Friday, July 31, 2009

Single payer in America not only cheaper, but with higher customer satisfaction, shorter wait times

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The Huffington Post has a piece on America's government run health insurance program, a single payer plan that no conservative Congressman in his "right" mind would dare propose eliminating.

It notes that 70 percent of traditional Medicare enrollees say they 'always' get access to needed care (appointments with specialists or other necessary tests and treatment)... [versus] only 51 percent of those with private insurance.

Single payer "can't be done"? It's already being done, and better than the private insurance system. 3 percent administrative/overhead for Medicare compared to 30+ percent for private insurance. And despite (because of) all that extra bureaucracy, private insurance has much lower customer satisfaction. Why exactly are we clinging to this system again?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The truth(s) about 'socialized medicine' and why Wal-Mart backs Obama's plan

(That would be the socialized medicine that saved my dad's eyesight)

As the health care 'reform' bill winds its way through Congress, things are heating up. President Obama and his allies seem hell bent on imposing the failed Massachusetts' health care model on the entire nation. The MA plan requires all citizens to have private health care and, if I understand correctly, fines them if they don't. But affordable health insurance in the state has been found to be sorely lacking. If I'm a private insurance company CEO, I'd love for this racket to go national.

Additionally, the Obama plan would also impose an 8 percent payroll tax on businesses that don't provide health insurance to their workers, but it does nothing to address health care costs that make the insurance unaffordable to such businesses in the first place. As such, the president's plan would decimate small businesses. Perhaps, this is why Wal-Mart has backed the Obama plan.

Single payer health care is the only sensible plan. Everyone would have access to it so everyone would pay for it via their income taxes, just like everyone pays for having access to police/sheriff and fire departments.

This is not a question of 'the perfect being the enemy of the good.' The Obama plan would harm small businesses while doing nothing to achieve universal health care access that's actually affordable. Issuing people fines for not being able to afford health care? How is that 'progressive reform'? Sounds like more change we can't believe in.

There was a good piece in Common Dreams from an American professor who spent several years living in Finland. In it, the woman gives a first-hand (not third-hand) experience with the Scandinavian country's universal health care system.

First, she takes a slap at the deceptive propaganda inherent in the 'debate' in this country. These horror stories are never accompanied by data, just hearsay and anecdotes from “a friend of a friend” in Canada or the United Kingdom. Rarely have I heard from people who have themselves experienced a universal public health care system. As one of those people, I thought I should speak up.

She points out that while living in Finland, her taxes were higher, but her take home pay was about the same as it was in the US, once health insurance premiums and expenses are deducted.

She recounted her exemplary experience in giving birth to her son in Finland, praising the care she received along the way.

Though interestingly, she doesn't mention endless paperwork or hours of arguing with insurance bureaucrats over wrongly denied claims.

She writes: [In Finland], I never had to wait to see a medical professional, nor was any necessary procedure delayed or denied. Every nurse and doctor I saw was caring and knowledgeable, and spent whatever time was necessary to make sure that I received the care I needed.

I have now been living and working back in the US for 6 months, and already I have had problems with my health insurance plan through my employer. I found out the hard way (that is, at the doctor’s office after my son’s vaccination visit) that my son had been arbitrarily dropped from my plan months before, even though I had been paying the premiums for the family plan all along. It took almost a week of phone calls to get him reinstated. All the while, I privately wondered if the two ear infections he had in the spring had prompted some computer at the health insurance company to calculate that he was “overusing” the system, and automatically drop his coverage.


She concludes: For every anecdote they have about a Canadian waiting six months for necessary open heart surgery, I can find twenty Americans for whom that equally necessary surgery is completely out of reach.

This presence of third world-style health care camps in rural America attests to this.

North Country Public Radio has a story on how a health care report is being buried by New York's Democratic Gov. David Paterson. The report finds eliminating the traditional role of the insurance companies from the health system [single payer] would save [the state] $20 billion dollars a year. New York's budget gap last year was around $18 billion.

