Monday, December 21, 2009

The "Judas Factor" in Liberal Politics

It's a well-known story even by those who never went to Sunday school. Shortly before Jesus' crucifixion, a woman anointed his feet with expensive perfume. Judas Iscariot was enraged. "Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" he asked. A denarius was a day's wage back then, so, not counting weekends (Sabbath Day off), the woman had apparently poured a year's salary on one man's feet.
At first glance, you have to think that old Judas was a humanitarian at heart, a philanthropist who wanted to see social justice. Isn't it nice that he was concerned, first and foremost, about all those poor people? However, John, who had spent three years observing Judas, comments immediately afterward, "This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box, and he used to take what was put in it." These verses, by the way, are taken from John 12:3-6 in the New King James Version of the Bible, but I suppose they read similarly in any translation you might have at hand.
So, why do I bring up a Bible lesson in my political forum? Because I have seen this same activity in the political workings of congress. For nearly a century, liberal politicians have hidden behind the "poor." Every time a conservative opposes a socialist policy or an excessive spending bill, we are reminded of how this person is "hurting the poor."
This past week, that has been the main outcry against those who oppose the gigantic, irreversible, debilitating Socialized Medicine bill that will be the magnum opus of this liberal-dominated congress before a large percentage of them are ousted in 2010. In spite of the fact that every poll, every survey, shows a majority of Americans are against this crime against our policies, our morals, and our pocketbooks, these elected "representatives" are bound and determined to push it through before Christmas.
Some have unashamedly given the reason for the rush. They know that the public does not want this bill, and are afraid that some of their cohorts might be influenced by the people who voted for them when they go home for the Christmas break.
And what do they say of these people? That we are "against the poor." This medical bill is to "help the poor." It's an easy tag to put on any liberal legislation, on any spending bill, on any dip into a private citizen's pocket book or bank account, any claim against your or my hard-earned money: "It's for the poor!"
Why do I want to compare liberal politics with Judas? Well, for several reasons. Like Judas, they control the "money box." Have you ever seen what they do to money when they get it? Do you know how much money is "on deposit" in your social security funds? The same amount there has always been: nothing. If Social Security were a private finance company, the SEC would have shut them down years ago, and those in charge would be in prison. But every time you hear of an attempt to privatize it or reform it, you hear the liberal chant: "They want to take money out of our Social Security funds! They want to starve the poor!" This is said with one hand raised in the air; the other is firmly ensconced in the money bag, looking for any coin that happens to fall in.
I think there is no difference between them and Judas: they are thieves, and take whatever is put in the money box. Do you think it's too harsh for me to call them thieves? What would your boss call you if you took money out of petty cash and used it to buy a DVD player? What would your family think if you took butter and egg money and bought lottery tickets? What would the guys at the office think if you took the football pool money and used it to buy tickets for yourself to the Super Bowl? I think "thief" would be mild. But that's exactly what your elected officials do every day.
This medical bill is being enacted, allegedly, with your consent. No one but Harry Reid and a select few have even been allowed to look at the Senate version of it. But it is filled with pork, including billions for "moderate" Democrats to use in their own states in exchange for a "yes" vote. Recently I wrote of Democrats with a spine who brightened up the Senate chamber. One by one, they have all been bought off, even the non-democrat Leiberman.
It's not that these "moderates" were not corrupt. Just like some members of the "oldest profession," their price was just a little higher than normal.
Some people might call them "Judases" because they have betrayed those who sent them to Washington, those who have supported them, and our own constitution. But I call them Judases because they bear a striking resemblance to the prototype: harping about the "poor" when all they are really thinking about is how to get their hands on more money.
If you really think that this gigantic, pork-laden, "Jabba-the-Hutt" medical bill is going to guarantee you good insurance, lower medical bills, better care, and liberty and justice for all, I will leave you to your naivete. You probably also think that Amtrak is making money, that the US Postal service is financially sound, that the IRS raises money for the maintenance of government operations, and that there is a million dollars in the vaults of the Social Security Administration with your name on it, just waiting until you turn 65.
Look what a great job government has done for the "poor" in the past 50 years. From Johnson's "war on poverty" up to these programs today. The only thing I can see that they have done for the poor is to make a lot more of them. The percentage of poor people in America has risen steadily since the government got involved in "helping" them. Every year, the number of poor is higher, and the threshold of poverty is higher.
Well, until this year. The liberal leadership is now recommending that we re-adjust the figures and raise those threshold numbers. The results will be, of course, that "poverty" will go down, according to the figures, in the next year. But that won't feed anyone or find them a job.
This medical bill has the possibility of putting even a greater number of Americans into a poverty situation. There will be higher taxes, increased medical costs, and the exciting new experience of jail time if you do not purchase insurance. Medicare and Medicaid are already miserable failures, but we have only seen the beginning. Now they will be disasters as their coffers of red ink are raided to finance new medical programs.
I think maybe somewhere, in the back of his twisted mind, Judas Iscariot may have still had a conscience. He may have actually thought that the poor needed help. I do not see even the standards of Judas being met by our current elected leadership. They have one goal, and that is to get their fingers into more of the gross domestic product, and take a little more of what you and I have earned this year to fund pet projects, and at the same time, to make us all a little more dependent on government to keep us alive. I cannot help but think of the hapless Winston Smith in Orwell's classic, 1984. It was this book that introduced us to "Big Brother." It's what your government wants to be to you. After all he had been through -- torture, threats, and brain washing -- Winston Smith finally came to the point that your elected official wants to be. The last line of the story says, "He loved Big Brother."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Two Opposites Who Need Defending

The past week has not been kind to two people: President Barack Obama and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (I could add Tiger Woods but I prefer to only include people who work for a living and are not billionaires in this post). Though they are opposite ends of the political spectrum, both have been unjustly lambasted by the media for recent events beyond their control.

Obviously, Mr. Obama inherited two wars. I will concede that he knew when he ran for president that he would get them if he won the election. He also made some promises that anyone who is rational knew he could not keep, but we can understand that he made those promises with the naivete of one who had not yet sat in the oval office and been briefed by those who really know what's going on.

His decision this past Tuesday was a difficult one, and a valiant effort. He wants to get our troops home, but he wants them to bring victory home with them. He acknowledges that the cost is time, money, and sadly, the lives of more troops from the 30,000 that he is sending to Afghanistan. He is right that, had we concentrated on Afghanistan instead of going after Saddam (Red Herring) Hussein, we could have made a permanent difference in Afghanistan. We also need to remember that close to 500 legislators at the time thought we needed to go to Iraq, so this is not one person's "mistake," or whatever we want to call it. However, we have now been in Afghanistan twice as long as the Russians were, and we boycotted the Olympics over the Russian occupation.

We can debate the propriety of those two wars at some other time, but just or unjust, these wars were not started by the current administration, and I'm hoping that like Richard Nixon, Barack Obama can end a war he inherited. He might not like being compared to Mr. Nixon, but he has a lot in common with him. He's about to get blamed for the deaths and destruction of war, if the political cartoons of today are any indication. His popularity has declined over this, and an ABC commentator I listened to during the speech on Tuesday (I think it was Stephanopoulis, but I'm not sure), said that Obama had made this war "his war."

Obama very intelligently addressed those who call Afghanistan "another Vietnam." He presented three reasons it wasn't. First, he said, this is a response to a direct attack on our country; second, our enemies are not waging a popular war in their own country with the support of the locals, as the Viet Cong did. I would have replaced his third reason with the following: We are fighting this war with an all-volunteer armed forces.

We must never forget that in these current two wars, no one has dragged anyone out of college, job, or family and forced them to go overseas and wage an unpopular war against an unknown enemy for an ungrateful non-ally. Obama did well on Tuesday night in presenting his case, and he deserves a chance to finish what someone else started.

Unlike the war, I do think he is responsible for the economy, and he did not "inherit" our current economic situation, which is a couple of trillion dollars past the point he stepped in. But the war is another matter, and the worst thing he could have done would have been to do what he naively promised in 2008, pulling out all our troops and letting both countries figure out what to do next. Had he done that, we would not only be hated by the legitimate governments of Iraq and Afghanistan and their neighbors, but also by our NATO allies who have sacrificed time, money, and lives in what is really "our" war. I will also back up and say that he mentioned intensifying the efforts in Afghanistan while campaigning, so this should come as no surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, he did not begin this war, and unfortunately, the last administration put the Afghanistan war on a sort of "standby" for several years while our nation went after a more visible opponent. I always wondered about the Iraq thing, but was sure that our president at the time, and 400-500 legislators knew more about it than I did. Apparently, they did not.

Now we pass on to Mr. Huckabee, who has shown the hand of the media in two ways this past week. First, they have revealed how much they despise him, which is no surprise since he is way too far to the right for most of the media. The second one surprised me, though. They obviously consider him a legitimate, viable threat to win the presidency. They must, because they are pulling out the "big guns." Economically, Huckabee is very close to Ron Paul, but the media leaves him alone because they don't see him having a chance. The sad and unfortunate coffee shop murders of last Sunday are a tragedy; everyone agrees about that. But if you just read CNN, MSNBC, ABC, et al, and especially if you are just a headline reader, you would think that Huckabee walked around Arkansas with a master key, letting criminals go.

