Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Born of Water

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

John 3:5-6

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

People generally take these verses one of two ways. One group believes that someone “born of water and the Spirit” is someone “born of the Spirit” because, to them, the phrase “born of water” refers to baptism. The other camp believes that the phrase “born of water” refers to physical birth, and water alludes to the amniotic fluid that surrounds a fetus inside the womb and bursts from a mother ready to give birth.  According to people of this mindset, to be “born of water” is to “be born of flesh”, and I share this belief.

People have written exhaustively in defense of both of these viewpoints, and I don’t feel compelled to defend my point of view. If you really care to know, pages 316-325 of the book Lectures in Theology by  Bennett Tyler and Nahum Gale published in 1859 defend it more eloquently than I ever could on my own. You can find it here for free. I might summarize it in the next post, but for now I just want to say that this interpretation suggests that the unborn cannot enter heaven.

According to that interpretation, during Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, he mentions the requirement of two births three times, four times if you include verse 6. This provides extra fodder for the debate over where life begins and the debate over abortion, and either side could use it to bolster their argument. However, I can’t think of an argument based on this interpretation that could entice either camp to change their way of thinking. I have a stance on this, but I think focusing on that stance misses the point. Although I do believe debates over abortion have merit, I think a well-adjusted, thoughtful person would care more about how to keep women from having to make that choice than whether the legal right to make that choice should exist (I say life instead of human life intentionally).

Whether you feel that engaging in sexual intercourse without intending to procreate is immoral or that engaging in sex solely for pleasure is healthy, I don’t think anybody wants to bear the social cost of  other people’s unwanted pregnancies that could have been prevented through abstinence or the use of contraceptives. I don’t understand why people who believe sex outside of marriage is immoral would want people who commit immoral acts raising children they don’t want especially if those same pillars of society will do literally nothing to help that child become a righteous person except trying to achieve the reasonable goal of reshape the laws of this country to reflect their belief system. I also don’t understand and haven’t met a responsible adult who thinks sex is a great thing you should do often who also believes people should engage in a behavior if they can’t own up to all of the potential consequences. It’s like telling someone without the ability to pay off a loan to buy a house because it’s a great investment. It just makes sense to employ all of the tools available to prevent fertilization of an egg so maybe that the number of unwanted pregnancies can one day be so small that we are willing to bear the cost.

Miscellaneous Thought:

This thing went pear shaped on me. I was actually thinking of using that verse to try to bolster my stance on where life begins before I realized, while trying to write this post, that it was a stupid, stupid idea. So I decided to write something that I could make a good argument for without having write pages on the subject, cite scientific and religious authors who agree with me, and ultimately fail to do anything to move people entrenched in their stances. So if the shift in focus from religious to political was jarring, it wasn’t my original intent, but I think what I wrote has the potential to be more fruitful than what I originally wanted to write.

Also in my mind, pear-shaped is a ridiculous term that I don’t think I’ll ever use seriously. Additionally, the amniotic sac entry on wikipedia has a pretty raw picture of someone pulling the amniotic sac out of a woman. I honestly didn’t expect it to look so sac-like.

Categories: Faith, Politics

Spectrum Exhaust or AT&T and the Unions

September 4, 2011 Leave a comment

I can’t fault AT&T for trying to buy or T-mobile for wanting to sell because by now we have to know that big business only aim to make money for themselves. Unless coerced by regulators or by profit, big businesses don’t make moves to benefit consumers or improve the economy.

I spent a little more time browsing the article a link had taken me to. While skimming it, I read part of an AT&T press release that said they hope the merger will help fix the nation’s “spectrum exhaust” problem. Our what now? Google “spectrum exhaust” and see if you can find anything that has to with telecommunications that isn’t quoting AT&T’s press release. I got all the way to the bottom and found the dreaded comments section. I asked myself whether or not I wanted to see some Tea Party troll rail against the government’s decision with the kind of passion only a black President can inspire. I did and was happy to see that 10 out of 11 of the responses to her post were negative, but one of the comments led me to type the words “unions” and “AT&T” into my google search engine. I thought that unions would oppose this merger based on the rhetoric of  Tea Party members. I thought wrong.  Googling those two words makes it clear that the unions  favor this merger heavily for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with creating more jobs for everybody or protecting any jobs other than their own. Union employee receive better compensation for the same work done by non-union workers meaning that if T-mobile becomes unionized they will have to hire less people because of the higher salaries and benefits.

