Dec 23, 2009

Progressives to Obama: Mr. President, Please Explain Why You Changed Your Mind on Health Care.... [and, a reminder of what Obama used to say]

We have an obligation to remind the president what he was saying not so long ago. He must explain to us why he's failed to set the agenda on health care reform. Why he has been so accommodating to the likes of Nelson, Baucus, Snowe, Lieberman and the insurance industry? The progressive base gave the impetus to his candidacy. The majority of voters wanted change--which meant anything but Bush, and ultimately, good reforms that would benefit the middle class and the poor. Well, where are those reforms? Those reforms that would come from exercising leadership and spending of political capital, not the easy ones from signing executive orders.

When candidate Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he was rejecting the plans offered by Hillary Clinton and McCain. He stated that he wanted a public option as the best way to control costs and make the broken system competitive. Now, we hear, he's ready to sign on to a reform that does not include a public option.

The current system is unsustainable. Premiums, co-pays, deductibles have risen much, much higher than wages, while the costs of providing health care have skyrocketed. The Senate version of this bill will cover more American but what does this mean? Can you be covered when you can't afford the co-pays or the high deductibles? Further, if you get help to do so, then we're shoveling lots of money to the insurance companies who will keep doing what they've been doing and have more customers with public money!

It's insane that our leaders don't address the following shameful fact: The US is the only advanced democracy where patients (and their families) can go bankrupt because of medical bills! The majority of bankruptcies in this country are due to medical expenses. Of those, 3/4 have had "insurance." It's insane.

Listen to this interview on WNYC public radio. It's a critique of the suggested changes.

Dec 17, 2009

A Study Case of Failure in Leadership. Yeah, it's the Democratic President & Congress! [Can They Recover?]

WARNING: The following video is funny. (oh, and it uses ..pedestrian language). Buffer the video if you don't have a fast internet connection.

Should every American have equal access to quality health care? This is the only question that matters in this debate. As for the money a proper universal coverage would cost we can certainly afford it. It all depends how we spend the money. Of course, if we spend 50 cents on the dollar for military purposes, they we won't afford it, but clearly it's an obvious matter of priorities.

Any number floated out there by proponents or opponents to reform sounds good to me. Let's say it's $1 trillion for the next 10 years? So what? It's $100 billion a year to cover 300-310 million Americans. It's probably less than $1 a day for each of us! Meanwhile, we're all charged five times that much for military expenditures. Are we buying so much more security--the kind that saves lives like proper and available medical care? We spend more that the whole world combined on military, yet we are not as secure, and, by the way, we aren't as healthy as other advanced democracies! But, we have a system that's heavily influenced by people who don't share in the burdens. Leaders send the kids of others into battle. They have great health benefits that the rest of us, apparently, don't deserve! And, they set up huge corporations that enjoy the profits in private pockets while the risk is often socialized!

We've tried the private insurance approach it hasn't worked. Like it didn't work when NYC had private fire companies. The health care system has failed 1/3 of the people in this country--either because they don't have insurance or they're under-insured. We all pay for this mess, well except for those few who rake in huge profits. This is the only advanced country where you can go broke (bankruptcy) because of medical bills. It has failed to contain costs and increase meaningful competition.

The health of the community is important. The other truth is, the current system is unsustainable. I work for a big private non-profit organization and we all have medical insurance through a private for-profit company. Our premiums have risen way faster that our wages. This has been the case since the 1970s, thus, the middle class has seen dramatic increases in the cost of housing, education, and health care. Actual wages (adjusted for inflation) have remained stagnant.

If this Congress passes a monstrous bill and president Obama signs, it will be disastrous--not only for the Democratic party but for our country since millions of Americans will be without health care, the costs will not be contained, competition won't improve, and young people (18-29), who are now heavily pro-Dem, will be forced to buy into a bad and expensive system or fined if they don't. Why, do you see a problem with this? Yeah, the future's so bright I got to wear shades..

Oh, wait, there's some good news from this! You can make lots of money by buying insurance stock! Have your noticed that their value has been going up since we got news of this great bill negotiated by our leaders?!!

UPDATE: I like Paul Krugman. He's an unabashed liberal and I usually agree with him. But, this economist and Nobel laureate makes the case for passing the rumored health care bill. I may not agree with him, but here's his piece:

"A message to progressives: By all means, hang Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy. Declare that you’re disappointed in and/or disgusted with President Obama. Demand a change in Senate rules that, combined with the Republican strategy of total obstructionism, are in the process of making America ungovernable.

But meanwhile, pass the health care bill.


At its core, the bill would do two things. First, it would prohibit discrimination by insurance companies on the basis of medical condition or history: Americans could no longer be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, or have their insurance canceled when they get sick. Second, the bill would provide substantial financial aid to those who don’t get insurance through their employers, as well as tax breaks for small employers that do provide insurance.

All of this would be paid for in large part with the first serious effort ever to rein in rising health care costs."

There's a split among the progressives on what to do with the bill the Senate wants to pass. Some, like Krugman, say pass it now and amend it later. Others, like Howard Dean, say no!

On more thing. When will the Dems obtain such big majorities in both chambers of Congress plus the White House? Just wondering... I mean, if they can't pass meaningful reforms now, when will they? They'll be blamed for the financial troubles next year, especially if the unemployment figures don't improve. This is a great chance in a long while to pass good reforms that will benefit most of the people for generations to come. There were the same reactions and vapid opposition to new progressive programs like Social Security, Medicare, consumer protection, civil rights acts, and even electrification. This new president and Congressional Dems must rise to the occasion and do what's best for the country, now and in the future.

Dec 6, 2009

Is the Near Future as Good as the Present?

Maybe New Models Are Needed

As students, we didn't think all that far ahead; of course we were concerned about the future but we firmly believed in the American dream--the world was there for us to take. It's been quite some time since I graduated college, and many things have changed, but also many haven't. The middle class hasn't advanced all that much, if at all. I went to a public university so I managed to get my degrees while accumulating little debt. However, most students today graduate with a huge amount of debt--a figure that's rising about 6% a year. Project Student Debt has the numbers for graduating seniors. [pdf] The most debt-laden students are in the Northeast!

The employment prospects for graduates reflect the overall state of the US economy. Yet, US workers' productivity has increased while wages haven't followed the trend. Since 1973, real wages have remained stagnant! Read Elizabeth Warren's America Without a Middle Class to find out more. The presence of a strong middle class is very important in a stable, progressive, and fair commonwealth. Unfortunately, most of the wealth is amassed and held by the very small elite that has been using the political system to its advantage. The corporate media hardly talks about the distribution of wealth and usually distracts the audience with cheap, mindless entertainment.

I don't know whether the American people have begun to re-evaluate the conditions in our country, but there's a sense at present that the "fix is in." They believe that Wall Street is more important that Main Street, and that the government primarily serves the wealthy and powerful. On the other hand, there are too many of us who prefer myths and distractions to reality. For the life of me, I don't understand how voters elect most of the Republicans in Congress today--such a conservative bunch that has no intention to do anything good for the common folk, from consumer protection to equality of opportunity conditions. Or, that Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and so many others, have tens of millions of listeners! This does have a tremendous effect on our national dialogue and on public policy.

