Monday, August 24, 2009

FEAR! Politics, again

I see the nihilist, fearful, rabid conservative party of ME FIRST! and to Hell with anyone else is now demonizing President Obama's call to turn 9/11 into a day of national service.

Words fail me.

What can you do with people who are mad dogs trying to ravage others and infect others with their rabid virus?

Other options besides locking them up forever or taking them out and shooting them need to be developed.

Should the Left get their own party of Mad Dogs and get Michael Vick to charge admission to cage fights?


Speaking of cage fights is that the direction American politics is heading?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Doubts abound about Libyan involvement in Lockerbie crash

Not mentioned in the American mass media outrage over the parole granted the Lockerbie bomber is that he was railroaded by the British, Scotish and Scotish political establishments who needed someone to blame. He doesn't seem to have been involved in the plot.

We need an independent media.

Reason has another update.

The Real Death Panels

New Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi lays it out.

The system doesn’t work for anyone. It cheats patients and leaves them to die, denies insurance to 47 million Americans, forces hospitals to spend billions haggling over claims, and systematically bleeds and harasses doctors with the specter of catastrophic litigation.

Taibbi points out that Baucus has received $2,880,631 in campaign contributions for the health care industry, Grassley is over 2M as well. (And these are the people who are promoting a bi-partisan bill. No, more like a buy-partisan bill.)

Without a public option, any effort at health care reform will be as meaningful as a manicure for a gunshot victim

The White House makes a serial vacillator like Bill Clinton look like Patton crossing the Rhine.

The Limbaugh minions look like morons for protesting as socialism a reform effort designed to preserve our private system at all costs.

Food For Thought

You might copy and reply with this when you get a nasty viral email on health care reform.

Roger Ebert's Journal: I'm Safe On Board, You Can Pull Up The Rope

Having read through some 600 comments about universal health care, I now realize I took the wrong approach in my previous blog entry. I discussed the Obama health plan in political, literal, logical terms. Most of my readers replied in the same vein. The comments, as always, have been helpful, informative and for the most part civil. My mistake was writing from the pragmatic side. I should have followed my heart and gone with a more emotional approach. I believe universal health care is, quite simply, right.

It is a moral imperative. I cannot enjoy health coverage and turn to my neighbor and tell him he doesn't deserve it. A nation is a mutual undertaking. In a democracy, we set out together to do what we believe is good for the commonwealth. That means voluntarily subjecting ourselves to the rule of law, taxation, military service, the guaranteeing of rights to minorities, and so on. That is a cheap price to pay.

As I've read through of those comments (and I've posted all but two I received), one thing jumped from the page at me: The unusually high number of comments from other countries. Canadians were particularly well-represented. Although we're assured by opponents of the Obama legislation that Canada's system of universal care is a failure, all of these Canadians, without exception, reported their enthusiasm for their nation's system. One reader said her mother choose to fly to California to get a knee replacement more quickly, but even she praised the Canadian system.

They said reports of waiting times may be true with semi-elective surgeries, like hip or knee replacement, especially in more populous areas. But they're able to see a physician with a minimal wait in cases of need. They are treated quickly and competently, at very little cost other than personal expenses and the graduated scale of quarterly premium payments. Similar messages came from the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Holland, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Greece and Germany. Everyone is pleased.

But that, too, is an argument to reason. What so many of these messages also made was an argument to morality. They were astonished that the United State is alone among all developed nations in refusing such coverage to its citizens. A Canadian wrote that it benefits his entire society that its citizens have access to universal care. By making preventative medicine freely available, it lowers the cost of chronic illness. By making early diagnosis possible, it prevents many diseases from reaching a fatal stage. By making mental health care and medication available to those who need it (and who are often unemployable), it avoids the American system where many such people are abandoned to the streets or to the care of their overtaxed families.