Seeing the union response to the block of this merger, the tea party response to the block of this merger, and the AT&T response to the block of this merger made it clear to me that, wow, if not for the federal government blocking this merger. I would have never known or cared about how messed up this merger is. With those three powers on the same side of this, I can’t begin to imagine how heavy the lobbying will be in favor of this merger, but, as always, I can appreciate how little say I will have in whether or not this merger occurs. I think a mistake people make is assuming that businesses and corporations alone drive a healthy economy. If that were true, trickle down economics would have worked. Consumers with purchasing power and choices are integral to a healthy economy. Businesses and corporations can be an important part of that, but consumers suffer most in poor economic climates while bigger business are forgiven for trespasses and subsidized for their troubles. Businesses and corporations only need stability in order to find ways to make a profit, but without eager (drawn to buy by the quality and the variety of options), employed consumers, economies slow down and stagnate.

In response to a person posting that the federal government intended to protect consumers by blocking this, one of the tea party people commented that people didn’t need the federal government treating them like children in need of protection. I don’t like to be patronized either but the only other words that can better describe how I feel as corporations. regulators, and lobbyists clash overhead on yon Capitol Hill shouldn’t be uttered in polite company.

Using a chess analogy to describe my status in this fight, I’m not a pawn. I am brushstroke on a tile on which pawns move. Keep in mind this is a game we actually get a glimpse of. If the federal government never blocked this, we wouldn’t get to see any of this game play out. It would have just happened. I remember that headline, “AT&T acquries T-mobile”. That could have been it. Consumers need the government to protect them. I feel historical evidence supports that as much as it reveals government’s inability to consistently and competently do that. There’s a chance we can be protected from this, but it’s certain how we feel about it only matters in theory. This era* has been a bit discouraging. I think it’s reasonable to feel powerless, but part of me thinks it’s not okay to stay that way.

*By era, I mean the war, what the war gave us, what the war revealed about us, the collapse, what the collapse brought us, what the collapse revealed about us. We got some people trying to create a consumer protection agency and struggling to do so, we got some people  trying to improve our school systems resigning due to opposition, and some of the most passionate of us are some of the most misinformed.

THE SECOND COMING by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming was written in 1919 in the aftermath of the first World War.

1919 between the 1st world and the Great Depression. I think it’s too bold of me to say that I feel any sort of kinship with Yeats, but this is the first moment in my life where I think, if he walked past me while I was reading this poem and noticed, I wouldn’t make light of him being such a downer. Foul stuff has been happening in the world before literacy even became a thing, but I feel least hopeful now than I have ever felt in my lifetime about America’s ability to do anything about it because of how terrible we are at helping ourselves. I think Obama’s missteps have hurt us, but I’m going to bristle even more the next time I hear about how history will vindicate Bush. The seeds of this malaise were sown during his time in office, but, although I say that, I can’t even give him 30% of the blame for those seeds being sown because I know the Executive Branch isn’t that powerful or even capable of having the foresight or flexibility to battle that. I can say the same thing about the Obama administration. If he ever thought he could be any type of savior, that’s a misconception both he and his supporters share. He’s been misguided in some of the things he has chosen to throw his weight behind in a time when mistakes are even more costly.

About that poem, I’m starting to think about that anarchy line in the context of the whole poem. I think anarchy is a transient state because eventually the most passionate and the most powerful will figure a way to gain control. I think in the poem it’s just a transitional thing that’s not descriptive of the entire setting.

