Or, Juvenile Local Politics

I used to think most of the community governments around here, particularly the city councils, acted like they were still in Junior High School complete with the usual little exclusionary cliques, petty personality cults, domination games and vengeance seeking for perceived insults. Observing the County Commissioners over the last few years however has convinced me the perceived age level of what passes for local “politicians” must be set even lower. Those currently in power seem to act like they are on a Grade School playground dominated by bullying, sulking and name calling taunts.

Replace them ALL, every last one, and do so at the earliest opportunity.

In fact, maybe there should be a Charter change to select Commissioners by lot, perhaps out of jury pools. It would be an interesting experiment. For the most part, the typical juror has proven to be much more thoughtful, attentive, and determined to do the right thing than the typical politician acting as if he or she had a “mandate” or entitlement to do whatever they wanted.

If we can’t seem to find genuine adults volunteering to run for office, then maybe we should “draft” some. Frankly, it is hard to imagine that even selecting officeholders at random, like some of the early Greek democracies once did by the way, could be much worse for our County than limiting the choices to just those who have been arrogantly self selecting themselves for the positions. Call me a cynic, but at least with a lottery system, we might finally have a statistical chance to occasionally find some who would act responsibly, selflessly, ethically, and concerned about the future beyond merely the next election cycle.



Or, It’s Time to Stop Being Frightened by Mere Words

“Socialized Medicine.” Boo!

Like the Boogey Man, those two words are continually trotted out to scare one and all from even considering the concept. In case you have forgotten in all the frenetic hype and hyperbole over the past several decades on the subject, so-called socialized medicine - at its core - is much like insurance. It is essentially spreading the health costs over many people so that the unlucky few faced with a crippling illness do not have to cripple their family finances in the process. The primary difference is that if we had “socialized medicine,” we would not have to also fund the multimillion dollar salaries of insurance company CEOs, agent commissions, advertising expenses, and Wall Street level shareholder profits before the first dime is spent on actual health care of anyone.

Of course, those pocketing all that loot don’t want to lose it which is why they try to paralyze your thought processes to prevent you from enacting even the simplest safety net against catastrophic illness. They want to keep the burden shifted to those who were not born to rich parents and those who sadly lost the disease/accident lottery.

Their one argument of merit attacking the concept is the bugaboo that government is inefficient, as if the megalithic HMOs weren’t.

And, since they don’t have sufficient arguments on the actual respective merits, they attempt to divert attention by connotatively loading the term “socialized medicine”with associations to Sovietism and/or Communism, our once and possibly future enemy. Unfortunately, the smear tactics have worked making us forget the “Golden Rule” we learned in Sunday School about doing unto others as we would have them do unto us. Instead, they glorify that only Gold Rules when it comes to access to medical care.

What is fascinating about the opponents’ smoke and mirrors camouflaging their lack of substance is that this country is already heavily “socialized” in much of what it does and it has successfully been that way for many years. While the Socialist Party elected almost no one since its creation back in the early 1900s, most of their ideas were ultimately incorporated into law by Republican as well as Democratic administrations.

For instance, we have “socialized” schooling. It couldn’t be called anything else if you use the same voodoo linguistics favored by opponents of socialized medicine. Think about it. We have universal free education for everyone through high school regardless of ability or parentage. It is paid for by everyone out of tax dollars. That’s how you were educated. That is how everyone except the uber rich are still being educated. Is there anyone out there who thinks we should leave children behind merely because they can’t afford to go to private school?

We have had “socialized” fire and crime prevention since the 1800s. The fire department doesn’t go only to the biggest mansions anymore. It goes to what is on fire regardless of how wealthy the owner is. No one except maybe curmugeons think we should go back to the bad old days when private fire departments protected only the houses of those who paid for the privilege.

We have always had “socialized” military and national security. The Coast Guard does not check your Dun and Bradstreet rating before steaming out in the storm when the SOS is received. In fact, almost all rescue operations are socialized ones. If your child is lost, everyone shows up to search and it doesn’t have to be just someone like Paris Hilton missing.

“Socialized” highways and bridges? Absolutely. Whether a beat up pickup truck or a Rolls Royce, the drivers of those cars are charged exactly the same for building our highway infrastructure, even on toll bridges. There is “socialized” water delivery and sewage removal. There is “socialized” airport construction and air traffic control. There is “socialized” building and food inspection to keep us safe whether it is caviar or chitlins being scrutinized for samonella. Does anyone seriously suggest it should be otherwise in this day and age?

