Eighth Blog Post

We are a capitalist nation.  That’s good.  It gives us freedom of choice and power in the marketplace as consumers.  The customer is ultimately always right.  Therefore, our products tend to be exactly what we are willing to pay for.  Right?

If you want to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle you can choose to walk into the showroom and they will bend over backwards to get you to buy one.  They’ll do special deals, add on cool stuff, offer you upgrades, special leathers and equipment.  If you walk out without buying, you can come back.  Another day.  Or you can go to a competitor.  You can look at used motorcycles.  You can go on Ebay.  Or look up facts in Consumer Reports.  You shop.  You choose.  That is the essence of capitalism.  Choice is freedom.

The same principles work with sofas, dishwashers, pots and pans.  That’s how it works and it works well.  We have good motorcycles, dishwashers and sofas because we choose what we like.  The company that gives us what we want makes the profit.  Choices create the market.  Choice is our freedom.

Health is not a choice.  Cancer is not a choice.  Your child’s leukemia is not a choice.  These are needs which are universal and immediate.  Illness and disease, accidents, affect all, regardless of economic buying power.  You don’t choose.  This isn’t your freedom.  This is a reality beyond economic theories.

Buying a health care plan is not like buying a dishwasher.  You can’t do without it.  You can’t walk away from the showroom to come back when it’s convenient.  You can’t, in your hours of need, negotiate for a better deal.  You are powerless at the moment you need to be the strongest.

You can’t make do with a shabby health care plan when the heart attack, the hip replacement, the emergency C-section, the Alzheimer’s, confronts you and your family.  You need the maximum medical technology as fast as possible regardless of cost.  Your heart surgery will cost more than your car and home put together.  If you don’t own your home, what will you put up as collateral for a loan to save your life?  What’s your child’s life worth?  Your life?  Illness comes to all.  You do not choose.

You can live with a second hand motorcycle.  A low cost dishwasher.  Or none.  If you live in a city, you can do without a car most of the time.  But you can’t live, literally, with less health care.  It’s not your choice.

Capitalism depends on the consumer’s choices.  But health care insurance companies don’t need to respond to consumer choices.  You can’t walk away when you need the medical care and you can’t change policies when you wish.  You don’t have choice.  You can’t afford the best unless you have considerable income.  This points to a basic flaw in the system:  Capitalism and health care don’t mix.

Health and well being are the right of all Americans.  Rich or poor, old or young, we are all subject to the same reality:  We need health care.  We need and deserve the best care that our nation, that we, the people, can provide.

This is a national issue, not to be left up to the States, for what child in any State is not a child of America?  We must use our tax money, patriotically paid by our citizens, for a national health care plan.  This will balance the Capitalist Marketplace at last.  Health insurance companies will have a standard they must meet and the competition that will cause them to improve their services to those who choose to buy their programs.  We will again have Freedom of Choice.

Yes, capitalism works, but the customer is always right.  When it comes to health care, the customer must vote to provide what the market can’t:  universal health care for all Americans.   Tax money is our money.  We, the people, are free to use it for our children, our families, and our selves.



Seventh Blog Post

It has been said that the definition of an educated person is “someone who can recognize a lie when he hears one.”  Notice that neither Ivy League schools nor the school of hard knocks is mentioned.  Education need not be formal, but experience and schooling together make a formidable combination.

Experience gives the ability to hear the lie in a salesman’s insistence that a certain used car is in perfect condition.  Your own ear can hear the flaw in the engine.

Formal education helps.  A carnival barker assures you that inside the tent behind him is a living dinosaur!  Just hand over five dollars (he’s giving you a special deal!) and you can go right in and see it.  Fun?  Perhaps.  A lie?  Of course.  A foundation of facts taught in public schools gives the lie to this one.

Experience helps.  Facts help.  The sense of what a lie sounds like helps.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Trump promised to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and to replace it with something “terrific” that is “so much better, so much better, so much better.”  Too farfetched to be true?  Yes.  No matter what one thinks of Obamacare, no health care plan designed by government committees is likely to be terrific.  And in what ways is this unspecified terrific thing supposed to be “so much better?”  This is what lies sound like.  They are farfetched, overstated and non-specific.

The truth is that considerable work, many delays and compromises must happen before this nation has a replacement for or an improvement to the Affordable Care Act.  No one will be completely happy and many people left without health care will suffer or even die.  Trump succeeded in destroying the ACA, but his rosy promise remains a lie.

Lies promise things that can’t be delivered.  Make Mexico pay for a border wall.  Really?  Are you kidding?  This is like declaring that you will make the Sun rise in the west.  Trump has no way to coerce a foreign nation to pay for construction of anything in the US, let alone a wall that would harm both nations.  This is a lie that insults one’s intelligence.