Last thing. I know it’s a simple obvious thing to say, and people who I strongly disagree with would say the same thing. Nevertheless, I think the best government isn’t the government that governs least, but the government that does its best to equally empower the people it’s serving. A consumer protection agency would be nice. Bolstering our educational system would be nice. However, legally treating corporations as people and making it harder to hold powerful people accountable when they make mistakes not the way. I find that since I stopped watching the Daily Show, I have plenty of things to irritate me without Jon Stewart telling me what stupid thing some pundit or guest on Fox News said.

Everything that follows this is a lot of me playing pong in my head with different stuff. I’m not really trying to make a well-formed coherent argument about anything from here.

On a happier note, check out Rachel Held Evans blog. I want someone to give her her own show. I’m thinking O’ Reilly Factor format and just let her tell what’s up. Also about that Yeats poem, I read that poem years ago and I kind of understood it, but it didn’t resonate with me in anyway that I could use. I find that that’s the case with a lot of literature for me, and it just makes me question how we teach literature. I don’t think during the time I was in high school, I was mentally developed enough to make a lot of the connections that I make now on my own. I don’t have any ideas on how I would teach it better because I don’t think it’s a matter of teaching. I think on some level you have to be open to it, and being open to it is like gene expression. Like you can be predisposed to this or that, but unless you have the right environmental exposure the gene may never manifest.  This can be good things or bad things manifesting. During 9-12, I think you just might be too insulated to pick up on a lot of stuff. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad or intentional insulation, it’s just maybe you’re dealing with being a high school student too much to really let anything sink in. I don’t know. Like now I listen to podcasts all the time, and a lot of them have depth to them. I think high school me could have benefited a lot from these podcasts, but I wonder if high school me would have even been capable of appreciating them. Not to say high school me didn’t have things going on for him, just this me is evolved in different ways that high school me wasn’t, this me is also deficient in ways high school me wasn’t, I’m working on it.

Categories: Life, Politics, Uncategorized

Sinister Simulation

June 10, 2010 Leave a comment

This 22 year old architect from the Philippines “spent four years wallowing in equations and graph paper” and created a self-sustaining city named Magnasanti using the game Sim City. When I played Sim City, I found it frustrating at every turn and could never get to a point in the game where I really felt in control. If the budget wasn’t bleeding money, fires, monsters, or rioting citizens seemed intent on destroying my cities. I used to feel a bit impotent in my inability to respond properly to the demands of the game, but, after finding out that it took an aspiring architect just under four years to master the game, I don’t feel so inadequate.

His name, Vincent Ocasala, even sounds like the moniker of a fictional mastermind, and people who read about his feat, watch the youtube video, and read his interview seem to find him a bit terrifying but, to me, he more closely resembles the genius anti-hero archetype found in animes such as L from Death Note and LeLouch of Code Geass. I don’t know the effect that completing this game had on his mind because his philosophy seems a bit villainish, and he shows an unbridled affection for the game that he slaved over for years in order to successfully master. I don’t find him so immediately sinister because this interview seems like a smaller part of an unfinished story.

It’s possible that Sim City has its limitations and Vincent’s city exists as one of many possible solutions that the algorithms in the game allow for. If the creators designed the game deliberately so that only this type of city could maintain the highest population level without cheats, then I would identify them as the shadowy figures lurking behind the scenes in this existential tale.

What human being would think a city should have the ability to function indefinitely in this form:

“Technically, no one is leaving or coming into the city. Population growth is stagnant. Sims don’t need to travel long distances, because their workplace is just within walking distance. In fact they do not even need to leave their own block. Wherever they go it’s like going to the same place…

There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle – this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. It’s a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They don’t rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years. 50,000 years to be exact. They are all imprisoned in space and time.”

“The city symmetry uses a modified version of the symbol [the Bhavacakra, the wheel of life and death in Buddhism] to represent the sinister intent of enslaving all of its citizens for all eternity.”

“…none of its citizens seem to live past the age of 50.
Health of the sims was not a priority, relative to the main objective. I could have enacted several health ordinances which would have increased the life expectancy, but I decided not to for practical reasons.”