Now, on to education. Did you read Bob Herbert's editorial in the NY Times? He argues that the greatest national security issue in the US is the crisis in education. This isn't too far fetched, you know. Within the span of one or two generations, the effects of a largely uneducated public, the lack of real opportunities, and the lack of economic growth that matters to most people can be explosive. An empire that's losing power can also be a very dangerous thing. I could see how demagogues can convince the American public that our woes are not our fault by the fault of others, and that we must act unilaterally against our enemies! Always confusing the issues and transfer blame.

In the end, we'll collectively get what we deserve. What do you think we deserve in the near future?

Here's a popular American explaining American history and providing a solution for a better country:

Nov 28, 2009

Celebrating Charles Darwin and the Human Thirst for Knowledge

This year is a special one when it comes to celebrating our quest for knowledge by marking the 200th year of Charles Darwin's birthday and the 150th year of his seminal work on evolution--the theory that explains the mechanism by which we are here today. Most of the world in 1859 was not very scientific, which makes Darwin's discovery even more remarkable. His theory of evolution has been ferociously attacked since the day Origins was published. I could understand those who didn't have the benefit of an education in science or anything else, but to deny one of the strongest scientific theories we have today is rather incredulous.

Once, briefly, I accepted biologist Stephen Jay Gould's notion of "non
overlapping magisteria," that is, science and religion address different domains, and, therefore, claims made by these magisteria cannot be reconciled nor should they be compared. Not so, I contend today. Denying evolution, for example, is based on religious claims--a priori statements that cannot be subject to evidence or reason. This is crazy! Claims about reality must be evaluated. Religion and science both make such claims.

Think about it. They want to subject scientific theories to scrutiny by throwing some verses from ancient books at them. Darwin investigated, observed, collected evidence, established a theory that could predict, and as scientific theories go, there's a way to disprove it. Yet, disproving a strong theory must be done with evidence and reason. Darwin's basic theory of evolution has been confirmed by several other branches of science--unknown to the h
umans in the 19th century. Now, we have religious fanatics who refute this because they believe a book that was written a few thousand years ago is the absolute truth. They want to believe what ever suits their needs--and placing humans at the center of creation (of the whole universe) must feel good. What an arrogance!

The worst part of this is that they want to spread their ignorance through the public education system! Oh, and they have this expensive but utterly stupendous creation museum... where they show the Biblical version of evolution. This version has vegetarian dinos strolling around with humans. Since the courts have declared that creationism is not science, they try to label their religious doctrine as "intelligent design." Fortunately their trick hasn't worked... in most states. In some state schools, creationism is considered as an alternative theory to evolution--you know, for balance. Or, as our former president GW Bush said, "the jury is still out", teach both sides to a story. Like, teach alchemy to balance chemistry, astrology to astronomy, magic crystals to medicine.

I don't remember when I had my epiphany of reason and how I escaped with my curiosity intact, but I realized early on that education was how to better understand my own self, the human condition, and the cosmos. Alas, the more you know, the more you realize there more unknowns. Yet, the journey continues. Actually, reality is far more exciting, like the hidden colors in the visible light that are revealed by refraction! Why should there be a supernatural realm?

There's got to be a need of some sort that makes so many humans disregard reason and science. If they don't know any better, they may have a good excuse, but if they live in an advanced society they have no excuse. The powerful dictates of a culture inculcated by religion make strong shackles of the mind. By looking at US politics, one might say that ..devolution is also possible. On the other hand, our knowledge is increasing at an accelerated pace--much like the galaxies are speeding apart at an increasing rate.. ..well, except that the bigger Andromeda galaxy is heading our way on a collision course with the Milkyway.

On a more positive note, the average life of a species is about 2 million years, so by the law of probabilities, the human species may have a few more years of life left. You wouldn't know it by looking at the abundant life around us, but the Earth is a deadly place--indeed many forces in the universe are hostile to life. Some 98% of all species that ever appeared on this blue planet have been extinct. Most life is brutish, painful, fearful, anxious, poor, and short. Pain and suffering has been a constant. Some design, heh? And, if this was a laboratory to do testing on live specimens, it would have been shut down in any self-respecting society or under a moral entity.

What has elevated humanity is our ability to think, to reason, to be creative--more so than other species. We have choices to make; we can even create our own choices including our destination. But, perhaps the most amazing thing is the journey itself and the process by which we move through spacetime.

Sarah Palin Should Run for US President in 2012, and 2016

I thought of giving you my review of Sarah's book, Going Rogue, but I opted for this video of her admirers instead.

Nov 17, 2009

The Meaning of Education and the Timidity of Certain Minds

What is that You Want to Know?

It doesn't happen that often--maybe because students don't care to say anything about it--but occasionally someone in class would argue that some comments/discussions about certain belief systems are offensive and disrespectful. The other day, a student said, "I don't pay thousands of dollars to have my beliefs insulted." Presumably she meant that certain topics should be off limits because she's uncomfortable with anything that may undermine her sacred beliefs. She pays thousands of dollars to get an education--in my opinion, education means more than vocational skills--but is she interested in paying for an education that sharpens critical skills? How about, the value of arriving at a conclusion after examining the facts and weighing the validity of the arguments?

The piece of paper a university awards should mean that the title holder has critical skills, can analyze, can amend, construct reasonable arguments, connect the relevant dots, and, yes, maintain a curious mind. How about learning something that may be outside one's comfort zone? Is this valuable?

Now, on the question of respect. As a principle it's a good one: respect every individual's human dignity; respect their rights; respect their claims to own conscience and opinion. But, why should their beliefs be granted automatic respect? Yet, denying automatic respect to a point of view does not mean people don't have the right to have whatever opinion they deem appropriate or their right to express it. Simply put, I do not recognize any right of de facto respect. Opinions, theories, belief systems should be evaluated on their merits. How can anyone demand that such be afforded sacred status? What's sacred for me may be laughable to you, and I'm OK with that! So, should you!

To take it a step further, if you claim sanctity for your beliefs, it may be an indication of weakness. Instead of having the force of arguments to defend your views, you rely on censorship for protection. I realize that many people don't want to be challenged so they seek supporting views only. Of course, this is their right. Of course, it's their right to feel any way they want. They can create filters and avoid places that present challenges. However, they should be prepared to have their views tested when they enter an institution where intellectual pursuits involve critical examination of ideas and beliefs.

How do we know things? Seriously, how do we know if something is true & valid? Maybe I should ask instead, do we care to know?

If we do, then the scientific method is the best tool we have to understand and accumulate precious knowledge! This involves open discussion, challenges, reason, evidence, review, and a way to amend.

I'm naturally suspicious of claims of divine revelation. I don't think profound knowledge or truths should be revealed only in secret and to a very few people. Especially when such statements can't be put to a test or subject it to an intellectual challenge. As someone claims the right not to be offended, I claim the right to free speech and rational thought. Above all, I claim the right to be human!

And, that's my theory!