Many of my readers opposed the Obama plan, some of them in great detail. I will not try to simplify their arguments; you can read them for yourself. But here, in broad outline, are some of their most common statements, and my responses:

It is "socialized medicine." Yes, it is. The entire society shares the cost. It does not replace private medicine. Just as in the UK and Canada, for example, we would remain free to choose our own insurance policies and private physicians. But it is the safety net for everyone.

It is "socialism." Again, yes. The word socialism, however, has lost its usefulness in this debate. It has been tainted, perhaps forever, by the malevolent Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who succeeded somehow in linking it with the godless Commies. America is the only nation in the free world in which "socialism" is generally thought of in negative terms. The only nation in which that word, in and of itself, is thought to bring the discussion to a close.

It is wrong for ideological or philosophical reasons. Readers have written about their belief in Federalism, Free Market Capitalism, strict Constitutionalism, personal liberty, Libertarianism, and so on. To one of these readers I wrote something like: "Do you think your views on federalism will be of much interest to unemployed wage-earners unable to obtain coverage for their families?" To another, I wrote: "I hope your philosophy will be of comfort if you develop a serious illness."

One reader said that the only things the Constitution guarantees us are "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," and Congress should enact no laws about anything else. Actually, it's the Declaration of independence that mentions "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," but never mind. Some might believe universal health care would be of great assistance in enjoying life and the pursuit of happiness. It is a peculiarity that some of those happiest to cite the Constitution are the least interested in its Bill of Rights.

Good health is a responsibility of the individual, not the state. One reader wrote that he doesn't smoke, drinks in moderation, watches his diet, and exercises regularly. I applaud him. Statistically, this promises him an extended life span. I have never smoked, haven't had a drink in 30 years, and walked an average of 10,000 steps a day for the five years before I underwent my first cancer surgery. A doctor once told me: "If you never get any other disease, sooner or later you will die of cancer."

My reader says he neither has nor desires insurance coverage. He will bank his premiums in a savings account dedicated to his own health care, instead of spending them on the care of anyone else. He must have no idea what it costs to have a serious illness in this country. It will take a lot of savings. I've been assured by some readers, however, that I'm a rich man and have no financial worries.

A guy gets run over by a bus.
Another guy runs over and says, "Oh my God! Are you comfortable?"
First guy: "I make a living."

True enough, I've earned some nice money in my life--all by paycheck, which is no way to get really rich. Also, I had group health insurance plans through my unions at both jobs. They were good plans. But during the course four major surgeries--no, make that five--I maxed out one, and so much for that policy. I'm approaching the cap on the second. Most policies aren't unlimited, you know. Luckily, I now qualify for Medicare.

Federal Death panels would decide who lives or dies. This, very frankly, is a lie. The nearest thing we have to a death panel in the United States is an insurance company claims adjuster. Some readers wrote that they or their loved ones were denied tests or treatment by their insurance companies, especially in the case of "pre-existing conditions." One, who had a brain tumor, says he was denied coverage of the treatment by an adjuster, as if he'd known about the tumor at the time he took out his policy some time earlier. Think about this. Unless we die violently or in an accident, we all die of a pre-existing condition. The condition is called "life."

The Obama plan, in simplified terms, would make Medicare available to everyone. Yes, even the senior citizen at that Arizona town hall meeting who screamed at his congressman: "Keep the government's hands off my Medicare!" He didn't know Medicare is a federal program, and he didn't want to know.

When I wrote my original entry, I thought there were 40 million uninsured Americans. I'm informed the number is around 47 million. Some readers have informed me: "That number is inflated!" What would be an acceptable number? Thirty million? Twenty million? How many uninsured Americans are you comfortable with?

It seems to me that universal health care is a win-win proposition. It provides an umbrella of protection for those who cannot afford or qualify for health insurance. This helps us all. Every time you learn from the news about our latest jobless statistics, consider this: A newly jobless person who was insured through an employee health plan is about to become a newly uninsured person. It's for our mutual good that we live in a healthier society. To provide universal coverage is the moral thing to do.