If you make it all the way to the end of the interview, there’s a twist. If you’ve seen animes like Death Note or Code Geass, then you know that the anti-heroes, for the sake of righting wrongs on a global scale, must resort to using harsh, unsavory methods in order to act as catalysts for the type of revolution that their world desperately needs. Instead of viewing it as an illustration of right ideology, Vincent explains it instead as a cautionary tale:

“It shows that by only focusing on one objective, one may end up neglecting, or resorting to sacrificing, other important elements. Similarly, [in the real world] if we make maximizing profits as the absolute objective, we fail to take into consideration the social and environmental consequences.”

This serves as a prime example of video games as high art especially if the creator’s intended to do this, and it wasn’t simply a failure to produce an unbeatable game.

The love of money is “a” root of evil, but idolatry in any form can be detrimental to an individual or a society as a whole particulary when it involves the pursuit of things that we collectively consider worth pursuing. An unchecked pursuit of safety, comfort, or happiness can easily lead to the devaluation of the value of human life, possibly the life of the pursuer, possibly the life of a person who happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, or possibly the value of human life in the context of a society.

I think that I’m a bit idealistic; I don’t think there was ever a time in history when a society ever came close to a proper approximation of the value of human life. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” falls short especially when people start throwing around phrases like, “You have nothing to worry about if you’re innocent. I’m innocent and…” Take the case of Henry Skinner in Texas who sits on death row because his lawyer valued his time and his paycheck more than Henry’s life and the justice system values the perception of being just so much more than this man’s life that waiting a month for DNA testing could sully that glistening reputation .

Also there’s the case of 3 guilty-until-proven-innocent detainees, who died in U.S. custody because of how highly we value national security and how alluring a cash reward for turning over people to the U.S. was for people in their home countries (further rant by me here )

As an economics major and a part-time philosopher, I know a little bit about the actual difficulty of calculating the value of human life, but that doesn’t give us license to be callous monsters.

Ghost in the Shell Laughing Man

"I thought what I'd do was I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes"

I’ve been comment-starved since January.  Let me know if you

Categories: Faith, Life, Politics, video games

Bad Intelligence

January 20, 2010 2 comments

Unsatisfied with the fact that the United States’ shoddy intelligence work was getting our own people killed and innocent people detained, someone in leadership decided that they needed to take it a step further and get innocent detainees killed, a veritable best of both worlds scenario.  Humble as always though, this person or these people have decided that it would be best not to take credit for their handiwork but instead do their best to make it look as if it was the innocent detainees’ idea the entire time.

A few weeks ago, a man was allowed onto a U.S. base who blew himself up in order to kill as many U.S. operatives as he could with him.  When this happened, I clearly remember people who felt Obama was, to paraphrase, “pussyfooting” around with this War on Terror business.  We needed to get tougher on these murderous fanatics before they got around to burning the entirety of the United States down to the ground.  Of course, by “get tougher” a lot of them meant keep using off-shore prison camps like Guantanamo and all the enhanced interrogation, black-bag-over-your-head pick-ups on foreign soil that it had come to represent.  The terrorists weren’t holding back.  Why in our right minds should we?

For a moment let’s forget the ongoing debate about how far is too far when dealing with terrorists, and focus on how far is too far when dealing with suspects. I started reading this article “The Guantanamo Suicides: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle” out of sheer curiosity.   It looked like one of those investigative pieces that would make a really good thriller, but it turned out to be one of those investigative pieces that would make for a really depressing movie where you find out about all that’s broken and how powerless you are to fix it.

Let’s start with the detainees who Rear Admiral Harry Harris (real name and title), The commander at Guantanamo at the time, claimed committed suicide as “an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us” (because killing yourself is a real good way to get public sentiment on your side when you’re a suspected terrorist – moving on).  THEY WEREN’T EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE THERE.  All three of these people who allegedly killed themselves, according to the the U.S. gov’t at the time, were not terrorist.  “What were ‘not terrorists’ doing in Guantanamo?” Well let me tell you.

