Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Responsible" Corporate Leadership?

It is interesting to listen to President Obama (and occasionally others) talk of "corporate responsibility". He talks as if bankers should be "socially responsible" and doing their best to help our economy. Companies selling health insurance are somehow expected by many to be "responsible".

It seems very strange to me! Corporate leaders have a responsibility to maximize profits and to minimize the possibilities of having financial losses. Where helping the "better good" is not perfectly congruent with maximizing profits, why would anyone expect that a CEO or corporate board would try to help you and me?

I can easily understand the perspective of the corporate leadership. It seems less clear to me why anyone else would either be naive or talk as if they were naive. It seems obvious to me that if we wish corporations to act in certain ways there need to be laws or regulations which force them to do so.


Monday, November 23, 2009

William Kunstler

The new documentary of William Kunstler, directed by his two daughters from his second marriage, is an excellent movie. It tells the story of a remarkable, yet far from perfect man, who really came of age during the trial of the Chicago Seven circa 1970. His eyes had been awakened defending Freedom Riders in the South in 1961. Kunstler defended the unpopular - often of Color - defendants through much of his later life.

In general one could say that he notably defended "the underdog". This image contrasted minimally with his desire for being "Visible" and perhaps "notorious" - which was most notably vividly portrayed as defended and embraced the Mafia chief John Gotti - who could hardly be portrayed as a "working class hero".

Despite his faults, Kunstler clear was a great person and did a lot of good in his life. His daughters have done a great job of portraying him as the real person that he was.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Learning From History/Reality vs. Ideology Alone

It is instructive to look at how we in the U.S "as a nation" act internationally. Recently I heard snippets of President Obama's words while in China. Listening to How he spoke I would have thought that the U.S. was repeatedly doing favors to China and that they were very much in our debt. We allow China to provide us with goods and services as well as to invest in our economy helping keep it from collapsing. It would seem to my naive self that we logically would be Thanking China and acknowledging that gradually China is becoming much more economically powerful and we are weakening greatly.

We can perhaps in part blame our most recent past president for foolishness in Iraq and Afghanistan. We loved Saddam Hussein as a strong opponent of the Fundamentalist regime in Iran in the 1980's and early 1990's, but Hussein refused to simply be our puppet and he became our enemy.

Our repeated naivete in not understanding that Al Qaeda is strongly Sunni means issues with countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan, but not Iran which is Shiite. Though Saddam Hussein was Sunni, rather clearly his leadership was secular based. When we push (majority) Shiite leadership in Iraq, inevitably it helps tie Iraq to Iran - a Shiite nation - and to built up Iran. Now, we cry in our beer about Iran - well we asked for it.

We didn't read our history book right!

Afghanistan - has a strange history. It is a very decentralized country that strangely doesn't like "foreigners" to try to control its destiny. We helped build up the Fundamentalist Moslem forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan - because we wanted to weaken The Soviet Union - who were trying to control their neighbor.

We don't seem to understand that just because Afghanis may dislike the Taliban does not mean that they will welcome the U.S. in Their Country. Thankfully our ambassador in Kabul seems to understand the dilemma. Oft times it seems that for every life or dollar we spend fighting in Afghanistan - multiple "militants" join the fight against us. It also seems farfetched at least to me that terrorist actions in the U.S. - are going to build up out of Afghanistan, an impoverished - decentralized nation.

Of course we don't see the powers that "Big Oil" and other business interests have in controlling U.S. foreign policy.

Perhaps - naively - I think and hope that more of us in the U.S. will understand how we can be friends and allies of the Moslem World and others who oft times seem to be our enemy. It requires a rather simple thing - Respect. It requires a more complex thing of us - introspection and "reality checking".

We could in a perfect world - work seriously at solving our internal problems - racism, poverty, healthcare - in "people positive" ways. At the same time we could be an active part of the rest of the world in new ways - listening to both our allies and "enemies" and working with others. It would be a radical change! It also might save us from being another fallen empire as well as more importantly making us into being "good people".


Friday, November 13, 2009

Afghanistan - Obama's options - What's Best?

It is interesting that now the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, a former high level military leader there has spoken out against sending more troops there.

Juan Cole in his amazing book: Engaging the Muslim World - has a good relevant quote on page 190 of his book:

"Until the United States and NATO give up their counterproductive search-and destroy tactics and until they instead invest heavily in reconstruction, they will make no progress in winning Pushtun hearts and minds. There is even an increasing danger that the massive numbers of foreign troops in the country will make it a magnet for radical vigilantes; already foreign volunteers are being found among the neo-Taliban, from places such as Chechnya and the Arab world. That is, the immensity of the U.S. and NATO footprint in this fiercely proud tribal Muslim region may actually be creating the threat it ostensibly seeks to avoid: the reconstitution of al-Qaeda and the revival of the 1980’s discourse on holy war that proved so deadly to the Soviet Union."



Friday, November 13, 1964 – 45 years ago today – my brother and I were awakened about 6:30 a.m. by our mother saying: “Daddy’s dead”. I was an immature 13 year old. My father’s cancer and impending death had never been discussed with Dan and me as our parents tried to make our life “normal”. Strangely, perhaps, I had Never consciously thought of my father being terminally ill, but at the same time it also made perfect sense that he was dead.

I didn’t cry then – “being a man” – and in some ways became “the man of the house” in the coming months and years. In the early 1980’s when I discovered feminism I learned to cry. I then grieved the loss openly as well as discovered the anger that I felt towards him.

Now – a rainy Seattle day – it was rainy on my father’s funeral day also I think – I sit and feel a variety of emotions. I’m 58 years old. My father died at 46 and would be 91, if still alive.

I’ve been lucky so far in my life being healthy and not having major tragedies affecting me greatly. With an 87 year old step-father, an 82 year old mother and an 86 year old mother-in-law we will face losses together in the years to come.

I’m thankful that my brother’s chronic mental illness has been much milder in recent years so that he’s been able to be relatively happy. I feel lucky and happy at the successes and happiness of my 22 year old son teaching AP biology and freshman physics in an excellent Chicago public high school.

I’m sad for areas of my own immaturity and mistakes. I also feel happy that my life has become easier and more satisfying while being more challenging. My partner and her two sons push me to be a better person, which helps me, despite my resistance.

I wish that my father had had the opportunity to live a much longer life. I’m sad that his desperation to live pushed him to “fight death” and not accept the inevitable. I’m sad that in the world he knew death and illness were not discussed, so that his friends and allies witnessed his withering body, but were never were able to share with him and help him.

I’m sad – that we weren’t close – and didn’t have a deep bond, though thankful that I can now cry in this moment and simply be.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's Amazing (and Annoying)

Today - a "new comment" - on an old blog entry I wrote on Gaza:

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I've written several times about my erectile dysfunction issues here. Spammers - latch onto - such writing -and perhaps will pick my words above up and do it again. I get an occasional response to my writings in general - I'd say on average one response for every 2-4 blog entries I write - but strange- the entries on ED- get like 13 responses - only 1-2 of which have anything to do with the topic!

That's life I guess - frustrating! It takes some Chutzpah - to write about ED - such responses aren't scary or unnerving - just annoying! Thanks!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Healthcare Reform - and President Obama's Future

An anonymous reader wrote in response to my last blog entry:

"No, the "compromise" wasn't necessary. The same anti-choicers who insisted on the Stupak amendment voted "no" on the whole bill.

It'd be nice to see Democrats that stood up for women, rather than regarded our rights as expendable. "

I am aware that Most of the Democrats who pushed for the Stupak amendment, then voted against the bill. A few of them though voted for it. IF 3 additional Democrats had voted "no" (as easily could have happened), the bill wouldn't have passed. It is sad that standing up for women seemingly wasn't possible here - I'm not being facetious when I say that.

