Archive for August, 2009

I’m not talking about some third world country, I’m talking about the United States.  Approximately 50 million Americans have no health insurance and now face the prospect of being turned away from for-profit hospitals if they are in need of treatment for swine flu.  So why is that a concern?  Isn’t that also the way it is for these people if they break a leg or have a heart attack?  Don’t they just wind up at some overcrowded municipal hospital like always?  I suppose so, the only problem is that this time things might be different.

The World Health Organization has announced that there is now a severe form of the Pandemic H1N1 flu that goes straight to the lungs. It causes severe or fatal cases of the flu in young people who had been in good health.  While Americans have been enjoying the summer weather and their days at the beach, the people in the Southern Hemisphere have been battling the Pandemic as it has traveled from country to country and morphed along the way. A second wave if Pandemic H1N1 is about to sweep over the U.S. and the northern countries of the world and we are woefully unprepared.  Unlike Socialist Europe, we have no health care system in place to care for the general population.  We have no system for providing free flu inoculations for the general public. Even more of a concern is that we don’t have the capability to cope with treating the casualties of a severe pandemic, even for our wealthiest citizens.

The World Health Organization has reported that those people who contract the very severe form of Pandemic H1N1 require intensive care in order to survive.  How many of our uninsured poor will be provided intensive care in our for-profit hospitals?  None.  They are going to die.  How many of our uninsured citizens who already suffer respiratory diseases or cardiac disease or diabetes, and thus become very high risks, will be able to be treated in our intensive care units, even if they already pay for the best insurance in the land?  Very few.  The simple fact is that we are unprepared, as a nation, to begin to cope with a serious pandemic. We don’t have the intensive care facilities, we don’t have an emergency plan to deal with need for such mass treatments, and we have no intent on providing it to the general public in any case.

The World Health Organization has issued a worldwide warning about the coming pandemic.  It advises that the disease could have a devastating impact in those parts of the world where adequate health care cannot be obtained.  They are referring to the Third World, where first class medical care is  not available at any price. I guess they forgot about the 50 million – those Americans who also have no access to first class health care because they have no health insurance.

It’s coming soon.  Some of those Socialist European countires are about to begin mass inoculations for the flu.  The United States isn’t ready to do that yet.  Maybe in October.  And it will be done on a priority basis – which may not include you.  Of course, you’ll have to pay for your innoculation, and if you don’t have health insurance maybe you’ll just skip it, like you always do.  Welcome to the land of opportunity.  Welcome to the best health care in the world.  Welcome to North America’s Third World system of “medical care only for the insured and for those who can pay”.

You’re on your own.

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It wasn’t long after 9/11 that the Bush administration decided that it needed better information about possible future attacks.  Clearly, if you know that an attack is coming you have a better chance of preventing it.  This logic is faultless, but in it’s inimitable style, the Bush administration was heavy handed, careless of the rights of American citizens, and generally inept in creating such an ability.  Years ago the National Security Agency, an organization whose charter restricts it to foreign surveillance, began to collect massive amounts of data on U.S. citizens. One of these methods was to monitor all phone and internet transactions across the Pacific Ocean that come through the main trunk line terminus in California.  Apparently, the NSA uses its vast computer resources to scan for key words or phrases that, according to some computer code, might signal malevolent intent.  I imagine there must be thousands of words, taken out of context, that could do that – words like hate, blow up, dynamite, bomb, explosion, death and so forth.  All of these words, like so many in the English language, can have more than one meaning or connotation.  The only way you can determine the meaning of the word is by the context in which it is used.

It has occurred to me that people from all over the world read my blog from time to time and so some of my blogs have certainly passed through the monitors of the NSA, and undoubtedly some of them must have kicked off a computer flag because of a word I used or because of a comment someone made.  However, a computer is a dumb machine – just ask anyone who programs them.  It will slavishly try to do anything the programmer asks of it, whether it makes sense or not.  Therefore,whenever a computer gets a hit on a key word it has to raise a flag so that a human can look at the text and see if it really is indicative of a threat.

