement, pro-free market partisan with a pro-business agenda. Aside from those allegations, preventing unnecesary bureaucratic delays can and should be a cornerstore for ANY American Public Option plan. Delays do NOT have to be an automatic feature of such a system, provided that system is set up and administered properly! After all, common "wisdom" once held that the Italian train system would always run late, and that Mussolini would never get them to run on time. Yet he did. We, too, can defy the detractors with a properly administered government health care plan. YES WE CAN, YES WE MUST, and YES WE WILL!!!

The time has come for we in the United States to cut to the chase on this nagging problem of health care. Taking the 100,000 foot view, we are beset by problems of unequal coverage and ever-rising expense. Health care, just like water and electricity, is something everyone alive needs and uses. It is a commodity in that regard. It is required for life and must be considered a basic human right, not a privilege that only a select number can afford or will be allowed to have. Therefore, I propose that HEALTH CARE BE DECLARED A PUBLIC UTILITY, WITH PRIVATE INVOLVEMENT AND OPERATION, AND EVEN PROFIT, BUT BE PLACED UNDER A STRICT, YET NEGOTIABLE, FORM OF GOVERNMENT REGULATION. As with electric or water utilities, the control of and administration of this health care utility could be done at a district, state, or regional level, with rates and policies set by a regulatory board to whom private and public clinics, hospitals, and administrators could petition and have input with on a regular basis. There you go, conservatives and Republicans: no total ownership by the government; private participation and profit, but this time by actual providers of real health care to all the population, not just by an unnecessary, cumbersome, and expensive group of greedy middlemen known as insurance companies. Gone forever would be excessively high executive salaries of piggish insurance company boards, exclusionary and recission policies, and ever-demanding hordes of stockholders constantly pressing for ever-higher profit.

Utilities come into being, of course, because the people or government feel that, left to its own devices, an entity may act contrary to the public good. If we ever saw a case of such an entity, it would surely be providers of health insurance!

Health care utilities could be funded by a combination of income taxes and/or member/user fees as well as through direct federal back-up subsidy. Existing holders of health insurance company stock could be given health care vouchers equal to the value of their stock at the time the utility came into being, and would receive virtually free health care until the value of those vouchers was used up. In cases of death, the vouchers could be willed to relatives or significant others. Such a system would eventually provide universal and equal coverage. Nobody complains much about the electricity or water they receive from a utility rather than from a greedy, profiteering, self-interested private entity, and those engaged in providing the product or service are able to prosper, albeit not in the overblown manner health insurance companies do today. The public's health needs would be met in a universal and responsible manner. There is truly benefit in this plan for everybody. I believe it is an idea worth serious consideration!

Keep in mind, this is the 100,000 foot view on a health care solution. As we get closer to the actual ground-level of everyday individual life, a huge number of details would need to be addressed and worked out. Yet this is an important starting point for a departure that MUST be made; a departure from the existing unbalanced and unfair mess we have which is draining business and consumer alike dry, for the benefit of a relatively tiny few. For the health "care" system we currently employ enriches a very scant number, at the detriment of a great many. That system must come to an end.

If you like this idea of Health Care Utilities, write your Governor, Representative, and Senators about it. If you have a better idea to provide health care universally and reduce costs, by all means submit it to them! But DO let your government officials know that, in no uncertain terms, you will no longer stand for this unfair, costly, exclusionary private system we currently have! Let them know you want ACTION and CHANGE, and do so TODAY! And again TOMORROW! And again NEXT WEEK, and REPEATEDLY, until affordable health care truly becomes an unquestioned and automatic right and reality for us ALL!

Monday, June 22, 2009

THE 100,000 FOOT VIEW ON HEALTH CARE (Part I)



"The needs of the many far outweigh the wants of the few."
- "Star Trek"'s Mr. Spock -


In the past week, I have read some excellent posts concerning the state of our health care system. One was on June 19th, at Burr Deming's superb nttp://www.fairandunbalanced.com/ "Fair and unbalanced" blog. It gave a succinct summary of our current scenario, with Republicans and conservatives providing warnings as to why we must not adopt a public, government-run option ("...if government competes with private insurers, it will be unfair to private insurers..."). The other, a June 17 post on Marc McDonald's always thought-provoking site "Beggars Can Be Choosers.com", http://www.beggarscanbechoosers.com, points out how hypocritical "GOP politicians think it's fine to enjoy tazpayer-funded health care benefits. They just don't want these benefits for anyone else in America." Marc also urges those who believe we need a strong public health insurance option enacted this year to write letters to the editors of our daily newspapers. These posts both got me to thinking.