Mike Huckabee let no one go. Not even close. He commuted the sentence of a teenaged offender from 105 years to about half that, and left the rest up to the proper agency to decide who stays and who walks, a parole board. The man who killed four officers in a coffee shop had been through the revolving doors of courts and jails of at least two states, and judicial irresponsibility was the reason he was walking free last Sunday. He was free on bond after attempted child rape. Huckabee commuted the sentence of a teenager, hoping to give him a life; a Washington court let a child rapist walk free.

Huckabee noted that if the youth had been from a middle class white family, there would not have been a 105-year sentence handed out. Hey, wait a minute. Social justice! According to the media, a Republican has no business meddling with that! I've noticed that nothing has really been said about Huckabee's compassion toward a young African-American that he felt had been a victim of imbalance and injustice. In the same state, I'm sure Mr. Clinton would have been applauded for this.

It's hypocritical of the press to even bring this up. We only need to remember th 1988 Willie Horton incident. The press cried "foul" over that one. Some mindless sheep even painted it as a racist issue, though I, as one citizen, only knew Horton was a murderer who had been granted a weekend vacation. I had never seen his picture, and had no idea what color he was, even if that mattered. Dukakis had allowed Horton some "time off" from prison, and he killed someone during that time little vacation. If it was wrong for the Bush 41 campaign to make a note of this, how much more has it been wrong for the press to exaggerate the Huckabee commutation into a pardon. I saw a San Francisco Chronicle headline online this morning that said, "Huckabee Handed Out Pardons Like Candy." Not only is that irresponsible and amateur journalism (I hate to cheapen the word by using it here), it is outright vilification. By the way, I did read the article as well, and the writer had no idea what had really happened. She had read a few press clippings, less than I have read on the issue.

Huckabee has been -- and is -- a decent man, whether he is fit to be president or not. He was the most honest candidate the Republicans had to offer, and did not resort to the lowly attacks of his colleagues in both major parties. He does not deserve the slander that is being passed as "news." It's obvious that the media does not want him as president.

And on this, I agree with the media, but for entirely different reasons. I have seen what they do to presidents and candidates. I have seen the outright vilification they have even given the "darling of the media" this week, and realize now that even Obama, if he refuses to be their puppet on a string, will be crucified by the left-leaning press. I don't want to see them do it to a fellow human being like Mike Huckabee. I would like to see him continue where he is now, a public figure with the ear of a vast multitude of people, making sense out of nonsense, and always doing it like a decent human being.

A president cannot be a decent human being anymore. Our society won't let him. Mr. Obama is finding that out now. If he disappears in 2012, I fear that he will be replaced by a cold, unconcerned robot who takes marching orders from shady characters in dark rooms. That's the only type of person who can now survive a US Presidency.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Bright Spot in a Dark Debate

As I lament the creeping socialism that "universal" government-run "health care" imposes on us, I have found a bright spot in the story that truly encourages me. For maybe thirty years now, Democrats have hidden their "pro-life" counterparts from the public. I have found it strangely hypocritical this past week that the news media has talked about Republicans "purifying" their ranks. They've talked about the demand for conformity in that party. However, I've seen Republicans from both side of the "choice" issue allowed to speak at the national convention. I've seen Republicans on both sides of abortion ethics appointed to cabinet positions and other posts.

When was the last time a pro-life Democrat was allowed to speak at the Democratic National Convention? When was the last time a Democratic president appointed a pro-life advocate to any position at all. The Democratic party has hidden this group and pretended they did not exist. Oh, I knew they did. For many years, my own district was represented by an excellent congressman, Charles Stenholm, a Democrat who is pro-life and spotless in his ethics. He was finally run out by Tom DeLay's Republican gerrymandering a few years ago, which is a shame. He represents the best side of your own father's Democratic party.

When Al Gore was a freshman senator, he was pro-life. Richard Gephardt was a pro-lifer as well. Both suddenly became "pro-choice" when they tried to get the national Democratic nomination. The party would never allow a pro-lifer to represent them. So why does the media throw a fit when the Republicans stand on one issue as well?

But all that aside, this health care debate has brought great encouragement to me. The House bill passed because the party allowed pro-lifers from their own party to overhaul the abortion language. Now the bill is in the senate, and it is pro-life Democrats who are saying they will not support a bill with taxpayer-funded abortions in it.

I am excited to see a pro-life dimension being brought to the Democratic party. In fact, I would vote for a pro-life Democrat over a pro-life Republican in any election, because the Republican may or may not be sincere. In my state, which is currently "red," Republicans sing the songs they are expected to hear. George HW Bush himself became "pro-life" in order to be Reagan's running mate, but there was never any real commitment there.

It has been refreshing to see these Democrats for Life show some muscle. I am hoping that this work with the so-called "health care" bill will encourage them to use that newfound power. Democrat or Republican, America needs to stop killing its young. If the Democrats are the ones that lead the way, I will campaign for them.

Republicans who think they have a lock on my vote simply because I supported Reagan had better think again. I don't vote for a party; I vote for values. As I see a Republican party that had the momentum from 1994 to 2006, and did nothing, I see no reason to blindly support them. When they had the house, the senate, and the White House, they whined about Democratic "obstructionism," which really lost them points.

I look forward to the return of the Democrats my grandparents knew, those pre-Roosevelt Jeffersonian Democrats who knew that states can take better care of themselves than Washington can, and who spent only what they earned, and gave no one an "entitlement."

Thanks to the Democrats who are standing up for what they believe and for the values of the people who elected him. The uppity media calls them "blue dogs." I call them "Democrats with a backbone."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An Addendum to My Last Post

I have hesitated to use this story because it is so sad, but decided it was necessary; if we have universal "health care" forced on us, this story is going to be repeated over and over. Here is my new reason why universal "health care" as Dr. Pelosi wants it will not work:

Government-controlled health care takes away the last remnants of humanity and courtesy.

I don't know how much of a syndicated AP news feed I can cut and paste in one blog, so let me summarize most of it. Scott Hawkins was a student at California State University in Sacramento. For reasons unknown and unexplained, it appears he was beaten to death by his roomate. He was taken to the UC Davis medical center where he was pronounced dead five minutes after arrival. This perhaps implies that he was already dead when he arrived. Do hospitals get to charge when a dead person shows up? I'm not sure. But I certainly know they can charge for a live one. Officially, Mr. Hawkins was "alive" for five minutes there. How much did the "care" they gave him cost? Only $29,000. No more. Twenty-nine-thousand dollars, about five thousand a minute, to do what Dr. McCoy did for free: "He's dead, Jim."

Now let's add insult to injury. You fill in the gaps for the next few minutes. A call to shocked parents who thought their son was safe in his dorm room. Now he's dead. We can all imagine what the loss of a son would be like: the questions, the grieving, the feelings that follow.

What they didn't expect was a bill. A bill from the UC Davis medical center telling them that they could do nothing more for their son because he was "maxed out," and that those parents owed them over 29,000 dollars. The bill also said that they were "indigent," not paying what they owed. The grieving parents called the hospital billing department to clear things up. They were too grief stricken to talk, actually, but amidst all the sobbing, finally got the message across.

Was there an apology from the hospital? I will let you be the judge (here is the direct quote from the AP wire):

A spokeswoman for the hospital says the bill was a mistake - it should have gone to an insurance company.

There you have it. Hey, it was all a mistake. We were going to stick it to the insurance company. Five thousand dollars a minute attending to a person who may have already been dead. But it's okay. We were going to raid someone's insurance plan for this. Sorry we sent it to a real human. We meant for it to go to accounting. By the way, do you have their address?

Some day, in Nancy Pelosi's dream world, we will all have "insurance." Then, doctors won't have to be civil with anyone. We won't discuss the condition of the patient. We will bill him "minutes" like lawyers currently bill "hours." All the money, after all, comes from the limitless, gigantic pool of wealth that the "government" must have somewhere. Oh, there will be paperwork, but that creates "jobs."

To Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, the grieving parents, I can only say how sorry I am for the loss of your son. I wonder if any "health care providers" offered condolences. Doctors used to do that, you know. Back when you wrote them a check for their services, or gave them cash before they left your house. Back when health care meant a doctor you knew in a building you recognized that existed in your town. People used to live a long time back then, too; one doctor could treat a patient, and cure him. But medicine is a big business now. Everybody needs a network. And when the government gets into it, it will be bigger. Broke, but bigger. Just like the Post Office. And Amtrak. And the Social Security Adminstration.

You'd think that someone could add at least one rider to the omnibus "health care" bill that is being debated now. Maybe add a buck fifty per case for a Hallmark card. After all, they could stick it to the insurance company for, maybe thirty bucks. Fifty if someone signed it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why "Universal Health Care" Won't Work

We're hearing a lot of inflamed rhetoric about health care right now. Some people are talking about "death panels," while others are talking about people dying because they can't afford health insurance. There's enough political strife to go around without me adding to it, and I know I've said several things about health care in the past few years, but maybe I can clarify my thoughts a little more with one statement:

The best thing we could do to improve health care in this country right now would be to cancel our insurance.