I suppose I should be ranting about the loss of American freedom, the loss of privacy, the freedom from unreasonable search, and the loss of my Constitutional rights, but my government is wearing me down.  Just like everyone else in the country, I just along with domestic spying on the citizenry.  After all, Big Brother knows best and who am I to question his activities.  Yet, I can’t help but notice the similarity between the name of this organization, the National Security Agency and another agency from another time. I mean the KGB, the Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security. Sounds a lot like National Security Agency, doesn’t it?  The KGB was charged with, among other things, spying on citizens of the Soviet Union, just in case they were thinking about trying to overthrow the government.  That’s one of the reasons President Reagan called the USSR an evil empire – it was because of their culture of disregard for human rights.  One need only to look at the record of President Bush and Vice President Vader, the rationalization  of kidnap and torture, the spying on US citizens, and the theft of elections to realize that we have become that which we used to condemn.

So where are the Republican right wingers?  Where are the Libertarian defenders of freedom from Government? What sort of mental gymnastics do these people do in order to approve of our government doing exactly what we condemned the USSR for doing for its own people.  Oh,wait.  I think I understand.  This is different.  We’re just protecting ourselves from attack, while the Soviets were uh…let’s see, oh yes, protecting themselves from attack.

Haven’t we always been at risk since the day the USA was founded?  Didn’t we spend years fighting off the British?  Weren’t we almost always at war or about to go to war with one country or another to defend our freedom?  For the past 200 years, American citizens enjoyed freedom from government spying.  After all, it’s our country.  It belongs to us, not the government.  The government works for us – not the other way around.

But Bush and Vader turned it all around and made the NSA into an American KGB and they then used Homeland Security to terrorize the populace into thinking we were always on the verge of another terrorist attack. Rather than secure freedom for the American people, Bush and Vader stole our freedom and called it Patriotism – just like the Russians did under Stalin.  The problem is that they haven’t made us any safer.  But the NSA is still spying on us every day- in the name of Homeland Security.  How very Russian.  The question is will it ever end or will we have Big Brother peeping at us electronically forever? Do we, as citizens, have any say whatsoever about all of this anymore?  And if we have absolutely no say at all about the U.S. government spying on our conversations, the conversations of innocent  citizens, how far are we from becoming a shadow of the Evil Empire itself?

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You had to have been there to really understand.  The 1960’s were a different time in America, as different from the time before and as they are different from our present.  The 50’s were the post World War II recovery years, led by President Eisenhower, the former Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe.  He had been a five star Army general.  He was as solid as a rock and carefully guided the country through a transition from a  war-based economy to a normal civilian economy.  It was well planned and well executed.  It was tidy and predictable.  The country had returned to “normal”.  Except that for some, and eventually for many, “normal” was no longer good enough.

It was President John F. Kennedy who ignited the spark in his Inaugural Address when he challenged Americans to go beyond themselves, to enter the New Frontier, and “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.  An age of volunteerism was born.  The Peace Corps was created.  The Alliance for Progress was created. Human rights, and the lack of them, were being given front page notice.  Equality of all races was preached.  Equal opportunity was recognized as a right.  It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  It was the dawn of the Hippie movement.  It was Woodstock.  Harmony and understanding, and justice for all.

The Kennedy brothers, John, Bobby, and Ted all worked together during the time of President Kennedy’s administration to effect social change in America.  A new vision had arisen in American society -partially initiated by the Kennedys, but it was also an upwelling of public spirit that infused the Kennedys as much as they infused the public. It was the age of Martin Luther King. It was the age of Freedom and Freedom Riders and Freedom marches.  The people of America had awakened from their slumber and realized that despite all the good things about America, the country still had a long way to go to fulfill the dreams of it founders, dreams of equality and liberty, and justice for all.

One by one these champions were assassinated by the foes of freedom.  First John, then Martin, then Bobby.  It remained for those who were left behind, people like Lyndon Johnson and Ted Kennedy to pick up the fallen torch and carry it forward.  And carry it they did, because it was really Lyndon Johnson and Ted Kennedy who, over the years, actually worked within the system to effect social change and justice in America.  They were not the men of the soaring visions and soaring rhetoric like those who had given their lives in the cause.  But they were true believers in these ideals and they willing to work tirelessly for years to bring about the change of the great American visionaries of the 60’s, and so the credit for so much that has been accomplished belongs not only to those who first enunciated the vision but to those who successfully struggled to see it accomplished.