Months ago, I had originally intended to do an exhaustive study of the Canadian, British, French, and Dutch health care systems. each of which would be termed "socialistic" or "socialized medicine" by modern conservative Republicans. My intent was to refute, myth by ridiculous myth, all the fearful, untrue, and ignorant allegations being made against those government-run programs by Republicans. For prior to any government plan whatsoever being proposed to or released by Congress, we have already seen crazy and disparaging remarks made about a public plan from the likes of Michele Bachmann and Mitch McConnell. We are also starting to see lobbying efforts and misleading ad campaigns developing to defeat the adoption of a public plan altogether. These campaigns, begun and/or supported by wealthy, corporate profiteers and their conservative Republican pals in Congress, are all built on fear and distortion.The "Swift Boat [Lying] Veterans" ad producers from 2004 are active participants in this attempt to scare the population away from a public option. We will be seeing and hearing the latest examples of these master-deceivers on TV and radio soon, to be sure. It is shadowy forces like these who made me all the more determined to do a comprehensive study. Yet, as I began doing research and interviewing Canadians and Europeans for my framework, I discovered many differences between, and intricacies involved with, each system. So many, in fact, that I decided to abandon that approach. For such a post would require a mega-multi part installment series to do it justice, and I have neither the time nor the energy to devote to such an undertaking at the moment. So rather than get bogged down in the details of one plan versus another, I decided I would start out with a broad 100,000 foot overview of our system and take into account possible alternatives, BEFORE the full-blown Congressional debate begins. This will then be a two-part, 100,000 foot view.

This broad, 100,000 foot view reveals many cracks in what appears to be a broken system. Costs are constantly rising, well above the inflation rate. They are rapidly becoming far too high for a huge and ever-growing number of the population. Indeed, health care in the United States is nearly the costliest per capita in the entire world. According to the World Health Organization's latest study (2005), rankings of expenditures by country on health care as a percentage of Gross National Product (GNP) place the U.S. in second place overall, at a whoping 15.2% of GNP! By comparison, the so-called "socialistic" system in France ranks 10th (at 11.2%), "socialistic" Canada's ranks 18th (at 9.8%), and the most supposedly "socialistic" system of all, in the United Kingdom, comes in at number 41 (at a mere 8.2%, just over half the cost of our own)! But, with the huge percentage of our GNP going into our privately-run system, are we getting our money's worth? In relation to what citizens of those other "socialized" countries are receiving, we may not be.

A WHO study ranked U.S. citizens 24th overall in terms of life expectancy (at 70 years). This was behind "socialistic" France (3rd, at 73.1 years), "socialistic" Canada (12th, at 72 years), and the "socialistic" United Kingdom (14th, at 71.1 years). Another WHO study ranked France's health care system the best in the world overall, the United Kingdom's 18th, Canada's 30th, and ours 37th. A CIA World Factbook update just released on April 2, 2009 listing infant mortality rates per every 100,000 live births places France (3.3), the United Kingdom (4.85), and Canada (5.04), all ahead of the United States (6.26). So are we, as conservatives love to claim, with our private health care system, in posession of the best system worldwide? Are we getting the most bang for our health care buck as opposed to those living in the "socialized medicine" countries? The evidence strongly suggests we are not, and so it would seem prudent we must begin searching for a better and cheaper alternative. After all, when one person tells you that you have a tail, that's his or her opinion. When two tell you, it may very well be a clique. But when three or more tell you that you have a tail, you had at least better turn around and have a look, right?