I was informed that my entry was "typical liberalism." This is correct. I am a liberal. If you are a conservative, this appears to be a difference between us: I think you should have guaranteed health insurance.

Matthew 25: 31-46

31 When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.

32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,

33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.

34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;

35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,

36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."

37 Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?

38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?

39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?"

40 And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;

42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me."

44 Then they also will answer, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?"

45 Then he will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me."

46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hey Next Democratic Guv!

Questions for the Democratic candidate for Governor of the great state of Texas

How prepared are you to be a Texas governor and candidate?

A. How informed are you of the general issues and specific issues affecting Texans? Where do you get your news – what broadcast radio programs, news cable channels, newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs and Internet sites are your information providers? What are the meetings you regularly attend that keep you up to date with some concerns?

B. How emotionally prepared are you to be lied about? Ever since Ann Richards campaign when Karl Rove turned to email and mailing lists of business, church, and political groups to spread a campaign of innuendo, lies and smears Texas candidates have to be prepared to have lies and smears about their sexual, business and personal lives be the fodder for conversations and emails around country clubs, churches and office water coolers. Are you and your family prepared for that? What in your past, true or capable of being lied about, will Democrats have cause to regret nominating you?

How prepared are you to be the Democratic candidate and governor?

A. How much money and support in the past have you given to other parties and candidates who ran against Democratic nominees? How much have you supported and are you now supporting the Texas Democratic Party and candidates? Do you think you can give whole-hearted support, including financial, to the Texas Democratic Party and candidates as well as your own campaign?

B. As the Democratic governor it will be easier to govern with a Democratic Texas House. Which House members are you supporting to take over the seats needed for a Democratic majority? Will you campaign with and support other Democratic candidates for House and Senate as well as statewide offices?

C. In the past some of your actions can be seen as not being a good Democrat. What about the Democratic Party then led you to those actions? What has changed so that you want to be the Texas Democratic Governor, who is also considered to be the de facto leader of the Democratic Party in Texas?

D. Many people in Texas, particularly those well-off, white, rural and conservative Christian, consider the Democratic Party the anti-Christian Democratic Socialistic Party of high taxes, only looking out for minorities and those unwilling to work, and wanting to take away their guns and Bibles. Running for the highest profile elected position in Texas how do you convince them they are wrong?

How will you handle these issues?

A. Workers in this country illegally. Businesses want the compliant workers for low wages but many Americans don’t want to provide a means for them to become citizens or to provide health care and education for their families. Your plan?

B. Public education. The ranking of Texas education continues to decline while the governor appoints social conservatives to the Texas Board of Education and business cronies to the Universities. How will you be different?

C. Privatization of government services. Does replacing experienced government workers with private workers at lower pay and benefits but a corporate profit overhead really lead to better and more economical government services and at what indirect costs?

D. Toll roads. For or against?

E. Texas regulatory boards controlled by the industries they are supposed to regulate. What will you change?

F. Health care and Insurance costs. How will you lower them?

G. Clean water and the environment and lax regulations. Will this change?

H. Green renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions. What is your plan?

I. Jobs and the economic environment. How can you as the Texas governor help?

What is your main agenda as governor? What governing philosophy do you have? The Texas governor powers are mainly limited to the power of appointment, the power of publicity and the power of the veto. Can you achieve your agenda with these limited powers?

How will Texans pay for your government? Texas has a high sales tax, high fees, high sin taxes, low business taxes, and very low mineral and energy extraction taxes and property taxes that are unevenly distributed. The result is a regressive tax system with those at the top facing a lower rate of taxation than the average worker. How will Texas raise the money to continue to operate and provide services and what changes would you like to see?

