Jul 16, 2009

Health Care Reform: The Devil is in the Details!

"It`s just about -- it`s about money. It`s about money, because when you have 72 percent of the American people thinking that they should have the choice instead of Congress, this is about money. And the insurance industry gives out of a lot of money.

....And, you know, this is going to be a hell of an issue in 2010 because -- you know, honestly, what`s the point of having a 60-vote majority in the United States Senate if you can`t produce health insurance reform out of it?"

Howard Dean

UPDATE, 7/28.
I frequently put up Jon Stewart clips here, because he often manages to illustrate important points on vital issues in our country. Under the guise of a comedy show, he interviews newsmakers in a way that anyone can understand what the issue is about. Health care reform--with a strong public option that covers everyone--is topic #1 right now. There's lots of misinformation, a strong campaign to kill any reform [and leave the status quo for the benefit of?..], and a Republican party that has decided to offer nothing else but a big fat "NO" to anything sensible.

Bill Kristol is a pundit who's got most things totally wrong, plus he advocates extreme ideas--and very wrong ideas. Yet, apparently it doesn't matter what you say as long as you represent vigorously one side. We need to be "fair & balanced" so give the flat-earthers, con artists, and idiots their share of respectability in a debate. Kristol is among those who don't want any health care reform and has urged the Repubs to kill any Dem bill. Repubs have been saying that health care reform will be Obama's "Waterloo." They have offered no alternative plan or made any sensible proposal. What we hear is labeling ("socialism," "no choice," and, yes, "fascism") and a campaign to scare & confuse the public.

I think now Obama understands that he can't have any support from the conservatives, that they want him to fail at any cost, and he's learning that eventually it will be his (and the Dems') work that will be judged by the voters. Let the conservatives cater to their shrinking political by playing the "birther" card! [They won't accept that Obama is a US native born!]

Stewart makes Kristol admit the logical: that the government (when appropriate) can deliver better services than the private sector! That our soldiers get a (dare I call it, socialized) universal health care coverage that's better than what the insurance companies give the rest of us! The American public doesn't deserve what the military get, Kristol said!....

Watch this clip:


[Original post, 7/16/09]

Without a strong public option, no health care reform should take place. I'm glad to hear that many progressive Dems in Congress are going to oppose anything that does not contain the public option and universal health care coverage.

A couple more points. Forget the Repubs. Pass a good bill with a simple majority--no GOP votes needed. The conservatives have opposed all good things we take for granted today.... from Social Security, Medicare, labor rights, consumer protection, national parks and electrification.. just to mention a few. Health care should be a right not a privilege.

Profit is a motivating force and it can be a good one when is appropriate. However, we should not privatize everything because we can't analyze everything on a cost-profit basis, according to the marketplace standards. For example, national parks, libraries, police, firefighters, basic education, armed forces, health care, and ..monitoring volcanoes, should be publicly funded. The reasons for this should be self-evident (unless you're a conservative in the US).

Again, members of Congress are well-off people who nevertheless enjoy the best coverage paid by the government. Why should they enjoy something the rest of America can't? The political situation is favorable right now for a comprehensive reform; the public wants it with a ..public option. I don't understand Obama's strategy. He will not get any Repub support on this or any other meaningful refore. This GOP is very regressive and coallescing around the most conservative and backward elements.

Mr. President, make this brand of politics obsolete. Take a few lessons from FDR. Forget about bi-partisanship if it means sacrificing good options. Clinton passed his balanced budge with 1 vote majority. That's all you need. You will get the credit or the blame for this and other policies during your tenure. Getting a few Repubs votes (very unlikely anyway) won't help you in the long run. As a matter of fact, show some strong leadership and show them--as they did in 2001 with their Congressional majorities and with Bush in the White House--that elections have consequences. The American public resoundly repudiated the Republican party in Congress and gave you big majorities--all within 2 years (2006-2008), a record of a turnaround in Congress.