Congressional Republicans, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers do not want a public health care option to compete against the current private system. They know that most of us would opt for the more reasonably-priced public system. The GOP prefers things just as they are, with 1 in every 6.5 of us uninsured, unable to afford high private insurance premiums, and with the insurance firms and pharma houses reaping billions in profits each year. They like the system whereby these greedy entities can raise prices at will. The oft-made Republican claim that the "free market" regulates and corrects itself is absolute nonsense here, just as it has proven to be in the fields of mortgage banking and energy. As in those sectors of the market, competition has NOT kept prices down at an affordable level. Instead, we have seen exclusion, price-fixing, wild and irresponsible speculation, and wholly unecessary excesses like exorbitant executive board salaries. Rather than self-regulating, this "free market" of private health care has only enabled the wealthy and big members of our medical/industrial complex to maximize excessive profit for themselves while excluding millions of Americans from coverage and effectively dictating treatment methods, medicine dosage, and hospital-stay lengths to those they do cover. So long as corporate insurance and pharma execs can pay themselves multi-million dollar annual salaries, that's perfectly ok with Republicans. Meanwhile, though, nearly 50 million Americans remain uninsured and are subject to bankruptcy in cases of catastrophic illness, and millions of elderly are forced to choose between medication and food at certain times of the month. There is no rational excuse or defense for this blind and cold-hearted Republican wish to keep things exactly as they are today!

I see the major problems with our existing setup as being unequal coverage and blatantly excessive profiteering by some from the illness and suffering of others. Congressional Republicans and their wealthy corporate allies see instead a major problem in replacing or modifying this system, as doing so would cut back on profit for already massively profitable businesses. Clearly, theirs is a case of severely mistaken priority. In this prosperous country, health care must be a human RIGHT for ALL, not just a privilege for the portion who can afford it. We have no problem with ensuring and mandating that education be made available for all citizens. So too should it be with health care.

We are now starting to hear horror stories of long office waits, delays in receiving treatment, high costs, inability to choose one's own doctor, and a litany of other allegations against government-run health care coming from defenders of the status quo. These are distorted claims, exaggerations, and outright lies being made to scare everyone away from a public option. If your doctor appointment is for mid or late afternoon under our current system, though, you invariably experience a long wait, as physicians often overbook. With a public plan, the universal accessibility may indeed increase waiting time. but the institution of high co-pays for office visits should discourage unnecessarily frequent doctor visits for trivialities. Regarding treatment delays, my Canadian, English, and Dutch acquaintances all assure me that, in their experience, the only delayed treatments involve those for optional, cosmetic, or non-life-threatening conditions. In other words, it may take some time to get a non-cancerous mole removed, or to have liposuction, or a face-lift. But your emergency appendectomy, heart attack, stroke, or car crash injury receive immediate treatment, just as they do here now. After all, Canadians aren't dropping dead on the streets of Toronto or Winnipeg or Vancouver due to delayed medical care, nor are Brits on the streets of London or Manchester, nor the French on the streets of Paris or Marseilles. As for costs, we have already seen how much less of their GNP the citizens of "socialized medicine" countries pay for health care than we do with our greedy private system, even taking into account the higher income taxes paid in these "socialist" countries. (Perhaps if our own millionaires and billionaires paid a fairer share of taxes, as they do in Canada and Europe, our own costs may drop a bit)? So many of the anti-public option elements who profit handsomely off of the sickness of others present a standpoint without much merit and are simply offering mere expressions of self-interest. This current system cannot be allowed to remain as it is any longer.

The 100,000 foot view of our health care system reveals many flaws and injustices. We should be ashamed of a system which places excessive individual profit well ahead of the common good, and we should replace such a system with one that allows for, at the very least, some real competition from the public sector. 72% of voters favor a public option and 57% have even expressed willingness to pay higher taxes for it.

Marc McDonald's advice is sound: we should all write letters to the editors of our newspapers and favorite magazines. We should also write, email, and/or call our Congresspersons to let them know this costly and unjust system MUST be reformed - NOW!

UP NEXT: Part II in this series, in which I will make a radical new proposal for change. I promise: it will be a briefer post.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2009 HEAD AND HEART AWARDS








Regular followers of this blog know I have had a propensity to focus on many of the problems in our country as well as on those whom I believe are contributing, or have contributed to, those problems. I have done so to draw attention to the many flaws we have in this country, in hopes that an improvement can be made. I will continue doing so on a regular basis.