Passing healthcare reform legislation now - requires senate passage of a bill and then reconciliation between the two bills for a final law.

As of now Joe Lieberman has indicated that he'll block legislation coming to a vote as is now proposed which at best would give the Democrats 59 votes, assuming that they didn't lose any other "real" Democrats in the cloture vote.

I really hope that the Democrats will do their best to come up with the bill that has the best consensus opportunities. I then hope that they will meet privately and try to agree to a united cloture vote - and then at least 50 votes in favor of the final legislation. I hope that - IF - anyone including Lieberman - will not (eventually) agree to this, that they will be stripped of all seniority and/or other perks that they now get (Lieberman chairs a committee - which he could easily be stripped of for 2010 - for example).

IF - healthcare reform legislation - is Not passed, I fear that:

1.) The Democrats will not succeed in most areas in passing controversial legislation that the Republicans don't support and
2.) In 2010 - the Democrats will take huge hits in the elections and

Again - the Democrats will have shown us all how they can "have it all" - but not do anything with it.

Obama - will then - obviously be greatly weakened and 2012 - may well be another bad year for the Democrats.

Healthcare reform is important now - in making a Start. It will Not be "good legislation". It will need improvements in future sessions of Congress. IF we insist on "good legislation" now - the Now will keep disappearing over the horizon. I think Single Payer is the answer - but obviously we aren't at its time yet!

Those who want to "stand on principle" - and "make a stand" now - are generally not those who lack healthcare coverage now and will really be hurt without such legislation. Personally I think that the Democratic Party is spineless and "not the answer" - but right now it's all that we've got. I'm more concerned that we now end up with the Republicans again either "in power" or able to block Anything from changing. They still are plenty Scary to me!


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Healthcare Reform - Maybe - Thank You!

I'm very glad to hear that the House of Representatives passed their healthcare reform bill! While the compromise related to abortions being covered is bad, obviously it was necessary to get the bill passed.

I can only hope now that the Democrats in the Senate will have 60 votes - to get their plan to a vote - and then at least 50 votes to then pass it. IF- opponents of reform - such as Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and our "dear independent friend" from Connecticut (Joe L.) - won't allow the legislation to get to a vote, I hope that they will be stripped of All Seniority - and similar by the Democratic Leadership.

Besides Healthcare Reform being very important, it also is necessary for the Democrats to recover from their woes, and move towards positive 2010 and then 2012 elections.

Healthcare reform - can be reformed in coming years. IF it isn't passed and put into law, it likely won't happen for another long period of time.


Have a Nice Day !

One thing which puzzles me at times is how we are and are Not "nice" to others (generally strangers) in odd common life situations.

Do we let the driver into our lane ahead of us? Do we do so if s/he signals their intentions, but not otherwise? These are simple examples.

I know that I am annoyed with people who encounter road signs telling them to get out of their driving lane (because it's ending) and wait until the absolute last second and then try to force themselves in front of others who have commonly already "waited their turn" in the slower lane (rather than doing what the latter people are doing). Others no doubt look at this situation differently!

I find that when I'm in a good mood and relaxed I tend to be "generous" looking out for situations where I perceive that I can minimally help another person or simply "be nice" with a smile or similar. I also find that when I feel rushed or put upon, I'm much less likely to do so. At times I embarrass myself or worse, when I don't yield to a pedestrian that I didn't see in my haste.

In some life situations I recognize how I was taught as a child to "be nice" and how "respect" and being a caring person for me often is superficial - but deep in these areas. Part of "being nice" is a desire to fit in - an inferiority complex - for me. It also can be partially the opposite - sharing - without desiring acknowledgment - simply being "good people".


Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Peace in the Middle East ??

Yesterday -I'm glad that our Congressperson - Jim McDermott - was one of 36 who voted against House Resolution 867 - which condemned the Goldstone Report's condemnations of both Israel and Hamas for War Crimes related to the Israel-Gaza War.

It is sad that when Hamas - rocket launchings - killed roughly 12-13 people over several years, a ceasefire was in effect stopping the rocket launchings, which was then broken by Israel, not Hamas and then the Israeli invasion of Gaza killed Gazan's 100-1 vs. Israelis killed, much of Gaza has been destroyed and an Israeli blockade of Gaza continues to the present and Israel refused to cooperate with the Goldstone Commision - lead by a Jewish Man who is hardly "anti-Israel", that we in the U.S. can not and will not accept that Israel - was the aggressor - and was the one who did "most of the bad stuff".

So sad!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Good Hair - Some Feelings

Yesterday I went with my partner to see "Good Hair", Chris Rock's new film about Black Women and their hair. As I expected the relatively small audience was predominantly Black and mixed race couples (such as we are). A "Black Movie" rarely draws an audience of more than token White People (while "White Movies" draw Blacks, Whites and others.

Blacks are forced to live in a "White World" much of their lives, but we, White People, when rarely aware of "Black (and other) Worlds", even less commonly choose to learn of and be a part of these "different" worlds.

Summarizing the movie is both easy and difficult. Blacks, with 12% of the population, are 80% of the U.S. hair products market. Korean-Americans own much of the basic market where giant companies like Revlon do not dominate - besides the Black owned hair salons (and for Black men the barber shops) which are a very important social (and significant) part of Black America.

The movie focused significantly on "relaxers" which straighten Black hair and hair extenders, which are sewn and otherwise connected into many Black women's hair. The natural hair added comes predominantly from India. Women spend a minimum of $1000 and sometimes much more for the extenders. Where women have extenders they require significant maintenance in salons and keeping one's hair dry (e.g. no swimming with one's head under water or carefree "sexy" showers with men or even having one's hair touched by one's lover or others - as it may damage either the extender or how one's head looks.)

The movie was both humorous and sobering! My partner focuses significantly energy on her hair and her general appearance as most Black women do. This has been an education for me since we met nearly 7 1/2 years ago. I think of the $80 - every 4-6 weeks and time spent as "different" at best. Her involvement in this culture is far, far less than many women's involvement.

For me the deeper issues brought up in the movie are far more important! It is so sad that "kinky" - "natural" hair is to Be Avoided and "Ugly"(except where fashionably kept in braids and similar) and Straight (e.g. "White") hair is "Beautiful". It is tragic that this is both a historic fact and Very Important today!

It is sad to me that Hair and general appearance can be So Important to so many people. Oft times hair can be equally or even (in a few instances) be more important than food, shelter, education and other things that seem Much More Important to me. I seriously wonder how we can possibly conquer serious ills in our world such as: Poverty, Militarism, Domestic Violence, Homophobia. Such issues often are seen (or hidden) in contrast to the more steady, visible importance of the surface perspectives put forth by popular musicians, actors/actresses, models and others around us.

I feel "alone" and "different" in finding things such as the beautiful fall colors of the trees and our nearby creek's bubbly nature far more beautiful and important than much of popular culture. I Know that I am a dinosaur lost in a world where I-Phones and Video Games are a foreign, distant mirage and the Lindsay Lohans/Johnny Depps/Beyonces/Michael Jacksons are generally mere names I hear or don't hear.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Recession - Recovery ??

Massive amounts of money have been poured into the US Banking and other Financial sectors to "save" us from "disaster". As a result of the actions of the end of the Bush Administration and the first almost year of President Obama's leadership, we now seemingly have two distinct "results" or from my perspective "economies".

Large investors and those with a Lot of Money seem to have been helped by the economic policies. We are told, based upon supposed economic activity, that "the recession is over". The Dow Jones Industrial Average is at 10,000, not a "high", but a recent high.