OK, How to pay for health care? We can't, the Repubs say. No, that's not true. It is a matter of priorities. There's plenty of money, so even if we accept those numbers floating around, like the $1 trillion in the next 10 years, $200 billion per year is a bargain. It's a fraction of what we've spent in the Iraq & Afghanistan wars. We're the only country that spends close to 17% of its GDP and leaves 1/3 (or more) either uninsured or under-insured! The closest big spender is Switzerland with 11%. So others have managed to do lots more with less. [Here's a comparison]

Bill Moyers assesses the public option on his Journal blog.

The following video is illuminating too.

I have CIGNA as my health provider. The private organization (non-for-profit) I work for has thousands of employees and, thus, great bargaining power. I haven't made any claims, but think I have an excellent plan that includes vision and dental. I've worked for other companies before, some with puny health care benefits or none at all--so I went with no medical insurance for years.

A progressive culture of life means having certain benefits by being a member of the commonwealth, that the government is of, by, and for the people. Education, health care, access to opportunities, legal equality, are some of the rights an enlightened society affords its citizens.

We try to improve our lives by using the government not as a nanny but as an enabler and a guarantor of certain conditions that allow people to reach their own potential.


UPDATE, 7/18 [instead of opening another topic, this op ed fits here]

The six deadly hypocrites [by Paul Krugman]

Will the destructive center kill health care reform? It looks all too possible.

What’s especially galling is the hypocrisy of their claimed reason for delaying progress — concern about the fiscal burden. After all, in the past most of them have shown no concern at all for the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.

Case in point: the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which denied Medicare the right to bargain for lower drug prices, locked in overpayments to private insurance companies, and did nothing, nothing at all, to pay for its proposed outlays. How many of these six self-proclaimed defenders of solvency voted no on the crucial procedural vote? One. (Joe Lieberman, to my surprise.)

And let’s not forget that Ben Nelson, who appears to be the ringleader, has fought tooth and nail against competition from a public option — which would almost certainly save a significant amount of money, as well as providing much-needed competition.

If the Gang of Six really does kill reform, remember their names; they will bear the responsibility for vast, unnecessary suffering over the years to come....

Paul Krugman hits another nail on its head. Meanwhile, Politico's Ben Smith has more details: Healthcare Foes Plan Obama's "Waterloo".

Jul 13, 2009

The World Ends in 2012. So, What Do We Do With the Advice, "One Orgasm A Day Keeps the Doctor Away" ?

It's the middle of summer, so maybe I should talk about something light. Let's see, oh, on July 14th, the sun will be perfectly aligned on the East-West Manhattan avenues! I drove crosstown (westward) yesterday during sunset and it was blinding! Nice day though. Went to a party that lasted until the cops showed up... But, that's New York City, things happen like that.

Ah, did you know that the world will end in December of 1012? A Google search gets 300,000 pages on the subject. YouTube has over 65,000 videos on the impending doom. Here are a few on a variety of prophesies! [Can you spot the many fallacies there?] There are lots of people out there w
ho believe this, and given the scientific ignorance of the American public, this is no surprise. They claim the proof is in ancient texts, Mayan calculations, pyramids, holy books, etc. Of course, the ancients knew by divine inspiration or something like that. Anyone can predict the end of the world--I'm sure the world will end someday... when the sun burns up its hydrogen supply--but those who make specific predictions of events that will take place in our lifetime are simply idiots or very gifted con artists. Oops, did I offend anyone?

Now if the world ends in a couple years, what do we do with the British National Health Service (that socialist creation) advice,
an orgasm a day keeps the doctor away! If it's about health and long life this isn't the advice to have if the world ends in 2012. Building a bomb shelter may be more appropriate. On the other hand, maybe we should cram in as much pleasure as we can before it all ends! What do you think?