Near year's end last year, I started what will become an annual December feature, which I called "Bozo of the Year." It portrayed some of the fools and clowns in public life whose antics were deserving of ridicule. I thought, today, I would take an opposite approach and begin another annual feature, this one near mid-year, which will spotlight those individuals of today or the relatively recent past whose contributions to humanity and/or our country have been so spectacular and noteworthy that they should be lauded near and far as good examples of what we as humans can achieve, if we only put our minds to it. After all, not everything going on in the world is doom and gloom. So here is the first installment of this annual mid-year feature I will name "Head and Heart Awards." The individuals shown here have used their heads and hearts to produce great things for humankind. They should serve as inspirations to us all to DO something, using OUR heads and hearts, on behalf of our fellow brothers and sisters, rather than merely sitting back complacently enjoying the relatively good life we have experienced here in the United States.

Honorable mention for the award this year goes to former Senator Chuck Hagel, who was a Republican from Nebraska. I did not always agree with Senator Hagel on economic matters (he was a big supporter of "trickle down" economics and the Bush tax cuts, both of which I hated), but I admired his straight-talk and deep conviction to what he believed was right. He never engaged in the doubletalk or misspeak we have heard so repeatedly in recent years coming from so many Republicans. He served the country as a young man in Vietnam, and again served it, and well, by voting his conscience in the Senate. Like a number of moderate Republicans, he grew disenchanted with the direction the country was being pushed in by the neocons of the George W. Bush administration, and he became a vocal critic of our misguided imperialistic war in Iraq. We could use more honest clear-thinkers like him in our government, and it is a terrible shame he is no longer serving. Straight-shooting, level-headed people like Chuck Hagel could really straighten out the GOP and contribute a great deal more to our nation. I certainly hope we have not heard the last of him!

Another Honorable Mention goes to Investor/Philanthropist Warren Buffett. The man was an absolute genius at making money and investments grow. Currently the 2nd wealthiest man in the world, Buffett donated a huge share of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2006. The $30.7 BILLION he donated has been, and will continue to be, used for a wide variety of benevolent causes, ranging from global health and children's vaccine programs to financial services for the poor to international agricultural development to educational programs to libraries, and many, many other endeavors as well. Buffett had the wisdom to see that our economy was being ruined by the neocon Republican Bush crowd, so he threw his support solidly behind Barack Obama for President.

Yet another Honorable Mention goes to the late great Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. Had Senator Wellstone not died in a mysterious plane crash just before the 2002 elections, he would undoubtedly have just been reelected to a fourth term. How he would have enjoyed the Democrats' return to power, and how effectively he would have continued working for the poor and middle class! For Wellstone knew that government can and should be an aid to and protection for the weak and the average person. He knew the little guy seldom gets a break in our society and in government, and that the wealthy and powerful often get all the attention and government favors. So he made a conscious effort to deliver for the average person in our country. Regrettably, he is gone, but we could use an entire Congress filled with Paul Wellstones!

Third place for this award goes to Senator Ted Kennedy. Yes, in his younger days, Teddy was recklessly wild and carefree, and this behavior led to the death of a young lady as well as the eventual breakup of his first marriage. He didn't use his head in those days. But for a good many years now, Kennedy has made up for lost ground. He has straightened out his personal life and become one of our hardest working Senators. Born to privilege, he could have easily become a George W. Bush and used government to reward his ego and further enrich the already well to do. But Senator Kennedy has spent his entire 46 years of public service to advance the cause of the disadvantaged and to help enable government to be a positive force for fairness and opportunity for the downtrodden. Now in the autumn of his years, and suffering from terminal brain cancer, he is still working tirelessly on a project he has long championed: national health care for every American citizen. I greatly admire his tenacity, and I hope THIS current Congress will be able to deliver his dying wish of affordable health care for all.

Second place goes to our current President, Barack Obama. A brilliant student, he could have easily gone straight from college into a lucrative, cushy career in corporate law. But instead, he sacrified great wealth to live a very modest life as a low-paid community organizer in service to the poor on the south side of Chicago. He taught those in need how to develop themselves and pull themselves up from despair. He showed us all that our country is still a place where even those in the humblest of surroundings can rise and shine. He showed the world that hope can be acted upon and turned into reality when he became the first African-American to be elected President. He continues to work tirelessly on behalf of all citizens and realizes there is room at the national table for all people, not just the wealthy and powerful. He is using his head and his heart in a positive way, for all the people, by joining Ted Kennedy in the fight for a national health care program. I support his efforts wholeheartedly and hope he will find great success with his people-oriented agenda.