That single payer costs less despite covering everyone is not news to readers of this blog.

As social justice activist Mark Dunlea pointed out in the NCPR report, one would think that a floundering governor with poll ratings stuck for months in the low 20s would be eager to try something bold, especially something he once was supported when he was a state senator.

Then again, Barack Obama also supported single payer before he became chief executive.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Says it all, really

I think it's telling that this article in The Times of London about American soccer fans' hostile reaction a a certain overhyped fraud was filed not in the paper's football section but under Life Style > Women > Celebrity.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

School of the Assassins and the Honduran coup

This op-ed piece in The Los Angeles Times talks about how School of the Americas'-trained generals with close ties to Washington insiders were behind the military theft of power in Honduras.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cronkite's legacy in tatters

Alternet has a piece marking the passing of former CBS News' anchor Walter Cronkite, once referred to as the most trusted man in America. It laments the death of television journalism and its replacement by punditry.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chump change

The soccer world's most overpaid fraud, who I won't dignify by mentioning his name, has returned to the US' Major League Soccer and make sure that the league's players who actually want to play here don't get any media attention.

I never thought his signing by the league was a good idea. I knew the circus he'd bring with him would distract from the league rather than enhance it. The media attention has been fleeting and directed at his brand, rather than at the soccer.

He's proven to be a failure as a player in this league. He's proven to not give a toss about playing here. It's a testament to his unprofessionalism that he can be useless against Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas but light it up against Inter Milan and Juventus.

This book excerpt gives a lot of insight into exactly how unprofessional he has been.

Frankly, no player in his right mind would rather play for Los Angeles Galaxy than AC Milan. I understand that. But I wish he'd stop insulting everyone's intelligence.

The league's doing fine without him. There are many other foreign players who are actually making an impact in the league because they comport themselves like they actually want to be here. They are far more deserving of media attention than this fraud who's more interested in being 'an ambassador' (ie: expanding his already substantial business interests) than being, you know, a soccer player.

He's boring. He's been more or less useless on the field. As for intelligence and charisma, he makes George W. Bush seem like a cross between Einstein and Churchill. He adds nothing to American soccer but aggravation. It's too bad he can't just go away.

While we may lack the tradition of other countries, the American soccer community isn't quite as stupid and gullible as this Chump, his handlers and many other foreigners (and, for that matter, the league's 'braintrust') seem to think.

Update: Props to Los Angeles' forward Landon Donovan for calling out the fraud. No one can question Donovan's commitment to the Galaxy or to American soccer.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bits and pieces

CAMPAIGN 'CONTRIBUTIONS': FREE SPEECH OR CORRUPTIVE?
Last month, the US Supreme Court ruled that: excessive campaign contributions to a judge create an unconstitutional threat to a fair trial (federal judges are appointed but many state and local judges are elected). I find this shocking. I thought that campaign bribes... umm... I mean 'contributions'... were simply a magnanimous expression of civic good will by a person or corporation. I thought they were a manifestation of (hold hand over heart) our constitutional right to free speech. How could the purely noble and beneficent action of a campaign 'contribution' constitute a potentially corrupting act? How could justices rule against 'free speech'?


NEWSPAPER 'ELITISM'
An essay in The Christian Science Monitor by a journalism professor opines that newspapers need to drop their elitism and remember their roots.

Update: The BBC News Editors' blog ruminates on The End of Fortress Journalism.

TEACH DRINKING
While some publications are leading a hysterical, counterproductive witch hunt against teens having a beer, others are taking a more rational approach. This piece in The Atlantic opines that drinking ought to be taught to teens. I've often said that the way we Americans treat drinking is completely absurd. We don't just give kids a set of car keys the day they turn 16 and say "happy driving." We decide that driving is serious and ought to be taught, that teens will learn best by doing it incrementally and, initially, with adult supervision. Yet we jettison this sensible approach when it comes to drinking alcohol and are stupefied as to why binge drinking is the result.