Strangely though there seems to be another "economy" which is that of the "working class" - which increasingly seems to draw in formerly "upper-middle class" and other middle class people. If they are still employed, their overtime is gone. They may be working part-time now, instead of full-time. Their wages are not going up and may even be going down. More and more are laid off and there are many applicants for each job opening.

It is somewhat unclear what exactly is going on. It is apparent that major industries are not borrowing money to hire more workers. What investment is going on seems to be borrowing at low interest rates to get a good rate of return, not to invest in building our economy.

It is unclear how 10+% unemployment rates continuing for another 1-2+ years will allow people who are not "investment class" to spend money helping to build the economy. It is similarly unclear Why producers of products and other commercial enterprises are going to look at "the bigger picture" and invest in our people and economy in general, when they see a lack of short-term profits being possible and other ways to "make money" now.

In the end it seems obvious to me that Until and Unless Obama and other political leaders see the need to actually Help - those who are losing their jobs and homes, rather than helping the Banks, that little will change for the better. Perhaps it was necessary to save the financial system, however now that it is "saved", helping our People and building from "the bottom up", rather than "top down" seems obviously necessary.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Some of the Chickens are Coming Home to Roost

In the news this morning, the Government of Pakistan is apparently not quite as stable as we had previously thought it was. The Taliban and Al Qaida are of course prime among the "suspects". Terrorist attacks are increasing and U.S. worry is obviously growing.

We, in the U.S.A., of course Fail to go back at least as far back as the 1980's - in our trying to look at what has and is happening in Pakistan and elsewhere. We forget that then "anti-communism" were the Important buzz words and "Muslim fanatics" and similar weren't in our vernacular except perhaps in some of the games we played between Iraq and Iran in helping to keep them at War with each other.

In the 1980's the Russians were the "bad guys" and the Muslim "Nationalists" were our allies. It seems strange how - Saddam Hussein - was "our man" - against Iran - but then became "Mr. Bad Guy" - when he no longer took orders from the U.S.A. Strangely in Afghanistan and Pakistan those "Muslim Fundamentalists" took root and now we can't stop them like we used to do with "our leader" in Pakistan.

We never seem to see the patterns in our meddling in World Affairs. We translate issues in other parts of the World into what suits our political purposes and then always have others to blame and "enemies" to keep arming and fighting with and against.

Very strange! Thanks!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Afghanistan - Obama and Us

An interesting summary of the history of Afghanistan can be found at:

I get a little confused with terms which come up repeatedly justifying U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) related to:

1. 911
2. Al Qaeda and
3. The Taliban

To the best of my knowledge Afghanistan itself had little (if anything) to do with 911. Al-Qaeda is described frequently as if it is a "worldwide conspiracy" much as "Communism" was viewed during the 1940's-1980's.

"Al-Qaeda (pronounced /ælˈkaɪdə/ or /ælˈkeɪdə/; Arabic: القاعدة‎, al-qāʿidah, "the base"), alternatively spelled al-Qaida and sometimes al-Qa'ida, is an Islamist group founded sometime between August 1988[5] and late 1989 and early 1990.[6] It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless arm[7] and a fundamentalist Sunni movement calling for global jihad.

Al-Qaeda has attacked civilian and military targets in various countries, the most notable being the September 11 attacks in 2001. These actions were followed by the US government launching the War on Terrorism. Between three thousand and four thousand members of the network have been captured, and many thousands more killed on the front in Afghanistan.


The section describing Al-Qaeda seems as reasonable a "popular" definition as is available.

The Taliban (Pashto: طالبان ṭālibān, meaning "students"), also Taleban, is a Sunni Islamist, predominantly Pashtun radical religious and political movement that governed Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when its leaders were removed from power by NATO forces. It has regrouped and since 2004 revived as a strong insurgency movement governing at the local level and fighting a guerrilla war against the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, allied NATO forces participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).[4] It operates in Afghanistan and the Frontier Tribal Areas of Pakistan.[5]


I am somewhat confused about the War conducted purportedly against both Al-Qaeda and The Taliban in Afghanistan as well as related actions in Pakistan. It is unclear to me What we are trying to accomplish and How we can Possibly "succeed" in such an endeavor. It has been alleged by various people that we are fighting a "War Against Terrorism" and are trying to prevent future "911's".

It is unclear to me how U.S. and a few other "allied" troops in Afghanistan are preventing future 911's? It seems to me that many, if not a majority of the population of Afghanistan dislike Both The Taliban and the U.S. Government Forces in their country. It seems that what we are fighting is a continuation of many hundreds of years of wars of outsiders invading an area which rarely has been unified as "a country".

It would seem perhaps naively to me that we could do a lot more to prevent terrorism and future wars and similar by:

1. Seriously resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict,
2. Working to support "mainstream" people in many countries in the Middle East and elsewhere economically and socially, but not militarily,
3. Seriously Changing the Perspective and Image of the U.S.- becoming a "friend" and an "ally" and a "good neighbor" - unlike the images put forth in such areas as: a. "Banana Republics", or b. The Phillipines - in the past,
4. Seriously working to deal with our Own Local Problems - such as Racism, Sexism, Classism, etc.

Silly Me! Thanks!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Badgers and Boobs - ? ?

I was in the parking lot of the gas station when a "peer" (50's, White, Male) of mine, seeing my bright Red Wisconsin Badger shirt said: "Oh, are you a Badger?" I replied, "yes, are you one also?". He said, "No, I used to be a Hawkeye (University of Iowa)."

We both went inside the station within a few seconds of each other. I told him of how in Wisconsin there were- "Cheddarhead" shirts and that one of them noted Iowa with a "Cornhead" character. He replied: "I always thought that Wisconsin girls had bigger boobs than Iowa girls." I responded with something like: "I don't know". He made some further comment as to why Wisconsin was (evidently) significantly better or more interesting because of its large boobed young women.

After that the young (male) clerk entered the dialogue talking of milk consumption - growth hormone - as it evidently might affect the size of female boobs. Naive old man that I am, I was somewhat floored by the conversation and basically stayed out of it.

In thinking about what transpired I feel somewhat "out of the loop" and bewildered. It would have been pointless to confront the Man - which I thought of doing - related to his sexism and generally inappropriate statements.

I guess that we men have our own world(s) apart from women where such conversations are commonplace. I do enjoy looking at women's boobs, however I am, if anything, embarassed and self-conscious about my desires and enjoyments in this area. I can't imagine a world around me where such Blatant Objectifying comments with a Total Stranger are seen as "normal".

I am reminded of how I was as a Young Man - when my visions of life were perhaps different. I believe though that even then I wouldn't have said something similar.

Ah, isn't life interesting ..... Thanks!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some Words of Wisdom - Courtesy of Geoffrey Canada

To learn more of the amazing Geoffrey Canada, the leader of the Harlem Children's Zone, one can read within their website: http://www.harlemchildrenszone.org/what-is-hcz/about-geoffrey-canada or read a wonderful book: "Written by New York Times editor Paul Tough, "Whatever It Takes," is a compelling, in-depth look at the ground-breaking work of the Harlem Children's Zone and its leader, Geoffrey Canada."

I was lucky enough to hear Geoffrey Canada speak last Friday locally. I'd like to share several things he spoke of which I found interesting.

He mentioned how the Rhode Island legislatures noted that the average annual cost of caring for institutionalized (e.g. delinquent) adults was $39,000/year vs. $95,000 for children. To save money they decided to lower the age where "children" became "adults". Unfortunately, it didn't work, because they discovered that most of the "new adults" had to be isolated from the general adult population, and the cost for such care was an average of $110,000/year. Canada noted that the lesson for Rhode Island wasn't that there was a real need to Prevent Children - from needing to be institutionalized in the first place!

Canada spoke repeatedly as to how as a child he had Naively thought that there was a "plan" to make things better. He noted as an adult consulting with several presidents and others who seemingly had "power" that they didn't have plans for ending poverty and educating poor children and sought his and others' advice.

His message for the local organization he spoke in support of was that you/we need to bring about change, not to wait, expecting that others will do what needs to be done. He spoke of needing to reach for challenging, difficult goals, and to be accountable in building research based programs to radically change things for the better.

To tackle 96 square blocks of Harlem with a goal of making all children ready for college when the grow up is a tough job to take on! Geoffrey Canada is an amazing man - not a super man, but a man doing a great difficult job trying to bring about radical, positive change!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Healthcare Reform - Some Realities

1. Uninsured People Get Coverage:
a. They pay a Lot for the coverage - such as: $300-400/month - individual, $700-1400/month - family, or
b. Their coverage is extremely poor - such as $2500 annual deductibles, or
c. Those who currently have "subsidized" coverage (e.g. most employees and retirees with employer based coverage) - will need to pay significantly more for their coverage or
c. Federal tax monies will need to cover "the gap" - which is large

2. Costs of Medical Care won't go down or stop going up substantially unless:
a.) Prescription drug costs - are significantly reduced - drug company advertising is significantly curtailed - and limits on costs result in seriously reduced costs,
b.) Diagnostic tests - are significantly reduced
c.) The profit margins of insurance companies and medical providers are substantially reduced in many areas,

3. Medical insurance is not a "free market":
a. There is No incentive for insurers to cover high risk individuals and families and a strong incentive both to Not Cover them and to try to force them to pay huge amounts when they have coverage,
b. The current medical insurance system logically results in market dominance by one or several companies in much of the U.S.
c. There is no logical way that lower income individuals or even mid-level individuals can afford decent health insurance coverage that isn't subsidized by some entity

4. Certain individuals and families need catastrophic healthcare protection to cover the costs of extremely high ongoing medical needs - e.g. - paying $2000/month for medication is Not affordable for most people or paying 20% of costs for surgeries and ongoing treatment can easily be $100,000/year or more for people with serious medical conditions.

5. Presuming that a single payer health insurance plan is not "political expedient" - it would be logical for the U.S. Government to "subsidize" all approved health insurance plans to cover catastrophic costs. Logically this should protect both individuals/families and health insurance companies. The costs for this should be paid for by taxes we all should be paying.

6. Healthcare should be a Right - not an "option".


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Two Issues - in One Day - Interesting Parallels


1.) The U.S. Supreme Court takes up (3 weeks before its normal start date) the challenge to McCain-Feingold where a "documentary" on Hillary Clinton was not allowed to be viewed by the American public within 30 days of a relevant election because it was determined to be a "campaign advertisement" and because it was fully funded by private corporations.
2.) President Obama will speak live before both Houses of Congress seeking the passage of major healthcare reform legislation this fall.

A key question in the Supreme Court is whether corporations and unions should have their "rights" limited in election campaigns.

A key question for President Obama, Congress and the American People is how various "vested interests" are now affecting the legislative process in this key issue.

In both cases the "rights" of us as American (USians) rest largely in the balance. If the rights of "people" vs. "money" do not significantly prevail now, the larger issues of how Money Buys Power will be very clear (again). What results will we have? I don't know!

It seems likely (however) that "victory" and "healthcare reform" may well - if "successful" result in "victories" where the basic high costs and high inflation in the medical care industries will continue fairly similarly and where Obama and his supporters will later on be blamed for the incremental improvements together with serious problems (likely the costs) that may result.

Similarly - no matter what the Supreme Court decides, it seems unlikely that the result will greatly help reform our elections and how they are funded.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I'm Proud of My Son - First Day of School Today

I'm very proud of my son as he begins his first day as a public school teacher in one of the best high schools in Chicago. As it's now about 10:25 a.m. in Chicago he should have just completed his first two periods of the day - AP Biology Class (2 periods long).

He's been very, very successful in school and the beginning of his work, training with the Chicago Teaching Fellows over the summer. I wish (him) the best!

Son, I'm very proud of you!


Friday, August 21, 2009

So Sad (Now) - re: National Health Insurance and Obama

1. I am sad that a Single Payer National Health Insurance Plan, the one logical alternative is Not going to replace Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Health Plans (for Federal employees, retirees and Congresspeople) - and be made available to All.

2. I am sad that it appears now that either:

a. A watered down Public Option based plan will be passed - strongly influenced by the Drug Company Lobby, the Health Insurance Industry Lobby, the Hospital Industry Lobby and other such "interested parties" : with a likely result that it won't significantly help most Americans and will likely not stop health insurance and medical treatment under it from being - unaffordable for many or:

b. Other - "reform health insurance legislation" - will be passed and it may tokenly do a little good, but basically will not change much, or

c. No - health insurance reform legislation will be passed and

d. The Republicans - and Red Dog Democrats - will gain as a result of all of this and

e. President Obama - will be greatly weakened as a leader of our country

3. I am sad that President Obama seemingly did Not understand the lessons of the past - and didn't see the need to take Strong Leadership - meeting in Private with Democratic Party leaders and influential others - and hammer out a basic Plan - in advance of - "going to the Public" - and thus has been torn to pieces - in Public - by the combined efforts of the Republican Party and the organized other vested interests who may lose by serious reform.

The lessons of the past were Not that - Single Payer Health Insurance was "not feasible" - but rather that it was necessary to be organized and focused as a "single strong interest group" - strong enough to take on "Special Interests" - opposed to serious reform - to avoid - a "people vs. special interests" - repeat of the prior Clintons failure in the early 1990's.

4. I am sad that for the most part far, far too many American people do not clearly see certain obvious facts such as:

a. Health Insurance and Medical Treatment is Expensive -

1.) (Federal coverage for Federal employees/retirees) Examples from: (http://www.opm.gov/insure/health/rates/nonpostalffs2009.pdf)
2.) Blue Cross Rates for Family Coverage: the "low cost" coverage which appeals to those who don't have Huge Normal Medical Expenses - costs Non-Postal Employees/Retirees = $216.48/month - and the total paid by the Federal Government and the Worker/Retiree = $865.93/month,
3.) Blue Cross Rates for Family Coverage: the "comprehensive" coverage which appeals to those who have Huge Normal Medical Expenses (where paying a Higher Premium pays off for them) - costs similar people - $356.59/month - and the total paid similarly = $1120.47/month

b. To provide 50,000,000 - uninsured people with health coverage will either require:
1.) Uninsured Families - to pay figures such as $800-1100/month for good coverage or
2.) The Federal Government - to pay substantial amounts of such figures to give good affordable coverage or:
3.) Dual Systems to (continue to) Exist - where - those without good employer subsidized health insurance and those with no employer subsidized health insurance - if not of high income - are only able to afford policies with features such as $2500 yearly deductibles and similar - which continues to make health care unaffordable for them.

c. Non-Generic (and often generic) Prescription drugs in the U.S. - cost significantly more than in other countries - where their governments effectively have price controls which generally both keep costs lower and still allow drug companies to profit from these sales. It is a drug industry lobbying falsehood that the high prices in the U.S. are necessary to keep research and production going. Advertising and related lobbying costs could be drastically lowered without hurting most Americans most of the time,

d. Liability related court costs (and "tort reform") - are a smokescreen - which are a relatively small percentage of our medical costs,

e. Healthcare costs are higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries:

Example: 2003 Per Capita Costs:
(http://www.kff.org/insurance/snapshot/chcm010307oth.cfm) - from Kaiser Family Foundation
* U.S. = $5,711
* Canada = $2,998
* Germany = $2,993
* France = $3,048
* Japan = $2,249

f. It is an illusion that our health coverage is better than most developed countries AND - such countries virtually all (if not all) have universal health coverage

We can and should have a better healthcare system which in the long-run will provide universal coverage and lower overall costs. In the short-term some of us will have to pay more and "lose a little" - to get such coverage.