My first place winner of this year's (2009's) Head and Heart Award goes posthumously to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent many years selflessly tending to the needs of the poor, the orphaned, the sick, and the dying in Calcutta, India, and all over the world. Hers was not the lifestyle of a detached, comfortable charity director. No, she rolled up her sleeves and got her hands really dirty, working in and among the filth, stench, disease, and discomfort of some of the most horrible slums in the world. She constantly sacrificed and gave of herself for the comfort of others, and did so for nearly 50 years, from 1950 until her death in 1997! By the time she died, she had established an incredible 4,000 clinics to tend to the needs of the wretchedly poor. Mother Teresa exemplified many of the finest attributes of Christianity. Hers was a world of doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Hers was not to condemn others or turn them away for any reason. When asked why she worked so hard for the poor and miserable, this remarkable woman replied unhesitatingly, "Each one of them is Jesus in disguise." Another time, she stated, "I am a little pencil in the hands of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." Mother Teresa's selfless devotion to others, especially those in dire need, should be studied by every government leader and every business CEO in the world. Our planet would be much better off if this were to happen. Though she has been gone for 12 years now, her beautiful example of selfless, activist love will shine for the rest of time and serve as a daily example of how to live for each of us. For it is not only the powerful or wealthy who can benefit from her example. We ALL can, by daily following her simple advice: "Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

FACES OF A WEAK NATION
















Last night, two thousand conservative Republicans met for their annual Senate-House fundraiser. It was a chance for hardcore, far right conservatives to all get together and hear more pronouncements of certain doom for the country because Barack Obama is President and conservatives no longer control all three branches of government. The purpose of this meeting, of course, was to raise funds so the now-reactionary Republican Party can recapture both houses of Congress and the White House and thus once more become the dominant, controlling, and majority party of the country.

It is wonderful to have dreams and aspirations, but, barring a catastrophic miracle, the GOP will not be realizing its dream very soon, if ever. Last night's gathering raised only $14.5 million, compared to $21.5 million in 2007 and $27 million in 2006. It would appear that normally sure-bet fat cats aren't quite as eager to support the Grand Obsolete Party as they once were.

Last night's conservative fest had Newt Gingrich as the keynote speaker and conservative actor Jon Voight as master of ceremonies. Gingrich sounded all the familiar themes about how bureaucrats shouldn't run businesses and that Obama's economic stimulus plan is already failing. No mention was made of how conservative Republican economic policies created the deep recession we're in, of course, or how the Bush tax cuts for billionaires and corporations did not create high-paying jobs and industries here as promised but instead put a huge number of low-paying jobs and industries into China while loading up the wallets of CEOs here. No, you'll never hear conservative Republicans be that forthright or honest. Jon Voight stated he was "embarrassed" by President Obama (but not by his bumbling, inarticulate predecessor?), calling Obama a "false prophet" and saying, "we are becoming a weak nation." Weak nation, Mr. Voight? Really? Which nation were you talking about?

I presume Mr. Voight was referring to the dwindling nation of ultra conservative, short-sighted, wealthy, fundamentalist religious right, hedonistic, xenophobic, homophobic, and paranoid people who now overwhelmingly control today's Republican Party. They put pursuit of profit well ahead of the common good. They believe God smiles only on the wealthy and on big business. They are weak on shared prosperity and strong on self interest. Bellicose bullies all, they are weak on international cooperation and diplomacy, while being strong on preemptive military aggression. They are weak on knowledge and insight, but strong on suspicion and fear. They are weak on preserving civil liberties but strong on interrogation techniques like torture. They are weak on law, like following international treaties and observing long standing precedents like the writ of habeas corpus, but strong on authoritarian edict and unilateral action.

So as Mr. Voight gazed out over the crowd of 2,000 he was addressing, he was indeed seeing a weak nation before him. A nation weak on decency. A nation weak on diversity. A nation weak on moral principle. A nation weak on fairness. A nation weak in understanding. A nation weak in depth. A nation weak in ideas and strategy. A nation weak on substance. He was seeing the nation of Republicans and modern conservatives, much like, but not limited to, the faces of those shown above. It is indeed a weak, weak nation and is in need of a massive overhaul. But it is not America.


