Sunday, September 30, 2007

Presumptions and "Our Interests"

In approximately 1960-1961, at the age of about 9-10, I remember being in a march around the County Courthouse in Lafayette, Indiana protesting some atrocity against Blacks in the Deep South. There weren't that many of us and others out shopping stared at us, most likely never having seen a demonstration before.

The word "atrocity" - above clearly shows my prejudiced perspective. Social justice, non-violence, and liberal-radical political perspectives have always shaped my essence.

In other households in the U.S. - "God" - and through one's vision religion may similarly shape views which may range from radical social activists to fundamentalist families where the word of The Father is supreme.

If I wish to understand and talk with those whose perspectives are radically different from mine I need to listen very carefully and seek a common ground which may be difficult to find.

Apart from differences in perspective often our ideologies color our vision and sometimes lead us astray. It is simple to look at how Bush Administration figures totally misread Iraq before and shortly after The U.S. invaded to "liberate" it. It is harder though to look at how we speak out and turn others against the causes we believe in Not recognizing how our words do the opposite of what we wish them to do at times.

As men we often don't learn to listen to women. As (often White) Americans we make presumptions about both others abroad and minorities within our countries.

In 2004 my partner and I were in London and Italy not long before the November elections. It was fascinating to see worlds where English language television talked about American politics (including CNN) - in fairly open, diverse ways, not stuck in the polarization and limited perspectives we see in the U.S.

I hope that I will find better ways over the rest of my life in working for change in areas such as: Male - violence, Racism, as well as building World Peace - including Palestine, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and beyond.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Respect - and a World Leader

In reading of the controversial appearance of the Iranian leader at Columbia University yesterday I find it difficult to accept the "introduction" that Columbia University's President gave before the Iranian leader was allowed to speak.

I need not have any appreciation of the Iranian leader to feel like an introduction of him as a speaker should show some basic respect for him. I think it important to distinguish between respecting one invited to speak before one and questioning such a person - seeking answers to specific questions.

In the 1980's I went to see Louis Farrakhan speak at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Hearing him speak was an "education" and very helpful for me. I clearly heard him as a charismatic - indeed spellbinding speaker who was very intelligent. He seemed quite rational and on target in many ways. Unfortunately Anti-Semitism - was dominant in his thoughts and intervened regularly as Blaming Jews - being totally irrational and indeed crazy in this area - got in the way of most everything he spoke of.

Listening to Farrakhan - it was clear that he had the "surface" support of many, predominantly poorer Black people, but was hardly a political force to be reckoned with. Understandably many, particularly Jews, thought him a serious threat.

Hearing Farrakhan helped me understand a lot! Not having an opportunity to hear him would have denied others and me a good opportunity to learn various things.

I think that it is a good idea to listen to others whose ideas we may find distasteful! It is important to "protect" ourselves from threats to our being. It is unclear to me how we can not both take seriously any potential threats from countries such as Iran, while listening and respecting someone such as this man who was invited to speak at Columbia University.

Clearly - when he said that there were no Gay/Lesbian people in Iran, we have a right to react to his words. Respecting him as a person need not mean that we find his words accurate or always respecting others or ourselves.

It was sad when Senator Obama was ridiculed for saying that he would meet with "enemy" leaders if asked to do so by them in his first year as President of the U.S. Meeting with "the enemy" is a good idea! We all can learn from our "enemies". In some cases we can break down barriers that separate us. If they truly are "bad", we should have enough respect for ourselves and our leaders to feel that our leaders could see through attempts to mislead us.

Talking and listening is important! Silencing others doesn't work. Iran's leader evidently has a lot of respect because he will stand up to President Bush/The U.S. and speak out against Israel.

It would be nice if we could honestly work in the U.S. both to create a just peace in Palestine/Israel/Gaza and more generally to have a lot more respect in The Arab World as well as in many other countries.

I am sad and angered! Thanks!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

National Health Insurance - Again

I heard Richard Viguerie, a right wing figure, speaking of the weaknesses of the Democratic proposals for National Health Insurance in the US. His framing of the problem was telling. He indicated the necessity of creating disincentives (and incentives) for "younger, healthier people" getting more than the cheapest possible health insurance to counter the costs of the more expensive, more comprehensive policies being held solely by presumably: "older, less healthy people".

A good example of this type of pricing differential is visible on the OPM Federal Employees' benefits website ( ) where employees and retirees in 2008 will pay their portions of Higher Option Blue Cross - $314.47/month and GEHA - $401.79/month vs. some lower costs plans that are $163.85 and $189.37/month.

Employees and retirees with high medical needs will likely pay the higher premium plans which have better benefits, while those with perceived lower medical needs will use lower cost plans.

I know as a Man and as a Human Being that I don't look at things and say to myself: "Well, someday I'm likely to have a stroke or get cancer so I should enroll in a most comprehensive health plan Now to cover that possibility."

I also know that when one has a family and one's baby is born with serious complications and lifelong disabilities, one's life is turned upside down. When one develops diabetes or has a stroke (in one's 40's for example) or similar one has a totally different outlook upon medical care. What also is the young adult to do who works hard despite having serious diabetes issues or other medical needs that cost a lot of money.