Nov 5, 2009

Teabaggers, Faux News, Loons, and Republicans Who Promote Lies & Ignorance

Today (Nov. 12, 2009), several members of Congress, including this loon Michele Bachmann, and conservatives from all necks of the woods are descending on Washington DC to "scare Congress" into scrapping the health care reform. I think this video will give you an idea of what those "teabaggers" are and what they want. Sadly, this is the kind of crap promoted by Fox Network and other conservatives--who have taken control of the Republican party.

Sometimes, the best way to debunk stupid arguments is to give more publicity to those who make them!

Nov 4, 2009

Some Thoughts on this Off-year Election of 2009

I spent last night following the election results. The most interesting outcomes were the 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York, and the referendum in Maine about same-sex marriage. Obviously, I kept checking the numbers from New Jersey; they looked bad for Corzine the moment the polls closed. So, now the Garden State has a Republican for governor. It's been a very tough year for executives, regardless of their political stripes. The Dems had more seats to defend, therefore more to lose--and they did.

I don't th
ink this off-year election can be used as a barometer for the 2010 midterm elections, when the whole House (435) and 1/3 of the US Senate are up for re-election. There will be more serious messages then about Obama's performance, the Dem leadership in Congress, and the shape of the Republican party.

In Washington State, the voters re-affirmed the legal protections & rights the legislature had given to same-sex couples. They don't call it "marriage" but it's close. I don't think it's far when most blue states will move more aggressively in a progressive direction, and it won't be long before we look back and wonder why the hell we didn't move faster--as we look back today and shake our heads in disbelief that states prohibited cross-racial marriages.

However, I think two results from this election have lots to tell us. First, the repealing of the same-sex marriage law in Maine by a small margin. I'm disappointed but there's good news here. The northeast is moving in a progressive direction. Almost half of those who voted are OK with giving same legal rights to homosexuals. In a few years, there will be a solid majority (at least on this progressive issue) in Maine. Students at the University of ME voted overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the same-sex law. One campus registered 81% support! As older generations expire, the country moves in a more progressive direction. And, this is the problem the Republican party is having nowadays. They're purging the moderates in their midst. When one GOP moderate (through his/her own devices) manages to win public office in the Northeast, the party claims victory. But, it's not the victory that comes out of the conservative ideology and the Republican party's platform.

The GOP seems to be trapped in the southern strategy--which worked for a generation or two, but not anymore. The Republican party is not a national party any more. A governor and a mayor here and there don't make a national party. If, for example, the blue state of NJ wanted the Republicans in charge, they would have thrown out the big Dem majority in the state legislature. They did not. In addition, those Republicans who manage to get elected in the Northeast are rather moderate. The Dem incumbent screws up (especially in a very tough economic environment of today) and the voters replace him with a moderate Republican.

The 23rd CD in NY showed us that the moderate Republicans are the most endangered species. When president Obama chose an upstate moderate Republican to be the Secretary of the Army, the NYS GOP picked another moderate Republican to run in the special election. But, wait, the conservative movement is controlled today by the most extreme, most conservative elements. Thus, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin [do I need to mention more names?] went out of their way to promote one of their own in the 23rd CD. The result was a Dem winning the district. He is the first Dem to represent the district since the 1800s!

Now, I'm not saying the Dem will hold this CD, but this race shows who's in control of the Republican party. It shows the direction is going into. I like it. They think that their ideology or policies [what policies besides "NO" have they proposed since they lost power?!!] aren't the problem. It's the party and the moderates who are responsible for the big defeats in the span of 2 elections, 2006-2008.

There are no Republicans represented in the House of Congress from the six states that comprise New England! Throw in New York state's 29 seats and you get only 2 Repubs. Actually, the Congressional Dems added 2 more seats in yesterday's special election.

On the other hand, I don't have the illusion the country is truly as progressive as some of us would prefer--even though the majority holds progressive ideas on many social issues. These days, we collectively are re-evaluating the role of the government. What is it that the government can do for us? Isn't, after all, our government? Did you see the recently released Prosperity Index?
It's very interesting.

Here are the indexes:

  • Economic Fundamentals – a growing, sound economy that provides opportunities for wealth creation
  • Entrepreneurship and Innovation – an environment friendly to new enterprises and the commercialization of new ideas
  • Democratic Institutions – transparent and accountable governing institutions that promote economic growth
  • Education – an accessible, high-quality educational system that fosters human development
  • Health – the physical well-being of the populace
  • Safety and Security – a safe environment in which people can pursue opportunity
  • Governance – an honest and effective government that preserves order and encourages productive citizenship
  • Personal Freedom – the degree to which individuals can choose the course of their lives
  • Social Capital – trustworthiness in relationships and strong communities.
The US ranks 9th.

Oct 31, 2009

Myths and Folklore Can be Fun in a Reality-Based World. Escape from Reality Shouldn't be a Constant!

Halloweeeeeen! Oh, I love a good old myth. Jac-O-Lantern is such a ridiculous story that's is amusing. I wish I could say the same about some other--many official--holidays, but I won't go into that today. There are many pagan elements to this fun holiday, and, of course, witchcraft. All in good fun, but not according to the CBN (Pat Robertson's tube). The fundies are afraid that "demonic influences" may be lurking in the candy, because most of the candy "sold this year has been dedicated and prayed over by witches"! This story would be funny if it weren't for the fact millions of Americans believe such things. For an advanced society, this is appalling; the lunatic fringe is too big to be on the fringes of our society--with practical implications in our culture and politics.

I think most people don't spend much time thinking about their belief systems. Obviously, Halloween is a fun holiday and nothing more than that to most people, including myself. But, it's big business in the US. In this recession times, Americans are expected to spend more this year on costumes, candy and parties than ever before. Escape from reality. I mean, it's OK to do this once in a while, but being in a alternate-reality universe can be a problem.
Religious rituals have been with humanity ever since thunder was observed. Fear and ignorance was the guiding forces behind inventing rituals to appease the gods and cope with the harsh life. It wasn't long after that the elites used religion to further entrench their privileged status and further keep people in a state of few and ignorance. I suppose if a person has no education, no access to information--other than what culture and the authorities allow--and is indoctrinated into a rigid belief system (absolutism), then it's rather impossible to escape this reality.
It's not accident that change in human societies (including certain ideas), took thousands of years to take hold. Even when there was change, including new belief systems, usually it was one absolute idea/practice replaced by another. Pagan practices gave rise to Christian ones. Actually all three Abrahamic religions have common views of human nature, morality, society, and of a god who capriciously suspends his own physical laws.
Although most of our human history has been an exercise for survival in a very difficult environment (state of nature, and man-made conditions), human have chosen the convenient whenever it was possible. Of course, primitive societies had taboos against change; change was not borne by forthought or encouragement. Some change came because of unintented consequences and/or by some brave individuals who went against the current. But, nowadays, I'd prefer a bit more of an effort to understand the world around us. A bit of an inquiry into long-held beliefs that have a direct effect on our lives. Times have changed indeed, I just wish there was a bit more rational thinking going on.

