Saturday, October 31, 2009
This nursing leader went on by saying that although everybody knows the solution, there is a lack of willingness on the part of Congress to do anything about it. She attributed this to the millions of dollars of political contributions from the insurance industry and the activities of their lobbyists at the capital.
This lady pointed out that the premium dollars paid by the consumers were being siphoned off to pay armies of lobbyists handing out millions of dollars around and among senators and representatives. They (members of Congress) are not working for the people, she declared, they are being bought by insurance company dollars accumulated through not paying claims of the ill and by putting sick people off coverage.
Citing the deplorable condition of the health care system, which she said nurses know and see the effects of this on patients, she thought it obscene that Congress was fiddling around with minutiae about plans while patients suffer and the uninsured are dying. She cited 43,000 deaths a year because of lack of treatment due to no insurance.
So, if everybody on the Hill knows the solution to our current health care mess, just what is that?
To this nursing leader it was quite simple: “Medicare for everybody.”
Many of us have wondered this same thing, “Why not something similar to Medicare for everybody? Why not just a free and open option for everybody to continue their own health insurance or switch to a government sponsored program with a schedule of benefits similar to Medicare?”
This would certainly seem to be the simplest and best plan. It is a plan that nearly everyone knows about and is not that hard to comprehend in form and detail. The costs of various medical procedures, products, and services have already been set at an affordable rate, not the exorbitant rates billed by hospitals.
Anyone who has had any procedure performed in a hospital lately knows the obscene rates at which services are first billed. This writer had an outpatient service done recently which was billed for $3,000. Medicare paid only $110.
Although some providers complain about Medicare payment schedules, nobody loses money. Hospitals are spending large advertising dollars to attract patients, including Medicare ones.
Paying for medical services at the billed rates would bankrupt the rich. But the rich have insurance companies negotiating rates for them, and Medicare sets its rates. The uninsured have no advocate. They are billed. They are sued. Their property is attached. Their wages are garnished. Or, they declare bankruptcy. Often there is little other choice than the latter.
There a number of facets of the opposition to decent and affordable health care at reasonable rates which this writer has great difficulty in understanding and accepting.
It is hard to understand how politicians, either for personal greed or for the sake of pure politics, are so corrupt that they will oppose something so desperately needed by the people – when they know the solution.
It is difficult to understand how those who proclaim religious and moral beliefs the loudest can ignore a moral imperative, such as people dying unnecessarily and sick people suffering, mistreated or untreated.
It is difficult to understand how those who declare themselves to be conservatives can oppose changes to reduce human hardship while introducing efficiencies into the system, markedly reducing health care insurance premiums for themselves and their employees, and helping businesses survive competitively. The dodge of opposition by calling this “socialized medicine” is rank sophistry, which must plague even a calloused conscience.
What is wrong with Democrats? Why don’t they step out and do exactly what they know to be right? Are they corrupted by money also? Are they fearful of a backlash from right wingers at home? Where is their statesmanship?
How can our “representatives” in government just ignore polls which show their constituents favor a public plan by a majority of 64% on up to 73% in different polls?
How much has to do with the proposed surcharge in income tax rates of 3% for those making over a half-million a year? Is this really the varmint in the woodpile?
In the end, sooner or later, we must come to the realization the plain and simple solution is indeed the best for all. Everybody, insured or uninsured, should be given a choice. One of the choices which should be available to all is a premium driven form of Medicare operated under the same kind of federal rules.
To use a common expression: No one should die because of the lack of health care coverage, and nobody should go broke because of sickness. It is that simple. So is the solution.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Saturday, October 24, 2009
This writer recalls that sometime early in his 25 year tenure as a college president, he attended a breakout session at a national conference on the topic of press relations. He recalls well the admonition of that experienced speaker: “Don’t get into a fight with a newspaper unless you own one.” It was akin to Mark Twain’s advice not to battle with somebody who buys ink by the barrel.
This advice must have been received a while after a certain incident in the writer’s early career, or else this writer flagrantly failed to follow it. Just prior to leaving home to attend a banquet of the local chamber of commerce, he looked at that day’s evening edition of the town news. There on the front page was an attack on the college on some matter of local controversy with city fathers. Anger swelled.