IF - single payer - is not our (eventual) system we will need to find ways to make powerful vested interests and their lobbies no longer control the system so that Profits no longer dictate "the market" - as exists today. We already have "socialized medicine" with all our Federal (and some limited State) systems. Medicare has not been the disaster that naysayers predicted, though it has problems.

It would seem logical for a new single system to be developed as follows:

a. Start initially with either: Medicaid, Medicare or the Federal Employee Healthcare System,
b. Reform - the system for one of the three programs to provide a single, comprehensive system that is available for all current beneficiaries,
c. Expand the reformed system over time to a second and then third of the above-mentioned groups, and then
d. Make the reformed system available to all other Americans,
e. Tax the public and employers - in an equitable manner (based upon income for the public and similarly for employers) - to pay for the increased costs - as the Government subsidizes coverage for all to make it affordable for all.

Thank you!

Either I'm Wrong or She's Right ?

I am (obviously) a man. My partner is (obviously) a woman.

Somewhat in jest - I say:

"Either I'm wrong or she's right" (- most, if not all the time.) What does this mean?

* Does this mean that I'm always wrong?

No - because She could be right and I could also be right. Perhaps this might imply that either I saw her being right - and learned from her so that I was right - then or perhaps, that by us communicating we reached a consensus - that was - right, perhaps because we both avoided being wrong through that process.

* Now - similarly - if I'm Wrong, does that mean that she's - right?

No - because I could be Wrong and she could also be Wrong. Perhaps this might imply that She was lead astray by Me - and Wasn't Right because She listened to What I said and took it seriously or Perhaps sometimes When we listen to each other cooperatively We both ended up Wrong, so .....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodstock Memories - 40 Years Later!

Writing today on the 40th Anniversary of the beginning of the Woodstock Festival, which I was fortunate enough to attend, I will try to share my memories, faint as they are. As I wrote earlier 1969 was my year for discovering live rock music. I hope that what I write interests at least a few of you.

Two weeks before Woodstock I was in the NYC Area and got the opportunity to attend the Atlantic City Rock Festival, my first festival. Its performers included The Byrds, Canned Heat, Iron Butterfly, Joe Cocker, Creedence Clearwater and many others – overlapping somewhat with performers I saw at Woodstock. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_City_Pop_Festival - for a list of performers.)

I first heard of Woodstock while at Atlantic City, but presumed I’d never make it back to the East Coast two weeks later as logistically it seemed impossible at the time. I had planned on trying to go to the (First) Ann Arbor Blues Festival that weekend, but Woodstock had much more appeal to me.

My “friends” (more like acquaintances) that summer were most often a “radical/druggie” group. I best remember Wednesday that (Woodstock) week, there was space offered to me in a car going to Woodstock. With my mother’s permission I took off Thursday in an older model convertible with my friends.

Late that night in rural Pennsylvania we were awakened from our light sleep as our driver (apparently having dozed off) hit a guard rail. He then swung the wheel to the left to keep us on the road. We spun around but miraculously didn’t flip over or hit another vehicle. Shaken – another driver took over and we continued on.

As we approached the Festival Area the traffic got increasingly heavy. We slowed to such a slow pace, that I decided to leave my car-mates and walk into the festival. Perhaps I had a little of my hyperactivity, as well as a fear of missing early acts in the show. I (of course) never saw my car-mates that weekend again!

There was no “gate” when I got to the festival site, after walking a good hour or longer with my sleeping bag and clothes, so I didn’t have to pay anything for the festival. I remember seeing the huge stage and many thousands of others on the sloping site. It was easy to find somewhere to sit down as close to the stage as I could comfortably be.

Everyone was most cooperative and “cool” during the Festival. We had long lines for the portapotties, but there were no hassles that I saw with any of the simple logistics. Food was shared and there was plenty of water that helped when it got hot during the days. There was a little nudity, but really it didn’t feel that “crazy”, though it was certainly a Very New experience for me to be at such a momentous event.

I remember it raining Saturday or more likely it was Sunday which made it somewhat uncomfortable with mud and a wet sleeping bag and wet clothes, but such things seemed inconsequential with all the great music.

The group that most impressed me (silly to say I know!) – was Ten Years After – whose guitar player played extremely rapidly. That really seemed “great” to me then! I also enjoyed – The Who, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker and many others. The music continued into the early morning – Saturday and Sunday nights. I dozed off during some of the performances – from sheer exhaustion. It was hard to sleep much – not wanting to miss music and then facing the bright sun in the mornings.

Monday morning during Jim Hendrix’s set – I was both too exhausted and too disappointed with what I saw as a poor performance by his group – and decided to try to begin my trek – to NYC – to try to work my way back to WL. (I had seen Hendrix with his great group – with Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding in June, 1969 in Indianapolis – which had been incredible – and Hendrix’s new group was not together at all and he seemed a little out-of-it.).

I hitchhiked to NYC – don’t remember the trip at all. In NYC – I think I stayed at my relatives’ apartment in Manhattan. Richie Havens who I’d enjoyed at Woodstock was playing at the Felt Forum (part of Madison Square Garden) and I enjoyed the show very much – feeling a tie back to Woodstock.

I then flew back to Indianapolis the next day. I then hitchhiked home to WL. My first ride was in a Rolls Royce – the only time I’ve ever ridden in one. Though it was only a ride for perhaps 5 miles, it was a memorable end to a most memorable part of my life.

My memories of Woodstock – are not of illicit substances or craziness, though there were of both. (For me leaving Indiana a few weeks later for The University of Wisconsin was when I left the druggie world of 1969, though I was never a heavy drug user.)

My memories are of an experience which dwarfed my life up until then. I wish that I could remember more! A year later – I attended the Second Ann Arbor Blues Festival and got Massively Interested in Blues Music. No longer was I interested significantly in the groups now famous as the first Woodstock Album came out – and my peers in my single semester at Macalester College (St. Paul, MN) listened to. I was in my own mixed up worlds in my first two years away from home. Thankfully life is much calmer and more together now – 40 years later.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Who Are They ???? (Is it a Conspiracy?)

Question: What do: Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin and New Gingrich have in common?
Answer: They are Not in the Picture above!
Who are these 4 Mysterious Bloggers?
First Prize: A Free Subscription to one of their blogs (you choose)!
Second Prize: A Free Subscription to two of their blogs (you choose)!
Third Prize: Enrollment (as soon as it's available) in the Republican Party's new National Healthcare Plan - at its Market Driven - Bargain Price!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Getting - Semi-Real - at Least - RE: Health Reform

It seems obvious to me that to date President Obama has fallen into a trap similar to what the Clintons fell into early in the first Clinton Administration and that Unless Obama recognizes this and takes decisive action the results may end up similarly bad for him. To date he seems paralyzed as the Clintons were.

The Clintons took their electoral mandate as a mandate for change. Their approach seeking a Single Payer Healthcare System (or similar) was totally flawed because they posed things (realistically) as a totally unorganized, non-unified - "public" confronting a well-organized Insurance Company Alliance - who had plenty of power with other big business interests.

To date Obama has spoken many things in varied environments as an idealistic, "realistic" concensus builder. This approach is totally naive given how the insurance industry and their allies have virtually conquered the "blue dog" Democrats and are pressuring mainstream others such as Senator Baucus and similar leadership. The battle for the support of mainstream America is now being lost by this naive approach, because of the Strong efforts of the opposition.

Scare tactics with divide-and-conquer strategies will succeed in butchering the Obama initiatives unless Obama - takes clear control of the issue in the public eye - and starts moving the public to see more of his position, whatever that might be. To do this, he will need to publically:

1.) Be directly publically connected with at least a few top Democrats - including Pelosi, Reid, most probably Baucus and possibly a single "Blue Dog Democrat" - building a Democratic Party Consensus with his leadership and

2.) Be directly connected to the American People - as a decisive - communicator - with clear goals - connecting the Democratic leadership, himself and "us" - the "public".

Such a push may not be that different from what he's done so far, except that he needs to be "the leader" instead of the "consensus builder" - as well as - the "hero against the lies" - of the "right".

In doing this he's going to need to be realistic in terms of what is doable, what isn't doable as well as How - the necessary compromises are a start, that will need more work over time to be successful in the long run. It is foolish to pretend that - major compromises - by themselves - will allow the obvious benefits of a Single Payer System - which evidently is deemed not doable now. To put forth the proposed reforms he's going to need to convince us - the public - that things will be Much Better than they now are. We're going to need to believe - which many of us do not - as of now do.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Healthcare Reform - What/For Whom, Etc.?

In following some of the recent Healthcare Reform debate and conflict I find much of what I hear often inane and shortsighted. I come back over and over again to a basic point: "What is the goal?"

A simple example of this is looking at proposed ideas and how they seemingly will or won't do what they are intended to do.

IF, for example we are looking at saving money and cutting the costs of healthcare or limiting the increases in costs then we need to look at Why healthcare in the U.S. is so expensive. Besides the issues of excessive uses of various testing equipment and the fears of malpractice and and such the basic costs of most prescription drugs is a significant issue related to the costs of healthcare. Simply pushing a public option healthcare plan will in no way help bridge the gap between drug costs in the U.S. and elsewhere. The simple facts that drug companies "own" the system now in the US and we pay dramatically higher costs for most drugs must be dealt with if we are to "compete" with Canada and other more progressive countries.

If, we focus upon "competition" and "choice" within a reformed system (which seems idiotic to me, but is often done), we should consider what will allow competition and real choice. Clearly, where I'm given choices of paying roughly $190-350/month for family coverage and others are facing choices of $800-1500/month for similar coverage, if they can get insurance at all, we don't have a truly competitive market. Where our health coverage is heavily subsidized and many others' isn't, the market they are a part of is likely to be exceedingly expensive and difficult to navigate through.

Besides the simple issue of subsidizing the costs of those whose incomes aren't very high and whose insurance isn't subsidized, we need to look at Why insurance costs will be high. One obvious factor is where the risk for the carrier exists. It would seem logical, for example, to consider creating more of an "open market" for health insurance options, if "competition" and "choice" are important.

To do this over time would seem to me to need creating less of a separation between "subsidized" and "unsubsidized" coverage. Taxing subsidized benefits is one way of doing this, but not the only way. Unsubsidized health plans could have a "free" or "low cost" assistance from the federal government in covering them for catastrophic costs. If, for example, such plans had no liability for health care costs over $10,000/year, the federal government would take on a Huge Liability, while the insurance industry would have an opportunity to offer a lot more healthcare options, not risking losing huge amounts of money on enrollees in their plans.

We definitely need to get away from the seeming naivete that healthcare reform is going to be "affordable" or "inexpensive". We also need to recognize that if we say that options such as single payer are off the table (as is said now), that it removes or makes much harder many areas of significant cost savings. Simply having a public option available to most, if not all, will not, in of itself lower healthcare costs and there rapid inflationary increases year by year.

We need, for a change, to look seriously at the options that we, as a country face. We need to look at the costs and benefits of these options. We also need to get away from the scare tactics and rhetoric where "socialism" and "free choice" and similar are used to avoid dealing with the real problems that we face.

I'm Not optimistic, because the desires for consensus and the short-sightedness of most of our congressional leadership will likely lead us to a "political solution" which at best will be marginally better than what we now have, and may be worse in some ways. As is common politically, the Democrats again will stick their foots in their mouths if they mess up, as was done in the early Clinton era.

The problem with Hillary and Bill Clinton's plans weren't with "the details" but rather with their total naivete in taking on the insurance industry and allied forces head on, without having any comparable force that had any chance at countering the lies and deceptions of those who would have lost their massive profits then. Our issues aren't that different today!

I hope that I will be proven wrong! We shall see!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Feelin Bad - Pain and "Out of Control"

I have been very, very lucky with my health up to now - at age 58. I've never broken a bone, nor had a major illness or really serious injury. Where I've been sick or injured, it's always been something that healed itself within a few days- and wasn't really painful.

Recently I've been in increasing pain with what appears to be irritable bowel syndrome. After several weeks of it getting progressively worse after it was bothering me occasionally I went to see my doctor. She did blood work and briefly examined me and finding nothing wrong, referred me to a gastroenterologist who did a colonoscopy which appears to be "normal".

Meanwhile the pain has progressively increased. I went back to my doctor and she clarified what types of over-the-counter things I should use along with the prescription the stomach doctor had prescribed.

Now - 4 times today - it's 1:30 p.m. - I've had painful trips to the bathroom - the first lasting for close to an hour. During my time on the toilet usually I'm in various levels of pain - as my body struggles - to do what I had totally taken for granted up until recently. With the pain last evening and today so far, I'm cutting back on what I'm eating, to simply try to cut down a little the frequency and intensity of the pain.

I face a painful 15-70 minutes - at a stretch where I feel close to normal - within 5-10 minutes of my "activity". I can only imagine - what others must go through with Not having the breaks I have from the pain with back or other problems - though I can't imagine How I could survive without the - breaks from the pain, as intense as it is at times.

When we got flooded, I could then relate to some of the feelings that New Orleans former/current residents have since Katrina. Feeling the pains that I have now, I can imagine a little of what others must go through all too often.

I don't want sympathy - I just hope that the doctor will be right and that my pains will start to lessen instead of getting worse and worse within the next week or so.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

National Health Insurance (Again) !

Currently Congress and President Obama are grappling with the issues related to National Health Insurance. Quite reasonably they believe it important to try to pass legislation this year while re-election issues are a year away for many.

One may say:

1.) Why National Health Insurance at all?

a. Health insurance is not affordable absent one having a group plan,
b. Employers have increasing incentives Not to have health insurance plans
c. Health care costs in our current system are far higher than nearly all the comparably wealthy countries of the world and most of them have national systems,
d. "The market" - can not resolve this issue and it is no longer an issue that can be ignored without far more dire effects on our economy

2.) Why not have "a government option" that all could choose to take?

a. Such a plan would be prohibitively expensive for either the Federal Government, those enrolling in the plan or both.
b. People would enroll in the plan as their "best alternative" which would skim off a lot of healthy and younger people who would have better options other than it,
c. The costs - per enrolled individual or family would be very high - as there would be a strong incentive to enroll where one had high anticipated medical expenses and no better options.
d. Either a lot of people would not be able to afford the Government Option or a massive Government Subsidy would be necessary to fund it

3.) What options might exist besides a single-payer plan?

a. Continuation of the current system - very high costs which will continue to escalate - not viable - though will continue unless Congress passes a new plan.

b. Government Optional Plan - Such a plan - such as the current Medicare Plan - which per: www.medicare.gov includes in 2009:
1.) Hospital Coverage - $443/month (most get this for free),
2.) Doctor's Coverage - $96.40/month
3.) $1068 - deductible paid per hospitalization period - when an inpatient in a hospital
4.) $135 - yearly deductible on physician's bills
5.) 80% - of "customary and reasonable charges" paid for physician's bills beyond the $135/year deductible (also subject to "customary and reasonable charges"
6.) Prescription Drug coverage - sample - first listed company for King County Washington - costs $16.70/month with a $175/year deductible - with costs per prescription then from $4 and higher amounts depending upon type of prescription.
7.) It should be noted that the "customary and reasonable charge" may well be significantly below the amount physicians charge which makes the doctor's coverage more expensive.

c. Modifying the current system in some substantive way(s) such as:

1.) Providing some type of catastrophic health insurance coverage which is either optional or mandatory for all. This would mandate that the Federal Government paid for "high" medical costs above a ceiling - say: $10,000/year for example, subject to whatever limitations might exist. (Such a proposal might make potential liabilities for private health insurance carriers significantly lower and thereby allow both for more people to get health insurance and for the costs to be lower),

2.) Provide for a Government option or mandated coverage for whomever doesn't have other health insurance coverage,

3.) Allow - for all to enroll in the Federal Health Insurance plans which are currently open to federal employees and retirees, perhaps paying the "unsubsidized" costs of such plans - which for example, our Blue Cross - Basic - which costs us $216.48/month for family coverage ($92.44 for individual coverage) - would cost $865.43/month for family coverage or $369.76 for individual coverage.

d. National Health Insurance - Pro's and Con's?:

1.) If employers would pay into the system, it would cost employers who currently don't have coverage for their employees additional expenses per employee which would be a disincentive to hire employees who met the criteria for coverage,

2.) If employers would Not pay into the system, it would provide more of an incentive for employers to hire employees (particularly where they have health coverage and where the employees might be "risks" insurance wise),

3.) If employers would Not pay into the system, the costs of the system would be higher to either the individuals/families or the government itself,

4.) Start-up costs would be high - the Government would need to pay monies that currently are not its obligation,

5.) All would get equal coverage - which might result in "rationing" of some care or increased wait times for some treatments,

e. What's Best?

1.) I believe that we will pay costs regardless of what we do. The current system is not tenable. It will bankrupt our economy particularly as us "boomers" get older. Ideas such as making all eligible to enroll in the Federal System "at full cost", while perhaps marginally better, will Still not make coverage affordable to most who lack coverage or have poor coverage now.

2.) All the other options have clear High Costs and Liabilities,

3.) Any "optional plans" - will split off - the "haves" and "have nots" - making chronically ill and older citizens - paying much more and those who have low costs - paying relatively little (in comparison),

4.) I see only Two Viable Option Directions:

A. Single Payer - One Plan - for all - probably started with Medicare/Medicaid/Federal employees and expanded to others over time or,

B. Single Catastrophic - One Plan - for all - which doesn't deal with basic medical costs, but subsidizes the "high cost" care - of those who are chronically ill or have massive medical costs - such as with a $10,000/year deductible.

The latter option - basically leaves "the free market" - but recognizes that it can't pay for "high" expenses without leaving out virtually all with high expenses. The Lower its cap is: 1.) The more it costs the Government and 2.) The less discrimination will remain - for "high risk" people.

I think that Single Payer is the way to go. I could see Single Catastrophic as the "next best" option - perhaps - along with having a "government option" - such as Medicare - for all.

Any change that is substantive will be difficult to implement and need fine tuning! Not making substantive change will be Much Worse!


Monday, June 01, 2009

Ronald Takaki

I was saddened to hear of Professor Ronald Takaki's death after nearly 20 years of fighting multiple sclerosis. His writing of the Asian immigrants in California and Hawaii - their similarities and differences from each other was fascinating and helpful for me.

Below is a list of writings of his from Wikipedia.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

White Men - and Justice Sotomayor

"Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.

Let us not forget that wise men like Oliver Wendell Holmes and Justice Cardozo voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society. Until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case. I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown.

However, to understand takes time and effort, something that not all people are willing to give. For others, their experiences limit their ability to understand the experiences of others. Other simply do not care. Hence, one must accept the proposition that a difference there will be by the presence of women and people of color on the bench. Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what that difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage."


I am a White Man, now 58 years old. I grew up in an environment which was heavily White and Upper-Middle Class. I can imagine Some White Men who may have experienced Some of what it might take to understand (better than I can) the life experiences of Women and People of Color. One former classmate grew up as the sole boy in a household with five sisters. Even with that experience, I doubt that he would say he "knew" what it meant to be "female".

Where White People grow up as a small minority (ethnically) in a community dominated by People of Color they may have perceptions of Race that May faintly be similar to what People of Color such as Justice Sotomayor has experienced. At the same time they would still face the realities that "Whiteness" is valued in our society.

Most Senators such as Lindsay Graham [, who has recently strongly criticized Sotomayor's statement (and asked her to apologize/renounce it): "Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.", ]have not grown up in worlds where they logically would know and understand what it means to be poor, Of Color (or if Male) of being Female.

Reading part of Sotomayor's words (quoted above) I find her statement most understandable and logical! I can accept that Sotomayor may pose a "threat" to many. I can not however, accept that that "threat" is not a "good one" and one which - we White Men - readily deserve.

One need not agree with all of Sotomayor's words or positions to respect her and accept her as a good choice to be one of nine Supreme Court justices. It will be interesting to watch the Republican Senators - tip toe around - the issues of the nomination over the next 1-2 months. I have no doubt that as many as 20-30 of them will vote against her nomination. I will be surprised, however, if they try to filibuster. IF they do I would be shocked to find all the Republicans sticking together and/or any Democrats supporting the filibuster. It will also be interesting to see if the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee stick together and block a vote before the summer recess.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sonia Sotomayor

It is simply amazing to learn how "racist" President Obama's new supreme court justice designate is as well as of all her other purported "liberal" tendencies which make her inappropriate for the Supreme Court. Our "Conservative Brothers" (some of whom are female of course) seem to feel that they have Strange rights to hold on to the reactionary positions of their brethren through the Supreme Court. One can only imagine what hysterics they will show if/when one of their fellow reactionaries retires from the Court.

It is also amusing to see how Republican Senators smell the winds of the present and future and are speaking a very different tune!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Terrorism - Obama and Others - Am I Crazy?

I find it incredible that United States Presidents and other supporters of The Government have the audacity to say to all of us and the world that they have the responsibility and right to imprison individuals because they are "terrorists" or "enemy combatants", yet they need not have trials to face Specific Charges relating to what they allegedly have done that merits imprisonment.

I could understand, faintly, the idea that where the U.S. is "at war" with a specific country that there could be "prisoners of war". I can also understand arresting an individual for a specific crime such as "attempted murder".

It is totally crazy to me that employees of the U.S. Government or their hired hands can and do seize individuals in other lands and determine that they are "enemy combatants" imprisoning them outside of the United States. Those arrested then have virtually no rights to confront their accusers or otherwise defend themselves.

I try to imagine how we could accept the Chinese Government or perhaps the South Korean Government or any other government coming into the United States and arresting individuals whether citizens of their own country, the United States, or another country.

I try to imagine how we could accept any foreign government arresting individuals totally outside of its borders. Let's assume for a moment that the Iranian Government were to arrest an Israeli National in Turkey. How different that would be viewed than our utterances of "terrorist" or "enemy combatant" as a justification for imprisoning so many.

I really wonder Why we don't get it that we are a lightening rod for hatred and real terrorist incidents from so many groups, who's commonality often is only a hatred of The United States Government.

We, of course, say that We Must do what we do because of "the terrorist threat". It seems much more reasonable for me to believe that ultimately we are "the bully" and "the terrorists" of the world - not as individuals - but as a "machine" of civilian and military leaders and those who follow their orders.

I try to imagine How Many people have been killed (or threatened to be killed) by our supposed enemies. Similarly, I think of how many have been killed and will continue to be killed by U.S. military actions, "mistakes", and other clandestine actions of the CIA and others - perhaps contractors with our Government.

