Posts Tagged 'health care'

Children And Society As Fair Game

What is with the anti-children political agenda going on across the country? What do Republicans have against children? Why do they push laws to force women to have children then pass laws to harm those children and not just at the state level but at the national level as well by cutting funds for education, food stamps, health care, and anything else of social value?

To have witnessed a revolting fist-pumping celebration by a New Mexican Republican legislator for his victory over third-graders who aren’t ready to learn to read by third grade was an eye-opener. If someone had told me adults would celebrate such a victory I wouldn’t have  believed it – but I saw it with my own eyes! At the moment, 3rd grade retention is an iconic right-wing red-meat political issue, part of a larger strategy to privatize public education nationally. Public schools in Kansas are closing early because of a $51 million funding short-fall caused by the Governor’s budget cuts and tax breaks for businesses which themselves caused a $1 billion shortfall in state revenues. Children be damned – we won! Yea Us! Remember Hitler’s little dance at the fall of Paris?

Fourth grade school children in New Hampshire recently received a lesson in how vile partisan politics has become. The kids had proposed naming the Red Tailed Hawk as the state bird and then witnessed a Republican lawmaker take the floor and use the proposal to disparage Planned Parenthood.  Here is what the politician said to the body as the children watched: “It grasps them with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb, and I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.” The measure was defeated along party lines. The lesson the kids learned wasn’t part of the curriculum but it was an indelible lesson.

In North Carolina lawmakers recently turned down a school girl’s request to designate a state fossil because, as many were creationists fossils were an existential challenge. In Idaho naming the Giant Salamander the state amphibian as requested by school kids was killed by Republicans because they feared it would lead to environmental protections for that animal. This is like believing that having intercourse standing up leads to dancing. Sad but substantial lessons in contemporary political behavior and disregard for education in America today. And more than disregard, I believe fear of educated people is a root cause, people who can think and analyze before they vote, if they are allowed to vote, that is, and there are billionaires and their politicians working on that voting problem as well.

I’ve been thinking lately how fortunate we are that the Child Labor Laws were enacted in 1938 because I doubt they could be today. My mother worked in a Western Massachusetts mill at the age of 12. She had to carry a stool because she was too short to change bobbins without it. Her recollections of 12 hour work days and children regularly being injured were vivid into her late 90s. Remember, there was no workers comp back then and WC is now another target for the new reformers as are unemployment compensation, food stamps, and health care. In recent weeks Republicans in Congress just proposed a budget that would remove 11 million people from food stamps so Congress could provide bigger tax cuts to billionaires. Presently some Republican legislators and one born-rich presidential candidate in particular are going so far as to call for the end of 40 hour work weeks and the minimum wage. It’s starting to look like “back to the past”! Nothing surprises me anymore. What’s next? Perhaps bondage and children sold into servitude at birth? Debtors prisons have already been revived.

                                            child labor

At least for the moment children aren’t working in factories or on farms as child labor they are in school (for as long as that lasts) learning what we as a society believe they need to know to become productive fully-functioning adults. With state legislatures banning the teaching of global warming and trying to replace high achievement college placement courses with bible studies the definition of “fully-functioning” is undergoing profound distortion and re-definition. Texans for Education Reform and Republican leaders in that state’s senate are openly pursuing an ALEC sponsored agenda to privatize public education. Texas cut funding for public education by $5 billion a few years back and has offered no new money since then. School systems are floundering. What is being sought is total destruction of public schools and teachers.

But why? What is the desired outcome? What future are right-wing activists seeking? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness cannot be the objective, they must have something else in mind. Social control perhaps? A nation of sheep? Then again the rank and file of the movement may not have anything in mind except satisfying deeply held resentments and perceptions of being left out. Or, perhaps it’s fear of an increasingly uncertain future.

People are increasingly disinclined open their hearts for the homeless or for impoverished hungry children but they did open their wallets to the tune of nearly a million dollars for a bigoted bakery owner who shut down her business in order to not serve gays. Whatever the cause, sociopathy is fast becoming the new normal and children are the latest targets joining people of color, women, and gays. Next?