That anger had not abated when this writer took the speaker’s rostrum, waved the local newspaper at the crowd, including its publisher, and termed it the owner’s “yellow scandal sheet.” He said to the folks there that maybe he should apologize for the college cluttering up the east side of their nice town and causing problems.
This was definitely not the epitome of good public relations, although raves were immediately received from college personnel and many local friends. Somebody needed to call the paper and the local government to task, they said, for mistreating the town’s major economic and cultural asset.
Curiously enough, there was a bit more local sensitivity after that. The newspaper owner and I later became friends, and his lovely wife served a very helpful term on the governing board of regents.
Nevertheless, this writer would not normally recommend this as an avenue toward good press relations, although now and then a private talk with press people may help alleviate any growing tensions.
In the case of our president, one should not expect any change in the negative treatment of him by Fox “News,” regardless of any positive overtures or straight comments from the White House. Fox is indeed a network driven by political ideology. It is not going to change if treated with finesse. It will continue to feature negative news and commentary about the Obama administration and democrats in general, no matter what. Fox has shown itself to be anti-government, if the administration is democrat, by promoting and sponsoring anti-government rallies. That is NOT a news network.
What does the president lose if he “alienates” a non-news network of continuous negativity and personal attack? How can a network which features vicious personal and political attacks become more unfriendly than it already is?
This writer rarely watches Fox “News” more than a minute or two at a time, except when he is an unwilling part of a captive audience in public places such as doctors’ offices, hospital waiting areas, and fitness centers. He considers the usual Fox network programming to be offensive, and he has been known to request that the channel be changed.
The President is correct, of course. Fox is not a news network, but it is a video journal of “perspective” as he said. It has been sickening when Fox hypocritically claims itself to be “fair and balanced.” News, often slanted, is interspersed within daytime programming, but the prime time is devoted to right wing attack programming.
It is also true that during the evening hours MSNBC programming has a left-of-center ideological stance. Their early morning seems to the right-of-center, while mid-day programming seems to be normal news coverage. But MSNBC lists its evening programs as “a perspective on the day’s news and events.” That is honest.
Except for Lou Dobbs, and maybe other gaffes, CNN is the most “fair and balanced” of the cable news networks. It is in fact worrisome because it compulsively offers two sided arguments about everything. It cannot put on a news report, or its own network news analysts’ comments, without some kind of rebuttal included from one or both parties. It becomes a constant, tiresome, annoying harangue. No wonder they are losing viewers.
In spite of popular criticism from the right wing, the mainstream network television newscasts seem to be the most fair in their coverage and presentations. PBS is remarkably educative without being obnoxious.
Even the newscasts from area television stations sometimes seem to be stricken with editorial bias in selection of content, in the language with which issues or scenes are described, and similar subtleties. Then, too, we are afflicted there with features like “my two cents.” But at least those two pennies worth are labeled.
Somehow we need to find a better way of presenting the news of interest in this country. Perhaps we should go back to the concept of well-run, journalistically professional newspapers where they keep their editorial comments on one or two pages and boldly labeled so.
The reader of an ethically run newspaper can then skip the editorials, which are properly allowed to be politically biased, silly, or just plain annoying. He/she can proceed to read news that is normally properly and fairly collected and presented without bias or selection.
Surely someone can devise a television format for cable network “news” that emulates that conceptual framework.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Thursday, October 22, 2009
HUE OF BLUE
The prettiest colors to be seen,
Until upward we search and gaze
Into sky of blue, and purple haze.
Red and green have such a pretty hue,
But not the same as azure sky of blue,
Up above the wispy clouds of white,
A hue of blue, a sight for pure delight.
Reds and greens surely catch the eye,
Created by either man’s or nature’s dye;
But nothing to match the turquoise bay
Before an island shore under tropic ray.
Reds and greens are the colors of life,
Vibrant, happy, without a hint of strife;
Not as the deep, dark blue of angry sea,
A frothy hue, the breath of death to be.
Dr Edwin E. Vineyard
Sunday, October 18, 2009
FREE BOBBI PARKER!