MYTHBUSTERS
The NPR program On the Media did a good show debunking a number of commonly held myths. This segment addressed the falsehood that President Obama was a Muslim (it's testament to the incoherence of ignorance that the 'Obama is a Muslim' and 'Obama's CHRISTIAN pastor is an America-hater' charges can spread simultaneously). This segment interviews a sociologist and Vietnam Vet who investigated much trumpeted claims that Vietnam war protesters spitting on veterans was a widespread phenomenon. The researcher delved into press archives from the sixties and seventies, and what he found was very surprising: not a single firsthand account of a vet getting spit on, and close to no published claims by anyone so ignobly victimized. He noted that it really wasn’t until about 1980 that these stories began to circulate, which is incredibly suspicious considering the divisive nature of the Vietnam war.


MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Real Time host Bill Maher recently bemoaned, " "[W]hat we need is an actual progressive party to represent the millions of Americans who aren't being served by the Democrats. Because, bottom line, Democrats are the new Republicans." The Green Party of the United States responded.


STONEWALL REDUX
Police officers raided a gay bar arresting seven people and sending one to the hospital after he had his head slammed into a door by the forces of 'order.' This is not something out of Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Nor is it a story from the 1950s. It's out of Fort Worth, TX and it happened only a few weeks ago. The raid occurred shortly after the screening of a documentary on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall raid in New York, the event widely seen as the trigger of the gay civil rights' movement in America. We have a gay councilman. We've had an ordinance prohibiting discrimination over sexual orientation for years. People are angry and confused, and so am I," said Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Hicks. Not only did police fail to explain why the raid occurred, they had the audacity to blame the victims of their unprovoked raid. I know Texas is not the most progressive state in the country but this remains the 21st century and this incident deserves a state investigation.


THE LOST VILLAGES
On the 50th anniversary of the opening of the St. Lawrence (River) Seaway, North Country Public Radio has a series of stories on the Lost Villages. These municipalities, mostly in Ontario, were literally wiped off the map with the Seaway's construction.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stimulating waste

I've never been a big fan of the so-called Stimulus Package proposed by Pres. Obama and passed by the Democratic Congress. I don't object to spending money, even a lot of money, if it's on projects or ideas that are targeted and well thought out. The Stimulus Package, by contrast, is not thought out at all.

It simply takes close to $800,000,000,000, throws it up in the air and hopes something good happens with some of residue. That may have worked in the Great Depression, and there's quite a bit of historical debate on whether it actually did, but needless to say we are not today in a depression, great or small.

This crystallized for me some months ago when I heard New York Gov. David Paterson's remarks while inaugurating some road project in the Albany suburbs. He was asked by a reporter why the road did not include a bike path. You have to remember this is Stimulus money, the governor insisted. It's Stimulus money. It's Stimulus money.

It was on the radio so I could not tell if he clicked his heels three times.

Basically, Paterson said that because the project was being paid for with Stimulus money, the most important thing was that it be done quickly -- not that it be done well, not that it be done efficiently or in a beneficial way, but that it be done as fast as possible.

The insanity of all was brought him in today's issue The Post-Star.

The paper editorialized against the purchase of a $550,000 hybrid bus by the local public transit company. The editorial pointed out that the transit company didn't even want a hybrid bus until it realized that there was Stimulus money available for it.

For the record, I'm a very strong advocate of public transit. I think the local system should be expanded so that actually using it is more viable for more people. I use buses but would use it much more if its limited runs weren't so inconvenient for my work schedule. But the new hybrid bus is not being used to expand service in any case.

By contrast, a report on last night's Glens Falls Common Council meeting noted: [NY] State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alexander Grannis recently notified the city in a letter that no funding is available for dam refurbishment projects under the federal stimulus program.