I know it's radical, but probably necessary. I know it won't happen, but it should. The very worst thing we can do right now is increase the amount of insurance available, or guarantee everyone health insurance. How do I dare make such a statement?

  • Health insurance raises health care costs. One friend of mine remembers going to the hospital emergency room with a broken leg. After the doctor had set the leg and put the cast on it, they were being checked out. The doctor was in the background as his secretary got the bill ready. "Who is your insurance provider?" she asked. His father told her they had no insurance and were going to pay in cash. Immediately, the doctor turned around and told her to rewrite the bill, that it was too high for someone paying out of his pocket. Do I really need to say more? I can. I once had a policy that paid up to $200 for emergency room fees. One night we had to take our son to the emergency room. I saw the sign -- in English and Spanish -- that stated that the Emergency Room fee was $200. I was thankful that it was covered. When I received the bill (seven months later, but that's another story), I noted that our insurance had paid $200 of the $450 that we were actually billed. I was left owing fifty dollars more for the emergency room than I would have owed if I had not had insurance. I now refuse to give any insurance information out until the bill is presented. A doctor's visit in our local town has dropped from the $75 they charge for usual "covered" visits to the $60 I pay by saying I have no insurance. What will happen if we all get insurance, and more coverage? I think you know.

  • Health insurance encourages corruption. Have you ever been "double-billed?" I have, and I don't think I'm unique. There are two ways to "double bill." One is merely to bill a large insurance company twice. Private insurance companies are a little greedier, and will try not to pay the extra, but they often miss it; on the other hand, government agencies run on the "there's always more where that came from" philosophy, and seldom check the double billing. It is a routine practice to bill Medicare and Medicaid a horrendous amount, and then some. For some reason, Uncle Sam does not mind paying 50 bucks for a Tylenol. He may think it's a bargain after paying 600 dollars for a hammer. There is, however, another way to "double bill." At a time when I had great medical coverage in the 80's, before the horrible inflation of medical prices, our son was born at a local hospital. We turned in our insurance info, and a day later, took home our new son. A month later, I was presented with a full bill from the hospital for the entire process, due upon receipt. I immediately called our insurance company, thinking they hadn't paid, and they offered to mail me all the records of payment. Two days later, I presented these records to the hospital, and their response was, "we will clear the bill." They had billed the the full amount after the insurance company had paid them. There was no remorse, no apology. I got the impression it was just business as usual.

  • The "airline syndrome." Once, flying on an airplane was like taking a luxury cruise. Of course, it cost what a luxury cruise costs as well. There were DC-3's that had been equipped with "sleeping berths," and well-to-do travelers could retire for bed after takeoff in New York and wake up to a bright morning in Los Angeles. As airlines sought to get more passengers, seats were moved closer together, costs were cut, and today riding on a commerical flight is not unlike boarding a cattle car to go to the slaughter house. Health care for all increases the work load of clinics and hospitals. When we are paying for health care, we are looking for bargains, and we debate whether we really need to go to the doctor to stitch a wound or just to bandage it and let it heal naturally. When we have paid the "big bucks" for our health insurance, we see it as our "right" to go to the emergency room for a hangnail or a sore throat. Cost is not a factor. Insurance has made the "private room" the standard for all Americans. We are overcrowding the hospitals and clinics in our communities. Add to this that the big money from government-funded health care has led to more government regulations, and hospitals and clinics that don't "measure up" have had to close. A generation ago, every town of 1000 or more -- and some with less -- had at least a local clinic and a family doctor. Now, there are cities of 25,000 and more who are losing their health care facilities. Specialization, created by government regulations, has depleted the capacity of the local clinic to treat all illnesses, and most people who visit a small hospital in a semi-rural town will end up in a metropolitan medical center at some time. Universal health care means more government requisites and regulations, and with it, the loss of more hospitals. Our emergency rooms are overcrowded and understaffed now, and it will only get worse.

  • I speak with the experience of someone who has lived in two countries with "universal health care." I have sat up all night with someone who was waiting to be attended. I have watched the long, wearying search for his documents, and I have seen the increasing pain as he waited through the night for his "number." I have sat in an emergency room -- not the waiting room but the actual emergency room -- and watched someone die on the gurney while waiting for a doctor. I saw the doctor arrive later and inject something into the dead man's heart because it had already been prescribed. He had to remove the sheet from the man to do this, and then he replaced it immediately afterward. But he did get paid for the administration of the medicine. In those countries, I, as an American, had access to more money than the locals. When my family needed attention, I could go down the street to a private clinic and pay the higher costs. I got immediate attention and quality service. Why? Because in that country I was rich. Universal health care does the same in all countries: it marginalizes the poor, and insulates the rich. I find it ironic that so many people want to have health insurance "to help the poor." Nothing hurts them more.

If we really want to improve the quality of health care in our country, the last thing we need to do is throw money at the system. Health care needs to be put into the realm of supply and demand. Local clinics need to be opened.

If the government really wants to help, we should use government funds to restore medical care centers to the communities in our country who have lost them due to federal regulation and medical specialization. We should offer incentives to those who study to be general practitioners, and give aid to restore OB/Gyn work to local communities. It is not uncommon for a woman in labor to have to suffer an hour or longer drive now to deliver a baby. If the government wants to help, health care funds should be given to develop more hospitals and train more doctors.

Medical firms and pharmaceutical companies should be freed to do more of their own research and development without the oppressive paperwork. If Pasteur had worked in this country in the 21st century, we would have never had any of the advances in medicine that he gave us. The ones he actually achieved would still be tied up in testing and waiting approval by some government bureaucracy.

If we really want to improve the quality of health care, hospitals and medical billing should be "called to account." If the federal government needs something to "regulate," try hospital billing. How ironic that we have to walk past so much new construction to enter a hospital that tells us how "broke" they are.

  • Hospitals should be responsible for in-house billing, and it should be immediate. Customers should be advised up front of billing practices.
  • Billing should be unified and itemized. No patient should ever be billed by a doctor they don't know from a city they've never visited, but it happens every day.
  • Bills should be sent to patients before they are sent to insurance companies, and insurance companies should work with their customers before any money is paid to medical institutions or practitioners.
  • No bill should be valid that is issued for the first time over a month after treatment. In other words, hospitals should be held to the same rules of accounting, honesty, and forthrightness that the businesses on main street observe.

It should be possible for anyone to pay a medical bill without being bereft of years of hard-earned money. Insurance was introduced as a luxury and a favor to those who wished to use it. It was never intended to be a "cover all" for all health care. That's why the best radical treatment for our "health care crisis" would be for all Americans to cancel their insurance policies tomorrow -- or today. The prices would float to fair market value, and an aspirin tablet would not cost 30 dollars.

I know it's a crazy idea. I admit it's crazy and reckless. But it's a better idea than I'm hearing from Washington right now. Attempting to remedy the health care crisis by throwing more money at it is like attempting to cure a cold by blowing your nose.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Dose of Decency

Recently the news has been filled with reports of something that can only be described as “people being rude.” Whether it’s a tennis star threatening to do horrible things to a line judge, a slightly drunken performer stealing the microphone at an awards banquet, or a United States congressman shouting “You lie!” at the president, we can’t assume this all just happened overnight.

Why do people in the public light seem to have so little respect for each other? We’ve been leading up to this for years. Like the Roman arenas of two millennia ago, we seen to enjoy gathering together and watching people get ripped apart; this time, however, it is not by lions, but by other people.

TV talk shows of the 70’s and 80’s have evolved into slugfests on camera. People throw chairs and issue death threats, all the time listening as the audience cheers them on. Any checkout line at any major market is littered with racks full of juicy “gossip,” most of it false, reporting the illnesses, failures and faults of our celebrities. Somebody must be buying this or it wouldn’t continue to be there.

Rules of decency and decorum, it seems, are for other people. They are for the “other” political party, the rest of the world, for “ordinary” people, not people like me. “You see,” we rationalize,” I had the right to do what I did. I don’t care what anybody else thinks.

Maybe we all need to go back to kindergarten. The teacher used to tell the children, “If you say something bad about someone, I will require you to follow it with three good things about that person.” I once knew of an organization that, in their planning sessions, required someone to say three positive things about someone’s idea before trying to “shoot it down.”

It appears that “positive” just doesn’t sell. People would rather see someone “voted off the island” or verbally butchered on a stage in front of a hostile audience during a morning talk show. Many of us feed on this, and then wonder why that person behind us in the checkout line was so rude to us.

Our rudeness is bleeding over into real life. In one city, a man slaps a woman’s child for crying in the supermarket. In another city, a minister says he’s praying for the president to get sick and die. Elsewhere, a teacher gives her students a writing assignment that involves such violence and abuse that it is better not to print the subject in this newspaper. And lest we forget, it was only a few years ago that the press praised a movie in which President George W. Bush was assassinated. The movie even won awards. In my own humble opinion, that's just a little more serious than "You lie!" though neither one should be praised. It seems that no institution is immune from this virus that is spreading through our culture.

