Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How Sean Hannity Destroyed Christmas

As a life long atheist, I never minded people wishing me a "Merry Christmas". I would even return the pleasantery, although I never initiated it.

But I went to Rural King the other day and the cashier wished me a merry christmas, and I was instantly suspicious. Was this just a friendly person? Or an aggressive christian pushing her religion on me? Was this a premptive assault by a right-wing christian who thinks that she is under attack by militant atheists? And if so, should I return fire by sneering at her assumption that I was a christian, or would that justify her paranoia? Was this a store policy, instituted in response to the campaign by right wing talk show hosts against stores that tried to be more inclusive of American diversity by saying "Happy Holidays" instead of the sectarian "Merry Christmas"?

How sad that a time of year that used to be festive and friendly, the one time of the year that christians at least paid lip service to the ideals of peace on earth and good will to all, has been turned into another battlefield. How delightful it used to be for me, as a peace loving humanist, to have one month when the rest of the country pretended to believe in peace and good will.

That's gone now. They have spread division and hostility among us. Divide and conquer. Argue over words and forget the decency once extolled.

So in order not to further division, I muttered "You too". And moved on.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Health Care in America

Obama has pledged more for computers to "modernize" the health care industry than to pay for poor people's health care.

The plan is to have a nationwide computer network with every American's private medical information in it. What could be the downside to that?

Newsweek has an article about the whistleblower who tried to warn America that the Bush administration was spying on their every electronic word. (As an aside, the way they spin it is disgraceful. Quoting "both sides" means giving equal weight to the spying lying deceivers, who hide their misdeeds under "national security" and those who realize that you cannot have a free country in which the government has secrets while the people have none).

In this case, the government spied and then Congress, to their utmost disgrace, changed the law to make it retroactively legal.

But the groundwork had been set when the telecommunications sector consolidated and the means to spy on everyone was physically made possible. Remember the old days, when a "bug" on a telephone had to be physically placed there? When technology made it possible to spy on everyone, everyone became spied upon.

I work in the medical industry. Patient confidentiality was always a rule. Heck, patients couldn't look at their own charts! It was always unethical to reveal confidential material.

But now we have the HIPAA law, ostensibly to "protect" patient privacy, but not really. Like so many of recent laws, this is a misnomer, a subterfuge, a back door to open patient records to people who didn't have that right before. Check it out, especially the part about "national security or intelligence purposes" (page 13) and "proper exectution of a military mission" (page 8). Now we have a stupid situation where we can't tell a patient's grandma that he's there, but we can tell the cops and the military!

But here's the thing - there is no national computer network of medical information for the spies to tap into. In this case, we have the law making it legal to spy, but no physical means to do so. This is what Obama wants to change.

For those who are opposed to governmental spying, and not only because they don't want groups of spy grunts giggling over their phone sex recordings, having a national network of medical information is not a good idea for privacy! Remember that Nixon had to have burgulars physically break into Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office for his records. What they want is for the NSA to be able to read everyone's private medical information without leaving Maryland.

Obama selling this as a money saver is ludicrous, on a par with the threat that Saddam Hussein could drop a mushroom cloud on Chicago!

My not being able to access medical records in Oregon, or vice versa, has nothing to do with the price of medical care. It is absurd to claim such a thing.

Mainstream media won't point out the obvious - this is being sold to us on false pretenses and will make us pay billions, again, for our own oppression.

Are we going to wait for the whistleblower from the future to point out the abuses of this system or are we going to stop it now? Oppose the national computerized medical data system!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Health in America

This is titled Health in America instead of Health Care in America, because they are two different things. When I went to Obama's website to give my opinion on healthcare, most of the people were talking about providing health insurance for all, as if that would make Americans healthy. The argument was over single payer vs forced insurance company payments.

I pointed out that our system breeds unhealthy people. Although I am for a single payer system, we need to provide for American's health in other ways, coincidentally saving tax money in other ways than in paying insurance companies to cover payment for injury and sickness care, (what we in America think of as health care).

The car centered lifestyle that Americans are pushed into by public policy needs to change. Stop the subsidies to the auto industry, and I don't mean the direct bailout of corporations. Billions of dollars for decades have gone to build roads and highways, instead of rail. Zoning laws encourage suburban sprawl, with taxpayer subsidies to the developers to put in roads, sewers, water, electricity, and other public utilities, so that people live miles from where they work, and have no public way to get to their jobs. Their children grow up in isolation and unable to walk or take public transportation to school, play or entertainment. Thus, we have "soccer moms", a term invented for the private chauffeurs that each child needs to go to their programmed exercise. The rest of the time they play video games, because it is unsafe to play outside, due to speeding cars.