Oct 27, 2009

Leave it to the Republicans to Distort the Meaning of Freedom

I think we need to have a discussion on what freedom is. Freedom doesn't reside in the vacuum of space. It's about meaningful choices and actions. The system we have, the government we elect should make sure that the people have access to opportunity and that the whole thingy we have here is for the benefit of the commonwealth not the elites.

The Republicans say they're concerned about freedom and are afraid of big government. First, they have their priorities wrong. You don't get freedom by eliminating choice or, get this, by allowing predatory practices. Of course, they want to pay lip service to freedom--as to many authoritarian regimes--because freedom means something to many of us. So, Senator McCain introduces the "Internet Freedom Act" to destroy net neutrality and affect the people's access to information or whatever else they desire when they get on the internet.

Access to internet is becoming increasingly important in so many ways, so there should be no speed restrictions. A century ago, the railways (monopolies) tried to do the same--transport certain cargo faster while delaying others--and that was a bad thing and we remedied it through the law. It's like the electric company striking deals with appliance manufacturers so some work better in household. Why should Faux news load faster than the Liberal Citizen blog? If you have the same connection to the internet, you should be the one to decide where to go and that you have the same speed throughout your journey.

I tried, I really did, to find some redeeming features in what policies the conservatives have been pushing, but it's quite appalling. Consumer protection: Against. Environment-friendly: Against. Science: Against. Education: Against. Freedom of conscience: Against. Equal rights under the law: Against. Social safety net: Against. Health care for all: Against. Access to equal opportunity: Against. Civil liberties: Against. Civil Rights:...(you guessed it).

Oct 14, 2009

Arguments for a Balanced View? ..Or, a Balancing Act on the Edge of the Abyss?

Does this make sense to you? After all, don't you want your kids to get the best education by exposing them to different points of view and alternative theories? [tricky question]...

Watch this video and laugh or weep, or both.

There is a big problem when too many people can't figure out the logical fallacies presented by such arguments.

Because of circumstance and certain conditions prevailing in the US, our country managed to do great compared to others, but either I missed the memo or I'm reading the current trajectory of our country, we're fading fast from the self-assured "number 1" position.

A note to our leaders: don't be wimps* and narrow-minded [which doesn't mean accept any point of view as valid] and let's forge a progressive path to a more enlightened society. Stop playing stupid politics and appealing to the lowest common denominator.



*Memo to the Democrats in charge of Congress and the White House: This past election was about change. Very specific promises were made during the campaign; the people expect progressive change through bold leadership. The Republicans will not help--not when they're moving closer to the Dark Ages. Oh, and health care reform shouldn't be left on the graces of president Olympia Snowe or the DINOS [Democrats in Name Only].

Oct 9, 2009

How Morons Succeed in Politics

Appropriate for another era?

To be fair, intelligence hasn't been the golden standard for admission into US politics, and I suspect that some elected politicians aren't that dumb--they just appeal to their base! Nevertheless, stupidity and ignorance is a commodity that has a lasting quality in our system. There's a critical mass of Americans [I'm not talking about obesity, even though it is a problem on its own] who confuse opinion with facts, and personal preferences with reality.

Human brains are quite capable of holding many contradictory ideas at the same time. For example, some say life is sacred but not if it's not attached to a piece of paper that confirms eligibility to health care--and, thus, survival.

It's no wonder why more than 1/3 of Americans seriously entertain the thought that 9-11 was the result of a government conspiracy--that is, our government's. Never mind the ludicrous and unproven claims strewn out there to support such claim. That's the problem with talking to an unreasonable person: They are not bound by logic, facts, or anything else. You talk to them while you limit yourself to logical arguments and evidence. And, invariably, they'll say, you can't prove that there was no conspiracy.... It's the same as saying, you can't prove there's no tooth fairy!

Just the other day, the House voted “to expand the definition of violent federal hate crimes to those committed because of a victim’s sexual orientation” by passing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. What's wrong with that? Ah, the moral police [a.k.a. The Republican party] is against it. As they're against repealing the DODT [Don't Ask Don't Tell ridiculous policy in our armed forces], because the social conservatives are obsessed with "unnatural" sex! Sex or sexual orientation should be left to the individual and no one should be forced to pretend or legally penalized based on their sexual orientation or the sex they practice in private. I know, this progressive view offends the fundies.

Isn't it embarrassing to have so many elected representatives [like those GOPers who were running for president last year and actually said they didn't believe in evolution (science)?!!] that spew such nonsense? Have you heard the arguments that when we loosen up our morality it leads to ..necrophilia, pedophilia, bestiality, and to fascism?

I don't think I'll ever be a Republican, but I'd like to see a vibrant, mature, and, yes, progressive Republican party, because it will be good for our country. Unfortunately, this GOP now represents the most extreme, vile, and ignorant segments of American society. OK, they represent big business too, as well as the notion that government should be so small as to be ineffective in regulating big business and providing any social services to its people. Funny thing, the GOP would not dispute this statement of mine today!

How about climate change? Or, science and science education in the US? The environment? Consumer protection? Equality of opportunity? Safety net? [yes, safety means more than "fighting them over there"], Wealth distribution and the diminishing of the middle class? Access to information & education? Promoting tolerance and talent? Intellectual development?.... etc... I'm sure you can add to this list of the Republicans' vision and plans for America.

Explaining Political Science to Morons
Forget it! As an educator I don't give up easily in trying to explain a concept, but if someone doesn't want to absorb anything through their filters of ignorance and prejudice, then it's pointless to persist. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is such a moron! He's introduced legislation in the US Senate [embarrassingly, he's in the top echelons of US power along with several other ignorant politicians who are elected by millions of our compatriots] to the National Science Foundation (NSF) from “wasting federal research funding on political science.” Coburn argues that these political sciences issues “have little, if anything, to do with science.” He believes that by turning to Fox News, CNN, etc, a person can get all the political science he desires. Simple, heh? Likewise, I'd suppose, series like House, Grey's Anatomy, can sub for an education in medicine. The series Lost can replace political philosophy on how to organize a human society in a deserted island. While at it, Sabrina The Teenage Witch can be sufficient for understanding the laws of nature.

I'm fond of science--it's very interesting as it expands our understanding, and it has made human life better and longer. Political Science is a discipline and even though it doesn't deal with physical laws, it's scientific. There are things to be observed and measured. There are theories that explain and predict. There is an ongoing research and amendment. There are variables that once identified help explain trends and conditions. For example, without knowing anything about a country, if you ask, what is the status of women in that society? The answer to this question will tell you a great deal. We know that the status of women is directly linked to the political and economic development, and to a myriad of other ways we use to measure a society.

The scientific method is the best tool of understanding we have. It's amazing and worrisome that the US has achieved such great achievements while so many Americans are really ignorant about the world they live in. Obviously, moronic beliefs influence our policy. We elect leaders more fit for the Dark Ages. Do you know that 2/3 of our fellow citizens can't find Iraq on the map or even name the three branches of our government? That 1 in 5 adults believes the ..sun revolves around the earth?! That only 26% know natural selection is a mechanism of evolution, let alone that most don't accept the theory of evolution as valid?!! The theory of evolution--one of the strongest scientific theories we've got!