It sounds so good, though, doesn’t it?  It’s like listening to your crazy uncle after Thanksgiving dinner when everyone has had too much to eat and too much to drink and there he is, holding forth on all kinds of subjects.  (A lot like Trump campaigning.)  This kind of lie makes you laugh, feel vindicated, feel warm inside that a great big power is going to solve all your fears and angers about that pesky nation to the south.  Lies make you feel good and strong without needing any facts to support them.

It’s what an insult comic does on stage: outrageous statements and broad generalizations, frequent use of stereotypes and promises that cannot be fulfilled.  The Mexican President recently gave the USA the diplomatic finger.  Not a peso will be forthcoming.  Wall?  Maybe.  Who pays?  You will.  It’s going to be “the greatest wall that you’ve ever seen!”  This is what a lie sounds like.

“You’ll be able to keep your own doctor.”  This was President Obama describing the planned ACA.  This was not a lie.  It was a mistake.  It was a statement that could be researched by anyone reading the text of the proposed Act.  Much more importantly President Obama followed this statement a few days later with an apology and a correction.  You could usually keep your doctor, if he was on the health care plan you chose.  You could NOT keep an insurance plan that had been identified as a “lemon.”  Obama explained that a “lemon law” had been built into the ACA.  You couldn’t sign on with a health care plan that didn’t meet certain standards.

This is the sound of truth.  Corrections, apologies, real solutions and explanations, and the ability to find out the details yourself.  Truth sounds irksome.  It doesn’t make you comfortable or offer you broad generalizations.  It may make you tired and irritable because it calls on you to do your part.  You had to search out the website and find an insurance policy that fit your needs.  How tiresome, dull and unexciting.  How real.

“Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate!”  And later, “the birth certificate released by the President is not valid!  It says ‘certificate of live birth.’  That’s not a valid birth certificate!” Trump lied massively as did the Tea Party.  Go get your birth certificate.  Check it out.  President Obama’s birth certificate was and is as valid as anyone else’s.  Including mine.  I checked.

Lies are defeated by skepticism and resourcefulness.  Add these to experience and schooling and you have an unbeatable combination.  The truth shall set you free.



Sixth Blog Post

I love the USA.  One of the best parts of growing up in it was the feeling that one could create solutions to problems.  Create, not just do what had been done before.  Create, see a problem from a new perspective and do something new in response.  Create, possibly jury-rigging a solution, sometimes with a sense of humor.

For example, the solution to an ICBM that turned itself on and was automatically going through the sequence to launch:  the missile was stopped by parking a huge and heavy armored vehicle on the cap to the ICBM’s underground silo.  The cap would automatically withdraw just before launch.  The armored vehicle would drop on top of the missile and crush its computers, killing it.  This anecdote was presented on The Rachel Maddow Show in late 2016.  I apologize for inaccuracies in the retelling, but I’d like to point out that it illustrates a feeling of “can do,” of willingness to think outside of boxes, that I remember from childhood.

We still have it.  I believe in the USA.  With this feeling of “can do,” we could have led the world in finding a way to provide health care to all citizens.  We could have simply guaranteed equal pay for equal work.  We could have made rock solid the right to vote.  We could have found ways, ingenious, non-traditional, creative ways to do what needed to be done.  We did not.

We did not, because we also have a flaw.  It runs deep and is almost without a name.  Some call it racism, some call it distrust of government, some call it populism.  None of these names really fit, but the characteristics of the flaw are easy to recognize.

There is an assumption that education is suspect and unnecessary.  There is a cynical assumption that any action by the Federal government is detrimental to freedom.  There is a background prejudice against anyone not white and male.  Fear of “the other” is a part of it.  Disillusionment with government, and law in general, when reality and theory don’t match, is part of it.  Suspicion of Science and its findings is present.  Americans don’t like to be told anything.  We don’t believe in the very institutions we created to do the jobs we created them for.

The founding documents of this country act like the keel of a ship.  They keep us on a straight course.  Since the very beginning, equality before the law, the right to life, to liberty and the pursuit of what means happiness, a free press, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and to address the government with regard to grievances, the right to free religious practice have been the foundation of our government.  These are among the principles that should guide every action of our government on the local and federal levels.

One of the definitions of the word “govern” is “to exercise a directing or restraining influence.” – Randomhouse Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary.  How our government is to function and how laws are to be created is laid out in the Constitution.  How these laws exert a directing or restraining influence is how we shape our national life and the course of our nation’s future.  This is how the institution we created does the job we created it for.

To obstruct it is to betray the very foundation of our democracy.  Obstruction is the antithesis of creativity.  In effect, it’s a statement of “can’t do.”

