Saturday, May 16, 2009

Truthdig - Ear to the Ground - Torture on Obama’s Watch

Two postings in a few days on Obama and torture? Overkill? Nahhhhh- it's a deserved shot if there ever was one! [-}

Truthdig - Ear to the Ground - Torture on Obama’s Watch

Original article:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos - Yahoo! News

Obama seeks to block release of abuse photos - Yahoo! News

This whole thing about torture -excuse me, "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" -reminds me of the Lawyers & Pharisees in Jesus' day. Everything is defined on razor-thin aspects of what does & doesn't constitute torture. "If we
waterboard someone 48 hours it's not torture, but if we do it for 72 hours, it is." I'm just throwing numbers out there as an example, but it serves to illustrate how flaky legal opinions can be.

The only thing we do know for sure about waterboarding it that it's too grueling an ordeal for Sean Hannity to live up to his offer to be waterboarded for charity.

I bet Dick Cheney won't let Jesse Ventura waterboard him, either:

Friday, May 08, 2009

Ed Schultz interviews Dr. Margaret Flowers

Arrested for fighting for healthcare reform!

Ed Schultz interviews Dr. Margaret Flowers - PNHP’s official Blog

Barrack Obama missed out on the 1960's- the decade of social upheaval and change that brought about the Anti-Vietnam War protests, and the continued non-violent demonstrations of Martin Luther King. People were harassed, beaten and arrested for what they believed in.

Then we elected out 1st ever President of African-American descent.

So he benefited from the work others did who laid their lives on the line. He doesn't have to, thanks to them.

And now others are laying their lives on the line at these Senate hearings in order to get the option of Single-Payer Healthcare on the table. As Ralph Nader put it in an email I got from him today:

"(Senate Finance) Committee chair Senator Max Baucus called a full 28 witnesses for two hearings on health care reform. Senator Baucus called on the Business Roundtable... The Heritage Foundation... the lobby known as America's Health Insurance Plans. But not one of the 28 witnesses called by Baucus supported what the majority of the American people and what the majority of doctors, nurses and health economists want: Single payer, full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital health care.

Ironic, isn't it? That not only did Obama miss out on the suffering others did on his behalf in the 60's, he's part of the problem. He himself kept Single Payer Activists from speaking out at a recent White House Conference on Health Care Reform.

Maybe there is something to be said for a few years of experience necessary to become President. But not for job-related skill-building, so much as just the experiences of life. To wit: if Obama has to take to the streets to fight for the basics of life, maybe he would be more sympathetic.

Archbishop: Obama advances anti-life agenda - White House-

GO Archbishop Burke! :-]

Archbishop: Obama advances anti-life agenda - White House-

Chinese health care reformers aim to help rural areas -

Chinese health care reformers aim to help rural areas -

If the country that has the most butt-kicking economy in the world is doing this, perhaps the U.S. should take notice?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Year Long Disaster: A fine @$$ Son-of-A-Davies comes into his own!

They are called Year Long Disaster, they come from Califonia, their guitarist/vocalist is Daniel Davies, son of Dave Davies of the classic rock group The Kinks. And they ROCK! That's all you need to know.

Year Long Disaster: The Mad Shrew

Year Long Disaster: Leeda Atomica (live)

Year Long Disaster - Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu

Karl Barth ROCKS! :]

Who says a Theologian can't Rock n' Roll? ;-)

What are other Countries doing about Health Care?

I've been slowly but surely immersing myself in the current debate over healthcare reform in this country. It's is believed that this is the year that a serious step is going to be taken towards this end, that being of providing adequate healthcare for everyone in society regardless of their ability to pay. Obama and the recently elected Democratic majority are seen by some pundits as getting ready to muster the political will accomplish that very goal before the end of 2009. Will it be enough?

