Archive for August, 2009

The Living Legacy

August 30, 2009

Decades ago, it was a joke to use the term “moral” in the same breath as uttering the name of Teddy Kennedy.  Not so anymore.  For many of those who have declared the Kennedy dynasty over and done, let me say, “You are wrong.”  Kind of.  Words can be misleading.  The term “dynasty” connotes an  image of an all-encompassing power often with major accomplishments attached but also sometimes, typified by a self-interested, negative outcome for those outside of the dynasty.  In the case of the Kennedys, an aura of romanticism, glamor and privilege sustained this dynastic vision.  Today, that hyped-up estimate has been supplanted with a true, admirable legacy of public service.  The foibles, the fiction of Camelot, has lost its luster in favor of helping those who are unable to help themselves.  That, my friends, is redemption.  That is the Kennedy legacy.

The young Senator Ted Kennedy gave a speech in Sitka, Alaska in April 1968,  just days after the killing of Martin Luther King Jr. and only weeks before the assassination of Robert Kennedy.  This speech is eerily prescient of what was to come, not only in terms of another tragedy for the Kennedy family, but also regarding our nation.  Even today, we still see the destructiveness that we have bestowed upon ourselves.  This video is about 20 minutes long, but is well worth your time.  Pay special attention to the parts running from 7:00 to about 10:35 and from 12:05 until 13:00:

http://tpmtv.talkingpointsmemo.com/?id=3286050

Kennedy slams our nation for pulling apart, based on a constant conflict of rich versus poor, black versus white and old versus young.   He questions the path of our country and condemns a complacency based on material wealth having more value than moral strength.  He saw the inequality inherent in our supposed free nation and fought for the next 40 years to try to rectify that.  Today, the health care reform issue is just another symptom, and a constant reminder, of the selfishness Kennedy spoke about in Sitka.  Our legislators and population-at-large refuse to provide for basic human rights of general welfare, fearing  financial and political loss.  There can be no economic strength nor social progress nor moral growth if we do not answer the call of this imperative.  Certain issues can not be politicized.

George Will wrote a heart-rendering tribute to Teddy:

http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/story/2142104.html

My favorite part is the following:

Let us pay the Kennedys tributes unblurred by tears. Although a great American family, they are not even Massachusetts’ greatest family: The Adamses provided two presidents, John and John Quincy, and Charles Francis, who was ambassador to Britain during the Civil War, and the unclassifiable Henry. Never mind. It diminishes Ted to assess him as a fragment of a family. He lived his own large life, and the ledger of it shows a substantial positive balance.

Bob Herbert, columnist for the New York Times, also wrote a very moving piece about Teddy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/29/opinion/29herbert.html

Herbert makes it clear that the Kennedys gave their best to us.  What more can one ask of another person?  Teddy was able to do this because, as he echoed his call in Sitka for individual responsibility being the necessary basis for affecting the greater good, he started at home.  His sons’ eulogies attested to that devotion to his own children and then to his nieces and nephews, which then set the stable groundwork for spreading his ideals and actions throughout our land.  Yes, it took him a while, he had to overcome numerous personal demons, but in the stretch, he got the job done.

To see President Obama, at the helm of our government, eulogizing Teddy is the culmination of all that Teddy fought for.  Moreover, there are numerous Kennedy grandchildren who continue to carry the torch of John, Bobby and Teddy, in their better days,  and Eunice also.   Bobby Kennedy Jr. is an active environmentalist.  Joe Kennedy II is an activist providing heating fuel for those who cannot afford it.  I commend him on his efforts, even though he used oil made available by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, because like his Uncle Ted, he got the job done.  When people are threatened with death by freezing, who cares where the oil came from?  Patrick Kennedy is a Congressman from Rhode Island.  Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was Lieutenant Governor of Maryland.  Kerry Kennedy is a prominent human rights activist.  And Maria Shriver has her head screwed on so correctly that I would listen to anything she has to say.  The “dynasty” might be gone, but its byproducts, its living benefits, what really and truly matters and makes a difference, go on.

As an aside, let me add that the Kennedy women are probably the backbone of the whole clan.  To see the last surviving sibling, Jean, with Ethel and Victoria  laying the cloth over Teddy’s casket, their strength and purpose needed no words.  Victoria was Rose Kennedy incarnate yesterday: so composed, purposeful and with the help of her great faith, accepting of the circumstances while clearly demonstrating a strong will to go on.