For those to whom the name may not be familiar, Bobbi Parker is the wife of the assistant prison warden at Granite who allegedly helped Randal Dial, a trustee prisoner, escape from custody. She allegedly drove the car out the gates with Dial hidden inside. Dial had been working in an art shop in the Parker garage in a residence on the prison grounds.
It was speculated and discussed widely at the time whether Mrs. Parker was a willing participant in Dial’s escape, or under threat and duress. Some thought there was an illicit love affair, and this made for juicy gossip. However, no charges were filed against Parker until long following the time when she and Dial were found 11 years later in Texas.
Insufficient evidence was present to file charges within the necessary legal time limits of the actual offense, if any. Prosecutors were pushing the statute of limitations again before filing charges after she was found. In the meantime, she has adjusted back into her family and holds a paying job.
The only other witness in the case (Dial) gave a dying deposition that she was an unwilling participant in his escape. He said that he had a hold on Mrs. Parker then and through the years by claiming the power to harm her husband and children. True or not, she and Dial are the only ones who know.
For all the rest of us, it is mere supposition based on the fact that she left with him and then stayed with him. We don’t really know.
This writer has numerous questions. Why are charges filed now? Who is Mrs. Parker harming or threatening now? What danger is she to the public? How do we know she was not forced to leave with Dial? Was her family threatened then and afterward by Dial, as he said? Was she a victim of Stockholm’s syndrome? Who is helped now by this prosecution? Who is being hurt by this prosecution?
There are some similarities between the Bobbi Parker case and the recent finding of the 11 year old kidnap victim after 18 years. Like Parker, that girl must have had opportunities to escape. Why did she not do so? Just as in Parker’s case, we do not really know why. Stockholm’s syndrome may be argued in both cases.
In Parker’s case, a remarkably understanding and forgiving man has taken her back unto his bosom and her two children have participated in reintegration physically and emotionally into a tight knit home. She has a job. Why do we want to disrupt all this for an expensive prosecution and possible incarceration at public expense?
Of course, one answer would be a prosecutor who is looking for his/her 15 minutes of fame on the state and national stage. But another could be the kind of prosecutorial mind-set which seems to permeate our justice system.
Too many prosecutors appear to think that their role is prosecution, regardless of guilt or innocence of the defendant, or the expense and human hurt it creates. Some have been heard saying, “I don’t determine guilt or innocence, I just prosecute to the best of my ability and let the jury decide who is innocent and who is guilty.”
Forgive us for saying so, but that is a simple minded attitude. The prosecutor is an officer of the court, and thus a part of the justice system. After all, the goal of the whole process is “justice.” If that can be decided at the prosecutorial level, with full consideration to all persons, to society, and to the issues involved, then that is the level at which justice should prevail.
Another simple minded view is that of “crime and punishment,” i.e. all that is of concern is that the guilty be punished. Too often the writers of our laws have been so concerned that they appear hard on crime that they have written in harsh punishments, three strikes laws, and mandatory sentencing, plus 85% rules on time served. For the same reasons, judges have sometimes been too concerned with public opinion in sentencing offenders to harsh penalties for minor crimes or those associated with alcohol and drugs.
In the final sense, it is we who are at fault. We voters have elected our prosecutors, our judges, and our lawmakers with a view that violators “be locked up and the key thrown away.” We have demanded punishment which may or may not fit either the crime or the circumstances. These people, along with our law enforcement personnel, are our “public servants.” They do what we say we want. Oklahoma is a “backwater” state.
One author, long ago and hardly remembered (although quoted in this writer’s master’s degree thesis in 1951), said: “Justice un-tempered by mercy is cold and harsh, and has no place in our human society.”
We have a Department of Corrections. Do we really mean “corrections,” or do we equate “punishment” with “corrections?” We used to talk a lot about “rehabilitation,” but now that term seems largely reserved for celebrities who get into trouble because of alcohol, drugs, or some similar cause. They go into “rehab,” and we think of that as a subterfuge. That’s too bad.
Rehabilitation is really quite a proper and appropriate concept. We used to have the idea that prisons (reformatories) did that. But our prisons have become little more than secure, but squalid and dangerous, warehousing services for a growing segment of our population. We pay county jails and private prisons fees just to warehouse prisoners that our state penal system is too overloaded to take. What kind of mess is this?