This is what blocked President Obama from achieving much that he set out to do.  That he did achieve so much is a testament to his “can do” attitude, his sense of our best direction as a nation, his willingness to think creatively on our behalf.  The prejudice that is “can’t do,” the belief that our foundation principles are not sufficient to direct and restrain our national course, is dangerously present.  The obstructions faced by President Obama are proof that “can’t do” can erode the best efforts of our best people.  The election of 2016 was further proof and we wait to see the consequences.

I love this country.  Like Martin Luther King, I have a dream.  I  dream and believe that “can do” will overcome “can’t.”

Fifth Blog Post

Today, the 115th Congress began its first work day.  Its first self-appointed task?  To dismantle the sole attempt to provide health care for all citizens that our nation ever achieved.

Reagan couldn’t do it.  Previous Congresses and Presidents couldn’t manage it.  Hillary Clinton succeeded in getting insurance for children when she was First Lady, but she and President Clinton faced massive resistance to the idea.  After all, in a Christian nation, who would ever want to take care of children’s health?  President Obama has been the only President to succeed.  Now the Republicans will take it apart.

The Affordable Care Act is a hodge podge of compromises.  “It’s this thick!”  exclaim detractors, gesturing to show the thickness of the average dictionary.  The fact that its thickness as a document has nothing to do with the quality of the law is ignored.  The fact that it started out as thin as the average college term paper is forgotten.  The raw fact that its complexity is the result of repeated attempts by Republican legislators to sabotage it with addenda, changes, and restrictions is completely denied by detractors.

They hate it.  For no reason beyond the fact that President Obama backed it.

For the satisfaction of destroying it, his signature achievement, the Republican members of Congress,- our elected officials who are tasked with “promoting the general welfare” and securing “the blessings of liberty,” and with protecting our rights “to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” -for the pure satisfaction of destroying it, they will deny millions of American citizens affordable health care.

How many unborn babies will miscarry because of lack of prenatal care when the Republicans have their way?  Do not pretend to be pro-life if you have voted to repeal Obamacare.  Many more thousand babies will be miscarried in any year than are aborted.  Sixty percent of women who become pregnant experience a miscarriage sometime in their reproductive years.  Six out of every ten.  That’s many thousands of babies who don’t make it to term every year.  Without prenatal care, there will be many thousands more every year.  Your vote made the difference.

When you deny people access to health care, we suffer.  We die.  The elderly, our grandparents and elder loved ones, will die from preventable conditions because of the lack of care.  Many elderly will have to choose between health care and food, or health care and heat.  This is inexcusable in America.

Early detection of treatable diseases like cancer will be taken away.  People who can’t afford payment must delay seeking health care.  One of my friends died this way – she had no job and so no health insurance for a year.  She avoided seeking medical care because she couldn’t afford an office visit.  For a year.  When she found a job that provided a  policy, it was discovered she had stage three cancer.  It was a cancer that could have been treated if found early.  Within months, she passed.  President Obama’s Affordable Care Act would have prolonged or even saved her life.

The industrialized nations all around the globe have universal health care for their citizens.  Each nation found their own reasonable method of providing it.   No one is dying from overpayment of taxes.

But in America, because of the Republican actions begun today, people, including unborn babies, will die from lack of health care.



Fourth blog post

On the eve of the vote by the Electoral College, our Justice Department and other government agencies are beginning an investigation into the role Russia played in the 2016 election.  Russia.  The country with the nuclear weapons.  The country that brought my father into action on an aircraft carrier outside Cuba when that island nation tried to accommodate Russian missiles.

A nightclub in Washington, D.C. recently had to apologize for hosting an evening where young men and women chanted “Heil!”  The photographs show them laughing and jostling with drinks in hand, happily chanting the “rebel yell” of Nazi Germany.

China, having been offended by Trump’s acceptance, –  even possible initiation – of a contact from Taiwan, has militarized an island previously left empty by negotiated agreement with the US, and has stolen a Navy drone weapon.  Trump flippantly tells reporters that the Chinese “can keep it.”

Weep for our country.

When my father left on that aircraft carrier as a reserve Captain, we were approaching nuclear war with Russia and mutual assured destruction.  As President Kennedy said at that time, we would either prevail or we would “have ashes in our mouths.”  For those of you who know nothing about how it is to grow up knowing that your town, your home, is on ground zero, President Kennedy was referring to the total destruction that is all-out nuclear war.  It’s not a movie.  It’s goodbye.

For any country, but especially Russia, to have any influence in our election process is horrifying.  If Trump is guilty of allowing this to happen, even encouraging it, he is guilty of treason.  And now, he has the nuclear codes which control our arsenal.

Weep for our country.