Americans love pageantry, as does the Catholic Church, and Teddy’s funeral today lived up to that.  At the same time though, it was such a sad occasion.  The world has lost a symbol, our nation has lost a leader and the saddest fact is that five children have lost their father.  As usual, the Kennedy family had to face their sorrow in the most public of forums.  Yet they shared even that with us. The family’s constant offering of hope is what the Kennedy dynasty was founded upon and their ongoing dedication to bettering our lives is their legacy.  The good generated by that family, the courage of their convictions, the dedication of their ongoing actions, will live on and continue to better each and every one of us, our country and the world.

To think that all of this goodwill is in place and just waiting for all of us to take up the cause is astonishing in its simplicity.  If we act on the side of angels, we very well might have decent health care for all of us.  A good start is to remember the journey, personal and professional, of Teddy Kennedy and all his family members who came before him.  Bill Moyers said it all: “We’re all in the same boat”:

Bill Moyers appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night for a long conversation, much of which focused on health care. When asked by Maher what would be a metaphor that could change the current thinking on health care, Moyers answered “we’re all in the same boat.” He went on to talk about the moral message that health care reform would send, which is that “we are in this together.”

“I don’t want to live in a country where I am on a hospital floor getting an operation that costs $25,000, and two floors above me someone is being denied that same surgery because he or she has no money. What kind of a civilization is that?” Moyers said.

The Kennedy legacy is based on their belief that we all have the same fundamental needs.  Indeed: what kind of admiration or emulation can there be for a society that puts no value on their human beings?  How can the United States expect other nations to embody humanity when it is ignored at home?  How do we justify holding other countries hostage to those principles that we have no regard for?  Teddy Kennedy tried, and succeeded, to make us hold true to those basic tenets on which our country was founded.  The Kennedys turned those words of promise into reality.  The younger Kennedy generations have been imbued with that idealism and when all the fanfare is over, that hope and call to action will thrive.

The Kennedy dynasty is gone but the legacy, thankfully, lives on.

POSTSCRIPT

This entry is dedicated to my everlovin’ daughter Maribel who will need her abundant strength and fortitude to get through this day.  She will, I have no doubt about that.

Weekend Funnies

August 28, 2009

In acknowledgment of and thanks for your loyal reading, here are some funnies for the weekend:

CUP OF TEA

One day my mother was out and my father was in charge of me.  I was maybe three years old and someone had given me a little “tea set” as a gift.  It was one of my favorite toys.

Daddy was in the living room engrossed in the news when I brought him a little cup of “tea”, which was just water.  After several cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my Mom came home.  My Dad made her sit quietly in another room, so Mom could watch me bring Dad the cup of tea, because I was so cute.

Mom waited and sure enough, I came walking down the hall with a cup of tea for Daddy.  Mom watched Dad drink from the tea cup.  Then she said (as only a mother would know), “Did it ever occur to you that the only place she can reach to get water is the toilet?”

WOMAN’S DESIGNS ON A MAN’S PLACE

Men’s Rest-room Mural——– Read before looking at picture

Edge Designs is an all-women run company

That designs interior office space. They had a

Recent opportunity to do an office project in

NYC.

The client allowed the women of this

Company a free hand in all design aspects.

The client was a company that was also

Run by all women execs…. ………

The result………well…..We all know that

Men never talk, never look at each other….

And never laugh much in the restroom….

The men’s room is a serious and quiet place….

But now…with the addition of one mural

On the wall……let’s just say the men’s

Restroom is a place of laughter and smiles:


image001(2)

And they say women don’t have a sense of humor.

Send this to all the gal’s in your life that need a smile

and the guys you think can take having a little fun poked

at them, after all they are always trying to poke a little something at us.

The happiest people don’t necessarily have

the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.

AND FINALLY, MY FAVORITE RECENT COMMERCIAL. Listen real closely as this little girl, a real assured Smartie Pants, demonstrates her advanced vocabulary at the end of this video:

We all have a funeral to attend tomorrow with the eulogy given by our President.  Hang tight: it is going to be a sad one.

The Pirates of Health Care

August 27, 2009

Bottom line on health care: PROFIT has NO PLACE in the insuring and delivering of health care.  Period.  Any person or business entity that makes money off of the misfortune of others is a downright pirate.