It is, thankfully, a shrinking land all unto itself.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND THE AMERICAN WAY



Superman, where are you? Aren't you the one who fought for Truth, Justice, and the American Way? After fleeing the exploding planet Krypton, wasn't it here you chose to stay because we were a fair-minded nation of opportunity and equality for all? We could sure use some of your super-powered aid right now, Superman. We seem to have lost our way, or to have become confused about the true and noble meaning of those important words.

Take Truth, for example. Superman, it seems to be in preciously short supply nowadays. We just left a presidential administration (that of George W. Bush) who apparently didn't know the meaning of the word. They lied to us about their economic agenda, saying that huge tax cuts for the rich would guarantee the creation of millions of good paying jobs and prosperity for average Americans. They told us that deregulating businesses would help grow them and make them healthier. But what happened instead was that good paying jobs here were sent overseas to cheap foreign labor markets, while corporate CEOs stuffed their pockets with giant wads of cash. And our product quality and safety declined and our economy collapsed. That administration also told us that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, when they didn't. They lied us into war there, a bloody and costly and unnecessary war for plunder and profit. They lied about many other things too, Superman. Their former Vice President, Dick Cheney, is STILL going around lying. And a TV news network lied for them every day, and still does now. A widely-heard radio commentator named Rush Limbaugh has been constantly lying on the air for years. So much for Truth. All of these people have been getting away with big lies for decades now. Haven't you noticed, Superman? What IS Truth nowadays, anyway? It's getting harder and harder to tell all the time!

And Justice. That is also in extremely short supply today, Superman. Scooter Libby, one of the former Vice President's top aides, was convicted of perjury but never served any time because the former President commuted his sentence. Meanwhile, hundreds of other poor and minority people get wrongly convicted all the time and spend long sentences in jail for lesser crimes. Sure doesn't seem like Justice to me. That administration also began an illegal war overseas, began kidnapping and holding without trial persons they thought were suspicious, and instituted the use of torture in direct violation of American and international law. TORTURE, Superman! The very same acts we prosecuted Nazis and Imperial Japanese for in 1946! That administration even redefined it to make it look like it wasn't torture, even though it still was. And now the current administration is apparently letting the former administration get away with it! Where is the Justice in that, Superman? I don't see it---maybe with your x-ray, microscopic, or telescopic vision you can find it for me. And wealthy corporate CEOs export jobs, set up dummy companies offshore to avoid paying taxes, freeze their workers' pay rates, make health care and prescriptions so expensive that 1 in every 6.5 of us can no longer afford health insurance (while some even have to choose between buying food or prescriptions), and then these same already wealthy CEOs reward themselves with exorbitant, ever-rising salaries and bonuses. Congress turns a blind eye to all of this. Superman, would you please use some of your super strength on all of these scoundrels and squeeze a little more fairness, decency, and responsibility out of them? They're getting away with economic murder, and that sure ain't Justice!

And the poor old American Way. She sure isn't what she used to be, Superman. You would be ashamed. The NEW American Way is a way of greed; of getting all you can for yourself, and to hell with everybody else. It has given overly profit-hungry, malignant artificial institutions like corporations the legal rights of actual human beings and has enabled them to act legally in a very anti-social manner. It has allowed the former President to attack other countries as he sees fit and to suspend civil liberties here at home. It has allowed he and his former Vice President to reward the former Vice President's company with gigantic non-bid contracts paid for by taxpayers. It has allowed us to become unilateral bullies to the rest of the world. We set up institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and WTO to supposedly aid poor, developing countries, but give them money only if they meet strict criteria for spending it which benefits our own institutions tremendously while doing little for the poorer country. And Superman, pregnancies can be ended before they come to term if a person chooses, and an extremist who belonged to a "pro-life" group has just KILLED, IN A CHURCH, a doctor who performed that type of procedure, and numerous other "pro-lifers" like Ann Coulter have applauded the action, although others have not. That has now become the American Way, Superman, and it's pretty ugly.