    

Let Us Now Praise The VA

  veterans-administration-logo

The Veterans Administration is a large and sprawling organization –  a bureaucracy by definition and like all bureaucracies, it has both faults and virtues. Speaking for myself I have had nothing but a good VA experience, great care givers, and excellent care over many years.  On September 10th of this year I had a heart attack and was taken by ambulance at my request more than 100 miles to the Albuquerque, New Mexico VA hospital. It was the best call I could have made. From the moment of my arrival through discharge three days and two stents later I received the best medical attention imaginable. The caring, professionalism, and attentiveness of the staff carried the day. Because of their dedication and professionalism here I am writing again, being productive – laying up block, building and now roofing an addition, splitting firewood, taking my daily mile and a half walks. It’s a new, slower normal but it is a normal – and thanks to the VA I’m alive to do it.

None of the foregoing, however, negates what seem to be legitimate concerns with the care and attention reported by others. To be sure, in a system as large and unwieldy as the VA, there are going to be problems – people are going fall into cracks, there are going to be good people and bad people employed in the system, and there are going to be people complaining no matter what. There will be people like me who think the world of the VA and those who hate it. No matter which side of the divide anyone is on, there are irrefutable truths which must be acknowledged and dealt with in a timely manner. First and foremost, the new Director needs all the support and input he can get from all of us and adequate funding from the US Congress, far too many members of which have never served in uniform.

Next, if this country is going to continue on its path of unending wars around the world, a solid and dependable veterans’ health care system must be in place for those sent into harm’s way, regardless of the cost. If we can afford $1.5 trillion for a fleet of F-35s, we can well afford to provide world class medical care for those doing the dirty work – to do less would be immoral. Consider for a moment the disparity between the $600 billion 2015 Department of Defense budget and the $168 billion allocated for the VA, which cares not just for those returning from current military adventures but vets going back to World War 2. I wasn’t born yesterday and am well aware that politics and morals are generally mutually exclusive. It’s going to take public pressure brought to bear by all those who appreciate and understand the sacrifices required by military service to ensure that Congress ponies up. American service men and women are not stateless mercenaries, they are serving this country, they are serving all of us.

Of course, better than any of this would be to heed General Eisenhower’s warnings and put an end to the war industry. Put $600 billion into public education, health care, infrastructure, and other socially necessary programs. Just imagine what this country could be like. Then and only then would we be truly “exceptional”.

Envy – American Style

The New York Times “Sunday Review” (March 2nd, 2014) published a genuine forehead-slapping essay, “The Downside of Inciting Envy”, by Arthur C. Brooks, a Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute one of the many Koch propaganda mills. What came immediately to mind, when I read it, was Sessue Hayakawa’s speech as Colonel Saito in “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. Without a trace of irony, Saito advised his British prisoners of war, ”… be happy in your work”. I saw this film as a college freshman and never, in 57 years, had I given it as much thought as on reading the Brooks essay.

What Brooks actually said is, “be happy in your poverty people”, otherwise you will experience a “downside”. Be happy in your impoverishment and disenfranchisement. Perhaps his sponsors are worried the natives are becoming disgruntled and restless but they are also misreading the anger and resentment. The apparent discord is not necessarily directed towards other people’s wealth, it is more likely resentment over the destruction of their American dream, resentment over being driven into poverty – a new world where a college diploma is more about crushing debt than about upward mobility.

Without missing a beat, Brooks’ essay includes the standard pitch for privatized education, tax rules that favor the wealthy so they can “spark hiring”, and “recalibrating the safety net” such that people will be “happy” in their low-paying dead-end jobs. The author chastises and, not incidentally, insults those who disdain dead-end jobs arrogantly calling those jobs a crucial “first step”. Excuse me, but a “dead-end” is not a first step, Mr. Brooks, it is, by definition, a “last step”.

The author is plainly concerned, as are his patrons, with the possibility of “class” retribution or even revolution by those who perceive the game as “rigged”. If 70% of a population perceive a game as rigged it probably is rigged. What fool wants to play in a rigged game?

Let me suggest how “envy” is properly applied to today’s rigged game. Envy, of course, has to do with the desire to have or possess what others have. In this case “envy” has to do with opportunity more than material goods. The opportunity game is what should not be rigged. In a civilized viable society opportunity and access to resources must be equitably distributed, health care, for example, cannot not be a game of chance based on social class. To want these equalities of opportunity is not a “destructive social comparison”, as Mr. Brooks would have us believe, it is historically foundational to the human condition and, even more importantly, to a democratic society.

The mild form of “revolt” by Americans Mr. Brooks fears is merely asking a question as opposed to begging it, as Brooks makes the theme of his essay. Brooks seems to think he can perform bank shots with fallacies, using circular arguments and slogans such as “destructive social comparison”. Sorry, but we aren’t falling for that. When people can’t put food on their tables after 40 hours of work, it isn’t fantasy — it’s reality and no amount of bloviating around the point is going to make it otherwise. If Mr. Brooks wants us to share his “joyful mission of freedom, opportunity and enterprise for all” then his American Enterprise Institute is going to have to educate itself about shared consequences from shared enterprise for everyone. The words “share” and “everyone” are the operative terms.

Crossroads: Reality For Beginners

 

I vividly recall watching a CBS Walter Cronkite evening news broadcast soon after I left active duty. A reporter was interviewing an Army captain during an attack on a Vietnamese village. The scene was shot from a low angle; both the captain and the reporter were lying below the rim of a ditch, and in the distance, through smoke and explosions, the village could be seen. Various types of aircraft were dropping ordnance, firing rockets, and machine-gunning this group of huts— hell had broken loose. With every explosion the cameraman jerked a bit in response.

The reporter asked the Captain what was going on—yes, he did ask that. The Captain explained that the village had some Vietcong in it and added (I swear this is true!), “We’re having to destroy this village in order to save it.” That was very many years ago, and here we are still at it—destroying people, places, ideas, beliefs, trust in government, society, and justice—destroying in order to “save” them. That scene from Vietnam comes to mind often these days as we see one news story after another about politicians, right-wing organizations like ALEC, and powerful oligarchs engaging in serious destruction of our now-fragile social contract. So many politicians are today more notable for deceitful and rent-seeking behavior than for their intelligence and devotion to public service—or even their country.

What do you suppose the consequences will be if the Oligarchy-sponsored right-wing assault on the social contract is successful? Their stated targets to cut or eliminate include these vital elements of the social contract:

  • unemployment benefits
  • dismantling social security
  • health care
  • food stamps
  • elder care
  • veterans’ programs and benefits

Will we live in a better world or a worse one if they succeed?

All societies, polities, and civilizations are complex systems; no part acts independently of the others—push something here and something pops up over there, ad infinitum. This accords with Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, wherein individuals acting out of self-interest ultimately deplete the finite resources of the commons, resulting in loss for all, especially those least able to fight back. As, for example, the US being 26th out of 29 countries in child welfare, or that one American in two is low-income poor. The resources of the commons include trust in government, belief in equality, equal opportunity and social justice. These are the “glue” of a humane and just society and have been a hallmark of this country since the Great Depression. Failing the cohesive “glue” of belief, societal collapse inevitably follows; it presages the death of hope. What are those people thinking? Do they really believe there will be no consequences, or do they trust that the relentless militarization of police forces will contain any outbursts or rebellion? Will we have to see the society destroyed before it can be saved?

Hypocrisy is become high fashion, thoroughly rationalized and the Constitution be damned, all for our own good, 1984 has arrived. Over the years the United States has, with high moral dudgeon, condemned the Soviet bloc countries, Nazi Germany, and several other countries for domestic spying and is now itself engaged in the same behavior. Who cares, so long as we have assurances that we are made safe? Of course it never occurs that we might be better made safe if we would change our behavior in the world, mind our own business, let other countries settle their internal problems on their own, but would the world then be safe for the oil, mineral, and financial oligarchies? To the extent that the relentless pursuit of profit directs American foreign policy so too will the resentment, distrust, and anger we suffer continue to grow, even amongst our allies, and not only because we spy on them as well as our designated enemies.

What demagogues of all stripes fail to remember is that there has always been a price to be paid when a critical mass of disbelief is breached. Lies have lasting effect and are inevitably found out, either by disclosure or by turn of events, and there are always consequences. “The most irreducibly bad thing about lies is that they contrive to interfere with, and impair, our natural effort to apprehend the real state of affairs,” is how Harry G. Frankfurt puts it in his charming and insightful book, On Truth. What would a world without truth be like? How could citizens trust their government? Why would they trust? How just can society be when, for example, even lawyers lie in court with the tacit approval of regulating bodies, which are supposed to regulate their behavior?

If it is true, as social philosopher, Philippa Foot, cast it, “… it makes sense to speak of those who are lovers of justice—as of those who are lovers of truth.” So now consider that many if not most legislators, national and state, are lawyers. Consider further that at the national level it is commonplace that campaign coffers in the form of PACs are filled with money “donated” by lobbyists for every sort of interest group. We must, on evidence, then conclude that the lawyering industry has a questionable relationship to both truth and justice if their standards for truth are a moveable feast of fabrication to suit the circumstances. If the motto is “winning is everything,” the corollary is inescapably, “Society be damned.”