Now, what kind of public policy an ignoramus would support? Guess. Keep in mind that close to a majority Americans believe Jesus will return to earth in their lifetime! That the earth is only between 6 and 10 thousand years old! That there's a divine plan... That the end of times is a good thing....

I'm going out to see the autumn leaves... If you are in the Northeast don't miss this spectacular show of nature.

Sep 30, 2009

Big Stakes for Obama and the Democrats.... [and, let's not forget those Americans who suffer & die unnecessarily]

I just hope that president Obama is a fast learner and changes tactics soon...

Sep 28, 2009

What's a Fulfilling Life In a Desirable Society?

When the only form of government known was one of either absolute or authoritarian flavor, then it was natural to think of it as a threat to liberty. Even in liberal democracies today, the government can reach too far--as we saw under the 8 years of the Bush administration. They've been advances in thinking and in practice when it comes to organizing a civil society, but the question remains: what is the purpose of government? Different people in different times have given different answers to this. Assuming that our government exists for the benefit of most citizens, then the question is: how much power to give government and what is it that we are trying to achieve when you say "for the benefit of many"?

Certain ideological rigidity prevents some of our bright fellows from seeing the necessity for reforming a broken system--like broken laws or an operating system that's full of viruses. We have the greatest percentage of educated people ever; much of it is the result of public education. In the last 100 years, we've doubled human longevity. Advances in medicine and technology have transformed our society. Yet, some of us seem to be clinging to old ways that don't serve us well in this 21st century. Understandably, modernity may be perceived as a threat to the "old, tried & true," and it's poses great challenges to traditions and ancient belief systems. I'm not arguing for replacing everything old, but let's not be conservatives because of disposition.

We have to revisit old beliefs and re-examine our ways of life. Building a sense of self-confidence--a requirement for unforced change--takes time, effort and a keen understanding of what's going on around us. We have to give up our collective illusions and scrap the myths that were meant for traditional societies where the notion of commnonwealth didn't really exist.

Let's start by thinking the notions of liberty and equality. What do they mean to you? How do they fit in your idea of a good society? Do you have a definition of a good life?

Sep 17, 2009

Jon Stewart: Obama Promises to Take Action....

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Also, on September 17th, 1787, our constitution was adopted, creating a new federal country, and a great political experiment at that. The United States of America were [did you notice the plural form?] a loose collection of states that would suffer a bloody civil war to settle a few important issues. Since 1864 these states became known in the singular--one country. Of course, there are some among us who haven't accepted that the South lost the war, while others want to secede, like Palin's Independence Party in Alaska, along with those kooks in Texas and a few other red states.

In other news, DINO [Dem in Name Only] Sen. Max Baucus came out with his "bipartisan" bill on health care reform without a single Republican supporting it. What a surprise! I thought that the long delay since last Spring was for the "moderates" of both parties to forge a good bill. All this delay for nothing? I do hope that president Obama is a fast learner, and that he changes strategy soon. He's correct in saying that he will own the health care bill--let's hope it's a meaningful one and not just re-arranging the chairs on the Titanic. Thus far, Obama is all fluff and no substance regarding his campaign promises! We are watching Mr. President.... and, we have noticed those embarrassing Bush policies you've chosen to continue.

On the positive side, the Jets surprised me last Sunday. If they beat the Patriots too, they may be for real this year. Remaining on positive territory, September is going very well and I can't wait to see some glorious colors as the Northeast puts a wonderful display this autumn.

If you happen to be in NYC this weekend, you might want to visit Governor's Island for the New Island Festival. The Dutch have returned and taken over this little island in the NY harbor! 400 years ago, an Englishman, Henry Hudson, working for the Dutch arrived at the island and sailed up ..his river. Manhattan was named New Amsterdam; this was changed to New York when the Brits took over, but we still have many Dutch names present. The festival has many venues of Dutch theater, music, art, food, and all sorts of performances. [I'll soon post on my casual cafe more about it]

Update, 9/18/09
In the last several months, I've been devoting most posts to the need for sensible health care reform. It's a very urgent matter for our country and IF we want to reduce unnecessary suffering and deaths, there's NO another greater national priority right now. Safety, security don't always come from having a strong military at the border and overseas!

I'm healthy and I now have a good insurance plan, but I can't accept that this wealthy country leaves 50+ million people with no health insurance and up to 100 million Americans who are way under-insured, that is, likely to be financially destroyed [#1 cause of personal bankruptcies] if they get a serious illness.

A new study released by researchers at Harvard Medical School has calculated that 45,000 Americans a year die because they lack health insurance — nearly one every twelve minutes. “We’re losing more Americans every day because of inaction…drunk driving and homicide combined,” said Dr. David Himmelstein, a co-author of the study.

PS. Socialized medicine in France has hit a snag! There's a deficit, so in order to save money the government announced that the cost of an overnight stay in the hospital (the patient has to pay) will rise by 25%! Also, over-the-counter drugs subsidies to the French consumer will drop from 35% to 15! .....

Those Fenchies will have to grow up (be like Americans!) and do more for themselves (ah, the freedom!) than having the government give them all those health care goodies! So, they'll now have to pay $29.40 instead of $23.50 for their overnight hospital stay, and they'll only get 15% subsidy for the non-prescriptions drugs (like Aspirin) they buy! Horrors! Let them drown themselves in wine and cheese!

Sep 10, 2009

Obama's Speech to Congress: Late but Good. However, the Democrats' Capitulation Isn't Stopped!

Who knew?!!

I watched the President's speech to Congress and he was good for what he wanted to achieve: talk to the public and dispel some of the misconceptions the conservatives and narrow special interest have created. I don't think he changed anyone's mind in Congress, but at least now we know what he wants to do to reform an ailing health care system, and the public's support is important to push it through.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why Obama and the Dem leadership in Congress want to deal with the petulant and obstructionist Republicans. They won't support any plan under consideration. That GOP clown who shouted, "You lie," to the president, along with many other similar jerks in the conservative camp, do represent a political coalition that all wants is for Obama to fail. At any cost, even if it means worsening the conditions for the majority of Americans. The conservative political base is regional; their ideology is fit for another era, and the GOP's only hope is for Obama and the Dems to screw up.... Unfortunately, they're getting what they want--which is amazing to see given the big majorities the Dems have in Congress while also controlling the White House.

I understand that US politics is a strange animal. The political parties are state-based and they tend to represent local public sentiment. There's much less party discipline in Congress than in its equivalent parliaments in other democracies. And, the executive is separate from the legislative branch. Our political system is responsive to public pressure but also to lobbyists who represent big pockets. Information is the key here. There are many Americans who would not change their views no matter what; they assume a point of view and make it like their favorite team--together for ever. The hard-line conservative ideologues despise Obama, as they did Bill Clinton. If Jesus came back wearing jeans, I bet they'd oppose him too!

The Democratic caving didn't stop with Obama's speech the other night. The conservatives oppose any meaningful reform that includes a public option. They want Obama to fail, but since the majority (up to 70%+) of Americans do want a public option, they're trying to find faults--real or imaginary. One such a "fault" is that ..illegal aliens will get health care coverage under Obama's plan. The prez & Dem leaders already had conceded this point.