Some are not conviced that it will be enough. Too little support has been given to bringing Single Payer Health Insurace
, the system currently used by Canada, to be implemented in the United States. People of this group note that President Obama took Single-Payer Health Insurance off the table in the 2008 campaign. Recently he met with leaders of the health insurance industry, but denied an opening for single-payer advocates to speak. He has done nothing to push forward H.R. 676, the current bill before the house which would bring Single Payer to the U.S.

One individual who I was debating this topic with on the Sojourners blog asked me the following: "How can you guarantee health care for everyone? Political
will cannot defy the laws of supply/demand and the reality of scarcity." To respond, I have to explain that personally, I believe that leaving everything to those laws is a basic evil that we need to cure. I agree with James Galbraith, who says we should work on a "Planned Economy." If I understand him correctly, then applying this to healthcare means we would simply "plan" for there to be healthcare for all. So we would provide health insurance for everyone though the single payer method, and move to build more medical facilities and educate more medical personnel through planning.

Check out this video in support of the Single Payer System
by Portland, OR talk show host Tom Hartman:

Think market-based solutions are the way to go? Check out this .pdf file on how Japan got ahead in the auto-indsutry through marekt controls. For heady economics buffs only:

But to get away from debates, I thought it might be a bit enlightening and refreshing to see what other places in the world are doing for their citizens as far as the health care system goes. I'm tired of talking about Canada, Sweden, Denmark & The U.K. Although I believe all those nations have good healthcare systems in place, and that much of the criticism comes from one-sided reporting intended to confuse the debate rather than enlighten it. But maybe they have been overdone? I chose 4 nations who have been recently mentioned in the news over the past couple of years and model economies for one reason or another, and simply Googled up something pertinent to how they provide care for their citizens. I skipped China because what I found out is that they are growing and changing way too fast to really even have a health care system in place. I picked 4 countries that have been mentioned din the news at one time or another for something positive we should be looking into. As an example, The Netherlands was cited as a model for building bulwarks against the threat of hurricanes.

I find it amazing that government controls or provision of such care is characterized as dangerous an inadequate, and yet almost every industrialized nation in the world seems to have implemented some form of it or another. And they have a public health insurance system, which is similar to what Single Payer is about (except that in Single Payer Health Insurance, only public insurance is allowed for basic care.)

Here's some of the results of what I did find:


On January 1, 1995, the National Health Insurance Law went into effect. The law sets forth the state's responsibility to provide health services for all residents of the country (not including tourists.) The law stipulates that a standardized
basket of medical services, including hospitalization, will continue to be supplied by the sick funds. Sources for funding of health costs include progressive health insurance premiums paid by each resident, employers' health tax payments, National Insurance Institute funds, funds from the Ministry of Health budget and consumer participation payments. The insurance premiums are collected by the National Insurance Institute.

The law provides that:

*Every resident must register as a member with one of the four sick funds.

*The sick funds may not bar applicants on any grounds, including age and state of health.

*Equal status is accorded to all four sick funds.


In the Japanese health care system, healthcare services, including free screening examinations for particular diseases, prenatal care, and infectious disease control, are provided by national and local governments. Payment for personal medical services is offered through a universal health care insurance system that provides relative equality of access, with fees set by a government
committee. People without insurance through employers can participate in a national health insurance program administered by local governments. Since 1973, all elderly persons have been covered by government-sponsored insurance. Patients are free to select physicians or facilities of their choice.


The Brazilian health system is composed of a large public, government managed system, the SUS (Sistema Único de Saúde) , which serves the majority of the population, and a private sector, managed by health insurance funds and private entrepreneurs.

The public health system, SUS, was established in 1988 by the Brazilian Constitution, and sits on 3 basic principles of universality, comprehensiveness and equity. Universality states that all citizens must have access to health care services, without any form of discrimination, regarding skin color, income, social status, gender or any other variable.

The Netherlands

“Long-term treatments, especially those which involve (semi-)permanent hospitalization, and also disability costs such as wheelchairs, are covered by a a state-run mandatory insurance. This is laid down in the Algemene Wet Bijzondere Ziektekosten (AWBZ, see article in the Dutch Wikipedia), "general law on exceptional healthcare costs" which first came into effect in 1968.