So Superman, where have you gone? Were you driven away by neocon or miltary/industrial complex volleys of kryptonite? Or have you left in utter disgust at what this nation has now become? As the old adage goes, "when the cat's away, the mice will play." Well, the mice have certainly been playing, and now we need your help as never before. Please fly back here at super speed and make your presence known, will you? Use your heat vision to make crooked corporate CEOs, their lobbyists, and their bought-out pals in Congress start to sweat. Please sit down with the President and Congress and get them back on track. Blow away corrupting special interest influence with your super breath. And with your invulnerability, protect noble, progressive, for-the-people Congresspersons and our President from attacks by greedy corporations and horribly misguided right wing pundits. Will you, Superman?...Superman...?...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A TALE OF TWO DICTIONARIES


Welcome to the English language! This is a wondrous place where words can have many different meanings or interpretations. It seems that Democrats and Republicans don't see eye to eye on nearly everything these days. Each has such a widely differing perspective on the world it seems almost as if each was IN a different world! I thought it might be fun to explore these different perspectives in a unique and original way. I therefore now present you with two books: a Democratic Dictionary and a Republican dictionary. A series of words are presented below. Under each word, D:= the Democratic definition of that word, and R:= the Republican definition. For each word, see which response most closely portrays YOUR world view! As you do this, you may even experience a chuckle or two...

abortion
D: 1 early termination of a pregnancy 2 an act, protected by law, undertaken as a matter of a woman's choice
R: 1 murder of a fetus 2 an act of supreme irresponsibility legalised by an activist Supreme Court

activist
D: 1 a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct, vigorous action especially in support or opposition to one side of a controversial issue 2 one who takes action on behalf of a minority or the downtrodden
R: 1 one who favors the lazy 2 an undesirable characteristic of a Circuit Court Judge or Supreme Court Justice

big government
D: 1 a government with many departments or agencies working on behalf of the people 2 a bad thing when Republicans run it
R: 1 an oversized, costly, inefficient, meddlesome body of oppression 2 a perfect body when controlled by conservatives

bipatisan
D: 1 referring to, or involving, two parties 2 involving cooperation, agreement, or compromise between two political parties
R: 1 referring to, or involving, two parties 2 an act performed by one political party with as few as one member of another political party going along with it

conservative
D: 1 tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions 2 one who favors government regulation of social actions 3 one who favors government aid to business but not individuals 4 one who favors his country's domination of the world 5 a cheapskate 6 a wing nut
R: 1 a red-blooded American who follows the principles of Ronald Reagan 2 a hard worker who opposes government aid to those who won't work 3 one who believes in a strong national defense 4 one who believes in Christian family values 5 a thrifty person who doesn't believe in the unnecessary spending of money

corporation
D: 1 a classification of privately or publicly held business created by state charter, with elected officers, which is given specific taxation and bankruptcy protections 2 a greedy, malignant, profit-at-all-costs form of business which typically exploits workers, takes unfair tax advantages, and cheats the public, for the benefit of its own stockholders and board of directors
R: 1 a business refuge, and form of protection, from excessive taxation 2 a model way of structuring a business which affords insulation and protection from all outsiders 3 an organization geared to producing massive profit for its board of directors and shareholders 4 a shining example of "the American Way"

Democrat
D: 1 a member of the Democratic Party, the oldest existing political party in the world 2 a person who believes in the political and social equality of all people
R: 1 a member of the Democrat Socialist Party 2 a liberal 3 a bleeding heart who believes in throwing money at problems 4 a politician who favors taxation, and is weak on defense and therefore endangers our national security

extremist
D: one who holds unusual, twisted, or threatening ideas, or engages in such actions
R: 1 anyone who disagrees with conservatism 2 any Democrat Socialist

fact
D: 1 an undeniable truth 2 something which can be supported by solid, tangible, empirical evidence
R: 1 something which is always open to an alternate explanation 2 something which can be altered for own's own benefit 3 something to be ignored

Fascism
D: 1 a system of government led by a dictator with complete power which uses the state to reward business and military with large contracts 2 the antithesis of socialism
R: 1 anything President Obama or any other Democrat does 2 socialism

free trade
D: unlimited trade between countries free from government restriction or duties 2 a form of trade developed to exploit cheap foreign labor, escape environmental or safety regulations, to destroy labor unions, and to overcome the power of government to regulate business 3 a form of trade which enriches huge multinational corporations at the expense of labor in all countries involved
R: 1 pure, laissez-faire capitalism as capitalism should be ideally practiced 2 a form of trade devised to maximize profits to the fullest extent

illegal immigrant
D: 1 a person who has entered another country without proper papers or who has snuck across a border undetected 2 an alien fleeing oppressive conditions or poverty in their own country
R: 1 a stranger from a strange land to be very wary of 2 a desirable source of very cheap labor 3 a person who can help an employer break the backs of pesky, expensive labor unions 4 one who will do jobs Americans won't do 5 an employee you pay in cash and hide from the government