My goodness, why should we give medical care to those illegals? The audacity of those "people" to expect to be treated as human beings! We only wanted a labor force not human beings. Those bastards drain our national resources. Once I work out the logistics (including costs) of deporting some 12 million aliens, I'll get back to you. By that time, it'll be time for the immigration debate. Meanwhile, we will continue to provide medical care to those illegals and the uninsured via the emergency room instead of selling an affordable plan to them! That's the kind of sense we're all familiar with, right? The same impeccable arguments will surface during the immigration debate soon.

You know, it's my religious (and hence, moral) belief that God has a plan. I believe that all diseases can be cured by prayer.... only if the patient and his family really believe. I guess they don't have a strong enough faith that's why miracles don't happen more often. I'll make sure that my children will not be exposed to the corrupt effects of modern medicine. No vaccines, no drugs whatsoever! Further, as a pharmacist, I will not sell or otherwise provide any birth control methods to anyone. That's my moral stance! Obviously, abortions are wrong under any condition. I'm glad to hear the president saying that his plan will not provide funding for abortions! Hurray! So what if a woman's life depends on having an medically-necessary abortion? No money for that! Are you happy, Republicans? ... ["In case you couldn't tell, I was being sarcastic." Homer Simpson]

Sep 1, 2009

Hopefully the Summer Recess Will Give Time to the Democrats to LocateTheir Backbone.

Alternate Reality IS Possible!

I hear a great deal from people who are conservatives. I don't mind criticism as long as it's constructive, but it's hardly the case, and often it's impossible to have any conversation because the currency of understanding is not reason. They tell me that it's freedom they want and that Obama's health care reform [I wish someone who has insider knowledge could tell us what exactly do the Dems in charge of our government want to do about giving the right to health care to every American] is socialism/communism--implying no choice. Notwithstanding that Medicare and health care for our military is socialized medicine, (same as public schools, and many other social programs), some people will never be convinced by reason and evidence. At least, our leaders could do something good for the commonwealth over the objections of the narrow special interests and those who promote ignorance.

The principle is simple to me: health care is a right not a privilege, and this country has the means to provide universal health care to all. We're wealthy enough, it's just a matter of priorities. I don't understand how we accept being behind 30+ countries when it comes to a healthy population, longevity, unnecessary suffering, and not the high level of quality of life we could have if the system and our government worked for the benefit of the great majority of Americans. [The World Health Organization ranks the US health care #37]

"We have the best health care in the world," I'm told by those who can afford it. It's like my cousin Bill Gates telling me, "don't worry, the two of us are worth $50 billion!" I also hear the word freedom mentioned in this debate. Before I got an education and began to dissect popular beliefs and popular expressions, freedom meant the ability to be free. But, freedom without meaningful action loses its meaning. If I keep you locked up without allowing any communication with the outside world, you can be "free" to say what ever you want. I could even allow you to read and watch what
ever you want.

Conversely, being free to choose between Burger King and McDonald's, or between this minimum wage job and that minimum wage job isn't really a choice. We have this myth in this country that if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want. However you examine this myth it's not true on the aggregate. We like to believe that; it feels good. Sure, there are a few individuals who got lucky, yet for every Michael Jordan, for every Barack Obama, there are millions who can't advance not because of lack of skill or effort, but because of lack of opportunity. Just look as socio-economic mobility in the last 30 years in our country. Even the Europeans--with a much more rigid class system--are noticing that America isn't as egalitarian as we'd like to think.

Access to opportunity is what a good system should provide. Having more educated, healthier, more productive people is good for the whole country. But we don't seem to get the system to respond as much and as fast as it should. Then, again, we have leaders who actually make our lives worse. If I hadn't heard this myself, I wouldn't have believed it. Presidential candidate John McCain, (and most of the GOP leadership today) argue, without a shred of shame, that health care is a privilege and not a right
. Just do your own research if you don't believe me. How can anyone say that and not booed out of town?..

I think health care is a privilege,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a right.

Earlier this week, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was asked by Charleston’s Post and Courier whether “people have a right to health care?”

DeMint is a leading voice of the conservatives in Congress, but, sadly, he's not the only one with such a view. The Repubs are willing to throw anything against any attempts for meaningful reform. They're now saying that those undocumented immigrants will get free health care and that should not happen under any circumstances. The Obama administration capitulated already on this point by saying no such proposal (to give free medical care to human beings who lack a piece of paper) is on the table. I mean, the audacity of those illegals who expect to be treated like human beings... We needed a work force, period. We didn't ask for ..human beings to come over! Maybe we didn't make that clear....


During the midterm elections, usually the party in power loses seats in Congress. With the GOP is such a disarray and increasingly becoming a regional, regressive party, there was hope that the Dems would escape the trend in 2010. It may not be the case, because the White House and the Congressional Dems are lost right now. They are bogged down in meaningless debate and cannot communicate a clear set of goals and show that their policies are helping most Americans. It's not too late to reverse this, but six months from now, it will be too late.

Most Americans now believe the country is on the wrong track! Check out the DailyKos poll. The Dems were up 12% points back in May, but now they're down to 6% over the Repubs. The latter have not gained [except a point with those over 60 and 2 points with Gen Xers] but the Dems have faltered, losing support in every demographic category. The young voters went from +30 to +37 for the Dems, but this is misleading since they Repubs are losing bigger numbers in this group. The independents are tuning out right now. With much lower participation numbers in midterm elections, the Dems might be bitterly surprised next year since the only motivated voters will be the conservatives who are energized and angry.

The president can recover in time for 2012 but the Dems will have no excuse if they fail. They were given big majorities in both chambers of Congress and control of the White House. This all in the span of 2 short years (2006-2008)--which is rather remarkable given the numbers they had in the House and the Senate just before the 2006 midterm election!

At any rate, a leader is judged by the effects of his policies and the leadership he exercises not by the "spirit of bi-partisanship" and trying endlessly to convince those who are fundamentally oppose him. Lincoln, FDR, Johnson--just to name a few who dared without having widespread support--were successful because their policies made a positive difference in the lives of most Americans. I hope Obama is a good and fast learner. Reid and Pelosi in Congress should do what's right with 218 and 50 votes respectively. The Repubs talked about the "nuclear option" and Republican Speaker Hastert [who learned from the disgraced Repub Speaker Gingrich] used to say that he was only interested in the ..majority of the majority.

Sometimes a dialogue just can't take place. It's not that people have different values and priorities--often the core of disagreement--but when some people make no sense, because they're being dishonest, then it's time to wrap up the "discussion" and take action. Obviously in a democracy, the voters will render a judgment on the effects of public policy. Now, can we please have some of that! Hurry. People are dying unnecessarily.