It’s time for a dose of decency. Maybe the “sane” ones in our culture need to take the lead. If you’re one of those people, it can start by not honking or tailgating someone that cuts us off in traffic, or by letting the rude customer go ahead of us in line; after all, neither of those things really cost us any time or money. Maybe it’s not letting our kids hear us verbally abuse those people on the TV screen. It’s time to make an intentional effort to be decent. No one really wants a return to the days of the Roman Circus Maximus. Let’s think before we talk. Maybe we can even set an example for those athletes, stars, and national leaders who are supposed to be setting an example for us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Grisly Tale from a Survivor

Read at your own risk! The things I am going to tell you in the following paragraphs are not for the faint of heart. I have carefully considered my words, but some of you will be terrified by the things that are revealed below. If you are taking any medication, please continue to follow your health care provider's instructions, and please stop reading right now. I cannot be responsible for you from this point on.

I attended a horrible school when I was a child. First, even getting there is something fearsome. I rode a bicycle, scary in itself, but get this: I did not wear knee and elbow pads, nor a helmet! I would ride in street clothes from my house to the school. Once at school, I had to go directly to class! They did not provide a breakfast for me!!! We went directly to classrooms, unless we got there early. On those occasions, we were put in what would later that day be the "cafeteria," but was for now a "holding pen" for students while teachers got ready for the day.

Oh, and while we're on transportation, until I was in fifth grade, we didn't have a car that even had seat belts. It had a beautiful green metal dashboard, though. I bumped my head on it a couple of times when my dad made a sudden stop for something like an unprotected kid on a bicycle.

We had two recesses: a morning one and an afternoon one. WE OFTEN PLAYED UNSUPERVISED! I know; you don't believe that. I wouldn't either if I hadn't been there and seen it myself. In one game, we actually threw a non-rubberized so-called "soft ball" at each other. They let us choose teams for this game, and we got to keep score. Nobody seemed to care how the others felt.

Lunch time was frightening. On every table the school officials had allowed the cafeteria workers to place vials of poison. One was called "salt," and the other, "pepper." We sometimes put it in our ice cream dessert just to see how it tasted. Our parents would scold us for it, because they did not want to see food "wasted." They said that because all of them actually paid for it themselves. Some kids brought lunch, and it was in unsealed containers.

They also had a very dangerous machine in the kitchen. It was filled with heart-attack causing grease, maybe even LARD, and they actually FRIED things in it, and expected us to eat it. In fact, our teachers and parents often "encouraged" us to eat everything on our plate.

In the fifth grade, one of our classmates had gone to the Bisbee Copper mines over Christmas (?!!) break, and brought back something amazing for all of us: a bucket of amazing, crazy mercury!!! Boy, did we have fun. First of all, it was really hard to make a fist and plunge it to the bottom of the bucket. Of course, when the big kid tried it, some mercury spilled over, but we had fun chasing it across the classroom floor and watching it break into hundreds of little silver balls. Then our friend decided to let us all have a little of it. Desperately wanting to be a part, I found a paper cup and got my treasure, probably 4-5 tablespoons of it. During the slow days at class, I would drop a little of it on the desk and watch it roll. I would break it up and put it back together. Then I would go eat my sandwich for lunch.

The guys in the white spacesuits never came for cleanup. I don't even know if they had hazmat people back then. As far as I know, traces of that mercury are still embedded in the floor, concrete, and -- who knows? -- ancient desks and chairs of that school, which still stands and serves as an elementary school. I may still have some, somewhere, in storage. As it dwindled, I stored the last of it in a non-child-proof-capped medicine bottle.

When I was in high school, a fight once got out of hand, and one student went home and got a gun, and I would say he got it from his right-wing redneck father, but the student was a member of a hispanic migrant family, so that can't be right. He ran down the hall saying he was going to kill the kid that beat him up (who was, by the way, a filthy white redneck kid, who for some reason, had forgotten his own weapon). The principal, a shop teacher, and two fellow hispanic students wrestled the gun out of his hand.

Now get this: we didn't even get to go home. They had school the rest of the day. And the next. We never saw a swat team, and that lousy school didn't even send in crisis counselors to help us get over the psychological damage it caused. I'm probably still carrying it. And as far as I know, nobody sued.

If a kid didn't do the work, he (generic use, which was ok then) got disciplined. He didn't get special "initials" put on his file. He got licks. Then he did the work and went out to recess with the rest of us. Our teachers taught us subjects; they did not teach us how to take a federally mandated state supervised test. I don't know how we made it to adulthood, or how the generation before us managed to get people all the way to the moon.

If someone got hurt, he (generic) bled and the teacher cleaned it up, maybe with a kleenex. And no rubber gloves or hazmat suit. Those poor uneducated souls didn't even have "body fluid treatment" training like teachers get now.

If you're still reading, and I know most have probably had to leave and will not sleep tonight, I just want to tell you that somehow I survived these primitive conditions. I never had to go to the hospital, and we actually could have afforded to go if necessary.

How did we do it before the government started educating, protecting, preserving, feeding, clothing, housing, and medicating us? How did we live before litigation, psychoanalysis, and sensitivity training? It's amazing that there are still people on earth today.

To those of you reading, I come from a distant time. We were too stupid to know what we needed. We actually used taxes for building roads and defending our country. We took care of our own kids, and an "Independent School District" really was independent. Just thank whatever deities you may or may not believe in that we lived long enough to reproduce and bring forth a generation to save this dying, overheating, depleted world. Thank him/her/them that we somewhere learned how to strap you in, immunize you, and dress you in body armor.

I know it was supposed to be scary, but all I can remember are the good times. I guess I've been propagandized and need to be woken up. Maybe I should be sentenced to stay in a little room for a week while Al Gore movies are shown to me 24 hours a day. Something needs to be done. My generation is a danger to the health, safety, and sanity of those following.

We didn't know how to do anything right.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Constitutional Atrophy

Liberal judges love to say that the US Constitution is a "living document." Of course, by that they mean that the Constitution can mean anything they want it to mean. "Strict Constructionists" are quickly labeled as bigots or far right reactionaries. Perhaps the most amazing comment on the Constitution (up to that time) was in 1989 when Thurgood Marshall said that the hoopla over the celebration of the Constitution's 200th anniversary was overblown -- that it was an imperfect, even racist, document. Amazingly, this justice, who had to swear to uphold the Constitution in order to become a judge, blatantly admitted that it meant nothing to him. To me, that was an impeachable offense.

Recently, Marshall's best protegee, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, defended her use of "international law" in making Supreme Court decisions. If a justice had said such a thing before 1950, he (there were no "she" justices then) would have been subject to a bipartisan impeachment.

However, if we understand the liberal mind set, we realize that there is no way that a liberal can, in good conscience, uphold the document anyway. Moreover, liberals are not the only ones who butcher the Constitution. It has suffered over the years under the adminstrations of both liberals and conservatives. Most of the abuse is through misuse. It is my premise that the Constitution has lost more of its force through disuse than through abuse. This document is being destroyed by atrophy.

People derided Texas governor Rick Perry this past week for his statements about the Tenth Amendment and states' rights. I remember 1976 when Jimmy Carter stood in a pulpit of a Black Baptist church in the South and told them that Gerald Ford favored states' rights, which would mean a return to the slavery mind set, answered by a thundering of "amens." I've wondered how that church kept its tax exemption. One church nearly lost its exemption that year just because Ford attended and the pastor shook his hand. But again, I digress.

States' rights is not open for debate. It is the Tenth Amendment. It states that all powers not expressly given to the Federal government belong to the states. That should make it easy for the Supreme Court: if the power is not mentioned in the Prime Document, then the Federal Government does not have it. Somehow, the Supreme Court has never figured it out.

Go back to 1850, when congress passed the "Fugitive Slave Law." Before that law, all those slaves in the evil South could just go to the loving North and be free (according to revisionist history). The 1850 law made it possible for a southern slave owner to recover his lost "property" from a northern state, utilizing the help of federal troops, if necessary. Realize that this decision was made by a congress that was dominated by northern legislators -- the ones that history paints as "abolitionist." So, if a slave escaped from Kentucky to Ohio, he wasn't free. The state of Ohio was required to return that slave.

This law should have been overturned, because it overruled state sovereignty. There was no Federal power given by the Constitution to take a slave from a free state and return him to a slave holder. A simple review by the Supreme Court should have nipped the law in the bud, yet it was allowed to fester for the next eleven years, leading to the Civil War. Of course, this was the same Supreme Court that handed down the "Dred Scott Decision," which overlooked Constitutional guarantees of human rights, and told a slave, in effect, that he did not have a right to present his argument, since, according to them, he was not a human being.

Let's go farther afield. If the Supreme Court had ruled on the secession of South Carolina, there might not have been a Civil War, since there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the Federal Government the right to retain individual, sovereign states. Lincoln would have had no authority to organize troops to re-take the state, or the others that followed. Rulings would have been made about compensation for federally funded property, such as Fort Sumter.