As long as the health care industry is tied to the profit motive, there will be inadequacies, breach of contracts, and an overall tainted, greed-based system.  The Republicans call this a “free enterprise” system.  The only thing that is free is the enterprise of withholding benefits in order to enrich the insurance companies.  In the hopes of reducing costs, the only parties being regulated (across-the-board fees are now regulated based on Medicare rates, i.e. either paid out at Medicare’s levels or plus -or- minus around 20% of Medicare rates) are the providers.  How ridiculous is it that the physicians, hospitals and labs who provide the actual medical services are regulated by the totally UNREGULATED, PROFIT MOTIVATED industry that pays the fees?  What a bastardization of medical care.  At least,  medical insurance should be heavily regulated as are our public utilities and at best there should be universal, single payer health care under the auspices of our federal government.  Capitalism is one thing, but it is evident that when applied to an industry that is ultimately responsible for life and death matters, it is an unacceptable solution.

This debate has been going on for decades.  Watch this video reviewing the medical coverage proposals of Richard Nixon and Ted Kennedy from the early 1970’s:

Clearly, while Kennedy favored universal health care, Nixon assigned responsibility for it to private insurers.  That was, and still is, corruption just waiting to happen.  The last four decades have proved that.  Today, Americans who can afford insurance are not getting the coverage they paid for plus the incidence of bankruptcies caused by that breach of contract are rising enormously.  And that is for people who HAVE insurance.  Imagine the heartaches ….. and death rates ….. for those who are uninsured.

Here we are, fighting wars against terrorism on two fronts that is costing billions of dollars while the real terrorism that threatens our well-being and economy is right in our own back yard.  Health care should absolutely be taken out of the realm of our capitalistic, free enterprise system and placed squarely in the arena of a responsible and benevolent government agency.  Yes: “responsible and benevolent  government program” is not an oxymoron.  Medicare has proven that.  When was it written, and who the hell wrote it, that America is the most enlightened country?  While our country fights wars abroad for freedom and justice, we cannot even deliver the necessary services to our own citizens here at home.  Freedom is a meaningless concept if the people are in ill health or dead anyway.  What good is global freedom if our domestic situation is a time bomb waiting to implode on itself?

Surely, as it stands now, our private medical insurance industry is a pirate that is using  our self-interested, uncaring government as a blanket approval for raping the general population.  All the while, our lawmakers have the Cadillac of all medical insurance plans available to them.  These insurance companies, as well as the enabling politicians, are the real terrorists.

The profiteering by our health care industry, tacitly supported by our public officials and lawmakers, is out and out piracy:

Special thanks for the Nixon/Kennedy video goes out to my friend Cats Barrington.

Postscript On Teddy

August 26, 2009

A few more thoughts on Teddy Kennedy have come to me since I wrote my last post so I thought I would share them with you.

MoveOn is circulating a very powerful, fairly recent speech of Kennedy’s:

http://pol.moveon.org/kennedy/?id=17001-3386667-BZw54nx&t=2

What a conflict of goals and expectations exist in our supposed fair, just and freedom-for-all country!.  How correct is Kennedy when he asserts that all Americans deserve the same universal health care that our senators enjoy?  Certainly only specific groups of Americans, through either good fortune, good luck or job choice,  enjoy the basic human right of health coverage.  This democracy and freedom we constantly brag about seems awfully quirky and class dependent to me.  In fact, freedom, fairness and equality does not exist in America’s health care program.  Period.

Absorbing the immensity of Kennedy’s life, I was very touched by the good in our system coming full circle:  Barack Obama was born one year before Teddy Kennedy took his Senate seat.  The ascendancy of our current President was a direct fulfillment of all that Kennedy devoted himself to: civil rights, education and hopefully, universal health coverage.  Of course the process is a two-way street: Kennedy was an important mentor for Obama.  It makes me glad to recognize the good in our system whenever, much too rarely, it occurs, as in the reciprocal benefits Kennedy and Obama experienced from their relationship.  Our country, our world is a better place for that relationship having happened.

Thank you Teddy, for our past, present, but especially, for our future.

The Teddy

August 26, 2009

Senator Teddy Kennedy has passed.  His ideas, commitment to helping Americans and dedication to what freedom is all about has not passed.