Much of military spending goes to secure and defend oil supplies, costing billions more to pay for the military, and costing billions more in health care for injured and disabled veterans.

We spend billions of dollars on police to enforce (ha) traffic laws, and paramedics to scrape people off the roads and pull their mangled bodies out of cars. Over 40,000 people a year are killed in car crashes, with hundreds of thousands more crippled and injured, including head injuries and spinal cord injuries, which cost billions for rehab. We spend billions on ERs to receive the wounded and pass them on to surgery or ICUs.

Cars are the number one cause of death in America until age 44. After that, it's heart disease, caused by the obesity and lack of exercise that dependence on the automobile causes.

Parents are terrified of kidnapping and murder, but if a stranger kills your child, the odds are that it will be with a car. If you kill your own child, it will probably be with a car. Two children a week are literally run over by their own parents, and hundreds more die in car crashes.

Then there are the corn subsidies. In 1973, Earl Butz changed Depression era policies of farm and price supports. Instead of the government trying to keep prices even by paying for fallow land during high prices and buying excess grain to store during low prices, the federal government began subsidizing corn production. The resulting glut of corn led to cheap feed for animals, leading to the cruel factory farming and industrial slaughter that billions of animals now suffer. The cheap feed also makes it cheap for fast food chains to sell the dead animals, chopped, shaped and deep fried in corn oil. It led to the bankruptcies of family farmers and the consolidation of agribusiness. It led to farms that are miles wide, with giant machines and the chemicals it takes to poison the land of native plants in order to plant miles of corn. And it has led to the obesity epidemic in the USA, which grew at the same pace that agribusiness did. I recommend the film "King Corn" which interviews an unrepentant Earl Butz. Seeing mountains of corn that 1970s silos are unable to hold, he sees abundance and celebrates the ease in which agrifarmers are able to grow it, unlike the backbreaking work that farming was in his childhood. (And you can see his point).

But. Obesity causes health care costs to skyrocket. There are people so obese in this country that they are unable to walk. Diabetes is skyrocketing, even in children. And, of course, the number one killer of Americans over age 44 is heart disease.

We could save money by stopping perpetual roadbuilding, cutting military spending, stopping the agribusiness subsidies and switching to single payer health care, instead of having 30% of all "health care" dollars go to insurance companies.

So, that's what I wrote on Obama's website. His answer? He announced that he will use Federal tax dollars to force states to build more roads, bridges and schools (by which he means building schools outside of town, and busing kids to them). If the states refuse to spend the money this way, they don't get it.

I conclude that it was a waste of my time to participate in this illusion of democracy. There are vested interests that want to keep their subsidies coming, and Obama was selected to keep the money flowing from the poor to the rich.
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Monday, December 8, 2008

Factory Takeover

The Republic Window and Door factory tried to shutter its doors last Friday, but the workers refused to leave. They are still there. They are demanding to be paid their vacation time and severance pay. The corporation is blaming the closing on Bank of America, and the workers seem to be falling for that line. But a corporation that has to borrow money for payroll is not a viable business. Could it be that they simply have other plans?

Obama has come out in favor of paying the workers the time owed them. For this he is hailed as a pro-worker hell-raiser.
Jesse Jackson speaks and compares the workers to MLK and Rosa Parks, you know, because sitting at lunch counters and on buses is also sitting down. Others remember the sit down occupations of GM in the 30s, when workers were demanding unionization.

How about mentioning other history? What about workers taking over and operating factories cooperatively, in Seattle, France, Spain, Portugal and Argentina - to mention a few?

This is America, where public land giveaways and tax breaks are sold to the public as "creating jobs". Where a prison or a military base can never be closed, because jobs might be lost. But when a corporation wants to close a factory, there is never a word raised against it. There may be frowny faces on the talking heads of the corporate media, showing concern for the devastated workers, but never a hint that there may be a different solution.

The Republic Window and Door corporation recieved tax breaks from the public. That means that the public has an investment in that factory.