“Socialized” air waves for radio and tv? Of course. There are some channels that are only available by paying extra, but the core networks are still free to both Bill Gates and Joe Six Pack. The air waves are actually owned by the public despite some sell off going on by a Republican Administration wanting to reward its rich campaign contributors who want the airwaves and internet for themselves.

Wanna bet whether the President wants to give up his “socialized” Secret Service protection? He is rich enough to afford his own Pinkerton guards, but for all his rhetoric about pigs dining at the public trough, he certainly wants to keep dining at the “trough” himself at every opportunity.

And, have you forgotten Social Security, one of the most successful programs of all time in just about every criteria you can name, notwithstanding the hysteria the Republicans try to create? But, that is a much longer topic that needs to be addressed at a different time. Suffice to say Franklin Roosevelt’s experiment is still useful and better than any of the other alternatives.

We even have a certain amount of “socialized” medicine already. Emergency rooms don’t discriminate depending on whether the victim is wearing a cummerbund or not. Similarly, the universal access of the ADA looks to whether there is a disability rather than the social status of the beneficiaries when enforcing such laws. All they need to be is disabled.

It is legitimate to want to insure that incompetencies, inefficiencies and potential corruption be rooted out whenever genuine instances of such abuses of any system are discovered. But, if that were the sole test for whether “socialized medicine;” i.e., health care for all, should be in a government agency rather than the mishmash of profiteering private companies, then President Bush should have been fired long ago and the Homeland Security Department would not exist. Does the acronym FEMA and the city of New Orleans come to mind?

Come to think of it, do the private companies of Wall Street, which were supposed to be so brilliant and efficient that they didn’t even need regulation, really strike you as all that incompetent-free now that the whole housing and lending fiascos have been revealed? It looks like the conservatives are screaming at the top of their lungs that we must instantly institute “socialized banking.” The current attempts to reward the incompetents responsible for our snowballing banking crisis seems to be little other than a socialized bailout using taxpayer funds and guarantees which means more taxpayer funds if something goes wrong.

Sure we need to put in place safeguards against waste and losses. But, basically, you put socialized medicine in place, perhaps as part of the Social Security Administration, and just make sure it is under close oversight unlike the secrecy allowed in HMOs and health insurance corporations.

Remember too, cutting out multimillion dollar insurance company CEO salaries, cutting out the massive profit they suck out of revenue, cutting out the massive commissions only applicable when it is a private program, cutting out the expensive office space demanded by private company egos, etc. pays for a mighty big amount of bureaucratic inefficiency, even assuming it exists and that the huge monolithic insurance companies never ever suffer from the same human weaknesses. The cost/benefit analysis seems to be clearly in favor of going the “socialized medicine” route.

At the very least, we ought to stop giving automatic credence to everything touted by those currently profiting, and massively so, from health care. We ought to suspect their words might be tainted by a basic conflict of interest. In fact, if you stop to think about it, in one sense most of those execs and other non-doctors profiting from health care might arguably be described as the societal equivalent of vultures. They do make their living off the pain, suffering and death of others after all. Of course, that analogy can’t be pushed too far since it also applies to lawyers, dentists, accountants and other licensed professionals. Nevertheless, due to that strong self interest inherent in their positions, their prescription calling for leaving our health care “system” as is ought to be consumed with the proverbial grain of salt. And, whatever “facts” opponents of change supply should be closely scrutinized, especially those about how socialized medicine in foreign countries allegedly never works. At the moment, it is hard to believe anything could be more broken than what we have. In any event, we certainly should stop making assumptions and stop listening to knee jerk type responses anytime the subject is broached. Let’s get the real facts, ones not connotatively loaded or biased.

Besides, there are also two new reasons to finally reconsider imposing “socialized medicine.” There might be new allies now. Doctors originally bought into the theories promoted by opponents of the concept that we can’t allow “socialized medicine” because they thought it would restrict their incomes. Over time though, a substantial percentage of young doctors have been relegated to being just slaves to the HMOs, stripped of their independence on just about everything including what is best for their patients. Ironic. As a result, they might reconsider and join the growing bandwagon to insure money is finally available to provide health care. If nothing else, it is a way to insure they themselves will have jobs.