One of the greatest myths about the Civil War is that it was all about slavery. While any historian would acknowledge that slavery was one contributing factor, no one has found any public mention of slavery by Lincoln until 1862. Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland were all slave states that fought for the North (though Kentucky had a shadow Confederate government). When Lee handed his sword to Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, a man who had no slaves handed his sword to a man who had at least six. Grant fought the whole war as a slave holder. But we don't like to think about that.

If the Supreme Court had merely used the Constitution instead of personal whim, the slavery issue would have been settled in the North and the South, and would never have been an issue. If the Supreme Court had used the Constitution in the secession issue, a war could have been avoided. Slavery was already on the way out in 1850, and was a doomed institution. Through the influence of education, churches, and plain American decency, the institution was losing adherents daily. The Confederacy's constitution only mentions slavery once, and that is to prohibit the foreign slave trade. The evil institution would have died.

In 1896, a northern controlled Supreme Court ruled in "Plessy v Ferguson" that "separate but equal" was in the Constitution. I've re-read it enough that I can tell you that it's simply not there. "Brown v the Board of Education" in 1956 rightly reversed the idiotic decision of 1896. All they would have had to do is read the Constitution.

I've spoken of Roe v Wade in earlier posts. All that needs to be repeated here is that we know from the Declaration of Independence what the mind set of the framers of the later Constitution was: there was a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." There is a right to life implied in the Constitution, as well as an amendment that says no one can be denied "life, liberty, or property" without "due process of law." The flawed Supreme Court decision somehow found a "right to privacy" implied somewhere, and based the weight of their decision on that premise. In doing that, they used the "Dred Scott Decision" mentality by deciding that a child not yet born was not a human being. Then, the Supreme Court imposed their abortion decision on all the states in the Union, in spite of the 10th Amendment and the fact that the Constitution nowhere gives the Federal Government the power over decisions on the medical termination of a pregnancy. The "Roe" decision not only overruled all the "pro-life" states, but also swept away the "pro choice" states' laws, and imposed one monolithic rule that has become the basis of practice and funding.

Recently, congress has decided that the District of Columbia needs a voting congressional representative. The Constitution says they don't. Within the last decade or so, an amendment was presented to give DC the "rights" of statehood in congressional and senatorial representation. As repugnant as that is to me, if the amendment had been passed by 2/3 of state legislatures, it would be the constitutional law of the land. That amendment died. This time, the Constitution is being ignored. It seems that no one even cares. Just vote in a new representative from DC. The Supreme Court probably will not even touch it.

Finally, I look at GM. Bad management? Yes. Sorry product? In the past several years, sadly, yes (though their new Malibus are great). Should the CEO have been fired? Most likely. By the Federal Government? No way! It is no personal reflection on our new president. If my favorite president of all time, Ronald Reagan, had fired the president of General Motors or any other company, I would have cried "foul!" Where in the constitution is the Executive branch given the power over corporations?

Those who hate our Constitution, and in the past two centuries, some have even been legislators and Supreme Court justices, have realized that the document is just made stronger when you wrestle with it. You can weaken it with narrow, specific amendments, but that's way too expensive and time consuming. No, the best way to do it is just to ignore it, to let it atrophy through disuse.

Since January, I've seen next to nothing done in accordance with the Founding Document of our nation. We are straining a gnat and swallowing a camel -- the chief justice and the president flub up the inaugural oath, so they re-do it later to make sure it "takes," despite the fact that nothing in the world could have denied Mr. Obama his full rights and privileges as the duly elected president of the US. What needs to be examined is the huge influx of money into banks and stupid mortgages, and trillions of dollars that are being spent in the name of "stimulus" even though it's just more socialistic spending. There is no constitutional provision for Federal participation in public school education, health care insurance, or "fairness" in broadcasting. So we just ignore the Constitution.

Texas will not secede. I'm 99% sure. But if we do, I have a favor to ask of Congress. May we have your constitution, since you don't use it any more?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Willful Ignorance

Embryonic! The key word is Embryonic! EMBRYONIC!!! How can anyone be so dense. If I hear one more time that conservatives are against "stem cell research," I am going to start advocating harvesting the cerebral stem cells of journalists and liberal politicians, since they don't seem to need them.

I am admittedly a conservative. I used to be a Republican, back when Republicans were not Socialists, v 2.0. Lately, I've heard about how "conservatives" in our country are anti-science, anti-research, and anti-health. We have been accused of being against "stem cell research." Michael J. Fox thinks we're against it. So does Nancy Reagan. And what's-her-face McCain.

I am admittedly conservative. I even believe in God, and go to church. I am pro-life, and against government funding of anything that is not specifically granted to the government in the US Constitution.

But I am heavily pro-science. I marvel at the pictures from the Hubble telescope. I am amazed at the mapping of the human genome. I thrill at the idea that we are just a step or two away from being able to take the DNA from ice-preserved mammoths and reintroducing them to the 21st century. I would like our next goal to be the restructuring of the dodo. It could be done.

I love the growth of electronics and computers. I am an avid internet user. When I was in high school, no one had ever seen an atom, but since that time, I've seen photographs of them. I love what is happening in science. I look forward to the day that we finally figure out how to break Einstein's "c" barrier and start traveling faster than light. I believe it can be done.

So, see, I'm not a medieval pope who wants to condemn scientific research to the fires of hell. I'm not a "young universe" creationist, though I have a need to find and identify the Beginning of all things, and our culture's concept of God comes closest to that.

So why do people think I'm backwards? Because of one little word: embryonic. I'm not against stem cell research. I'm against embryonic stem cell research. Every day, countless gallons of umbilical cord blood are thrown out, teeming with stem cells that can be used for research, and subsequently, for the remediation of myriad maladies of health and genetics. Those stem cells are no different than the ones that are in human embryos. Yet they are not used.

Meanwhile, unborn children are harvested in order to add years to an existing human's life. My question is, "Why do we have to kill unborn children in order to do this research?" Actually, that question is miniscule, compared to the one I want to shout from the housetops: "Why does the media continue to rail against those who are against the slaughter of the unborn?" I see willful ignorance, an unwillingness to give the truth.

It's as clear as can be. Most conservatives, even of the evangelical Christian type, have no problem with research on stem cells. They have a problem with the source of those stem cells. I cannot figure out why, with a limitless supply of stem cells available in our hospitals in the abundance of umbilical cord blood, the Left insists that these cells come from embryos.

Michael J. Fox whines about his own condition. I want to see him cured. Is he too ignorant to realize that umbilical cord stem cells can just as easily be used to find the cure? We live in a generation that is easily deceived. Some researchers have said that even the elderly have perfectly good stem cells in their bodies. Organ donors and those who will their bodies to science could also be sources of a limitless supply of these miraculous cells.

When your major networks tell you that human embryos are the only source of these precious research tools, I can think of no other way to put it: They are lying to you. Either through willful deceit or bare-faced ignorance, they are feeding us a load of pasture fodder. Stem cells are abundant; they are all around us.

But the word "embryonic" is the sticking point. It's my only sticking point. Am I for stem cell research? In the words of a recent national celebrity, "You betcha!" Am I for killing unborn children in order to get them?

I'm not that stupid.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Cry of the Helpless

It seemed like such a good idea at the start. In that moment of disaster, instead of having to remember a seven digit number of the local police department; instead of having to go through the general dispatcher; instead of having to look up the number in an unfamiliar town -- all you had to do was dial three digits: 9-1-1.

What could be more simple? With the advent of cell phones, even better. Several years ago, I was driving a stretch of interstate and saw, in the opposing lane, a pickup truck tumbling end over end, then rolling into the center median. Without even checking the status of the driver, I immediately pulled over and dialed 9-1-1 on my cell phone. I was quickly transferred to the local operator, and as I described the accident and the mile marker, she informed me that they had already received two prior calls and that help was on the way.

That was what it was for -- to get help to an emergency situation as soon as possible. We are told now that most cities are swamped with 9-1-1 calls, and there is always a shortage of operators. Some have complained of being put on "hold," something you would not expect of an emergency line. Why would this happen? Do they just not care anymore? Evil Republican de-funding? No, none of the above.

The change has come in the American definition of an emergency. What happens today? Someone parks his car on your lawn, you call 9-1-1. Did someone leave graffiti on your fence? You call 9-1-1. "Hello, 911; what is your emergency?"

"Somebody wrote a bad word on my fence!"

"Sir, I'm going to direct you to the following phone number."

"No, this is an emergency! I want the police over here now!"

It happens every day, in every city, minute by minute. We only read about the silliest ones. One woman recently did not get chicken nuggets at McDonalds (they were out, had taken her money, and would not return it, offering instead a substitution -- definitely not good business policy, but not a life and death situation). While in line, she called 9-1-1. Years ago, I had a recording of a woman calling about a similar situation at a drive-up. Whe wanted the police to come make the owner serve her a type of burger that we found out later was made by another franchise.

Then there was the one who was tired; she had to take care of her kids all day. She called 9-1-1 for some relief. Another person wanted to know what time it was. Still another needed a list of hotels with available space in one town. And then, there was the day that President Bush's daughter was with a group in a restaurant, and they ordered alcohol! An astute waiter, recognizing the life-and-death immediacy of the situation, called 9-1-1. He may also have smelled his own fifteen minutes of fame, but whatever the reason, it was seen as an emergency, and the police were notified. Most of the time, they just ask for an ID, and refuse to serve alcohol to a minor, but this was an emergency!