Liberal
D: 1 one who favors progress or reform in matters of the economy, politics, or religion 2 favorable to, or in accord with, maximum amounts of individual freedom, civil liberties, and equality protected by law 3 one who believes the government has a duty to protect the people as a whole from the excesses of concentrated capital 4 generous
R: 1 a weak person who hates America, does not have Christian values, wants to tax you heavily, and will take your guns away from you 2 a Democrat Socialist 3 wasteful with money

Medicare
D: a humane U.S. government program of hospitalization insurance and voluntary medical insurance for the elderly and certain disabled persons
R: a costly bleeding heart Democrat program of socialized medicine

patriot
D: 1 a person who loves and supports his or her country with strong devotion 2 a person who defends his or her country from those who wish to attack or limit the legal or social freedom of others
R: 1 a person who loves and supports his or her country with strong devotion 2 a person who supports limiting individual freedoms during wartime 3 a person who enthusiastically supports or fights for anything a conservative Republican President wants, says, or does

preemptive war
D: 1 an illegal military strike against another country to prevent a perceived military strile by that country 2 an aggressive act of war undertaken by an unstable, paranoid government against another sovereign country
R: 1 a wholly justified military strike against another country to prevent a certain military strike by that country 2 a preventive military strike against another country justified by false propaganda and then lied about ever after

President
D: the elected, titular leader of the country who serves as commander in chief of the military and head of the executive branch of government
R: the leader of the country, who can do anything he or she wishes without question or oversight, and must be supported by all if he or she is a conservative Republican, but if he or she is a Democrat, must be opposed and questioned unendingly on everything

Republican
D: 1 a member of a rapidly shrinking, ever more exclusive, ever more extreme, ever more intolerant, ever less relevant political party who supports reactionary social and economic values 2 one who supports strong government regulation of social behavior 3 one who favors big business and the wealthy over all else, and who who cares nothing about the poor or anything else 4 a paranoid who constantly sees threats to his or her country all around him or her 5 an advocate of military action whenever possible
R: 1 a member of the most righteous and morally responsible political party of all time 2 a true Christian 3 a supporter of business who hates government regulation and taxes 4 one who is suspucious of foreigners and supports a strong military to keep the rest of the world in line

Social Security
D: 1 a government system to provide a guaranteed supplemental income for all citizens who are retired or disabled 2 a safety net to provide economic security for old age or those with disabilities
R: 1 a pension plan forced on you by the government 2 a way for the government to take money from you without your approval

spin
D: untrue, distorted or exaggerated statements made to bolster or protect an argument, position, or political figure
R: any fact or statement spoken by a Democrat

eaxation
D: 1 a system devised to pay for the costs of providing government 2 the dues people pay for belonging to a civilized society
R: 1 theft from the individual by government 2 a fine imposed on those who produce profit or wealth 3 a fee to avoid paying at all costs

teamwork
D: the act of individuals working together to realize a common goal or accomplishment
R: when a Democrat cooperates with you to give you what you want

terrorist
D: 1 one who uses acts of terror to gain attention or coerce for a cause 2 a member of a radical Islamist sect dedicated to the destruction of western culture
R: 1 all Muslims 2 anyone who opposes or takes up arms against any American military venture

torture
D: 1 to punish or coerce by inflicting tremendous psychological or excruciating physical pain 2 an illegal act of coercion including, but not limited to, waterboarding, sensory deprivation, or severe physical pain 3 a war crime
R: 1 an act undertaken to obtain intelligence for national security 2 an act that is legal if ordered by a conservative Republican President or Vice President 3 not an act of waterboarding, no matter what anybody says

welfare
D: financial or other aid provided to people in need
R: 1 tax money undeservedly given to lazy people who won't work 2 improper income redistribution 3 a desirable and recommended form of government financial support given to large corporations


Confused? So was I, until I remembered that most of what Republicans have been saying the past ten to fifteen years has not been in English, or necessarily true, and that most of their current political thought is irrational nonsense. Revealing and interesting, isn't this?