One young man, the Pentagon claimed, had gained “frontline battle experience…from his having been a cook in a Taliban camp” (because cooks are privy to the kind of sensitive information that would really help in our war on terror).  In spite of their initial belief that this 17-year-old cook was enough of a threat that he needed to be locked up for five years, they eventually found that he apparently didn’t need to be in prison.  At the time of his death, he was on a list of prisoners to be sent home.  No harm, no foul, right.  Having five years of your life taken away is no big right.  Plenty more where…those…came…from …NEXT.

This other guy, Mani (not to be confused with the Argentinian basketball player Manu), though…we really had something there.  He was allegedly on his way to do some…humanitarian work, but he had been identified as a person of interest by some guy who the U.S. apparently paid $5000 because I mean, $5000, this guy wouldn’t lie for “Price is Right” money, right.  At the time of his death, Mani was also a few weeks away from being sent back home to Saudi Arabia when he died.

This third guy, who already looked bad because he was an illegal immigrant (dey tuk er jobs!) in Pakistan (huh?) from Yemen (yes, it’s bad enough to make you want to move to Pakistan), was given to us by Pakistani authorities who thought he was a terrorist (because relying on foreign intelligence always works out so well for us), and, being an illegal immigrant, it’s not like they wanted him anyway.  A quote about his status as a terrorist: “There is no credible information to suggest [Al-Salami] received terrorist related training or is a member of the Al Qaeda network.”

These three had received special attention prior to their deaths because they were part of a hunger strike that was really making Guantanamo Bay prison camp look bad.  I mean they might have been partially motivated by the fact that their experience in this place was taking a little bit of the relish out of life, but, really, who cares.  Stubbornness is stubbornness, and is best cured by asphyxiation with a large rag (I’m sure it’s in the “Dealing with an Uppity Suspected Terrorist for Dummies” handbook).

“Asphyxiation with a large rag?  That sure is specific.” Allow me to explain.

According to Shaker Aamer who claimed to survive a two and a half hour beating (which included being “pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears”, choked, pinched, eye gouged, and having his nose and fingers bent repeatedly), when he would cry out in pain during this…session his airway was cut off with a rag and a mask was placed over his mouth to prevent him from getting the rag out (although that would’ve been difficult considering that his head, arms, and legs were already restrained).   I don’t know if you can consider him a reliable source, not just because he’s still in there and those techniques are capable of producing “excruciating pain without leaving lasting marks”, but also because, four years before this event he also claimed that his head was repeatedly smashed against a wall, walling being an expressly approved technique by the Dept. of Justice and who knows how good his memory is now.  According to the article, the three dead prisoners had undergone the same treatment.  By the way, I refuse to call it enhanced interrogation because every one knows that it’s nearly impossible to answer any questions while you’re airway is cut off, your mouth is covered, and your hands are restrained.  No speaking, no mouthing, no sign language, but maybe they were hoping that they would blink some pertinent information.

Taking a little detour, the reason Aamer had to go through this wasn’t playful hazing as one might suspect but actually because, as a suspected terrorist interpreter for Osama bin Laden (because Osama bin Laden was sharing sensitive information with all his English speaking friends), the prison camp Commander thought he was the perfect candidate to fix that whole hunger strike thing because as the popular adage goes “my enemy and the friend of my enemy is my friend when his friends are upset”.  Another random tidbit is that Aamer is a British citizen, and the UK wants him back.  Although “there is no suggestion that the Americans intend to charge him before a military commission” and “have no meaningful evidence linking him to any crime”, Aamer is a “security” concern.  For the record, I would become a security concern if that happened to me too.