Ted Kennedy was a true believer in those visions that arose in the 60’s, but he knew that the heart of those visions was not new.  It had been born in the suffering of his Irish ancestors who had undergone centuries of oppression, starvation, and theft of their land.  It had been born in the suffering of the African Americans who had undergone centuries of slavery, discrimination, prejudice, and denial of the rights of an American citizen.  It had been born in the stories of all of the world’s tired and poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free,  who heard and heeded the call of Lady Liberty and believed in her torch that had been raised beside the Golden Door.

Ted Kennedy’s last great quest was to make health care recognized as a right for all people and not just a privilege.   It is an idea embodied in the Irish Constitution and is reflected in the governments and actions of most countries in the civilized world around the world today .  The exception, of course,  is the United States of America.

The last torch bearer of the 60’s has fallen at last, but as he said before he fell, the torch has already been passed.  Echoing the words of his brother, John, the torch has been passed to a new generation, led by President Obama.  It is now up to this generation to succeed or fail, to change America from being a land ruled by the wealthy elite to a land of freedom, equality, and justice for all.  The last of the great idealists of the 1960’s left us today. The choice is now ours.  Do we also pick up the torch and follow in Ted Kennedy’s footsteps?  Do we now truly rise up and follow our own human vision, informed by the great American visionaries of the past; or, our last hero fallen,  will we falter and fail, and be seduced by the wicked lies of those among us whose only God is gold.

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Well, the inevitable has finally happened.  The New York Times has descended into the realm of bullshit.  Remember when it used to proudly proclaim “All the news that’s fit to print”? Actually, it still does tout that line, except that it is no longer true.  Yesterday, a “health” writer for the New York Times, Roni Caryn Rabin (a young lady who I suspect is of the Jewish persuasion) wrote an article about the Centers for Disease Control, saying that they are considering the routine circumcision of all baby boys born in the U.S. in order to prevent the spread of AIDS. No, I am not kidding.  She’s as serious as a sharp knife.  I’m not so sure about the CDC though; hopefully they are of a more scientific bent of mind.  But after eight years of the Orwellian world of Bush/Cheney who knows what passes for science and truth in the government anymore?

Here’s the essence of Roni’s story: it seems that some folks in Africa decided that if they circumcised baby boys they could cut down on the spread of AIDS, which, as we all know, is a scourge in Africa.  I guess they did the circumcisions a long time ago because it seems the baby boys have now grown up and are having unprotected sex but not contracting AIDS at same the rate that their more intact brothers are.  That’s the research story.   It reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago, when I was student.

There was a professor who demonstrating a remarkable experiment to his class. He held a trained grasshopper in his left hand and then held up his open right hand.  “Now watch this,” he said to his class. “Jump, grasshopper, jump!” he shouted.  Immediately, the grasshopper jumped to his right hand.  Now, the professor took a pair of scissors and cut off the grasshoppers hind legs.  He took the now legless grasshopper and put it back in his left hand.  Once again he shouted the command, “Jump, grasshopper, jump!”  The grasshopper did not move.  The professor shouted the command again, only louder.  Again, the grasshopper did not move. The professor then turned to the class and proclaimed, “As you can see, I have now proved that if you cut off the rear legs of a grasshopper it will become deaf!”

Based upon the “research” in Africa, that is similar to the anecdote above, Ms. Rabin reports that the CDC is seriously considering circumcising all the new born baby boys in the U.S.  She adds that there is scientific evidence to back up the removal of foreskins.  She says that  the “mucosal tissue of the foreskin is more susceptible to HIV and can be an entry portal for the virus”.  Interesting – not true, actually it’s total bullshit.  This claim is a complete fabrication.  The foreskin is not made of mucosal tissue, it is skin. The only mucosal tissue in the penis is in the urethra, Ms. Rabin. That is where the AIDS virus enters almost all the time. It doesn’t really matter  whether you have a foreskin or not.  So, if there is some sort of correlation between removal of foreskins and a decrease in AIDS, it is not because of the removal of the site of entry of the AIDS virus. I wonder if anyone thought it might be caused by a change in behavior? Maybe men who have had circumcisions simply have less sex because it is less pleasurable? Of course, that would be a sin, I suppose.