The epidemic of frivolous 9-1-1 calls is symptomatic of a disease that is spreading throughout the American culture: an inability to care for one's self; a total shedding of personal responsibility. When I read Orwell's 1984, I thought that "Big Brother" would be imposed on us some day by a cruel totalitarian regime. I never imagined that he would be welcomed by people who no longer know how to clean up for themselves, blow their own noses, or flush before leaving the stall.

The main problem with Big Government is that it is more than willing to flush for us, because when it's in charge of the flushing, it can also tell us when we need to enter the stall. When Big Government pays for our health care, it can also tell us what care we need, and when. It's a return to childhood, when someone told us when to get up, when to go to bed, when to take a bath, when to dress. Most Americans seem happy to sit in the high chair while Big Brother spoons out carefully pureed food and wipes the stuff we spit up off of our chins.

Now we need the government to get us out of debt. We need them to pay for our medicine and our health care. We need them to find us jobs, and negotiate our salary schedules. We need them to make us fasten our seat belts, and during the last campaign, there was even a hint that the day was coming when Uncle Sam would make us keep our tires inflated properly.

If we are going to continue in this vein, we need to overhaul the outdated emergency system and replace it with a more diverse system of numbers. Of course, we need to hire more operators and pay them scale. We need to install new lines and make sure everyone has a government-provided phone. How about the following?

  • 911 - I'm being murdered or someone I can see is dying
  • 912 - Something/someone is making me very uncomfortable
  • 913 - I'm tired, hungry, or broke
  • 914 - Time and temperature
  • 915 - Complain about bad service
  • 916 - My rights are being violated
  • 917 - I need someone to clean up after me
  • 918 - My diaper needs changing/I need child care
  • 919 - All other government aid.

Or, how about teaching people to do things on their own again? How did we get in touch with the police before the days of 9-1-1? How did we live before the government started taking such good care of us? I don't know, but I sure would like to try again. Maybe the first step would be to ban cell phones, or at least impose a "stupidity tax" on those who keep them glued to their heads, mindlessly droning on, oblivious to the world around them.

I've heard that America was never the same after 9/11. I know they were talking about that day of terrorism on a fateful day in September of 2001. But I think there is another 9/11 that has done more damage to our culture, or at least shined the spotlight on it. That is the mindless idea that someone else can solve all your problems if you dial three simple digits. And that you have a right to have someone do that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Time for “Fairness”

Here’s the latest from the congress we all just re-elected. The house and the senate are getting ready to push through a little bit of legislation designed to give the District of Columbia’s non-voting congressional representative full voting rights in the US House of Representatives. To “appease” conservatives, they are also proposing adding one more congressional seat to Utah, which, for some reason, reminds me of all the compromises of the 1850’s that led up to the Civil War.

The logic is that there are 600,000 poor, neglected people in Washington, DC, that are denied the right to representation in congress. There are cries of “taxation without representation,” but before we cry too much, we need to note that DC will get more “bailout” money than seven legitimate states. Seems like a lack of representation has not hurt them too much so far.

The desire for DC representation shows such a horrifying lack of familiarity with the Constitution that I wonder how many of our elected officials, the same ones who have sworn to “honor and defend the Constitution of the United States of America,” have ever actually read it.

Some news outlets have picked this story up, noting that “finally” DC residents are going to get their “right” to vote. I know this sounds harsh and confusing, but there is NO constitutionally guaranteed “right” to vote. There are amendments that have done away with the poll tax and guaranteed the equality of blacks and women for suffrage, but there is nothing in the Constitution that guarantees an individual’s right to vote on national issues. Was that an oversight by the framers of the document? No, it is in perfect step with their own conception of our Republic.

The Constitution was a carefully written document that allowed for a voluntary cooperation of sovereign states, composed of free people, and allowed for a federal government to handle issues that involved the cooperation of states. The president was not to be elected by individual citizens, but by states. Congress was not to be composed of representatives of private individuals, but of states. The Senate was not to be composed of people elected by individuals, but by state legislatures.

Not only is the current Senate action under consideration ill-advised; it is illegal. Only states are guaranteed representation in the House or Senate. And the District of Columbia is, by design, NOT A STATE. It has no rights as a state, except for the mutilation of the constitution that gave the district three electoral votes. That alone is wrong: electoral votes were determined by the sum of representatives and senators that each state has, and since DC is not a state, it has none. By design. On purpose!

There is no constitutional provision that allows congress to arbitrarily assign representation to any entity. They might as well be assigning a representative to Guam, to Puerto Rico, or to American Samoa. They have as much authority to give a representative to the Republic of Colombia as they do to the District of Columbia – none.

Yet it appears it will be done, because our elected representatives are facing issues with emotion and arbitrary opinion. One senator said, “We’re the only nation in the world whose capital has no representation in its own government.” First, I doubt the truth of that statement, and second, since when do we want to be like everyone else? Our nation was founded as a unique experiment in self-government, and we have been copied, but never equaled, in our history. Why would we want to be like some European or Asian state? Our forefathers surely didn’t.

If this obscene idea must be pursued, let it at least be done by way of the Constitution – what’s left of it. Let the District of Columbia petition congress for statehood, and let congress and the states debate and decide on statehood. Don’t try to “sneak in” some representation based on an emotional appeal, especially by people whose emotions have more than once elected a convicted cocaine user to their own highest office.

If DC is to be granted statehood, don’t stop there. Texas was admitted with the agreement that it could be split into as many as five states. Let that happen, and add eight new senators to the mix – all from the state that has voted Republican every time since 1980. Don’t stop there. California is way too big. It’s obscene to have over 50 electoral votes, so let’s keep the liberal west and south, but split off a more conservative northern California and a moderate eastern California. Then, let’s give each of the two new Californias two senators, and divvy up the “fair” proportion of congress people to the new states. For too long, the presidential election has been about who gets California. Why not let the conservatives in the state get some representation? If you’re going to vote with your emotions, it’s only “fair.”

But congress needs to be stopped. Is it an impeachable offense for someone who has sworn to “uphold” the Constitution to act directly against it? I know most of our elected officials have never read it, and have no idea what it says, but the Supreme Court needs to intervene. Out of the nine, there are at least five or six who have read the Constitution. Please tell your elected officials to stop defying the law of the land. If DC “deserves” statehood, then start a drive to get it for them, if you dare. But the current action of Congress is a travesty that needs to be dealt with. Let’s nip this in the bud.

ADDENDUM: Two days after the above post, I discovered the following proposed amendment. Obviously, within the last decade, congress still knew it had no constitutional right to do what it is about to do. Therefore, an amendment was drawn up to give the District of Columbia statehood privileges without actually being a state. The amendment died for lack of support, which is probably why they are doing an "end around" this time. For your information, here is the text of the failed amendment:
Joint Resolution Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution To Provide for Representation of the District of Columbia in the Congress
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission by the Congress:
"Section 1. For purposes of representation in the Congress, election of the President and Vice President, and article V of this Constitution, the District constituting the seat of government of the United States shall be treated as though it were a State.
"Section. 2. The exercise of the rights and powers conferred under this article shall be by the people of the District constituting the seat of government, and as shall be provided by the Congress.
"Section. 3. The twenty-third article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
"Section. 4. This article shall be inoperative, unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission."

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Short Course in Government Economics

So, how does the government make money? They have to make money, after all -- they spend it, so obviously they make it, too. How do they make money? Most people would say "by taxes." That's what I used to think. It's true that the US government has always made money from tariffs and other market-style taxes, but most people think that the major portion of government money comes in from the annual April 15 billing cycle. It's surprising to realize that, for well over a hundred years, the US government was able to operate and pay expenses without taxing the income of its own citizens. In fact, I believe that the US government still operates independently from the taxation of citizens.

We have believed for at least two generations that we faithfully pay our taxes to the government, and the government then responsibly uses it to pay the bills and housekeeping. The truth, of course, is that taxation has practically nothing to do with raising revenue, and practically everything to do with controlling business, education, religion, commerce, and our private lives. If taxation were just to raise revenue, the process would not be nearly as complicated as it is. Most average Americans can take their tax data to three different, licensed tax preparers and they will get three different statements, three different amounts, three different sets of figures. There is nothing simple about paying American taxes.

In a nation where officially no one has the right to force us to be accountants, much less even to be able to read and write, we are expected every year to set up bookkeeping, calculate our finances, and using a book of charts provided by a para-government agency, determine what we "owe" our nation and then send it in. It is probably the hardest, least objective, most confusing thing any American is called on to do. Most of us are forced to spend even more money to hire someone who can prepare a vaguely readable return and get it to an agency that will then cash our checks and hopefully not bother us again for a year.