I can easily accept that there are governments in other countries such as Iran and North Korea who are "not good" at best. In Iran though, there seemingly are possibilities of positive change, and the craziness of One leader there is often portrayed as if He "runs everything" - when he doesn't. Iran - also has in part been a force "for good" in Iraq - as its interests have in significant ways been in congruence with what our aims should have been.

I also try to remember that we are the United States who:

1.) Stole our country from Native Americans who "owned it" and shared it with us,
2.) Stole Texas - and really the West - from Mexico
3.) Enslaved Blacks until 1865
4.) Denied Blacks their rights formally until the mid-1960s' - 100 years later,
5.) Put Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II
6.) Has overthrown foreign governments in much of the world because they had the audacity to support their own people against business and other interests in the U.S.
7.) Is the only country who has killed and maimed people with nuclear weapons
8.) Consistently supported - "bad guys" - as "our buddies" - such as significant forces and leaders in the Two Counties we are seemingly "at war" in today - turning on them when they refused to play along with us with our changed priorities.

Who are we to be condemning others as we do?! We've got plenty of work still to do at home before we can justifiably condemn the misdeeds of many others.

I hope that I live to see a day when we will really be humble as a nation and work in cooperation with many others throughout the world, no longer being "the bully". It would seem amazing when we might work towards consensus with much of the rest of the world.

In such a "dream world" I could imagine "terrorists" being arrested by "legitimate governments" working in cooperation with each other in congruence with The United States.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Kent and Jackson State - Killings - and Change

39 Years ago today- the killings of four students at Kent State University shook (particularly) college campuses in much of the U.S. Unlike today, when the word "killings' would signify a gun wielding "deranged" (usually) White Man, these were the National Guard killing students demonstrating against the War in Vietnam.

At that time (and subsequently) Kent State got far, far, far more publicity than the killings a week and a half later at Jackson State University in Mississippi - because the students were "normal" - e.g. White and Not Black. Racism - was clearly alive and vivid in those days.

The demonstrations then were really the last Huge ones of that era and there really hasn't been anything similar since. The following year there were smaller demonstrations with the invasion of Laos but they were mostly confined to places like Madison, Wisconsin - the "hot spots" - where I was in college.

Unfortunately the era ended in many, may ways badly. There was a reaction from the Right against "leftists" which Richard Nixon and others played upon eventually blaming - welfare mothers, Blacks, Gays - and "liberals" in general for their efforts to bring positive, progressive change to our country.

It was imagined and portrayed that equality - as in Civil Rights had been achieved and that now Blacks had to "pull themselves up by the bootstraps" and Whites should not "feel guilty" - nor did they need to do anything more.

Unions were "the enemy" subtly and not-so subtly and business was "good".

Since that day we first moved with the Republican "liberals" becoming more and more extinct over time as "the middle" moved steadily to the Right. The "Dirty Tricks" of U.S. diplomacy which had been there with Kennedy and other Democrats became more blatant and often became the public and private norm for new values.

Today - looking back - we can see both Hope and Concern for the future. Many pin a lot of hopes upon Barack Obama (and to a lesser degree to the new Democratic majorities in Congress). Hopefully, we will learn from the many lessons we can take from the 1960's and other eras. Perhaps we can get away from Manifest Destiny and Papa Knows Best and really accept others within our own society and the world - learning from others, rather than trying to tell them what They should do.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Freedom to have One's Childhood (or Life)

I think at times of how others in the world don't have the right or luxury to live "their own lives", in varying circumstances. There are those under fire - or extreme control as has happened recently in both Gaza and Iraq, and others who often can't simply live a "normal" life, as you or I might not even imagine. The right to go to a job and not get shot at in the process is something that most of us take for granted.

Last Friday I was walking, taking my step-son home from school. I made a joke - saying that he had to "suffer" for the next two days, with no school. My words were interrupted by a young Black girl, somewhere between 9-11 years old, who was about to enter a large commercial van near where we were walking. She spoke most earnestly to me about how she would love to have school 7 days a week. I realized, as I heard her words, that she had no "home" for her weekends - or possibly - a painful supervised trip with a family member (such as to a women's prison). She clearly was in some type of "supervised living" for children, most likely taken away from a parent or guardian. For her - the "good times" - were her times in school, where she could play and in many ways - "be normal". For her a weekend meant unpleasantness. It saddened me!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Housing Crisis - Some Common Sense ?

Listening to National Public Radio today I heard talk of offering homeowners, who were losing their houses/condos to repossession monies to leave sooner than otherwise would happen, leaving the dwelling in good shape. An example was given of a homeowner being given $2,500 to leave their unit in 30 days, rather than facing eviction. The homeowner in one example given owed $500,000 and it was estimated that the house would eventually be sold for around $189,000. While this example may be extreme, it brought ideas to my head.

Assume that these homeowners are delinquent on $500,000 owed on the house first. IF they owed such interest on a 30 year, 6% fixed interest loan, their payments would be close to $3000/month. If the interest rate was 8%, the payments would be almost $3700/month.

If the house were to be sold for $189,000 and the homeowner is paid $2500 to voluntary relinquish possession in 30 days, why couldn't another option the homeowner could have would be the following:

1.) a new $200,000 mortgage at 6% interest - payments of approximately $1200/month,
2.) a lien on the dwelling forbidding additional liens on the dwelling - essentially indicating that the lender "owned" the dwelling,
3.) provisions - that IF the dwelling was sold (or perhaps vacated) - that the lien holder would have certain rights, including a percentage of any profit, if the unit were sold.

Obviously, some homeowners could not qualify for the $200,000 loan, and thus couldn't qualify for such a plan. Where it might work, it would seemingly save everyone money and hassle.

I'm not trying to imply that creating such a program would be simple, however it would seem a good option to keep homeowner's in their homes and to save the government money.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Flipping" - the "Oppressions"

It seems strange how:

"oppressions" - often seem flipped upside down.

Black Men in the South were lynched because they were "oppressing" the "victimized" Southerners (sometimes Women, sometimes not). The White people were somehow the oppressed class, rather than the Blacks. Strange - huh!

We U.Sians - are somehow "oppressed" by all these other countries in the world. Most of those "oppressing us" somehow seem smaller, often people of Color, and on the surface don't wield faintly close to the Power that we do, but....

In centuries past the Jews were somehow oppressing the Christians in countries (and needed to be attacked and sometimes killed as a result) where the Christians were generally a majority, and the Jews had no "military strength" and seemingly didn't have "the power" - but.....

We men often seemingly are oppressed by Women for various reasons. Obviously Sexism is no longer much of an issue huh....

Gazans - are somehow oppressing the Israelis horribly every day, as are the West Bank Residents who aren't Jewish as well. Arabs in general are seemingly oppressing the Christian-Judaic West in so many ways, but....

In all these situations - I see common threads including:

1. Change - bringing insecurities to people,
2. Powers that be - who prefer to Not have the attention focused upon themselves,
3. Scapegoating - people who have their own problems and issues,
4. A lack of clear insights - into what the Problems Really Are
5. Fear

In all these cases people really need to deal with their insecurities, confronting those who manipulate them, learning in depth what the real issues they face are and being strong and compassionate people who can grow and do better.

There are real instances where we are "attacked" for who we are. In such instances generally there is a "true" victimization of (relatively speaking) "powerless" people - such as elder abuse or racist attacks or a lashing out of (generally) really hurting people at Who they perceive as their oppressors (or those they can reach) such as might happen when Young Men are abused and then Abuse others or when Whites are attacked by People of Color - because they are White. In the latter type of instance - those attacked are "victims" - obviously, but really they aren't a "victim class" - because People of Color simply Lack the Power - in Total to keep us Poor White Folks - under control.