UPDATE: "White House: Obama may detail health plans soon," according to an AP report. I noticed the word "may" so I said something I don't want to repeat here. That's exactly my point about the lack of clarity and direction from the White House. They can't even say for sure whether the president will tell us what he wants to do! His chief of staff just said that the Repubs haven't negotiated in good faith! Com'on, man, faith is for those who give up reason and expect miracles... the kind of miracles only Jesus could allegedly perform. It's safe to assume that Obama is not Jesus and he can't turn water into wine no matter how much he tries or ..waits!

UPDATE 2: The amount of ignorance and misinformation in the media is amazing to me. Maria Bartiromo ["bright star" of CNBC--a colleague of Jim Cramer and other "experts" who went to bed with Wall Street and helped spread misinformation to the public... Just watch this video.] was interviewing A. Wiener (D-NY) about health care, and she sarcastically responded to his statement that people on public-run Medicare report high satisfaction rates."How come you don't use it [Medicare]? You don't have it. How come you don't have it?" she snickered. I guess she's not aware that only people over 65 can get it! I know the 45-year old NY Congressman and he doesn't look over 65.

Editor's note: The cartoon is by Arkas, and in case you haven't figured it out, if you have a vivid imagination anything is possible... like a desktop computer with a mouse!

Aug 31, 2009

An Abbreviated History (part 2). The Power of Myths & Ideas

Why Do People Believe Crazy Stuff?

[continued from an earlier post, Abbreviated History]

Are you ready to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya"? No? Well, it's all right, but Colonel Qaddafi, like the Pope, rely on lots of people to buy his message.The Soviet Union had a brutal regime, yet it had lots of sympathizers, many in the West! Another brutal regime in theocratic Iran relies on violence & suppression and on a large mass of Iranians who see modernity and the liberal democracies as evil.

Any benevolent supreme ruler would tell you that his people don't know what's in their best interest so he decides for them. Any ruthless leader would also use threats and violence to make people behave. Do as I say or I you'll experience hell--in this life or ..later. Sounds familiar? Both types of leaders don't trust their flock. They establish a system whereas sheepish behavior and obedience is encouraged.

But how do people get certain ideas? Well, it varies. Parents, at first, schools, and society at large imbue everyone with ideas and concepts. Many ideas become part of a person's identity and they are not revisited, never to be changed. Obviously, some ideas are good some are bad. Some are useful some are against the individual's own interest and against the interest of the majority of society. Yet, they persist!

Culture provides society with a value system, a way of doing things, stability of custom, and, guess what, notions of preserving the status quo. The masses used to be rather ignorant and in the absence of education, open dialogue, and freedom, they followed the "tried & true." Conservatism is no accident. It's a disposition based on perceptions deeply implanted in the human mind. The power of ideas, of myths, of belief systems, is immense. More so, if you don't have the means to critically evaluate them. Besides, it takes effort to blaze your own trails. Fear of the unknown or the incomprehensible is unsettling. Uncertainty is for the brave. Responsibility is for the strong. Inquiry for the curious. Reality is for those who can handle the truth.

Imagine that you believe you'll be super-rich tomorrow. Or, that you'll die of an evil spell cast on you. Or, that by strapping explosives on your body and detonating them in a crowded place, you're actually doing God's work. Or, that those who have another faith, nationality, color, whatever, are not worth anything but the worst treatment. You get the picture. Your actions will be based on those beliefs.

History can be seen as a clash of civilizations and ideas (belief systems). Humankind has raised hell on earth because of the power of myths that reached a critical mass of people who accepted them. There's always an excuse for embarking on a destruction of another civilization, culture, peoples. And, it doesn't have to make lot of sense. The key is to accept the first premise.

or example, you may accept the premise that you exist in a lovely building that was made for the chosen ones. The first step is crucial. Once a "foundation" belief is embedded in your brain, then the rest of assumptions and actions can be reasonable. Sure, you can imagine such a building needing several rooms for specific purposes, beautiful furnishings, and ambient music! You can argue that a sun room should face south--a good choice! Then you can argue that all the residents must please the landlord of this building so he won't throw you out of punish you--a rational choice; no one wants to be evicted, right?

Another interesting fact is that the human brain is capable of holding several contradictory ideas at the same time. Logical inconsistencies exist in all of us. The difference is what do you do when you discover one? Can you amend your views? Or, like in US politics, you can never appear as someone who admits he was wrong and changed his mind? Consistency at the expense of accuracy! Also--and this is important--can you question something that millions of people for thousands of years believe as true? Suppose such a belief is given to you as part of your identity. What do you do, how do you approach this?.. Can you even touch the subject with a critical mind?

Without singling our Catholics, why do many believe the Pope is infallible in matters of dogma? Why do they follow his edicts? Over the millennia, Popes have reversed their predecessors. What does this imply? Why there wasn't much of criticism when the current Pope declared that even AIDS (and other sexually-transmitted diseases) is bad, condoms are worse! Seriously, people will die because of such a stupid statement--translated into policy. Has anyone pointed out this contradiction: Thou shall not kill, one Commandment instructs us. But, married men who have AIDS can transmit a death sentence to their wives because condoms are not to be used under any circumstances!

Do you remember the Bill Moyers-Joseph Campbell series on the Power of Myth back in the 1980s? That got me interested in the power of ideas and how peoples' behavior is based on their ideologies. [By the way, Moyers has a great resource on Faith & Reason on the PBS site] What I find discouraging is that in this 21st century, at least in the so-called advanced countries, there should be lots fewer ignorant people. I wouldn't be surprised if Qaddafi still commands a majority support from Libyans, for the latter don't know any better and can't entertain any alternatives to the former. But, in the US there shouldn't be so many kooks, charlatans, con artists, and b.s. dispensers. They would all be irrelevant if there was no critical mass supporting them.

How come the largest Catholic country, Brazil, didn't rise in disgust to the latest official stance of the Catholic Church (in Brazil and the Vatican) when a man who raped his 9 year old step daughter and got her pregnant didn't earn excommunication but her mother and the doctor who performed the abortion did?.. It's the same scenario where a critical mass of people support genital mutilation, keeping women as chattel [term derived from cattle], and silencing any free expression.

Our political discourse would have been much better. The current health reform "debate" would've been more reasonable. But, how do you communicate with someone who doesn't want reform because he doesn't like Obama turning this country into a socialist/communist one?! In a democracy the people have to be convinced to vote against their own interests.... especially those who could afford it the least!


PS>You may want to click on the first picture to get it to open bigger so you can read about the norms of the American society of our parents. I can't vouch for the content authenticity, but I can tell you it's accurate in its essense. I'm old enough to have met people who were adults in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, and even women accepted those traditional roles. I'm glad there's been progress but not as fast as I'd like. Yet, even in the last 15-20 years, there's been serious change. There's support for repealing the "don't ask, don't tell policy"; several states are legalizing same-sex marriage; we elected a black man to the presidency; and we may do away with a conservative party fit for the Dark Ages. For an advanced industrialized country it's a shame that we have so much violence, so many people in prisons, so much religiocity, no universal health care, and such a huge gap of wealth between the elites and the rest of society.

Aug 27, 2009

What's a Privilege Versus a Right? Health Care Can Be Boiled Down to this Simple Test. Ted Kennedy Got it Right!