If “corrections” or “rehabilitation” are to occur, we need a different goal for our prisons. We need programs designed to do that, rather than just “incarcerate.” We send too many non-violent offenders to prisons, and we keep them there too long. While there, they receive little or no treatment.
Starting with those of us in society itself, we need to make different demands on our law makers, and different demands on those who serve in our system of justice. We must rid our Capitol of hypocritical demagogues. Those who have become calloused to human considerations should seek different careers. When constantly exposed to the dregs of our society, it is easy to form attitudes which are difficult to rise above in considering the possible changeability of human behavior.
But we must rise above our current practices! Setting Bobbi Parker free would be a start.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Sunday, October 11, 2009
One thinks that it might be well to drag out this descriptive term, and apply the connotation which it carries to current conduct. We have seen so many examples of rowdy, boorish, vulgar, unsportsmanlike, uncivil, bully, and just plain asinine public behavior recently. It is time to call such conduct what it is, and to call the perpetrators to accountability as “having no class.”
Certainly we have seen some really bad, “no class” behavior from segments of our population recently.
This comment is not directed now at the verbal brawls of the summer town hall meetings, although those examples would certainly qualify as standouts for the “no class” designation. We are not referring now to the diatribe of lies and distortions by political pawns of the insurance industry about health care proposals intended for the welfare of citizens of this country. However, that political misbehavior would certainly qualify as “no class.”
President Obama, showing great class, went to Europe attempting to aid with the American city of Chicago’s bid to host the Olympics, while also having a face meeting with General McChrystal from Afghanistan. The Olympics would have been a tremendous boost to that struggling metropolis, and it would have been good for America. The award went instead to a city in Brazil, no doubt deserving in some way other than fielding teams of competitive Olympians or supporting past events.
At this news, videos show crowds attending a conservative political organization gathering cheering and deriding the failure of our president to accomplish a goal which was evidently already decided before his entry into the game. The opposition’s national committee chair and dozens of members of his party showed their glee to the public. Their conduct said, “Anything bad for Obama is good for us – even if it hurts the country.”
We have a term to apply for those who cheer a loss of an American president of the opposition party in a positive effort to benefit the country or any segment thereof internationally. They have no class! Further, they could be dubbed as exhibiting unpatriotic conduct.
We have just seen the surprise international honor of the Nobel Peace Prize come to an American, who happens to be the elected leader of our country. Do all Americans rejoice, as might be expected, for such an honor? No, there were no cheers for our president from the opposition party, only derision and belittling of the man and of the honor itself. That response came from the titular and other leaders and members of that party. It is appropriate for us to say, “You have no class!”
Further, we would like to extend that label to all those political and news pundits who questioned, “What has he done to deserve this honor?” they questioned. “This award was for not being George Bush, who was disliked and hated abroad,” they said. “This was given on the forward expectation rather than things already done,” they said.
We would like to extend the designation, although not quite as severely, to all these pundits, “You have no class! You are supposed to be intellectuals, and this is all you can come up with?”
Harsher terms might be employed for those talk show hosts, AKA party leaders, who have used the public airwaves to deride the honor extended to our president. Picking up negatives from the extremist Muslim group, the Taliban, Mr. Limbaugh declared his agreement with those now killing our troops in Afghanistan. With something beyond his usual pomposity, he derided Mr. Obama, the Swedish Nobel committee, and declared our president had won the world’s favor by degrading his own country.
To Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Beck, their friends, and ditto-heads, “You have no class!” Your public statements tell us that you think, “Anything good for Mr. Obama is bad for us – even if it honors our country.”
We wonder whatever happened to all those campaign posters that said, “Country First.”
Personally, this writer would in no way question the awarding of the Nobel Prize to our president, even though it was a surprise to all of us. He challenged himself to name another person who deserved it more. Although admittedly a bit short on worldwide knowledge and experience, this writer cannot think of another person who would have deserved it as much.
Since Mr. Obama first came on the national and international scene, even while still engaged in running for his party’s nomination, he began to revive the world’s hopes of something different and something new. He brought hopes of a new era in international relations.