If that doesn’t sound like double jeopardy, I can’t imagine what would. And just what is it that is in jeopardy? Well, for openers, how about trust followed by justice, followed by the public’s interests. There are many more to list, but these are enough to paint the sorry picture. Then there is the matter of the recent financial crisis buy-outs and the enormous loss of savings the public suffered while the financial industry was, by contrast, largely spared with infusions of public money.  Who wins and who loses in this game? The social contract doesn’t have a chance—will it have to be destroyed in order to “save” it?

ON PARASITOIDS

The word parasite comes from the Greek  παράσιτος (parasitos), “one who eats at the table of another”. The Juniper parasite commonly known as Mistletoe Latin name is Phoradendron Juniperinum ,. There are many different kinds of parasites that infect animals and plants and this one is of the kind that eventually kills its host. Parasitoid is the name for parasites which kill or sterilize their hosts. As I was working at the heartbreaking task of pruning – butchering might be more apt – nearly all of the cedars and junipers at home infected with Mistletoe the similarity between what is happening to my trees and my country struck me. Parasitoids are eating away democracy, the economy, and polity – in short, the social contract as I have known it for all of my life and in the end they will kill the host and replace it with something like a police state.

What is most interesting about this is that the parasites are being assisted by the very people who are being hurt the most – the American middle class. Which leads me to the next interesting aspect that being the denial of class warfare. What do you imagine are the consequences when millionaire elected politicians write laws from “model legislation” provided to them by an organization funded by the largest corporations in the world? Is that not class warfare? The ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Counsel) is the unelected sponsor of a great deal of legislation from concealed carry of handguns to education and a universe in between. Whose interests are being represented first and foremost? Yours or theirs? Who did the public elect, ALEC or senator so-and-so? The role of legislators as minions of parasitoids is undeniable when they allow themselves to used as conduits for sociopathic legislation provided to them by ALEC. The legislation introduced and passed is not for the benefit of the electorate but solely for the benefit of the sponsors at the expense of the polity. In other words, they are dining at the expense of the public good – literally and figuratively.

A good example of how devolved the situation has become is the disagreement over health care. Early in the Republican primary during a debate about government sponsored health care an example of how a sick person without health insurance could be denied hospital care and die as a result, the audience cheered. Yes, that actually happened at a Republican presidential debate in September of last year. Ron Paul was asked by the moderator whether or not a person should be left to die if he didn’t have health insurance.  Paul ducked the question but responded that freedom means “taking your own risks”. And the audience cheered, “Yeah!”. Not unlike the Roman custom of thumbs down during a gladiatorial bout the audience thus indicating the vanquished opponent should be killed. Even Friedrich Hayek ultra-conservative intellectual icon knew better and supported “ a comprehensive system of social insurance”.

Concealed carry laws such as that which led to the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida come directly out of the ALEC menu of “model legislation” the Florida language being nearly identical to the ALEC template. There is hardly a day that goes by without another shooting reported somewhere in the country. Today, April 2, six people were shot and killed and three wounded at a California university. Last night a shooting in Las Cruces left one young man dead and another seriously wounded. Time and again people, innocent people, are shot down by someone exercising the right to own and carry a gun. ALEC templates provide the language and intent of the enabling legislation for gun laws sponsored by the Koch boys, Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart, Coca Cola, At&T, UPS, Kraft Foods, State Farm, Bayer, Diageo, NRA, et al  – it’s a long long list.

Another example is the price of gasoline. It is generally known there is an international glut of petroleum the feed stock of gasoline and there is also a national reserve from which the president can draw if need be. The price of what has become life-blood of the American economy is controlled by a small group of multi-national corporations all of whom want to see a Republican outcome in the November elections; they are willing, it seems, to destroy the economy and the economic life of Americans to achieve that end.

The life blood of democracy is being sucked out of it for profit and in the end will destroy the American social contract just as the mistletoe is destroying my trees. Another  ALEC campaign, this to destroy public education for the purpose of privatizing it, will lead to under and un-educated citizens unable to think critically thus making them even more vulnerable to manipulation and with little or no commitment to a social contract – in other words they are creating a dystopian state at our expense. Already by age 23 as many as 41 percent of American young adults and adolescents have been arrested at least once. Will we, of necessity, live in a police state in what was once the land of the free and the home of the brave? How far will ALEC its sponsors and minions be willing to go in their parasitoid crusade against American democracy?

This essay was forst posted on: http://www.thelightofnewmexico.com/


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