Glens Falls is under orders from the state to make something like $13 million in repairs to the city's dams.

So Stimulus money is available for buses that are not needed and will not be used to expand service or create jobs, but not a dime of it is available for mandated repairs to critical infrastructure.

Vice-President Biden was in the region last week on his The Stimulus is Wonderful national tour. Too bad he couldn't have been asked why GF can get money for a luxury but not a necessity.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The drama ends. The charade returns.

The Times-Union's Capitol Confidential blog (as well as the cable news program Capital Tonight) is reporting that renegade Sen. Pedro Espada is returning to the New York Senate Democratic Conference, which would return the party to majority status in the chamber.

The announcement came the day after Gov. David Paterson controversially appointed Richard Ravitch to fill the vacant lieutenant governor. The move's legality was challenged in a Republican lawsuit and doubted by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat but widely considered a rival to Paterson.

Espada originally left the Democratic conference after the Republicans lured him away with the promise of making him the chamber's president pro temp... and thus acting lieutenant governor (which was certainly not a quid pro quo *wink/nod*).

This is hardly surprising for Espada who is ethically challenged even by Albany's abysmal standards.

Now that Ravitch was named lieutenant governor and, if upheld by the courts, would give the Democrats their majority back, the purely principled Espada saw which way the wind was blowing and switch back.

I wonder what happened to all his mealy mouthed garbage about how the Republicans (who spent 40 years rigging the chamber's rules) were the true architects of reform and how Democrats were standing in the way of The People's Business (tm)...

A month ago, Republicans called Espada a heroic crusader for reform and the Democrats called his a scumbag Benedict Arnold. No doubt, they will be swapping scripts.

The most embarrassing aspect of the Senate drama appears to be over.,. unless the Republicans can offer Espada a more appealing "non offer." Now, senators can go back to pretending to do The People's Business (tm) instead of simply yammering about how they wish they could pretend to do it.

I hope citizens remember this farce on Election Day 2010 and vote for Greens or Libertarians or independents... anyone other than the authors of this mess: the Democrats and Republicans as well as their factions in the WFP and Conservative "parties."

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Iran, Honduras, Niger and the knee jerks

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

ZNet has a good piece critiquing leftist knee-jerk reaction to the popular uprising in Iran. Opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi may be no progressive, having been the Ayatollah Khomeni's prime minister for most of the 1980s. The mere fact that the religious elite allowed him to be on the ballot in the first places means that he was never going to be a transformational figure.

And there is some question whether international reporting is overstating the extent of the protests because they seem concentrated in large cities and done by people with access to Twitter and cell phone cameras. By most accounts, the incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains popular in the more conservative rural areas.

But it seems clear that the discontent is real, legitimate and home grown. And it also seems clear that the politicians, Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, have become almost incidental to the uprising and that the entire theocratic system is being called into question. The brutal overreaction of the system's forces of disorder seems to back up the wounded bear theory.

If the mostly secular western left can't support group of liberal minded citizens rising up against the oppression of a regressive, hypernationalistic conservative theocracy, then who can it support?

(Who knew that left-wing media whore Hugo Chavez was such a fan of conservative religious states? Then again, the cult of personality Chavez has erected around himself has some distinctly messianic characteristics)

Sadly, this seems to bolster my contention that some of the left are entirely preoccupied with who and what they're against, rather than who and what they are for.

And speaking of bloody power grabs, ZNet also has a good analysis of the illegal military coup in Honduras that exiled left-wing president Manuel Zelaya. Both Chavez and President Obama have denounced the coup. Since the knee jerks don't have independent thoughts of their own, I wonder how they'll react.