Perhaps even more important, even if you want to ignore the critical moral and ethical justifications for “socialized medicine,” is that it might very well make solid economic and competitive sense above and beyond the savings possible once it is implemented. For instance, foreign manufacturers are kicking our rears because their countries have socialized medicine and we don’t. Our companies, at least the ones interested in keeping workers, pay for the health insurance costs of employees. That is a cost which must be added to the goods being sold. Foreign companies therefore automatically get a competitive price advantage because they don’t have to fund the health insurance. Their governments do. Let’s put our nation’s companies, all of them, on a level playing field, not only with each other, but the entire world. It might help reverse our horrendous trade deficit and the new revenue flowing this way help pay for the health care we need.

On top of that, data suggests it would be less expensive in the long run because right now, Americans who cannot afford health insurance tend to wait until a disease has gone so far that only the dramatically more expensive emergency room care is left rather than preventive medicine. It is usually cheaper and usually more effective to try and prevent disease than cure them. It also means that when the inevitable calamity finally does come, the individual who delayed treatment is out of work longer, thereby earning less wages, paying fewer taxes, probably contributing to the mortgage and housing industry crisis, and subjecting his or her family to danger as well.

So, for every reason (except the fictitious ones still being made up by opponents), let’s remember both our Sunday School and economics lessons. Let’s have a reasoned debate on the real facts and the merits, a debate lead by adults, not demagogues. Whatever we do, let’s not be scared stupid the next time someone uses the words “socialized medicine.”



Or, How Bush Is Making America as Uncivilized as Its Enemies

Bush should be congratulated on winning the War Against Civilization.

Let’s see. So far, he’s canceled the civilizing effects of the “quaint” old Geneva Conventions. Check. He’s authorized torture of human beings which used to be anathema to all civilized human beings. Check. And, he’s pretty much eliminated the “checks and balances” in the Constitution designed to prevent tyranny. Check and Check.

Negated the Bill of Rights? Right. Search without warrants? Sealed it. Jail forever without trial or counsel? Nailed it. Presume guilt of everyone? Got it.

What about his oath of office, which expressly called for defending the Constitution? Well, he swore his oath back in January 2000. But, as VP Dick so aptly said though, “So?” Besides, crossing your fingers behind your back while taking an oath of office is a time honored way to undermine Civilization. Law are only for petty people who still foolishly believe in Civilization.

No doubt, the Constitution was far too civilized for our own good. As Bush constantly reminds us, we are now living in perilous times unlike any of our prior wars where we only fought against puny enemies such as Hitler, Tojo and Jefferson Davis. Fighting a tall bearded guy operating out of a cave and dragging around a dialysis machine? Now, that’s a real dangerous enemy, one who obviously can conquer and occupy us any time he wants to. Bush said Osama envied our “democracy.” Fortunately for us, Bush solved that problem by disposed of it along with all those hanging chads in Florida.

What else can Bush offer as proof of his success in his Crusade? Lying, cheating, attacking peremptorily and theft? Some would say even civilized countries do that. Okay then. What about invading other countries based upon whim supported by lies and cheating? Oh, that’s more like it. Civilized countries try to avoid that. How about doing it for reasons of coveting and lusting after oil, lucre and power games? Better yet. Referring to it as a Crusade, especially in reference to a Muslim country? Perfect. Bombs away, Bush! That’s the way to win your War to eliminate the temptations of Civilization.

Speaking of bombs, knowingly killing women and infants who happened to be innocently within the blast radius of dumb or even smart bombs? Heh, heh, heh. Aw, that’s just “collateral damage,” isn’t it? Yessiree. What a civilized word for an uncivilized act. Bush could have sent in trained troops to isolate only the insurgents and thereby minimize the deaths of the innocents, but that would not “support the troops,” who of course, were there in deadly danger where they should never have been in the first place if we hadn’t blundered into that particular cesspool. That creates sort of a double dip into the antithesis of Civilization.

Bush has fomented or encouraged multifront war between religions, war between ethnic groups and war between races. He even allowed ethic cleansing. Iraq is a nice example. In fact, much of the alleged success for the so-called “Surge” was due to the emptying of mixed religion neighborhoods in the previous rounds of violence. Harder to kill someone who left the country. Hell, Bush has even resurrected class warfare; i.e. the uber rich, like him, against everyone else. Yep, he is a real Warrior thanks to his multitudinous conflicts, fully entitled to wear fancy Warlord costumes on aircraft carriers. Our Fearless Leader (so long as bullet are not flying in his direction) is almost a one man conflagration, a bushfire so to speak.