The company owes pay to the workers. That means that the workers are its creditors. The factory is an asset that should be turned over to its creditors - the workers. And they should be able to operate it as a cooperative, with profits shared among them, instead of turned over to the bankrupt (as claimed) owners.

Addendum: The sleight of hand worked. Successfully blaming the Bank of America for the shutdown of the factory,instead of the factory owners (who just bought another factory in Iowa), led to a deal struck where each worker recieves that which, by law, they should have gotten anyway. And it is hailed as a massive victory for workers. They are still unemployed, but they got their vacation time. Wow! Solidarity Forever!
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One World Government

Right wingers are terrified of the coming one world government, which they imagine as UN troops in America, and different money. Left wingers tend to be more complacent. They picture a world of harmony, with the UN as a cooperative family of nations solving problems without war.

Actually, we already have one world government. It's just more like the Ottoman Empire than Nazi Germany.

The corporations rule the world, but kind of loosely. As long as they get their tributes, they let many of their subjects live their lives relatively undisturbed.

Of course, the WTO does make life miserable for those who won't or can't pay their tributes. And the unfortunate beings who live in the way of "progress" lose their land, their livelihoods or their lives. But who pays attention to them? Note the media spotlight on India last weekend when the rich were attacked. The poor of India have been under attack for decades. Corporate media doesn't report on what one world corporate government, or "globalization", does to poor people.

What happens with organized resistance? The hit team is used. The US, global death squad for corporatism, comes in and kills for money. (Killing for money, of course, is widely accepted in the US. It's only news when someone is killed for an inadequate amount. "Cab driver killed for $3.00". That is clucked at. Imagine. Only three dollars! Outrageous!)

So here's the new Obama team. Outraged progressives are pointing out that Obama is picking prowar colleagues. Well, duh. Isn't that what Nader and McKinney said would happen? Obama is saying clearly that the US military will still be used to further US interests, which, of course, are corporate interests, not the interests of the American people. He's on board with the US military as hit squad for capitalism, as General Smedley Butler pointed out so many years ago.

I would call this Team B, but it's really Team A, since the neocons literally picked the label B for themselves in the 80s.

Naked imperialism is considered gauche by the sophisticated members of Team A. The problem with Bush and his gang is that their greed and viciousness was out in the open.

Team A prefers to use the rhetoric of human rights. This is a very important propaganda vehicle which many liberals fall for. Many Democrats, to this day, defend the attack on Yugoslavia, for example, as an example of the US stopping genocide. But what the US did was to use "human rights" as a way of illegally breaching national soverignity. This is a breach of international law. The US was ignoring national borders and invading militarily the way the corporations invade economically. Yugoslavia was resisting corporate invasion, so the US went in and fomented division and then literally invaded when Serbia remained defiant. I recommend Noam Chomsky's "The New Military Humanism", Michael Mandel's "How America Gets Away With Murder", and Jean Bricmont's "Humanitarian Imperialism:Using HumanRights to Sell War" by for a fuller explanation of this very important subject. Or start with this link.

Richard Holbrooke, Obama's pick to be "special envoy" to Southeast Asia, has been talking human rights for years, while he supported Marcos in the Phillipines, helped Indonesia kill hundreds of thousand of East Timorese, and helped to destroy Yugoslavia by sabotaging peace efforts.

Rwanda is often used by apologists for humanitarian intervention. The lie is that the US "failed" to stop the genocide. No. The US suceeded in stopping the UN from stopping the genocide. The chutzpah of Team A in stopping UN intervention and then using the following genocide as reason to invade other countries is amazing.

Get ready for Obama and Team A to use humanitarian intervention as excuses for US imperialism. Interestingly enough, the Rwanda situation led to the Congo Civil War, ignored by the corporate media for all these years, while we heard constantly about the Darfur situation. Why is this? The Rwanda government was supported by the US in its interference in the Congo. And the Congo riches were available to American corporations.

Note that we are now hearing about the misery of the Congolese people. Why the sudden concern? Is the US ready to move in and take a more active role in extracting Congo resources? What is the purpose of the Africa Command? Something fishy is going on here!

Contrary to the beliefs of right wingers, the UN is not the vehicle for one world government. The UN charter upholds national sovereignty and international law forbids military aggression. The one world government being forced into place by corporations, and by US and NATO military aggression is happening while the right wing uses the UN as a mass distraction.
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