Just across from Britain, Ireland now has an anti-blasphemy law! In an earlier post, I wrote an argument in defense of blasphemy, so I won't repeat the same points here. It strikes me as medieval that the church or any religion needs this special privilege. If it's a crime to offend people of faith in Ireland, I would like to see the immediate implementation of this law against all organized religions that say offensive stuff about other religions! Whenever a Xtian says that Islam is a religion of hate, he should be punished. When a Muslim rails against the infidels he should pay for this offense. As for me--knowing that I've already offended many faiths--I won't be visiting Ireland. I would guess that this new law will have very bad effects on Ireland if it's not changed soon.

Let's look at our own mess with the religious fanatics here. The lunatic fringe was not marginal but in charge in the last 8 years. They still wield considerable influence. One of the problems is a political party that supports scientific illiteracy, prejudice, superstition, and attacks on reason & science. I'm not talking about elements in the GOP--the Dems have lots of ignorant people/politicians in their midst--but it's the party's political agenda to promote ignorance and plain stupidity.

Politicians are elected by the people, so it's natural for them to reflect the people's views. However, the fact are what they are--for example, it is the earth that orbits the sun; a fact that is known only by half of Americans--therefore, some leadership is necessary, and we should do better to educate the people. It's unethical and stupid to promote religion--i.e., creationism or "intelligent design"--instead of science! Evolution is a fact, a scientific theory, supported by evidence, has facts, and many disciplines supporting it. The more we find, the more evidence we collect the stronger this theory becomes. If we ever find evidence that contradicts elements or even the entire theory, then we make revisions. It's absurd to claim that if it's written in a holy book it must be true.

I teach a course on Public Myth and Ideology. I understand the power of ideas. I also understand the power of culture, the strong influence of certain images have on identity, and the conservative mind of those who don't know or don't care to know. Less confident people are less prone to revision and even tolerant of other ideas. Being a fan of a sports team is fine; you support it no matter what. But, you can't do the same about other important things in life. If that's how you see the world, then you'll make the wrong decisions about your life and about the direction of the country. I often ask my students, do we, collectively, get what we deserve? What do you think?

The following video is from Charlie Rose and the great Carl Sagan's last appearance on the show. If you haven't read Carl's Demon-Haunted World yet, I recommend you get a copy right away. It's how science illuminates our world and our existence. He would, too, be committing a crime in Ireland though by saying such things...

There is a good book out, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum. I have to say that I disagree with the authors that blame the atheist scientists for driving (some) people away from science. From early on, the approach should be, learn about the natural world through inquiry and rational thinking. Obviously it's likely that once a person learns the facts, but most importantly learns to base his beliefs on scientific evidence. Atheism is the result of the question: where's the evidence?

Mooney is also the author of The Republican War on Science. If you want to understand how bad it's been in the US read these two books. It's ironic really that a country rich in scientific knowlege and all sorts of achievements because of science and technology has such a disinsterested public. The authors show that it's been like this since our early days. We take pride in the product of our science but we don't know much about it. It's not about high science and obscure ways but about basic stuff, like the age of the earth, evolution, etc.

As Carl Sagan said, science is more than the product. It's the way of thinking, the way of approaching the unknown, obtaining knowledge through inquiry, testing, and open-mindedness. It requires confidence though, in that a person has to be able to make revisions. You can't be a sports fan when it comes to knowledge. Better evidence, better arguments win... and the new theory has ways of amendment; otherwise it's not a scientific theory, it's a dogma. In addition, thinking and searching require effort and time. I hope that many more people find such a journey of discovery worthwhile.

In closing, and since these are the light days of summer, one more video that will make me a criminal in Ireland today... I'm sorry, Bernadette (Bernie) of Donegal Town, I won't be visiting anytime soon...

PS. I started creating this post in my mind after reading Unscientific America around the same time Ireland passed the anti-blasphemy law. Then the news today about disgraced Ralph Reed who wants a new moral Christian Conservative movement in America. Oh, please, God save us... I also read the science blog Pharyngula [highly recommended] that happened to have these 2 videos, so my thanks to PZ Myers.