With the emergence of this nation’s more restrained and respectful policy approach to other countries, and the absence of bullying and threatening, “axis of evil” accusations, and “cowboy diplomacy” of the past, Mr. Obama brought a season of good will and optimism about the world’s future. It is difficult for us to see how any other candidate, within either political party, could have brought these positive changes so quickly. Nor could any other world figure have done so.
With his personality, his rhetoric, and his progressive actions in diplomatic outreach, Mr. Obama has changed the international climate already. He deserves the Nobel Peace Prize as would no other.
He has class!
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Sunday, October 04, 2009
SOME THINGS BOTHER ME
It is important now and then to sit quietly and assess ourselves by thinking about what kinds of things we are against. What makes us angry? What disgusts us? What arouses our negative emotions? What upsets us? What irritates us? What bothers us?
Since this is a journal of social, economic, and political commentary, we shall focus principally upon conditions and events in that general sector. What bothers us about political, social, and economic dynamics in this country?
Although we do not want to become bogged down in numbers or statistics, one fact just read again this day bothers me. I was reminded that the richest 1% of the people in this country have more wealth than the lower 95%. Say what you will, and call me names if you wish, but that condition is morally wrong and incompatible with a democracy such as ours. It sets the stage for an upheaval.
Even in the most extreme form of meritocracy, as capitalism wrongly defines itself to be, such a condition is abhorrent.
Our situation in distribution of income is almost as shockingly unfair. Given that some might perform more skilled and technical services than others, and some carry higher risk and greater responsibilities than others in the business and industrial sector, it is morally wrong when the CEO of the organization makes 700 times the wages of the average worker.
It is abhorrent that we have lived through an economic period when that ratio between executive pay and worker pay has increased by 2,000%. It is clear the conditions in this country have favored the rich to get richer in comparison with the working classes. This is not a fair playing field.
It is aggravating to me when the political demagogues of this country succeed in fooling the masses and influencing generations with such a fallacious uttering as: “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem!” Only ignorant or narrow-minded, opinionated people really believe that smoke and mirrors fallacy.
However, from thence came lasting reductions in the progressive income tax for the highest earners, cutting the tax rate in half, and the start of our largest deficits and huge annual increases in the national debt. A product of this attitude toward government came as deregulation of the business and financial sector. That deregulation led to rampant abuses, soft insubstantial economic growth, and artificial calculations of substance to the detriment of all of us.
The American people and the economy of this nation (and the world) were put in jeopardy by the freewheeling, risk-ignoring, irresponsible conduct of those in leadership in our financial sector.
This led to the necessary expenditure of tax payers’ funds in bailing out the Wall Street giants, who were “too large to fail,” because of after-effects on our whole system. This expenditure was near $1 trillion. That was followed by almost another $1 trillion in economic stimulus funds being put out to save jobs and to prop up failing state and city governments.
It has been clear that this situation came about as a result of deregulation, and it can only be straightened out and prevented from re-occurring through government regulation. The leaders of those businesses we saved are now spending big money to bribe Congress into rejecting the administration’s proposed regulatory legislation. Now that irritates the heck out of me, and it should irritate all taxpayers.
It is even more irritating that members of our Congress have so little integrity as to be susceptible to such immoral maneuvering and monetary corruption. Those who then try to justify this stance on some false principle of free enterprise and non-regulation, are hypocritical and doubly disgusting. This is the equivalent of their turning their back to us, and then dropping their pants in our face.
Leaders of the political party of deregulation, the favorite of those who have put us all at risk and subjected all of us to big losses personally, and great expense to taxpayers, now stand aside in the role of the cynics and accusers of the new elected leader for the spending steps necessary to solve the economic mess they left behind as their legacy. Again, we detest this hypocrisy.
In passing, a current irritation is the outcry of those who have expected to taxpayers to buy their pimped-up electric golf carts for them. Had there been any such intention, no bill would have ever seen the light of our legislative chambers. Many of us even question subsidies for electric cars, and we certainly did not intend to buy souped-up golf carts for the country club set.
But, more exploration of this subject must await another day and another column. There are lots of other things that bother us.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate.