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....

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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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....

THE DANGER OF INACTION AND LACK OF DIRECTION [I almost said, lack of balls]

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!