Friday, August 28, 2009

Win One for Teddy

Lots of political pundits and talking heads (who have entirely too much air time to talk) are advancing the theory that the death of Senator Edward Kennedy will spur the congress on to victory on the health care issue.

Meanwhile it seems that those who are against health care are also those that hated Teddy (and probably most liberals). Statistics are being bantered about concerning the number of Americans opposed to health care reform. These all have to be taken with a grain of salt (or the whole shaker) given the lies also advanced by the loyal opposition.

If we go with those Americans that have ample health insurance as the core to those which what no reform we arrive at a 40% figure. This is by no means the majority of Americans as the Republicans would have us believe. And I am willing to advance some theories about that 40%: 1) they have never been seriously ill, 2) they have not lost their jobs and wound up paying for insurance on Cobra, 3) they have not had the company they work for change carriers or coverage or co-pays, 4) they have not had their insurance carrier changed by the company they work for or because they took another job, 5) they do not have a pre-existing condition which limits their freedom to change jobs.

Ten years ago those insured people that fit that parameter was a lot more. Now companies because of the cost of insurance coverage are cutting back on the "frills" or raising the amount their employees have to pay to be in the plan for themselves or their significant other. And during the current economic downturn in the US more companies went bankrupt and/or laid off workers. And a higher percentage of employees job hop.

Health care insurance coverage costs has risen 400% in that ten years. And medical costs have followed right along. Those costs are so above the rest of the civilized world that there is a huge boom in medical tourism. I can get my shoulder rebuilt in Thailand for less than the copay here in the US and that is with air fare.

What that 40% opposed to health care reform does not know yet is insurance and medical care reform is not necessary for just the "have nots" but in the not too distant future it will be necessary for them too. Time to get your heads out of the sand and see the writing on the wall. This is not about insuring the uninsured. This is about keeping America competitive with the rest of the world before we are left in the dust.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Passing of a Time

I had the opportunity in my life to meet all three of the Kennedy brothers: Jack, Robert and Ted. My mother was Democratic precinct chairwoman when Jack F Kennedy was first campaigning for President.

I met Robert when I was working on his political campaign for President.

And Ted I knew while putting together a symposium on defense spending when working for the National Council of Churches in Washington. DC.

In my two years of seeing if I could make the government work from the inside out (the anti-Vietnam-War era) I met and mingled with a lot of the Washington movers and shakers. I started on the staff of Senator Charles Goodell appointed to replace the assassinated Senator Robert Kennedy. A former Republican conservative congressman he became a liberal Senator and joined with Senator Jacob Javits on an amendment to end the conflict in Vietnam.

I got to see a lot of the inner workings of our government and to know that it certainly has the capacity to work correctly given men of high moral conviction and sense of service, and an involved populace that takes the time to become informed on the issues and write to let their representatives in Washington know their views.

I developed a yardstick by which to measure the elected: The devotion of their staffs. The staff people get to know them best. Senator Goodell had inherited Robert Kennedy's staff and they were devoted to his memory and to his successor. President Richard Nixon's staff was devoted but on the level of Hitler's inner circle: blind devotion. Ted Kennedy's staff was devoted. And they were good people. They did not cheat at soft ball (there was a capital hill league).

I came to respect the opinions of legislators who I felt were in government service for all the right reasons. And reporters that felt obligated to report the truth. There are a lot of good men I knew but briefly that are gone now: Goodell, Javits, Novak, Buckley, Cronkite, and Jack, Robert and Ted. And until President Obama I felt there is nobody to carry on properly and vote their conscious. And if that is the case we doomed.

But I like to think God abhors a vacuum and the leaders of this new era we so desperately need to survive as a nation and people have just yet to be identified.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Monster in the Closet

I had a little brother when I was growing up that delighted in building on all my fears. We don't talk anymore because I got tired of being belittled all the time but I think he must have grown up to be a Republican.