Though Ethan over at My Heart's in Accra blog ponders why the protests in Iran and the coup in Honduras got a wildly different international reaction than the coup in Niger. Then again, yellow cake controversies aside, the CIA has historically played little role in Niger so the knee jerks don't have a template, democracy and human rights not being a real factor for them.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Wonder if Colin Powell noticed

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I see that former War Secretary Robert McNamara died this week. I have nothing but contempt for the so-called man. He's admitted that he knew that Vietnam was wrong but did it anyways. Not that he later concluded it was a mistake but that he knew it was wrong AT THE TIME.

He could've resigned in protest and then speaking out against the atrocity, which would've been the honorable thing to do. Instead, he stayed silent and executed this slaughter that he KNEW AT THE TIME was wrong. Was it because he liked being in the halls of power? Was it because he was too cowardly to be honest with the overbearing President Johnson? Was he a little man in too big a job? Only he knows. But I find him even more despicable than those who sincerely thought it was the right thing to do at the time.

It's said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, choose to remain neutral. I disagree. I think the hottest places are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, know what the good is and choose instead to enable evil.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

US sick care rationing

NPR has a good piece on the myth of health care choice in the US and how health care (more accurately described as 'sick care') rationing is already taking place in our system.

They have also have an interview with a pair of long-time doctors who talk about the assembly line-ization of the American sick care system.

Alternet points out that we already have a single-payer health system in the US, one so well-regarded that no politician in his right mind would want to dismantle it.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A dream for Independence Day

I've always been an ardent opponent of all forms of bigotry and supporter of human rights. I hope one day that most of the African-American community will feel the same way.


Note: Commenter George Glastris opines: The excuses I just heard were almost the same as the white clerics in the South used to stand in the path of the civil rights moverment. If it weren't sad I'd be laughing.

I am so tired of gay and lesbians being part of other groups' struggles but when we want help we get slapped in the face. I wonder if black preachers would say "we want help with our struggle, but only from straight people."

Friday, July 03, 2009

Assumptions vs facts in the drugs debate

The BBC has a report on Portugal, a country which decriminalized drug use and possession eight years ago.

Despite predictions that it would skyrocket, drug use has actually DECREASED by 10 percent since the changes. Drug deaths are down too.

"Oil Industry Has Brought Poverty and Pollution to Niger Delta"

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

Amnesty International recently issued a damning report on the manner in which the oil industry has destroyed Nigeria's Niger Delta Region. The title says it all: "Oil Industry Has Brought Poverty and Pollution to Niger Delta."

The Amnesty report notes: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) describes the region as suffering from “administrative neglect, crumbling social infrastructure and services, high unemployment, social deprivation, abject poverty, filth and squalor, and endemic conflict.” This poverty, and its contrast with the wealth generated by oil, has become one of the world’s starkest and most disturbing examples of the “resource curse”.

Oil has generated an estimated US$600 billion since the 1960s. Despite this, many people in the oil-producing areas have to drink, cook with and wash in polluted water, and eat fish contaminated with oil and other toxins.

“More than 60 per cent of people in the region depend on the natural environment for their livelihood,” said Audrey Gaughran “Yet, pollution by the oil industry is destroying the vital resource on which they depend.”

Oil pollution kills fish, their food sources and fish larvae, and damages the ability of fish to reproduce, causing both immediate damage and long-term harm to fish stocks. Oil pollution also damages fishing equipment.

Oil spills and waste dumping have also seriously damaged agricultural land. Long-term effects include damage to soil fertility and agricultural productivity, which in some cases can last for decades. In numerous cases, these long-term effects have undermined a family’s only source of livelihood.

The destruction of livelihoods and the lack of accountability and redress have led people to steal oil and vandalize oil infrastructure in an attempt to gain compensation or clean-up contracts.



Black Looks blog has written quite extensively on the catastrophe as well...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Admissions race

I know some people are upset about the influence peddling scandal at the University of Illinois but they really ought to chill out. At least they weren't using race as a factor in their decisions. That would be horrible! University admissions should only take into account meritocratic virtues. I'm sure the children of people with campus buildings named after them and the Division I hockey players I went to college with would heartily agree!