Kennedy was the bastion of progress in the Senate.  In his personal life, early on there were numerous and stupid ethical violations.  However, he cleared away the debris from his life, including a transforming and rehabilitating second marriage, and truly became the patriarch of that extended family.  He walked Caroline down the aisle and buried John, Jr.  He was an early and staunch supporter of Barack Obama and came out fighting for him despite the consequences of a Clinton backlash.  And Kennedy always had dogs around him and proved indelibly that children mattered.  Not to lessen the importance or denigrate his public service accomplishments, how a person treats animals and children is the mark of a great man.  Teddy Kennedy was indeed a great man.

Please read Robert Reich’s brief tribute to Kennedy:

America has had a few precious individuals who are both passionate about social justice and also understand deep in their bones its practical meaning. And we have had a few who possess great political shrewdness and can make the clunky machinery of democratic governance actually work. But I have known but one person who combined all these traits and abilities. His passing is an inestimable loss.

Most Americans will never know how many things Ted Kennedy did to make their lives better, how many things he prevented that would have hurt them, and how tenaciously he fought on their behalf. In 1969, for example, he introduced a bill in the Senate calling for universal health insurance, and then, for the next forty years, pushed and prodded colleagues and presidents to get on with it. If and when we ever achieve that goal it will be in no small measure due to the dedication and perseverance of this one remarkable man. We owe it to him and his memory to do it soon and do it well.

Teddy Kennedy’s legacy lives on.  The biggest honor we can bestow upon his memory is to enact health care reform.  Our representatives and senators should make a vow to compromise over health care and GET THE JOB DONE.   This would be a fitting tribute to the ideals that Kennedy envisioned, not only in health care, but also pertaining to civil rights and education.  On top of his vision for a better America, Kennedy got the job done more often than not, by compromising, cajoling and believing.   Our nation has no need for the empty lip service currently being offered by Congress: we need action.

That would do Teddy proud: by benefiting Americans, Teddy would have reveled in those benefits.  Our new health care legislation should be called “The Teddy”.

The Power of Listening, the Healing of Hearing

August 25, 2009

I have been away for the last ten days.  During that time, my Internet access was very limited and I hardly watched any television at all.  It was good for me: I spent time thinking for myself and have come to some major conclusions regarding President Obama and health care reform.  I am listening carefully and often, and what I am hearing is different from the mainstream.  I do believe that our President is also listening carefully before he takes any major action.  Patience, my friends.  Remember who the man is that we elected.

News during this month of August has been somewhat slow.  I found myself all tied up in knots about the rancor going on over health care.  What I have come to realize is that the media, especially the 24/7 outlets like Fox and yes, even MSNBC, are in the entertainment business.  Even when there is a lull in important news, it is their job to CREATE news, the more inflammatory the better for viewership and revenues.

Such journalistic luminaries as Frank Rich and Paul Krugman are already toying with the noose, predicting disaster, weakness and defeat for this administration.  In the absence of any real decisions, these writers are waiting in the wings with their predictions.  What ever happened to patience and confidence in whom you elected?  Both have been thrown by the wayside in favor of selling the news.  Frank Rich, in his 8/08/09 Op-Ed piece in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/opinion/09rich.html), believes that our President has “punked” us, i.e. turned his back in an ironic, practical jokingly way to ignore all his promises that made a huge majority of Americans vote for him in the first place.  Paul Krugman likewise, in his Op-Ed on 8/20/09 (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/opinion/21krugman.html?_r=1), basically accuses Obama of being a traitor to the Progressives who elected him.

Despite my deep respect for these two men who most of the time have their fingers so correctly on the pulse of the nation, I take issue with their dire predictions about this administration.  Rich and Krugman are simply HYPOTHESIZING and THEORIZING about how our President will deal with health care reform.  These public writers need to take a breath, step back, and await the careful decision that President Obama will make.  Of course, waiting for some specific action does not sell newspapers.  That is the rub.  These commentators also need to open up their ears, listen to what is being put out there and not jump to any conclusions before they are actually formalized.

However, President Obama has always had his own agenda and time table.  Perhaps he is waiting for the proper opportunity, maybe after both parties have just about destroyed themselves by catering to special interests instead of their constituents, to take a strong stand and go in for the kill to get his legislation passed.  Perhaps the decision will be made de facto by some domestic catastrophe (now I am hypothesizing), such as a swine flu pandemic in the fall.  You better believe that our politicians will move pretty damn fast if hundreds of thousands of Americans acquire the flu and tens of thousands die from it.  I suppose there is always that chance that President Obama will waver on health care and never come out with the type of program and specifics that he would endorse.  But really, now!  Has he ever been a shrinking violet on any issue?  And especially, this topic of health care reform is so close to his heart.  There isn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell that he will not take the reins of this debate.