Back to the main topic.  The largest bits of evidence that casts doubt on whether these were suicides or death as a result of this harsh treatment are the eyewitness accounts of the guards (one who was decorated servicemen) that were on watch that night and the apparent signs of trauma found on these prisoners that are inconsistent with the kind of trauma that one would expect to find on someone who died by hanging themselves.  Another thing that makes it really hard to believe that these deaths were by suicidal hanging (besides the fact they somehow tied their own hands and feet) was the fact that the throats of these three dead men had been removed.  Although the throat would be what you would primarily look at to determine whether or not someone had committed suicide by hanging, the lack of a response from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology when asked to produce the throats of all three men probably indicates that it’s really not that important in explaining what happened to them.  Details can be found here

Just in case you haven’t figured out why this whole thing bothers me, here are my top 7 reasons to be upset about this.

1.  Imprisonment of innocent civilians.
2.  5 years or more years of captivity for innocent civilians.
3.  The fact that resources are being wasted rounding up and guarding innocent civilians.
4.  The death of innocent civilians.
5.  How awful our intelligence must be that we have imprisoned innocent civilians.
6.  Nobody caring about the death and imprisonment of innocent civilians.
7.  Innocent civilians with no pertinent information being abused for no reason.

I’ve tried to be sarcastic and clever as much as possible during this write-up, but, honestly…there is absolutely nothing about the death and imprisonment of these people that can allow me to view them as acceptable losses in the War on Terror.  Sure, people have died, sure people have died in attacks, but that doesn’t make making a mistake on this level and of this magnitude okay.

Also something that should pop out to you from this is that there’s A LIST of people who are scheduled to be released, and that third guy that died wasn’t even on the list because of the U.S. dicey relationship with Yemen.  So soak this in.  There’s a list full of people in Guantanamo who don’t need to be in Guantanamo.  Also there are other people who aren’t on the list because of the U.S. relationship with the countries that they would want to send them back to.  I’m unsure what kind of progress has been made on reducing the number of people on that list, but I do clearly remember how upsetting certain people and members of the media found the idea of making it a priority to reduce the number of people that are in Guantanamo particularly and start treating them according to the laws of our justice system as if they were suspects rather than hardened criminals.

Realistically, maybe it wouldn’t bug me if this happening one, or two, or three times, and by “this” I mean people being falsely imprisoned for a night or two.   That’s not the case though.  The reality is that there is an incomplete list of innocent people who have been taken from their homes based on bad intelligence and left to wallow in an off-shore prison with no tangible hope of escaping with families that can do no better than hope that their loved ones don’t die and get returned to them in a box, broken, cut up, throat missing.

To me, national intelligence shouldn’t be a “break a few eggs to make lemonade” type of operation (Eggs not necessary to make lemonade, dead, innocent civilians not necessary to prevent terrorist attacks).  Not only does it seem that we have all allowed injustice to be an acceptable part of our intelligence gathering efforts, but it also seems like resources are being poorly used because of our desperation to find intel.  Being a private citizen without any real power, I’m just hoping that maybe if enough people are made aware, then people won’t get all butt-hurt (technical term) at the notion of treating suspects like suspects rather than enemy combatants before they are actually proven to be enemy combatants as if it’s a personal attack on the way that they see the world.   Maybe then there will be less innocent people in off-shore prisons, less people in off-shore prisons, and less people tasked with the job of watching and/or abusing and/or watching the abuse of these off-shore prisoners.  As in quit wasting money on just being sinister, and use your resources as if you have a conscience.

Added 1/29/10

Today, I found articles and blogs claiming that the article that my blog post was based on is full of holes.  These holes chip away at the theory that this was murder, but the status of the prisoners as innocent civilians, the weak evidence that led them to be interned at Guantanamo, and the signs of trauma inconsistent with suicide are things that these articles neither address nor attack.  I don’t think they were intentionally murdered, though, but it’s obvious they were mistreated and never should have been in that situation in the first place.  Even if they were proven to be suicides, I still believe that someone involved on the U.S. side of this is responsible.  If these were suicides, these weren’t the suicides of men disenchanted with life jumping off a bridge; they were innocent men stolen from their homes and forced to live in a prison from whom hope was intentionally taken.