Is that why these people all hell bent on circumcising little boys?  And why is it when little girls are circumcised it’s called mutilation but for boys its a healthy thing?  The fact is that it is mutilation for boys too.  Circumcision is a Jewish custom – you can find its origin in the Bible.  Then, somehow, back in history, the Muslims started following this Jewish practice of mutilating boys. The Jews did it to show that they had made a deal with God. I don’t know why the Muslims decided to follow this practice.  But the vast majority of the world doesn’t. It’s not too popular in China or India where most of the population of the world lives with intact foreskins. But Ms. Rabin wants to circumcise all American boy babies – but, wait a minute, why not the adult males too?  After all, they’re the ones having all the sex, aren’t they?  It’s not the poor innocent babies.

Here’s another question: if we need to remove our foreskins in order to be healthy, does that mean that God made a mistake?  Or, if you don’t believe in the creation story, does it mean that millions of years of evolution came up with the wrong answer?  Which is it?  And, if we need to surgically alter out bodies because they are born imperfect, then what about all the poor horses and donkeys and cattle and elephants and tigers and monkeys and apes and  such. Shouldn’t we circumcise these animals too who have been born to suffer with such imperfect bodily designs?

But here’s my most important question: Is this what passes for science in the United States today?  Really? Is this what passes for the truth in the New York Times these days?  Is it really true that our government would begin a program of mass mutilation of babies without even asking if we, the people, approved?  It’s hard to believe.  If it were true it would certainly be enough to make me want to become a Libertarian or even a Republican.

Wait! Is this some sort of planted story, like the death panel stories?  Is this just a clever hoax to make us all turn against government health care? Hmmm.  I suppose it’s possible, and who can be sure with the Republicans? There is, however, one thing I do know about this story.

It’s all bullshit.  I am deeply disappointed in the New York Times.  This isn’t fact; it’s African pseudoscience, and it is definitely not news that is fit to print.

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The U.S. military is now saying that they don’t have enough troops in Afghanistan to win the war.  This is despite the fact that President Obama has recently made a major increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan, even as we withdraw from Iraq.  The question we need to be asking ourselves about Afghanistan is this: how will we know when we’ve won?  Do we just plan to keep on fighting the Taliban until they get tired and just give up?  Or, do we plan on fighting the Taliban until they have been completely eliminated from the Earth?  Or, do we just want to take and hold the entire country of Afghanistan and make it completely free of any Taliban activity forever?

The reason I ask is that the situation sounds a little familiar – sort of a deja vu sort of feeling.  Now where have I felt like this before.  Hmmm, let me think…  Oh, that’s right.  Vietnam.  (Didn’t they used to spell it Viet Nam?)  Anyway, as I recall, we were fighting worldwide communist domination then, and we had to stop them there because of the Domino Theory.  As it turned out, we didn’t really have a clear idea of how we were going to win that war – and we were playing by a set of rules  that didn’t allow us to invade North Vietnam (despite the fact that North Vietnam was invading South Vietnam via the Viet Cong).  Well, to make a long story short – we lost.  Actually, I think President Nixon more or less declared victory, handed the war over to South Veitnam, and we headed for the helicopters.

They say that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Albert Einstein similarly said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Now, I understand that the Taliban gave aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda buddies.  As I recall, it was 9/11 that got us into this whole thing.  The problem we have in the U.S. is that we sort of continually take our eye off the ball.  Granted that the Taliban  were friends with Osama, does it really make sense for us to expend so much energy trying to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan? Do we really believe that democracy is some sort of cure-all medication for all the ills of the world?

We are in the process of fighting a guerilla war against a group of tribesmen with our uniformed servicemen while we have an undefined final goal.  Past experience has shown that we are not very good at that kind of war.  Maybe we need to take a different approach.  Here’s what I would suggest:

1. Let’s remember the original goal: find the perpetrators of 9/11 and deal out justice to them.

2. Create an approach to accomplish item #1.  This approach may not be conventional warfare.  Think out of the box.  If you want to catch a small group of people who are hiding out in the hills, maybe it would be better to give up the conventional methods.  Maybe it takes a guerilla to catch a guerilla.

3. Learn a lesson from Vietnam: you can’t prop up a government forever that the local people don’t want.  The local people will ultimately always have the government they want.  For some time it was the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan – this wouldn’t be the case unless the people permitted it.  If they really want the Taliban to govern them, let the Taliban came back. Just let the Taliban know that in the future that they, and the people of Afghanistan, will face truly massive destruction if they sponsor any more attacks against us.  Sort of a “Don’t Tread On Me” message.

4. Use our vast resources to find Osama bin Laden.  If we find him we have won.  If we don’t, we didn’t.

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