With this scenario in mind, President Obama has come under attack from his allies as well as his foes (natch).  Both are equally disgusting to me.  I still have a lot of confidence in President Obama’s promise to change things for the better.  I do believe that real reform will occur in the health care industry, including a public option.  Given our corporate mentality of greed and our democratic governing system, which is often legislatively progress-clogging and obstacle-producing to any real new lawmaking, President Obama SHOULD take his time about formulating his own opinion on health care.  Thank heavens that he does not react to very false nuance and rumor like the press does.  He is listening carefully, as we all must.

Why are our lawmakers so scared of and beholden to the insurance industry?  Reform means change, not the status quo.  It has been proven repeatedly that our corporate entities and thus, our governments are much more attuned to the profit motive than what ails us.  This is the bad side of capitalism and democracy.  Industry and government have no soul, unless they are regulated out the kazoo.  What a shame.  Whatever ultimately transpires, our current state of health care is not sustainable in either coverage offered or costs.

Allow me to cite an example from my own health insurance company.  I have had great coverage for over 20 years with one of the “Blues”.  About two weeks ago, I received a explanation of benefits (EOB) from my insurance carrier informing me that they are paid nothing, absolutely zero, on my oft-needed lab work and recent doctor’s visit.  I called them and it appears they simply needed to know if I had any other health insurance.  Of course I didn’t.  They insisted that their EOB was NOT a denial of benefits.  Then how come I received bills from my physician and lab for total payment?  I was furious at them because they have all of my telephone numbers and in twenty years I have NEVER paid a monthly premium late. Yet they have delayed payment (they are going to issue newly corrected EOB’s) to my doctors and labs just because they needed information.  They punished all of us without even trying to contact me.  Punishment first, then the correction ensued with new EOB’s.  When I spoke with the supervisor today, I asked her how she would like to wait for six weeks for payment for services rendered, just like my doctor and lab must wait.  She responded that she did not have to answer that question, and I agreed with her.  She said that “all of the insurance companies” take this retributive stance with their policyholders.  Bingo!  that is exactly the problem.  My mother always said to me, “If everyone else jumped off of the Empire State Building, would you?”  I then asked the supervisor if she thought that the CEO of her company EVER had to wait six weeks for his paycheck.  She had no answer.

The point of this story is that these insurance companies are absolutely and totally running our national health care system.  And our politicians love it.  There is no loyalty to the American people who are getting abused by the system.  The fight, the dedication, appears to be to the soulless corporations that write health care policies.  What is going on in our government?  A continuation of this corporate greed and political sewage blocking all reform is disastrous.  It is high time for our legislators to listen very carefully to what over 70% of our citizens want: decent, affordable  health care with true competitive options.

This is why I believe that President Obama will come through for us.  He knows our current system is a destructive path and huge change is needed.  Hold the fort.  Make your demands clear to your legislators and your President.  Don’t “roll over”, as my insurance company thought I would by not pursuing what they owed me.  Don’t be accepting of these insurance companies “playing the float” by using our premiums but delaying or denying payment for our contractual care for weeks, if not months.  Let your lawmakers know that for them to support these miscreant insurance companies is down right unethical and a clear choice of special interests over the needs of the people.

Damn it!  Fight the fight.  Instead of jumping on the negative bandwagon of Obama bashing, try to circulate truth, patience and confidence in the man you fought so hard to elect.  Accept no ulterior motives.  Open up your ears and you will hear the truth, even though it might not be exactly what you though it would be.  Here is a prime example of what you hear is not always what it seems to be.  It is called “Rain”:

President Obama is not a perfect human being or leader.  Moreover, I am not a delusional Pollyanna.  But he is a damn sight better than anyone we have had in ages.  Trust in him, go to bat for him and you will be rewarded.

Maine Comfort

August 21, 2009

With love ......

With love ......

Crisp ......

Crisp ……
Cloudy ......

Cloudy ......

Camp ......

Camp ......

Campy ......

Campy ......

Colorful ......

Colorful ......

Kitschy ......

Kitschy ......

Quaint ......

Quaint ......

Classic ......

Classic ......

Crappy ......

Crappy ......