Who are your governing inspirations?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The monster in the closet

It's exhausting dealing with the insane deluded right. It's like having full grown retarded men living in your house constantly throwing tantrums because there is a monster in the closet. They refuse to be reassured even though you have repeatedly opened the closet door and turned the lights on. Instead they threaten to burn the whole house down if you "keep allowing monsters to live in the closet". So, then you can’t sleep.

It gets even worse. They turn on TV and there is Glen Beck assuring them the monster in the closet is real. Or CNN has Lou Dobbs saying that it might be there. Fox News has 8 out of 10 of their "experts" saying there could be a monster in everyone's closet. And they turn on the radio and Rush Limbaugh and the others are giving advice on how to barricade the closet doors against the monster.

What can you do with the idiots living in your house who might burn it down because they believe in monsters?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Adventures on Facebook

I moved most of what used to be blog posts to Facebook with its shorter postings and closer connections to friends. Sometime you can get the equivalent of the crazy commentators there that you do get on blogs.

I had followed some Facebook link over to Sarah Palin's Facebook page and had to make some comment about her crazy statement on Obama "death panels." I noticed a couple of my Democratic friends had become "fans" of her page to have a ready source of amusement.

I had someone who saw my comment on Sarah's site start mailing me within Facebook about how Sarah Palin was right and his bad experiences with government run health care which Obama was going to impose on the whole country!

I will quote the last two exchanges:

I was under Air Force military care for 18 years and they are still my Dad's provider who considers them much, much better than private insurance.

Now, you are going way off-base with speculations and inaccurate information. Legal Insurrection has made a crazy leap from Obama and everyone else thinking (about) a national expert panel looking into ways to cut costs to instead every individual having to deal with a "death panel." As one of the comments says "There is not one scintilla of evidence that anyone on the Hill has been contemplating either a "death panel" or the denial of service to the handicapped."

Your own experience with denial of treatment is now the norm in the great world of private medical insurance where there are panels and individuals whose only function is to save the insurance provider money.

Lastly, the Democrats are not working on a universal government coverage health care bill. That is explicitly ruled out. If they were we could be having this debate about it. Instead it is a complicated series of reforms which may include the option of letting people choose a state program that would be like Medicare.

Really, there is a lot to debate in the five proposals and dozens of amendments that will be offered. Why you and the great uninformed are having a debate about universal government health care which isn't on the table instead of what is: everyone being forced to buy for-profit private insurance, just indicates how well the insurance companies that want this form of "reform" have created groups and media consultants to astro-turf the debate.

Jason Benefield, Liberty college graduate and Army officer in Washington DC:
You are full of beans and ignorant - if I am part of the great uninformed, you are just plain lying. End of discussion - I don't argue with donkeys.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Real Health Care Stats

In a September 2007 report to Congress, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) compared 2004 US health care spending with other OECD countries:

-- America then averaged $6,102 per person, well over double the average $2,560 for OECD countries;

-- US health care spending was 15.3% of the economy compared to 8.9% on average for OECD countries; for Canada it was 9.9%; Germany - 10.6%; Great Britain - 8.1%; France - 10.5%; and Japan 8.0%;

-- "US prices for medical care commodities and services are significantly higher than in other countries (delivering comparable care) and serve as a key determinant of higher overall spending;" high insurance and drug costs are the most significant factors;

-- life expectancy in America is lower than in other OECD countries;

-- the US ranks 22nd on life expectancy at birth; post-65, it's 11th for men and 13th for women;

-- America has the third highest infant mortality rate after Turkey and Mexico;

-- heart disease, cancer, and respiratory diseases are the top OECD country causes of death; America ranks 17th for heart disease "despite (performing) substantially more invasive heart procedures than all the other (OECD) countries;"

-- quality of US health care isn't superior overall; nor do Americans "have substantially better access to health care resources, even putting aside the issue of the uninsured;" and

-- because of the cost, many Americans delay or forgo treatment.