He doesn’t even need fire. He has shown he can win the War against Civilization just using water. Anyone remember New Orleans? There is nothing so uncivilized as doing nothing while others drown. That’s a wonderful demonstration showing just how uncivilized he can be. Blaming the victims? Better yet. Golden Rule? Gold Rules!

Impoverishing and sickening millions and damaging or destroying both their environment, their health, their savings, their credit and means of making a living? Well, although not technically a necessity of Civilization, such amenities certainly made everyone feel more civilized. So, I suppose we should grant our Crippler-in-Chief those tools too as part of his battles almost won in his practically single handed war against anything that used to represent Civilization such as caring, compromise, cooperation, conciliation, consensus, courtesy, and a conventional Constitution.

Time Magazine ought to do a new cover feature and retire the trophy with an award to George Armstrong Custer, I mean George Bush, not just as “Man of the Year,” but “Man of the 21st Century” because it is going to take the rest of the Century to dig us out of the cemetery hole his War on Civilization has dug for us.



Or, Challenging the Assumption We Cannot Get Out of Iraq

Even many Bush supporters now admit the war was fought on false premises and hugely damaged us. Their sole remaining argument in favor of staying seems to be essentially an assertion that "We broke it. So, we bought it." They repeat over and over, almost as a mantra, that while it is unquestionably, horrifyingly expensive to stay there, we must do so for probably decades because somehow it would be more expensive to get out.

What is missing entirely from the discussion is how they come to such an assumption. We desperately need to have some genuine research and intelligent debate regarding that conclusion. Let’s do what educated, thoughtful adults are supposed to do - a methodical cost/benefit analysis, one based on the best attainable figures and data.

In other words, let's finally stop relying on ASSUMPTIONS because assumptions are precisely what got us into this ego driven misadventure in the first place.



Or, Why Perhaps Some of the Democrats in Power are Traitors Too

It’s an ugly word, not one to be bandied about lightly. But, if “traitor” is defined as those who violate their oath of office to defend the Constitution (which is sworn to by every elected member of Congress and every senior appointed member of the Executive Branch), then (except for maybe Ron Paul) most of those in the White House, Senate and House wearing a scarlet “R” engraved on their solid gold cufflinks are traitors. Certainly so if we go to war with Iran without a formal declaration of war as required by the Constitution, if they vote to dismantle the Constitutional protections against warrantless searches, if they have authorized unspeakable atrocities on interrogation victims such simulated drowning or if they enact any of the inanities our Generalisimo in the flight suit seems to come up with almost daily. If those actions are not High Crimes or at least misdemeanors deserving of impeachment, then what are?

The problem is that far too large a number of those sporting a blue “D” painted on their silver platted belt buckles who took the very same oath are committing the very same High Crimes.

The Republican office holders in charge since 2000 might be excused to a certain extent given their rather obvious insanity or at least mental defectiveness. They might even qualify as disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Suffering as they apparently do from minimal intelligence, uncurious ignorance, sociopathic arrogance, perceived entitlement and ingrained, untamable aggression, they seem incapable of learning or obeying the law or even acting morally. We can pity them their disfunctionalities while simultaneously still fearing the unimaginable disasters they will no doubt perpetrate if left unguarded and unchecked. In some ways, they are not so different from fanged predators in the wild. Interesting to study, but dangerous when allowed to roam loose in a civilized society.

Not so the Democrats currently calling themselves leaders. They should know better. Consequently, they are not only traitors to their oath of office when they vote for tortures on suspicion, spying on everyone even without suspicion, and wars without declaration, they are the worst kind of traitor. Those who, fully knowing better, do it anyway out of timidity, laziness, personal gain or comfort deserve the universal condemnation of history.