The happy drinkers in the nightclub photographs were young.  But not so young that they didn’t understand what they were singing and chanting.   They have all heard, I’m sure, the ringing words of the Declaration of Independence, the document held in reverent preservation not far from their DC nightclub:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  Still, they lifted their glasses and chanted “Heil!”, saluting the principle that all are NOT equal and that certain men are entitled to kill and torture others, based solely on a notion of genetic or cultural superiority.  This is the essence of Nazi philosophy, the essence also of the KKK’s ideals.  And now Trump will apply this principle to anyone who does not fit in his “white America.”

Weep for our country.

China, that immense and powerful nation, ancient and patient, capable of so much and tied so much into our economy, has called Trump “a child.”  They are already offended by his foolish contact with Taiwan.  They are already militarizing the island they’d agreed to leave empty.  It is strategically important, but Trump has no notion of military strategy.  He never served.  He has no notion of the value, monetary or diplomatic, of that stolen drone.  He never had a job or earned money outside of investments.  He apparently thinks it’s all a big safe marketplace and it’s all about “the deal.”  He is a child wielding his father’s gun.

Weep for our country.

When the voters who supported Trump went into the voting booth, they may have thought they were voting for change.  The right change is beneficial.  This one is not.







Third blog post

Consider health care in the late 1700’s.  The founders of the Constitution were well aware of the options.  You had your sawbones doctor who would take your leg off without washing his hands, let alone using anesthetic.  Germs were unheard of and “gentlemen didn’t need to wash.”  Anesthetics had yet to be developed.

You had your local midwife and probably an herbalist.  They knew their business pretty well.  Midwives were highly successful with births that did not need surgery.  The herbalist knew what you could take to lower fevers, set bones faster, and nourish you to health.  Neither received medical training, but the sawbones didn’t get much of that either.

If you were lucky, you had access to a Native American medicine man or woman.  They really knew their business with wound care, childbirth, broken bones, etc.

None of these people, (with the possible exception of the sawbones), was usually paid with money.

You paid your medical bills with products you made or produce you grew.  Sometimes you paid with tobacco leaves, for that was an early form of currency in the colonies.  You paid the midwife for helping the baby into the world in April with a bushel of apples from your crop in September.  Sometimes you paid with your labor, if you were a carpenter or mason.  You paid the Native American medicine man or woman with pelts.

To be fair, those who lived in cities often used money.  British money to start with, and later the multiple forms of money that muddled around during the Revolution and afterwards.  Barter was better.

None of this medical care was prohibitively costly or required complex equipment and sophisticated facilities.  That came much later.

The most significant part of health care at this time was that it stood as a right.  In fact, the members of the community had a Christian moral obligation to provide it.  When your neighbor was poorly and bedridden with illness, you sat by the bed.

You took care of him and his home.  You washed up, fed the animals, minded the children, cleaned the stalls, and did everything you could to help this person – whether you liked him or not – to get back on his feet.

If he was dying, you sat by the deathbed.

Neighbors took it in turns.  They helped as they could.  When the illness ended, you went back to your home, secure in the knowledge that the community’s sacred obligation would serve you should you need it.

We still have this sacred communal obligation.

Since the 1700’s, doctors have learned to wash their hands.  We have learned to do a great many things to heal and repair the human body.  We have developed medical skills that require extensive training and elaborate facilities filled with sophisticated equipment and large staffs.  These are all costly.  The problem is payment.

Insurance companies are a poor substitute for the moral obligation of a community.  For one thing, they are solely interested in their own profit.  They have a strong vested interest in avoiding paying your medical bills.

Here is a story that illustrates the issue.  Almost all of it is true.

A young married couple, both blue collar workers, were happily expecting their first child.  Each of them had a job and each had medical insurance through their jobs.  Their doctor told the wife that she ran a strong risk of losing her baby to miscarriage if she didn’t quit her job, as the baby showed signs of distress.  The couple sat down and figured out that they could do a few months without her income.  They only had to get her on her husband’s medical insurance.

An unborn child is a previously existing condition.  The insurance company turned her down.  She had to keep her job and, in the second trimester, lost the baby in a pool of blood on the workroom floor.

President Obama stopped this from ever happening again.  No previous condition can prevent a pregnant woman from getting the health care her unborn baby needs.  Thousands of babies need prenatal care each year.  We’ll never know how many live today because of President Obama.

This story illustrates what is wrong with mixing the profit motive with health care.   Like our forebears in the 1700’s we have a moral obligation as a community to provide health care for all our citizens.

“We, the people, of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – US Constitution.

Notice the phrase “promote the general welfare?”  That means, as a nation, not just as a jumble of independent states, we are to act for the general welfare of all our citizens.  Whether one is a Christian or not, we, the people, have a moral obligation to provide health care for all.