Categories: Politics

A well-fueled train of thought

October 1, 2009 1 comment
The content of this article, “The Health-Care Ego Trip”, reminded me of Thomas’ faux fear before the presidential election of Obama becoming this unstoppable political force that would end up radically altering the course of history because of how popular he seemed to be with most of the news media and among some of our peers at that time.
“Politicians, in their most self-important moments, see themselves as instruments of national destiny. They yearn to be remembered as the architects and agents of great social and economic transformations. They want to be at the signing ceremony; they want a pen.”
A few months into his presidency, Obama seemed to have his sights set on how he intended to make history – universal health care.  At one point, I thought it was a reasonable goal – something that someone as seemingly rational as him would take gradual steps to achieve, but that’s probably part of his flaw, part of why he’s so driven to accomplish this.
The inner workings of the President’s mind:
“It’s a worthy goal.  I’m a logical person.  I can and should do this and should do my best to sway people to my side whether I’m completely honest about the realities of it or not.”
I don’t think it’s a bad thing for a President to strongly believe in things and have the desire to carry them out, but it seems that he’s so caught up in making this vision a reality and so ingrained in his own way of thinking that he seems unwilling to recognize the opposition to his plan as reasonable and unwilling to acknowledge that this 2-minute drill approach to pushing his agenda will not result in a health care system that is as good as it can be in terms of both coverage and cost.
This brings me to another article that I read about Netherland’s health care system where coverage is virtually universal, affordable, and of good quality, all without the existence of a public option.  The article is titled “Going Dutch” which, obviously, dismantles the idea that there must be a public option in order for universal health care to be a reality.  It outlines some of the practices that enable the Netherlands to do this and satisfy its citizens i.e. making sure everyone gets coverage regardless of preexisting conditions,  preventing insurers from charging more for preexisting conditions, engaging in a form of, what is termed, “risk equalization” that forces companies that serve relatively healthier clients to pay a fee while subsidizing companies that take on relatively sicker clients, and a variety of other practices.  It also outlines some fundamental issues that prevent the U.S. health care system from effectively serving its entire population – issues that will probably not be addressed by the current plans floating around D.C. i.e. insurance companies will still be able to be selective about who they cover and how much coverage costs depending on preexisting conditions and how hazardous their occupations are.  I also appreciate that this article acknowledges that even if we follow some of the cues from the Netherlands, we may never resemble them entirely – something that I’m okay with because, frankly, it irritates me when someone suggest we adopt another country’s system without understanding that because of who we fundamentally are as a nation not everything can and necessarily should fully translate.
On the same vein of thought but on a different tangent is an article about the soda tax, one of the ways proposed to help pay for health care “reform”, and its potential effect on poor, fat Americans.  I don’t mean that as a “put-down” to Americans, my patriotism wouldn’t allow that [sic] (is that how you use that).  The article specifically refers to its affect on Americans who are literally poor and obese.  Wonderful title: “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Big Fat Asses”.
The prevailing logic of people who support this soda tax as a way to pay for the soda tax is that soda’s bad for you anyway and the revenue from the soda tax will be used to serve the poorest, unhealthiest Americans, but the road to ruin is often paved with good intentions…or something like that.  The first thing that you might recognize is that its a pretty paternalistic way to run a country – “This is bad for you so we’re making it harder for you to get”.  This article goes much further than that and discusses how the tax ignores that poor people tend to be more unhealthier in the first place, and it’s not drinking, smoking, and overeating that gets them there.  Some of you who place more value on personal responsibility than others might shudder at how easily an argument can be made for how environment and other factors play a role  in how healthy or unhealthy a person might end up being, but the empirical evidence offered is pretty clear.  At the same time, I’m sure those of you who place value on personal responsibility will be happy that this evidence can be used to demonstrate whythe idea soda tax probably isn’t the best idea.  It also introduces the idea that it will not only place more pressur on the wallets of the poorer, unhealthier Americans who enjoy those soft drinks, but also further limit them in their ability to purchase an object from which they may cheaply derive pleasure from which proportionally is more limiting to poorer Americans for whom soda might be a key indulgence while for rich Americans be little more than an afterthought.  Ultimately, in a pretty cool, slightly roundabout way, the author makes an argument that if you want a healthier population, it helps to have a wealthier population, and the best way to produce a wealthier population is through education not only because wealthy people can stay healthier but they can also afford better treatment when they get sick.