I think the best memorial to someone is to remember his/her actions that contributed to making the world a better place to live--even if it's one person at a time. Ted Kennedy came from a family of privilege but advocated for the many who weren't as fortunate as the elites of this country.

Morality is how we treat others, not how one behaves in his/her private domain. Teddy believed that the government of the people should be in place to work for the people. ["by"the people has meant approval and not that the common people of modest means have a good chance of being elected to high office!] It's amazing when 72% of Americans want health care reform that includes a strong public option their representatives in Congress can't seem to get it!

High stake [steak?] game is being played in front of the American public. There's lots of willful misinformation and scare tactics that have nothing to do with a rational discussion on how to reform a broken system and ensure that thousands of Americans don't die & suffer unnecessarily. It does come down to a simple question: is health care (like education) a right or a privilege? I was stunned to hear many Republicans actually say [including presidential candidate McCain] it's a ..privilege!

As for the cost, of course we can afford it if we can afford to spend much more on armaments than the whole world combined! Besides, the skyrocketing of health care costs in the US, under the current system, cannot be sustained. There will be more "death panels"... when insurance companies deny claims for necessary medical life-saving procedures and when they reject people with pre-existing conditions. How can anyone defend such a system is beyond me...

Here's an excellent treatment on this subject, as recently shown on Bill Moyers Journal. Is there anyone who can argue against the main points raised? Honestly, those opposed to health care reform with a public option don't make sense. It's not just a matter of values and priorities--that would be understandable--but those opponents are incoherent. It's a failure of leadership to confuse the public, distort the facts [those facts], and allow Americans to suffer and die.

PROFITS OVER PEOPLE: Video on Bill Moyers Journal. It includes an interview with W. Potter who served the insurance industry for 20 years. The Money Driven Medicine video has excerpts from the acclaimed Critical Condition, "a documentary in which ordinary hard-working Americans tell their stories of battling critical illnesses without health insurance. They discover that being uninsured can cost them their jobs, health, homes, savings, and even their lives."

Here's N. Kristof's (NYT columnist) take on the issue:
Opponents suggest that a “government takeover” of health care will be a milestone on the road to “socialized medicine,” and when he hears those terms, Wendell Potter cringes. He’s embarrassed that opponents are using a playbook that he helped devise. “Over the years I helped craft this messaging and deliver it,” he noted. Mr. Potter was an executive in the health insurance industry for nearly 20 years before his conscience got the better of him.

Blue Dog (Conservative) Democrats & President Obama Share the Blame for the Impasse
Finally, I have to be extremely critical of president Obama. He's the only person who holds such a big megaphone. Now, I dare to ask: Can you tell me what is Obama's health care proposal? Seriously, try to answer this especially if you're a supporter of the president and for health care reform... He has failed to put forth a succinct plan and a clear message. Even his secretary of Health, Sibelius, said on national TV that a public option could be off the table! Really??!!

I hope that Kennedy's death can serve as a catalyst for meaningful health care reform that includes a strong public option.


Aug 14, 2009

An Abbreviated (and edited) History of Humankind. Faulty Design and Conservatives With Closed Minds.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Once upon a time there was a land where everything was beautiful, peaceful, prosperous, with plentiful natural resources so no one went hungry, homeless or gotten sick. It was how the Supreme Designer had made that world. There were no arguments or strife because everybody had to obey the absolute rules the Designer had demanded of his subjects. There wasn't much contemplating either because all the thinking the people had to do was for their daily routines and how to demonstrate their love & devotion to their master. What was it to ponder about? As a matter of fact, abstract thinking was down right dangerous for it could lead to questioning, or even relativism!

Most people believed this was the best blissful existence that could be had, so they scorned "free will" and any discussion on "controversial" topics. Discussing the weather was appropriate but only in general terms and in appreciation of the Designer's skill to create sunsets and rainbows. They didn't want to jeopardize their fortune so they avoided all extraneous knowledge; everything they needed was inscribed in the Holy Book.

One day the Designer decided to make things interesting for himself and created an evil force to tempt his subjects into sin. That would be fun, he thought, even though he knew how it'd turn out, it could be entertaining nevertheless! It's like watching a good movie again.... You know the plot, the characters, and the ending, but it's OK; You sit there and spend a couple hours watching it; same with tv reruns. Everybody has done it at some point.

Unfortunately, the Designer had not given his subjects much experience in rational thought and skeptical inquiry. It was no surprise that they were easily manipulated and tricked by the evil force. Sadly, this led to their fall from grace. Soon after their poor choice and exit from utopia, they had to deal with all sorts of ills: disease, pestilence, murder, starvation, death, ugliness, strife, unwanted hair, and soap operas.

Prostitution, politics, and mind/mood altering substances entered the mix of human condition with varying effects & social impact. Sometimes it was good, sometimes is was bad; they brought pleasure or pain, often both at the same time. For a long time, people kept appealing to the Designer; they asked for favors, they bargained for forgiveness and other stuff, and above all they hoped that one day--even after they were dead--conditions would improve.

Thousands of years went by. More and more people began to use the rational mind employing reason and inquiry. Skeptics soon dared to challenge the "old divine wisdom." They began to argue--those audacious creatures--that life is what we make of it. That the universe wasn't designed to support human society as it was prescribed in the Holy Book--which, somehow, had been left behind in Utopia but re-dictated by the Creator to only one special person in the middle of nowhere.

Such rational thinkers were spurned by society at-large, especially by those in power who wanted to maintain the status quo. They preferred simple stuff, like black or white, good or evil, patriot or traitor, moral or immoral, chosen or untouchables, with us or against us, god or devil, bad/no healt hcare or communism. Easy choices. Not much brain power required for the answers. Gut feelings and thruthiness trumped all contrarian evidence. Those people kept consuming myths that had no factual basis but these myths were the guiding principles for decision-making on important matters. Their leaders played upon their fears, illusions and delusions with much success. It got to a point that Republicans in the US became like obstinate little brats refusing to grow up.

Fortunately over time, many more people accepted a reality-based world and demanded change; all sorts of change. They challenged the ways traditional society was formed and those ruled over it by fiat. They demanded that meaningful freedom was good because it fostered thining persons and helped create favorable conditi
ons for people to pursue their own bliss. The also realized that their society should be organized for the benefit of most members not just the few. Social justice became desirable. That their government should represent the people's interests and that such a vested authority had an important role to play. That the people's government did not cede the responsibility of a social contract to private corporations.

Such an enlightened polity believed that not everything had to be evaluated by being submitted to the "monied principle of profit." Interestingly enough those who preferred the marketplace as the best arbitror of ecomic acitivity and human behavior were aga
inst prostitution and recreational drug use!


[to be continued]

PS. August 14th is celebrated for Hans Christian Orsted who in 1820 noticed that an electric current generated a magnetic field. This observation was put to practical use; it the principle behind electric motors and for parts of the machine you're using to read this today. Orsted founded a society devoted to spreading scientific knowledge among the public. Despite the advances of modern science and all sorts of verifiable knowledge, many people continue to live in the Dark Ages preferring superstition and ignorance to enlightenment.