Why not just have a straight percentage? Some think that a varying scale is "fair" for the "poor," but if it's just a percentage, wouldn't it still be that the poor pay less and the rich pay more? Most people understand this; unfortunately, there's something in the Washington water or air that causes them to forget it. However unfair it might be to some people, even a "graduated" scale would be fairly simple to figure out. First you would find out how much you made; then, using the scale, you could figure out if you owed ten percent, fifteen percent, eight percent, thirty percent, or "no" percent. But it's not that easy, either. If it were, you wouldn't get those mythical three figures mentioned above.

So why is it so complicated? Because it's all about control. By giving tax advantages for some things and tax penalties for others, government is able to "modify" behavior of both corporations and individuals. When a school, a business, a church, or a family has "been bad," according to government standards, they suffer a tax problem. They are penalized and it perhaps puts them on the straight and narrow for the next year.

The "Internal Revenue Service" is the oxymoron of all oxymorons: it is neither internal (it is a private agency contracted by the government), nor a "service," in the strictest sense of the word. Who depends on them to help anyone? And it does not raise "revenue." It is the enforcement arm of a federal government grown big and overblown like Jabba the Hutt. The IRS goes way beyond raising money. In the 30's the feds could not find enough proof of an actual crime to jail the mobster Al Capone. Everyone knew he was bootlegging, killing, and extorting, but for some reason, that was not enough. Enter the IRS, and the crook was locked up for life. A church in middle America has admittedly strange ideas about something or other. Unfortunately, there's that pesky first amendment, as well as the fourth and others. Fortunately, there's the IRS, entering where angels fear to tread, and there's a padlock on that church door. When the IRS finally comes in and breaks the ice, the ATF, FBI and NSA can meekly follow and sweep up the mess.

Where does the government get money, then, if not from income taxes and the IRS? Well, when you are the government, you can print more. How do you get 700 billion dollars, then get 800 billion more? Simple! You just get out the plates with George Washington's -- or better yet, Benjamin Franklin's -- picture on them, and you slap some green ink on some treasury paper and -- Viola! -- instant money! In this electronic age, you don't even have to waste all that ink and paper. Our government also prints "virtual" money! It's so easy even a freshman congressman can do it!

How can I make such a claim? Mathematics helps somewhat. The two latest "stimulus" plans -- the adopted one and the proposed one -- total $1.5 trillion dollars. That's one million times one million dollars, and then add half of that again. Let's go wild and say that every man, woman, and child in the US could be a wage earner and tax payer. Split a trillion and a half up into three hundred million payments, and each of them would be responsible for five thousand dollars. That means that the IRS would have to clear -- show a profit of -- five thousand dollars for taxing every man, woman, and child in this country. That's not going to happen, of course. Most Americans' tax bills are not that high.

Then, consider that it's more like only one hundred million households or less that will file a tax return, and that perhaps a fourth of them will not have to pay taxes. That gets us to about $18000 dollars from every tax paying household in this country. Now, realize that this money is not to pay the ongoing operation of congress, the maintenance of roads, the salaries of government agencies, regulatory commission employees, medicaid, or welfare. Oh, yes, we are also fighting two wars overseas, and maintaining the peace in several countries. I think that costs a dollar or two. Then there are things like PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts, and other subsidized agencies. Don't forget our education system, primary, secondary, and post secondary. Highways, airports, and everything related to them -- all of this is paid for by government.

Do you see that there is no possible way that what is collected by the IRS even starts to pay for most of this? Oh, I'm sure there are some "token" amounts that go to government programs. But the idea that the two "stimulus" packages are being paid for with tax dollars is impossible to anyone that does the math. That money will be printed, electronically transferred, or borrowed from our great-great-great grandchildren, since we've already borrowed from all the generations leading up to that.

It doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal. The fact is, we have elected some people who are spending money that they don't have, money that doesn't exist. Several years ago, the Peruvian government had a unit of currency called a "Sol," roughly equivalent to a dollar. When that money was devalued severely, they developed a new unit called an "Inti," that was the equivalent of a million "Soles," and roughly the equivalent of -- a dollar. Later, Peru developed the "Nuevo Sol," worth a million "Intis," and worth about -- a dollar. That was fifteen years ago, more or less, and I didn't even want to research what the "new" Soles are worth now. However, I know they are worth a trillion of the old ones. That's called "printing your own revenue," and it makes your currency worth approximately what Monopoly money is worth. The only thing that has preserved our dollar so far has been an American economy that can swim upstream in an adverse, spending-gone-wild climate.

Please don't think your tax dollars will go to the "stimulus" package. Your tax dollars are a drop in the bucket. They just make you behave yourself. No, this money will be manufactured. No gold to back it up, no securities to make it worth anything. You could print paper that was worth as much. But we continue to believe that it is real money, and as long as congress continues to spend it, we will continue to stretch it thin. A day is coming when the stretching will stop, and the "snap" will affect all of us.

It's not about taxpayers anymore. It's about devaluation, and it will cost us in the future. The world once coveted our green paper. The time is coming when we won't be able to give it away.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Strange Case of Jane Roe

The pivotal point of the American debate over life for the past 36 years has been the 1973 Supreme Court decision in the Roe vs. Wade case. Perhaps no other issue has polarized American life like abortion. The next supreme court nominees, like the last ones, will not be asked first about the Constitution itself, but rather about abortion, and specifically, Roe v Wade. What is the story behind this decision?

First, we need to realize what Roe vs. Wade did. Most people think it legalized abortion. In the broadest of terms, that is almost right. However, many US states had already legalized abortion. Like many other issues, abortion was a state matter, an assumed right of the reserve clause of the Bill of Rights, that all powers not given to congress were reserved for the states. In that way, each state made its own decision about abortion.

In 1973, most abortion activists knew that there was no way to push further legalization of abortion through popular elections: most Americans were firmly against abortion. Like many unpopular causes, the Left turned to the courts and a tiny majority to get their way on this issue. Norma McCorvey was a pregnant unwed mother. She didn't have any big feelings about things one way or another. A coalition of special interest groups took a "special interest" in her case, and used her as a tool, under the pseudonym "Jane Roe" to present their case to the most willing of lower courts. In what must have been a very carefully orchestrated plan, years in the making, the road was paved to the Supreme Court. But even paved roads in the court system are slow. By the time the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to strike down Texas' abortion laws, McCorvey's "fetus" was a toddler, and she never had an abortion. Today, both McCorvey and her daughter are active in the pro-life movement. McCorvey herself says she was used -- abused -- as a tool to push through an agenda that she did not favor. Her daughter has a stronger agenda, however. She was given a death sentence by the same Supreme Court that had overruled death sentences for convicted murderers a year earlier.

What are the problems with this ruling? First, there continues to be the deception of those who support the ruling. They often say that if Roe v Wade were overturned, abortion would be illegal in this country. That is a lie. It would only return the issue to the states, where it belongs, and where it resided for 184 years.

What is the basis for the ruling? The Supreme Court ruled that there was an implied "right to privacy" in the US Constitution, and based their ruling on a convoluted misinterpretation of the third amendment, which prohibits the quartering of troops, and more importantly, the fourth amendment, which prohibits illegal search and seizure. The latter is the more ridiculous of interpretations, as it is a prohibition against allowing someone to enter a location not their own, and forcibly remove something from that domicile. Interestingly, that is exactly what an abortion is.

Even more interesting is that the justices found a "right to privacy," even though one is not mentioned in the Constitution, but could not find a "right to life," saying that the 14th amendment's guarantee of protection as a citizen could not be extended to the unborn in this case. The ruling was made assuming that we could not know the forefathers' intentions when they wrote the Constitution. Of course, many of those same men who were instrumental in developing the Constition had, thirteen years earlier, penned the Declaration of Independence, which stated that people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." There, not implied, but stated boldly, is the "right to life."

The decision to take or spare that life was left to the interpretation of each state -- until 1973. Why, you may ask, didn't they work with the various state legislatures to push their agenda? The answer, of course, is obvious: most states found the killing of the unborn repugnant, cruel, and against nature itself.

So why not leave things as they were? Any American who wanted an abortion could move to a state where it was legal. Why go to the trouble of overruling 50 sovereign states? By the way, Roe v. Wade not only overruled the "pro-life" states, but also the "pro-abortion" states, rewriting their own rules and restrictions in this issue.

The basic answer is "finances." Abortions were not economically feasible. The process was costly, and most people could not afford it. States could not pay for the abortions they provided, and the abortion industry could not flourish. By mandating a blanket abortion law across all 50 states, the issue was put into federal control. Federal funding was on the way, and today most clinics make their money from federal (read "taxpayer") funds. Before 1973, those who lived in a pro-life state did not have to subsidize abortion.

Had Roe not passed, abortion might have died. Most abortions are requested by women who cannot afford the procedure, and that same lack of funds extends to other necessities of life. If those seeking abortions had moved to states providing them, those states would not have been able to support the financial substructure necessary to support the people who needed the procedure. By mandating that all citizens in all states support the procedure, abortions soon became the profitable business they are today.

Were abortion to actually be outlawed today (and that would take more than just overturning "Roe"), our nation would suffer a gigantic economic crisis because of the jobs, research, and raw materials generated by the harvesting of the unborn.