Which brings me back to Obama…he seems more concerned with transforming the nation than fixing the obvious problems that existed before he was elected like with our public education system.  I mean I thought Obama as President would be, to quote Martha, a good thing, and I never once thought he’d be so hot to transform the U.S. universal health care system.
Personally, I thought that was one of the reasons that Hilary Clinton DIDN’T get the support and the nomination because Obama seemed like the cool-headed type of guy that would try to address the issues that weigh most heavily on the minds of the American people as a whole rather than try to change something that such a significant portion of the American people did not care to have reformed in this manner.
Which brings me to an article on education that’s actually a book review titled “Schools Should Stop Telling Kids to be ‘Nice'”.  I love articles that agree with me.  Seriously, I wasn’t thinking of children when I agreed with a similar sentiment expressed by my friend Chad a while ago, but a good portion of the article is utilized explaining the difference between being “nice” versus being “good”.
It’s one of the reasons that I disagree with the “random acts of kindness” campaign that seemed popular for a while in the Christian community because “love” and “random acts of kindness” were two different things in my mind and the latter movement seemed geared towards the instant gratification demographic while the former, original movement acknowledged the that it takes time and effort to show the type of love that Jesus did in the Bible.  Some might point at Jesus miracles and say, “LOOK, random acts of kindness”, but I strongly disagree that the extension of an all knowing deity walking on earth did anything random and also believe that there are times when he chose not to act or perform a miracle because he felt the negatives outweighed the positives – at times, Jesus clearly revealed through his words his wariness of people making superficial connections to him based on something that he might do for them.  To clarify again, although I’m sure I’ll have to clarify further, I’m not saying don’t be nice to people, but that people need to realize that to really do something worthwhile for a person takes a true investment of time not a random action based on a whim.
Now off that tangent, and back to the article for the finale.  It’s a good article.  I’m a bit spent at this point so I’ll just say that I agree with a lot of the conclusions that the author of the reviewed book and the writer of the article come to.  It’s apparent to me that the things like education are what people in leadership positions should be focused on because if you’re really concerned about the fate of the nation then one of your major concerns should be helping to produce people who will have the intelligence and skills to deal with any future problems that you might forsee ESPECIALLY if you can’t gain the support necessary to adequately address them now – WHICH YOU SHOULD’VE KNOWN GOING IN.
P.S.  I don’t have a link to the article, but it started out talking about Bill Clinton’s personal health care “nightmare”.  It talks about how when he was having serious heart problems he ended up going to one of the worst hospitals in the area and being operated on by one of the surgeons at the hospital with the worst mortality rates, and ended up having to get more work done because of complications that later arose.  Wish I had the article, I’ll be on the lookout, but at the time I didn’t think it was worth writing down the title of the whole article because I didn’t read the whole article.  This anecdote is another demonstration of how Universal Health Care isn’t the antidote for our ailing health care system and the people that it hopes to serve.  I believe the article was about the imperfect information issue that arises in the health care market.  Even people who have coverage don’t get the best treatment possible for their money because the information is not made available to them or they don’t make a great enough effort to seek it out, but you would think Bill Clinton’s people would’ve made an effort to make sure that he was getting the best treatment possible.  Again, I think it just goes to show that just making sure everybody gets some health care won’t mean everybody would be satisfied with it and wouldn’t it be something after all this hooplah to get universal coverage that we come to the realization that it wasn’t really worth it.  Just something to munch on.
“You gonna eat that dead fat guy? ” – Living Fat Guy on Family Guy
Categories: Politics