It is not enough to assert as they do that the public allegedly “wants” supposed “security” over the basic freedoms the Constitution insists are necessary to a moral democracy whether the public values it or not. What shred of verifiable proof is there that such incremental surrenders of civil rights actually insure the alleged security? For instance, if the right to torture and spy is so purportedly effective, the proof should be available. I am not talking about the unsupported assertions of those who have been known to lie and stand to benefit from the dictatorial powers being usurped. I am talking about hard, quantifiable, court level proof that it actually works, especially since there is solid empirical evidence to the contrary. How do the Democrats allowing it explain that away. How do they explain away the history of our forefathers who managed to have both freedom and collective security (albeit hard fought) against far, far, far more numerous and worrisome foes? Where is the cost/benefit analysis showing that the short term gains (if any) from such insidious activities are greater than the inevitable long term cost in lives, treasury, good will, trust, and tyranny, not to mention the moral high ground which used to provide so much for us? The Democrats who are letting this happen to us should be required to explain how it is more worth while to do such things when our track record strong suggests the very countries we are now demonizing will likely be favored nation trading partners pampered with state visits and praise in the future as the Republicans have now flip flopped on Vietnam and China and until lately Russia?

Besides, if the Democrats allow the dissipation of the protections granted by the Constitution in order to curry a few votes to remain in office, what makes them think they will remain in office? Either the voters will someday come to their senses or the dictatorial power the Democrats are giving away will someday bite them in the rear. Ask the Roman Senators in the first century. Ask the members of the Russian Duma and the German Reichstag early in the last century. Strongmen with strong tactics are not the way to national security. They are the way to ultimately eliminate both freedom and personal security.



Or, Why Experience Is Not Always What Is Claimed

Some Presidential candidates tout their “experience” as making them inherently better for the office than other contenders. It seems intuitive. After all, experience in our own lives suggests “experience” is helpful. However, while it is theoretically possible for “experience” to be valuable in a job, it is seldom actually available for this particular job. There are after all but a bare handful of living individuals who have ever worked even near the Oval Office (and that’s counting Vice Presidents which before Cheney actually was a quite diminished job, more of a coat holder function).

Fewer yet except maybe Jimmy Carter or Al Gore are eligible. Consequently, “experience” can only be one relatively small component in the overall determination of who should nominated. Moreover, those reciting the word as sort of a mantra to attack or shout down opponents need to recognize there are several unproven assumptions in the assertion.

For instance, none of the current candidates has ever been even president of a large company or chief executive officer of a significant bureaucracy. Fortunately or unfortunately, the executive-type experience (which none of them have) tends to be dramatically different from the legislative-type experience which all of them have. The latter experience usually is a series of forced cooperations, conciliations and compromises in order to accomplish anything as opposed to the former which gets the luxury of resorting to coercion more often than naught.

Even if any of the present three national office seekers had been quartered somewhere in the White House, the experience may have turned them into the worst possible later re-occupants. Cheney and Rumsfeld come to mind as prime examples of the genuinely dysfunctional value of such “experience.” We might be 3 Trillion dollars ahead in Iraq alone, not counted our dead and disabled, if we hadn’t relied on their alleged “experience.”

Moreover, other than having sat through state dinners which might grant a head start on protocol knowledge and adding a few extra business cards to the rolodex, there’s no conclusive evidence that being related to a President conveys any irreplaceable knowledge of the job of President itself. In fact, maybe the opposite is true. Look how badly we were served by various sons of Presidents gaining the office. Bush is merely the worst of the lot.

And, if experience was so useful, wouldn’t Castro or Kadafi be running perfect countries? Hardly any national leader has more experience than them. Or, is the history of kings and queens trained from birth to lead their countries demonstrative that “experience” is what is needed? If so, then maybe we should encourage Prince Charles to migrate here and seek office. Do anyone believe that his long tutorial will automatically lift Britain to new heights once his head hold the crown?

But, even if we ignored our history as to the purported value of experience, at least as to Presidents candidates, shouldn’t it matter more what type of experience it was? Whether the candidates appear to have truly learned from their experience? Were they in a position to actually learn something arguably useful that cannot be learned by other means or with minimal risk on the job? Better yet, did they learn the right things when they were gaining such experience? In other words, did they make costly mistakes? Most importantly of all, if they made mistakes and who doesn’t, are they adult enough to admit it and vow to change? If not, then such “experience” if any, might do us more harm then good.

Stump speeching and sound biting silly slogans is not enough. Sometimes, it’s better to select the cautious newbie than the arrogant oldie. In any event, tough questions ought to be asked and research done on all those who blithesomely insist experience automatically trumps everything else including facts and logic.