Cool.

Cool.

And for the weekend, here is a funny letter home from the front:

Dear Ma and Pa,
I am well.  Hope you are.. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. But I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things.  No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay…practically nothing.

Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there’s warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmi ngs like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon  when you get fed again. It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much.

We go on ‘route marches,’ which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us.  If he thinks so, it’s not my place to tell him different.  A ‘route march’ is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The sergeant is like a school teacher.  He nags a lot.  The Captain is like the school board.   Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don’t bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing.  I keep getting medals for shooting.   I don’t know why.  The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don’t move, and it ain’t shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home.  All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it.  You don’t even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training.  You get to wrestle with them city boys.  I have to be real careful though, they break real easy..  It ain’t like fighting with that ole bull at home.  I’m about the best they got in this=2 0except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake . I only beat him once.  He joined up the same time as me, but I’m only 5′-6″ and 130 pounds and he’s 6′-8″ and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,
Alice

And lastly, a photo and final word from my daughter Maribel in Washington state:


DAMN.

DAMN.

The Enemy Is Us

August 20, 2009

Here is the concept that will make or break Barack Obama as a great leader and decide whether or not we Americans can live up to the “greatness“ we have bestowed upon ourselves.  We must cease defining ourselves by our enemies. There: I have said it.  In foreign affairs and domestic issues we must do what is right, and not try to weasel out of the proper tack by creating new conflicts and antagonisms to derail us from the issues at hand.  It is beyond me why our leaders would rather sidetrack accomplishments that we so desperately need in favor of finding the next “bad guy”.  It is a path lined with excuses that serves to create a lethargy, if not complete paralysis, not only in our relations with other countries but also in our own nation.  Nobody benefits when this strategy of creating enemies instead of progress overtakes our foreign policy and our domestic economic and social agenda.

Foreign policy-wise, the Bush/Cheney administration was the epitome of putting all their efforts into the “enemy” rather than positive actions.  In fact, that administration needed enemies to propel it forward.  “Radical Islam”  all but became symbolic of  “all Islam”, so that we had an all-encompassing focus on the every Muslim as the evil Muslim.  An entire religion was placed on our enemy list.  No reconciliation, understanding, either cultural or social, was offered.  Bush/Cheney just continued to rev up the rhetoric and bombs to such a point that we were neglectful of  any other conciliatory foreign policy.  Certainly this stance did not help us in our relations across the globe. More seriously, that policy demoralized our country and set up a state of benign neglect as to our domestic issues and, as a result, the United States almost came tumbling down.

Hosni Mubarek, President of Egypt, was visiting President Obama this week.  Regarding a possible peace in the Mideast with Israel, Mubarek said that Israel must make the first rapprochement, i.e. concession.  May I ask: what is so degrading about making the first step to peace?  Less lives lost?  Less children massacred?  Less property destroyed?  Please —- set me straight here.  Some day, it will be more admirable to foster peace than to promote war by incessantly “saving face.”

The world  is a savage place; that is why we need government.  However, our governments, so far, have simply mirrored the corruption, self-absorption and selfishness inherent in our lives.  It is time for our leaders to rise above the baseness and set an example.  That is exactly what we are seeing in Iran.  The people want justice.  They want change.  They want a responsive government.  This force for good is definitely related to President Obama’s example in his, so far, short career.  It would be so productive if he could follow this path and not get all caught up in the details stressing conflict.

President Obama  tries to take just that path: reconciliation rather than confrontation.  Such a strategy is actually so much more complimentary to the person offering it rather than hostility.  Can you imagine if it became actually “cool” to wage peace?  I guess if money was somehow attached to peacemaking we would be overflowing with goodwill and friendship.  It is that trait that must become the attractive, accepted policy.  We must value friendship and cooperation over and above having an enemy, rejecting and condemning entire religions, cultures and nations.  Maybe then, each country would concentrate on getting done all those things that need getting done.  The emphasis would be on the internal problems rather than the external ones.  OMG!  It just dawned on me: if peace actually happened, the politicians would HAVE TO solve the domestic issues.  They would actually have to be attentive and responsible to the problems facing their constituencies.