Hey, we are all scared of the unknown whether we admit it or not. When we are kids it is the beast under the bed or the monster in the closet at night. Hey, sometimes my closet still scares me. When we grow up and become adults we are scared of the unknown like where the money is coming for the car insurance payment. Or, heaven forbid, the car needing major repairs. Or needing major repairs ourselves.

And those opposed to medical insurance reform are praying on those fears like my brother did when I was a kid. They are telling us all sorts of horrible things about the monster in the closet. Stephen King in his non-fiction look at horror films and fiction - Danse Macabre - explains that the monster we cannot see is always more scary than the monster we can. And who can "see" all the details of their medical insurance or what horrible illness might lead to them confronting it.

We are told that the health care system we have at the moment is the best in the world. Wrong. We are actually about 49th or so. Though we lead in costs for that system. And only the haves can afford it. We are told that if Obama's system goes into effect there will be government panels telling the sick they cannot get coverage. And that is different from your HMO refusing to cover your latest bill how?

I just went through this with a friend. He ended up having half his foot amputated because the infection ran wild while his insurance company debated the costs of prescriptions doctors wanted to stem the spread of the bone eating bacteria he most likely picked up in a hospital being treated for pneumonia. And yet Republican Senators and Congressman with the best medical coverage in this country want you to believe Obama will ruin yours. Sarah Palin, who does not read any major papers, claims the plan includes "death panels" (tell me again why it is we listen to this woman to begin with).

The loyal opposition has us running scared like when we were kids cowering in the bed under the covers. But that is nothing new. They did that for the eight years of the Bush administration only then the monster was 9/11. They invoked its name everytime the polls showed lack of support for some new democracy crushing measure.

So get out from under the covers and turn on the light and open that closet door. Call your insurance company (if you have one) and ask if they approve hospice care. Ask if you need to purchase supplemental insurance to cover cancer treatment. Check on their "approval" process for "extreme" measures. And ask who owns them. (It could be the same people that have owned all your other insurance companies.) Hey, get a definition from them about what they consider extreme. I am betting you won't like their answers.

Could it be that our current health care system is the monster in the closet? The one we refuse to confront while whistling in the dark.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Fellowship of The Family

I caught an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night and happened to see his interview with Jeff Sharlet who wrote the book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

This book is, to quote publisher Harper Collins, "A journalist's penetrating look at the untold story of christian fundamentalism's most elite organization, a self-described invisible network dedicated to a religion of power for the powerful." And definitely reason to be scared. I know I was so I dashed home to Google this new group. ( Wikipedia has a good background article with history.)

My first surprise is that this powerful group is not new. In fact it has been around since 1935 and is responsible for the National Prayer Breakfast at which every United States president, including Barack Obama, must speak when asked. It has been known in the past as The Fellowship and The International Foundation and the C Street Group. It seems to eschew any one name in an effort to not be pinned down and examined. It has even officially changed its name from time to time. The Family generally eschews publicity. Core members and associates have denied that the Family exists. It has been caught in the spotlight lately because of South Carolina's governor Mark Sanford's affair and his declaration of the right to have that affair.

The Family's leader, Douglas Coe, has said that the group aims to create a worldwide "family of friends" by spreading the words of Jesus Christ to powerful men and women. Coe and his followers teach that these elite are chosen by God and must learn to wield power according to the divine plan. They are chosen by the Family and groomed and supported to positions of power.

All sounds rather nice and innocent into you look into their teachings in more depth which Jeff Sharlet did by going undercover in the group. First they believe that women should be subservient to men. And they believe that the New Testament does not speak to the poor and downtrodden but to the powerful. It is a message, they say, to the powerful to pick up the reins of leadership and rule. The tout Hitler, Stalin and Mao as the three world leaders that most understood the TRUE message of the New Testament of the Bible. Even the Christian Fundamentalists are becoming alarmed at this religious right group. And so should we all because they want to change America into a theocracy and control the world through the "teachings of Jesus" as they define them.

The only problems with the word of God is the use to which men put their less than divine interpretations.