I am "socialist" in the sense that I believe that medical care is a right! Unless we all share the costs of those whose medical needs are high, we create a system of "haves" and "haves not" totally separate from issues of our socioeconomic class.

In creating a viable National Health Care System we need some important features:

1.) All are covered
2.) The costs both for coverage and for out-of-pocket expenses take into consideration normal incomes and savings. (One can't expect someone with an income of $50,000/year - to pay 25% of their income on medical care - unless they have very large savings perhaps.)
3.) Provisions need to take care of the needs of lower income people,
4.) Cost containment provisions need to be in place that cut the paperwork costs and really help control costs, rather than simply squeezing middle and lower class USians financially.

Tax incentives as most Republicans propose will work logically for those with high incomes, but not for those who lack a high income.

Choice is a good idea, but choice alone - "the free market" - doesn't make health insurance affordable. Health insurance is not "competitive" in important ways.


Monday, September 17, 2007

"Socialism" and National Health Insurance - in the US

Hillary Clinton proposed her ideas for a national health plan today. She was clear to avoid anything that might create a "bureaucracy" or be a single-payer-plan, having learned that "socialism" is not appealing to many in the U.S. Her plan will require all to have coverage, employers to pay towards health coverage (in ways that are unclear to me now), and subsidies for low income people.

Per 2006 US Census data, the median family income for a family of four in 2006 (for most states this number of family members had the highest median income) for a random set of states in the U.S. was:

60,298 - 75,775 - 66,711 - 67,897 - 72,591 - 66,095 - 67,560 - 59,663 - 78,413 - 71,559 - which averages between $68-69,000/year.

The current costs of health insurance for the average family appear to be roughly: $12,000/year - as per the data below.

The Kaiser survey found three out of five employers (60%) offered coverage, down from 69% five years earlier, with most losses in small companies. Among employers with 200 or more workers, 98% offer health coverage.

This year, the average annual premium for family coverage hit $10,880

The average annual premium for family coverage amounts to $12,106 in 2007

The percentage of people covered by employer-based health insurance fell to 59.7 percent in 2006, down from 60.2 percent in 2005. It was 64.2 percent in 2000.

It is unclear to me how families of four who lack health insurance with incomes in the range of $60,000 - $75,000 (besides the obvious impossibility for lower income people) at the very least could possibly afford to pay most or all of the costs of health insurance costing them $12,000/year, where they don't have health insurance through work or retirement/disability pensions.

It is one thing to talk about "subsidizing" the health insurance needs of "low income people". Unfortunately middle income people will need assistance as well.

It's unclear to me why I, as a retired Federal Employee, should pay roughly $2,400/year for quite good health insurance while others who lack employer coverage or similar should have to pay almost five times as much as we pay for comparable coverage.

I think that some form of Single Payer Health Insurance is the only viable way for us to have a faintly logical health care system. I can imagine employers being taxed - based upon their income or gross receipts or similar. It seems illogical to me to penalize employers by taxing them for each employee that they employee. Obviously if insurance will be "affordable" to employees it will be "unaffordable" to most small employers (who tend not to have health insurance plans today). Current law (and other plans that tax employers by employee) provide an incentive to have "contract workers" rather than "employees" and to avoid adding to one's payroll.

My pet health insurance idea is in an old blog entry of mine from my early blogging days.

I hope that others will push for single payer!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Looking Backward: 9-11 - and Beyond

"The main mistake continues to be the capacity to view one's own country, values and policies as righteous, innocent and well-intentioned, while viewing the enemy as evil and dangerous. We've seen this attitude among Arabs and Israelis, Americans and Islamic militants, Turks and Kurds, Syrians and Lebanese and other such pairs of foes. " (09/11/2007)

Rami Khouri, in his consistently insightful blog, captures the heart of USian blindness today as we've been for a long, long time!

Listening to NPR - I hear over and over again - how we poor, unappreciated benevolent USians just can't force those Heathen A-rabs to takeover the "good fight" for their country. The key issues now relate to Our Inability to Win the War (not the immorality of our cause) as well as the related cause of stopping the Horrific Al-Quaida (Iraq) - who evidently will be invading the golf courses and beaches of Hawaii and Florida and areas around Hollywood soon without the Good Fight continuing. (While there certainly are real threats today, they rarely come in the ways our leaders speak of them.)

Perhaps - some sane voices will prevail, though it seems more likely that they'll be a lot of posturing and 6 more months will be bought - for more continuation of the present craziness.

I wonder more and more if somehow something like bombings of Iran - will be the patriotic push in 2008 - to try to pull the elections in favor of the Republicans.

Rarely do forces of rationality prevail in showing how we readily build extremists with our policies and are so consistently backwards in seeing what we do abroad as well as unfortunately in the U.S.

It is sad - that we in the U.S. of A. - really do have the potential to do so much good in helping end poverty and needless deaths both within the U.S. and in the rest of the world. Why we hide our heads in the sand in Cuba, Venezuela as well as Iraq and Elsewhere in the Middle East. General P or Ambassador C - was talking of how Iraq was now starting to be a significant purchaser of U.S. Weapons yesterday- as if - fomenting the Arms Race - and helping our precious corporate entities - who help share the killing of others further and further around the World.

It is sad! I hope that we can and will do better! Thanks!