Insisting on always having a convenient enemy also afflicts our economic and social policies.  It has been many months since we entered into the recession.  Some economists have been predicting a “double-dip” recession, meaning that once it looks as if we are pulling out of the recession, we will enter another one.  As I have been observing financial events, I am of the same mind.  Sure, the government provided bailout funds to the banks to prevent a total collapse of our economic structure.  But there were never any conditions on how that money should be spent or a time frame for that to happen.  My friend in California just purchased a house.  She had been looking at short sales and especially, bank foreclosures.  Finally, she had to buy from a solvent seller.  It appears that the banks not only let their foreclosures become physically derelict, but then when they are offered a good price on the foreclosure, they take between nine and sixteen months to respond.  Not only are they dragging down entire neighborhoods with their lack of attention to their properties, but also, when faced with offers to allow homeowners to buy well, they are throwing away the deal due to lack of interest.

So even though the federal government provided the banks with billions of dollars to jump start the home-owning process, this is clearly not happening.  It is as if these banks are just using the float of federal dollars for their own benefit and not making the money available for actual home purchases.  Once again, there is an emphasis on not doing the right, intended thing because they can.  There is no accountability.  These institutions are looking on this windfall from the government as a personal gain  and not using the funds to better their customers.  Again, their sphere of clients are the enemy, watering at the mouth to take those funds away from the banks.  Can’t we have some decency even if there is no formal regulation?  Appears not.

Finally, our social policy regarding health care reform fares no better than our foreign and economic policies: having an enemy is much more important than effecting new policy.  The GOP would so rather see the Obama administration fail, in ANY way possible (at this point, they are not too picky) that all their energy is going into fighting their “public enemy number one”, i.e. President Obama, rather than actually delivering the policy we so desperately need.  Sarah Palin is the essence of this attack-the-enemy-mode of legislating.  Read Robert Reich’s piece on “Sarah Palin’s Death Panels”:

Three years ago, my mother died after a long and painful illness. During her last months she was only partially conscious, and in her brief intervals of awareness was often distraught. At several points my father, sister, and I met with doctors to figure out how to ease her obvious suffering with pain medications, and how we could get her into a hospice facility. We could afford the counseling, but millions of other families cannot — which is why one of the useful health care reforms now moving through Congress authorizes Medicare to reimburse doctors for such voluntary end-of-life consultations. The American Medical Association and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization support the provision.

But in a cruel contortion, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin calls these consultations “death panels,” and in a Facebook posting late last night charges that they’ll force the elderly to accept minimal end-of-life care in order to reduce health care costs: “It’s misleading for the president to describe this section as an entirely voluntary provision that simply increases the information offered to Medicare recipients,” and added, “It’s all just more evidence that the Democratic legislative proposals will lead to health care rationing.”

In her short time on the public stage, we’ve come to expect this sort of thing from Governor Palin. But listen to other Republicans these days — and if you can bear it, tune in to right-wing Hate Radio — and you’ll hear more of the same.

Health care is already rationed, of course. Those who can’t afford health insurance don’t get much of it, except in emergency rooms. For those who have insurance, the rationing is done by prepaid medical groups, the legacies of HMOs, that decide what drugs and procedures their members will get. Or it’s done by insurance company personnel who decide what will be covered.

But for the scaremongers to say that under the healthcare reform proposals now being considered, government will do the rationing — and that government bureaucrats will decide whether people live or die — is odious. It’s a deliberate lie that preys upon the fears of many people who already scared as hell about loss of their jobs, healthcare, homes, and savings.

The “town meetings” that are now spewing such anger reflect deepseated fears that are welling up across America during this economic crisis. Healthcare reform may ease some of these fears. But the demagogues that are manipulating those fears for political gain don’t give a hoot.

Have they no shame?

Furthermore, longtime Republicans, supposedly the older, more experienced wise men such as Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch, are just as stupid and divisive as is Palin.  In response to possibly setting up health care co-ops instead of the public option, here is  Hatch’s response.  This is also a good explanation of what a health coop is and how it works:

http://egan.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/prairie-health-care-companion/?ref=global-home

Even when a new concept, as applied to health care, such as health coops are put on the table, Hatch just closes the door by saying that it is still a government institution.  He is wrong about that but obviously, his main intention is just to achieve a closed door policy regarding ANY reform.

The GOP is being irresponsible and unresponsive to the issues facing Americans.  Instead of listening and considering the many approaches to heath care, these senior GOP officials  shoot down EVERY idea, labeling them as “government funded” or even worse, as “socialism”.  Thus, they are trying to scare the bejeezus out of us so that the status quo can remain.  After all, if decent health care legislation IS enacted, what can these Republicans resort to in order to tear apart President Obama and get themselves back into office?  Their position of always producing an enemy rather than facing the current issues is totally defensive, and only productive for their own little careers and pocketbooks.

It is beyond belief to me that while the United States is fighting for freedom in two places half way around the world from us, we can not offer our own citizens decent, affordable health care.  The public option is a must since we are not conceptually accepting of what we really need, i.e. universal, single payer health care.  Unfortunately, that misplaced policy says more about us as a country than does our global fight for justice: no regard and care for Americans at home completely negates our battle for justice throughout the world.

All in all, we are our own worst enemy.  In our world as well as in our country and institutions, worth must be placed on  helping each other.  It is diversionary and destructive to constantly make new enemies to justify our existence.  I know we are better than that.

Nothing From Nothing

August 18, 2009

I am away but nonetheless furious over the possible demise of the public option in health care reform.  I did manage to catch about five minutes of Howard Dean on television and although he admits to a difficult process, he believes that we will have a public option and the new legislation will be on the President’s desk by December.  Dean was somewhat comforting.

If this reform goes through without a public option, all we will get will be still-spiraling premium costs for those who can still pay, a ballooning of enrollment in Medicaid and Medicare for those who cannot afford the premiums, absolutely NO containment of health care costs and of course, the insurance companies will still be maintaining their 30% plus profits.  There is just so much cutting and whittling down of provider costs that insurance companies can mandate: if left up to these private insurers, fees will become so low that we will see an exodus of physicians creating a doctor shortage that we have never seen before.  Hospitals will also be forced to close their doors.  Rationing will a necessity.  But hell yes!  The insurance companies will still make a profit of 30%  that will be the only aspect of health care that would remain the same.    Then in five years, whatever “system” we have will totally fall apart and we will have to start over.  What a total waste of time!  Pleas read Bob Herbert of the New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/opinion/18herbert.html?_r=1

Health care must be regulated just as the public utilities are.  Last time I checked, utility companies were making a pretty penny, all the while WITH government regulation.  When the forces of regulation were lifted in the Enron scandal, you bet your sweet life that the company raped Californians.  The same will hold true if we have no public option or any other regulatory controls on insurance companies.  We’ve been there, done that.  In a country of over 300 billion people, the government MUST offer regulation and oversight.

This must be an evil joke.  Where are you, President Obama?  Has your need for compromise supplanted your intention of obtaining true help for Americans?  Hello?  Where are you, Rahm Emanuel?  Understandably, your superhuman schedule is taxing, but has it left you lifeless and all to ready to throw in the towel?  By all means, take a vacation but don’t cave on important principles that will affect every American.  And David Axelrod: your job is to whip President Obama into shape to actually FIGHT this battle.

Health care reform WITHOUT the public option is truly a joke, a carrot on a stick approach.  We have the largest bureaucracy, i.e. Medicare, already in place.  Why in all tarnation wouldn’t our government use that already existing structure as the basis for a fair, competitive launching ground for real reform?  The insurance companies and drug companies have our President by the throat.  Why is he caving in?  Nothing from nothing is nothing.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has said that nothing has changed in the administration’s health care goals.  They have made no changes to their rhetoric.  So what is going on here?  Is the opposition so base, so low, that they are perpetrating these rumors just to see the Administration fail?  I think that might be true.  President Obama still has no specific plan, a course he purposely mapped out because he did not want to become the target like the Clintons became with their health care proposal.

It is time to get a damn plan on the table and fight like hell for it.  If there is no public option, there is no reform.  I can tell a placebo when I see it, and so can the American people.  Over 70% of Americans have said that they want a plan similar to Medicare.  What good are fighting wars for freedom and justice when we cannot even provide our own citizens with decent health care?  Here we are the richest nation on the globe and our citizens are lining up in tents and stadiums to get medical care.  If we are not yet  the laughing stock of the world, we will be soon.

Mama Said……

August 14, 2009

Once again a weekend is upon us.  That means another reading assignment.  You will surely enjoy this article.  It is all about President Obama’s mother and her influence on her son.  To understand where our President came from, why he is who he is today and where he might go in the future, this column is important ….. and relevant to OUR lives over the next eight years:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/11/opinion/11dove.html?ref=global-home

This also represents a much-needed break from the health care debate.  Enjoy the weekend.