World Health Organization's (WHO) Ranking of World Health Systems

WHO ranks America 37th overall, behind Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iceland, Malta, Colombia, Cyprus, Morocco and Costa Rica and about equal to Slovenia and Cuba.

In other measures, it has the US 24th on life expectancy, 72nd on level of health, 32nd in distribution of care, 54 - 55th in financial contribution fairness, 15th in overall goal attainment, and first in per capita amount spent.

In a 2007 Commonwealth Fund study comparing Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the UK and US, America ranks last as in its earlier studies on access, patient safety, efficiency, chronic care management, and equity. Most notable is its absence of universal coverage. Overall, the US ranks poorly on its ability to promote healthy lives through affordable, high quality care.

Unfortunately it appears the "reforms" making their highly contentious way through Congress are unlikely to improve those rankings. The only true solution is a Medicare for All option.

Much of this is lifted straight from Steve Lendmen's blog. For even more damning statistics from even more organizations go there.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Health Care Reform - Do it Now

The Republicans, conservatives and the health care industry are mounting a major push this summer to block health care reform. They are repeating many of the same arguments they had stored away from the Clinton attempt at reform and adding new crazy ones - "Obamacare wants to kill the seniors."

One of the repeated arguments is the crazy flowchart of the new health care system. Guess what? The existing health care system is even more of a maze. The dueling flowcharts are shown here.

There is a lot of stuff out there but here is a relatively simple way to look at it, from part of an email I sent to a concerned relative.

Our current health care doesn't work and the spending for health care is out of control while fewer and fewer people are covered and even
those who have insurance find a major health problem leads to
bankruptcy. America health care costs are 40% higher than the rest of
the industrialized world with worse results because 40% of the dollars
goes to insurance company profits, marketing and overhead not
connected to caring for people.

Contrary to government waste stories you hear the least expensive health
insurance in America is Medicare where there is only 2% administration
costs compared to 40% administration and overhead costs for private
insurance companies. The private insurance companies in America also
have every financial incentive to provide the least care possible and
find excuses to deny care.

No one says we can keep the current system, even large businesses now want to set up new plants outside the country so they don't have to provide health care so they can reduce costs. Toyota had a choice of building a new car plant for America and chose Canada over Alabama and saved about $2500 per car because health care insurance is a government program and not an employer program.

We have the most expensive health care in the world. The system is
great for those who can afford it. That is fewer and fewer people and

How to reduce costs? I think there are four choices.

1 You could go to a 90% socialized government system like England,
France or Cuba. Hospitals and doctors would be government owned and
there is one tax to cover it. Very well off people might find a
private doctor or hospital.

2 You could go to a single-payer system like medicare with private
doctors and hospitals but people have the option of going to those who
take their Medicare card with low co-pays. If they have more money or
have a better job they can still use private insurance.

3 You could do nothing and ignore the more and more people without
health insurance and hope you can afford the costs that double every
5 or 6 years.

4. You could try a more complicated mixture of public options and
cost containment measures. That seems the Obama approach.

I prefer option 2, pretty much "a Medicare for all" option. This is called single-payer but I doubt we will see anything much like it.

What do you prefer?

You might see a lot of stuff on TV, in the mail or in emails. The
health insurance industry is lobbying hard to stay one of the most
profitable parts of our economy and Republicans want to see Obama and
the Democrats fail at any new plan.

There is a new blog - which covers how health care reform will help you in more detail. The cost of doing nothing is staggering - the average family will pay more than $10,000 more in premiums within 10 years if we follow the do nothing, know nothing party. We have to make a choice and do something.

(Note - even while I was posting this the well-organized, very well funded anti-reform groups had a false media watch dog group against health care reform advertisement pop up.)

New form of Political Compass Test

My Political Views
I am a left moderate social libertarian
Left: 5.75, Libertarian: 1.96

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -5.7

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -4.96

Political Spectrum Quiz

The data from test takers is also displayed in maps and you can do comparisons by state, political party, age, and more.