Roe v Wade also ensured that abortion could be forced. Catholic hospitals are faced with a conscience crisis when they must choose between being eligible for Medicare and Medicaid money or refusing to do abortions. Pharmacists of principle have lost their jobs for refusing to distribute RU-486, the "morning after pill," to teenagers. Some have lost their jobs over this issue when all a customer would have had to do is walk across the street to another pharmacy. The Roe decision was wrong then, and it is wrong now.

McCorvey claimed that she had been raped, or at least was coached to say this. She says today that she never imagined that women would use the decision that bears her pseudonym to use elective abortion, not once, but repeatedly.

No one will ever know how many scientists, researchers, teachers, statesmen and women, public servants, artists, and philanthropists have been exterminated in the womb since 1973. But the decision was made in ignorance by justices with a prejudice. The woman who was forcefully used to push the case through was a victim, not a plaintiff.

As we celebrate this week: the 19th, the memory of a great man, Martin Luther King, the 20, the historic inauguration of our 44th president, let us not forget the 22nd, not as a celebration, but as a mark on our nation as despicable and shameful as September 11th. And let us push for a reversal of Roe v Wade. Let's take Washington's hands off the unborn, and return this decision to the states, as the Reserve Clause would dictate.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A New View from the Inside

Every time I hear any of the entitled ones, whether they be Republican or Democrat, talk about "Health Care," the only thing their little narrow minds can envision is "insurance." I wish it was that easy. I wish that the health care solution could be one of two things:
  1. The really easy fix: All of our health care problems are being caused by evil, profit-mongering insurance companies. The federal government could force them to offer us all health insurance for fifty dollars a month, and cover it 100%, and we would all be healthy and happy.
  2. The "throw money at it" fix: We need to replace greedy, capitalistic health insurance companies with a benevolent, government controlled socialistic "one size fits all" health insurance program, taking a meager amount from our earned income and paying hospitals to keep us healthy and happy.

Obviously, both of the above scenarios are fairy tales. I do not deny that insurance companies will try to find ways to keep from paying any money they don't have to, sometimes unjustly. What I do deny is that they have played a main role in the crisis that is ongoing now. I am trying my best to avoid merely repeating some of my earlier rants on this blog site. Let me try to state some things in a new way. In this past week, I have been "on the inside." A person close to our family has had a hospital experience. I have just a few observations to make.

  • It takes at least 15,000 dollars to ride a helicopter from one hospital to another. I think I found a way to pay my own medical expenses. First, I need a helicopter so I can make 14,500 dollars profit on each ride. If I furnish as few as two rides a day, I can pay maybe half my daily hospital expenses for just what I'm charging for the helicopter ride.
  • Doctors no longer understand the entire body. I think there are doctors that treat only the left ear, and others only the right. Some treat veins while others treat arteries. And none of them know how to read an x-ray. They have to hire that out.
  • Hospitals are constantly under construction. I guess they have to find some way to "tax shelter" the money they charge. All hospitals are under construction.
  • Only doctors and employees can park within five blocks of a hospital. Everyone else has to park further away, and has to pay for the privilege.
  • Half of the "emergency room" parking is "handicapped only." What say we make an allowance here, and speculate on the fact that perhaps everybody that needs an emergency room is at least temporarily "handicapped." Maybe someone didn't get a chance to apply for a handicapped plate between the time he got the knife in his back and the time he arrived at the hospital. Maybe we could forego the restrictions and signs.
  • Hospitals like mazes. There are no straight lines in hospitals. If they have letters before the portion of the hospital, they will not necessarily mean anything and will never be in alphabetical order. "A" wing will never be next to "B" wing.
  • Oh, and parking places are like gangland turf wars. Instead of "crips" and "bloods," etc, hospital parking lots are the turf of "radiology" or "enterology" or "cardiology" parking only. If your kidney just blew up, sorry about that. Find the renal lot. This one belongs to the heart people. If you see a sign that says "doctor parking," you are too close to the hospital anyway.

Sunday night, I had driven 120 miles to catch up with the helicopter, and as we waited for only six hours to get someone a room, I looked in that emergency ward. Everywhere I looked, there were people on cell phones, and one big word I kept hearing was "insurance." A bigger one, though, was "medicaid." I heard snippets as I walked by, of people saying, "I don't know how we will pay for this." Recently, one of my own friends talked about when his mother came out of her coma in a trauma ward, and her first words were, "How will we ever pay for this?" I can't recall anyone in the eavesdropped conversations talking about the health condition of a friend or loved one. It was all about spending the rest of their lives trying to figure out how to pay everything.

This morning on ABC's "Good Morning America," Michelle Katz, author of at least two books I plan to buy, spoke of how, after the trauma of saving her husband from a fatal heart attack, she then had the harder job of getting a correct hospital bill. She and her husband were overcharged thousands of dollars for the stay. Several months ago, Mellody Hobson, also on "GMA," said that up to 70 percent of all medical bills are in error. That was kind of her, because merely "in error" would have meant that some patients were under-charged, which never actually happens.

If the medical world were held accountable like I, a private citizen, am held accountable, we might be able to solve many of these problems. Yet medical institutions are not held to these rules, and we are bombarded by these bank breakers:

  • Bills sometimes come 6 months to a year after the fact. I have thought at times that I was totally paid, and then, long after the account was settled, had it re-opened by a late but substantial billing entry.
  • Billing is not uniform. I have found that it is better not to mention at all that I have insurance. A few years ago, I had to take my son to the emergency room. The sign said in English and Spanish, both of which I read, "Emergency room expense is 200 dollars." That was good for me because my policy at that time paid up to 200 dollars for the emergency room. Imagine my surprise when, six months later, I got the bill from the hospital for 250 dollars. They had billed my insurance company 450 dollars for the 200 dollar emergency room, the insurance company had paid its 200, and I was left owing 250. If I had just denied having any insurance, I could have saved fifty bucks.
  • Billing is not unified. Even a CPA could not keep up with billing. There is the doctor's bill, the hospital's bill, the ER bill, the specialist bill, the radiology bill, and then the bill for someone who, 200 miles away, at 4 AM, allegedly read the xray and did something worth 600 dollars. Then there are incidental bills for medicine, meals, kleenex (at 12 dollars a box), etc. Your hospital and any of the others above will be more than happy to forego the inconvenience of an itemized bill for these things. In addition to the insurance and payment nightmare this poses, it also allows for double billing, even triple billing of the same treatments.
  • The burden of proof is on you. Not only that; if you take the time and effort to straighten out the bill, the hospital usually says, "Okay, you got me. Pay the rest." On one of our bills, the hospital billed our insurance company, got an offset of the bill (about half) and then, three months later, billed us for the full amount. When we called to ask them about it, they said it was the full amount that we owed. After another month that included getting a statement of payment from our insurance company, the hospital, without comment, apology, or admission of error (actually theft), merely sent us a new bill showing about a two thousand dollar "adjustment" with no explanation.

It is a frightening dichotomy. On the one hand, we have the best doctors, not only in the world, but in history, living in the US right now. We have miracles of medicine that extend and save lives, and diagnostic equipment that my grandparents only dreamed of. On the other hand, the medical world is a world of uncertainty, humiliation, financial disaster, and interminable waiting in lines, of mountains of repetitive paperwork. As we waited to admit our friend the other night, I was amazed at how many times differing departments asked her the same questions regarding address, phone, medical history, insurance numbers, contact numbers, etc. It seems that all that information, once in a computer, could be readily available for all. My wife and I had updated our contact information on one floor of that huge hospital, but that updated info did not make it to the destination floor, where they tried to contact us at an outdated number.

One key I see is the huge, bottomless pit of money and resources that can be drawn from the federal government. If tomorrow, all medicaid and medicare was shut off, hospitals would go broke all across the country. Add 100% group plans that very few people get, and we'd lose them all. When the idea of a general practitioner was abundant and every village of 500 or more in the US had a clinic and doctor, it was possible to pay a medical bill without mortgaging the rest of your life away. It was also possible to park within 100 feet of your doctor's office. When the local MD knew you, shopped, dined, and worshiped where you did, there was an ambience of friendship, of relationship, that precluded the idea of "malpractice," either the "doing or the suing."

If there were any way to turn back the clock to these times, to eliminate the monstruous medical complexes in favor of the local clinic and hospital, to allow a doctor to deliver a baby without fears of being sued every time, we might be able to pay our own way. But now, if you have something worse than a hangnail, you have to be referred to the nearest city of 200,000 or more to get it taken care of. Local G.P.'s can't -- or won't -- be bothered with it.

The worst possible thing we can do about this crisis is further nationalize and regulate it. We don't need government-provided health insurance. The most radical, but probably the most effective remedy would be for every American to cancel his or her health insurance tomorrow, to tear up every medicare and medicaid card, and let the medical industry free-float to a market value it deserves. Oh, and of course, put a strict limit on lawsuits and liability, so a doctor can insure himself for less than six figures a month.

But of course that's not going to happen. So when you get sick, be sure to bring lots of pens and paper for the paperwork, prepare to walk several miles, and say goodbye to all your money, even if you have insurance. Because health care needs fixing, and it's not going to happen if we keep treating the symptoms. Doctors used to know that.