For all regular (short-term) medical treatment, there is a system of obligatory health insurance, with private health insurance companies. These insurance companies are obliged to provide a package with a defined set of insured treatments .

“This system came into effect in January 2006. For those who would otherwise have insufficient income, an extra government allowance is paid to make sure everyone can pay for their health care insurance. People are free to purchase additional packages from the insurance companies to cover additional treatments such as dental procedures and physiotherapy. These additional packages are optional.

“A key feature of the Dutch system is that premiums are set at a flat rate for all purchasers regardless of health status or age. Risk variances between funds due to the different risks presented by individual policy holders are compensated through risk equalization and a common risk pool which makes it more attractive for insurers to attract risky clients. Funding for all short term health care is 50% from employers, and 45 percent from the insured person and 5% by the government. Children until age 18 are covered for free. Those on low incomes receive compensation to help them pay their insurance. Premiums paid by the insured are about 100 € per month (about US$145 in Jan 2008) with variation of about 5% between the various competing insurers.”


Still not convinced? Check out this data from Business Week magazine, which shows the US as last in healthcare when compared with 6 other nations:

Why do we have such a problem realizing we need serious change?

Where to find info on the campaign for Single-Payer:

Definition of Single-Payer:

Physicians for a National Health Program:

Rep. John Conyers' website:


SIngle Payer Action:

Citizens Alliance For Antional Health Insurace:

Monday, May 04, 2009

Community: Does it really mean anything?

Yes, this is a serious question! It came to mind after a couple of recent events. One in particular was learning that a local outreach to the homeless –a drop in center to be exact- had begun to put the ban on sleeping in their facilities. Homeless people stay out most of the night and are dog tired when they get in, even if they had a place to sleep when they were out and about. So they are likely to rest a head on any nearby table or zap out in any available chair. There’s nothing wrong with that! But apparently, sleeping is associated with being on drugs in somebody’s mind. But the reason given on the public notice posted read something like this: “Sleeping Is no longer allowed at (Name of Outreach), - We can’t build community while you're sleeping”!


Community is as community does. You don’t have community if you are forcing others to conform to your expectations in a situation so ridiculously benign as sleeping. Dictionary .com gives various definitions of community, one of which is “a social group of any size whose members resides in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.” Well I hate to break it to certain people, but homelessness IS a culture in and of itself! How are you building community by insisting they behave in a way contrary to the given culture, i.e. by setting them up for a fall with a rule like “no sleeping?”

That’s only one anecdote. There have been several others encounters I have had over the years dealing with that word, too many to list, really. Personally I'm beginning to think that "Community" is a stupid, politically correct word that doesn't really mean anything, and should be eliminated from our vocabulary altogether.

And why not? It seems to me that when you attempt to build community based on your idea of a shared ideal, or what should be a shared ideal, you are destroying it for someone else.

People live together and share things in common to have “community.” I have yet to see any Intentional Community, however well intentioned in it's inception, be much more than bastions of legalism, control and generally wrong-headed thinking.

Or some decide to have one kid of event and not another at church to foster “community” (even though some may prefer the other type of event.) An example might be like this:

"Let's have quieter music at our meals instead of louder music, because Susie can't handle loud volumes."

"But the louder music is only once a month. Can't Susie go to a different meal during that week? Escpecially sinc esome peol;e prefer the louder groups."

"But if she has to leave for one week, that will harm our purpose of community."

Hmmm... perhaps Susie and the other places she could go would benifit from her "communing" elswhere for one week?

Or in another example, people might “reply all” to email messages (and as a result others not wanting it get flooded with unwanted emails) so they can feel like they are in “community.” (That’s why God made chatrooms, people! :])

And then there's the frequent referrences to "Community Salvation" in Christian beleifs, as opposed to "Individual Slavation" -as in Christian beleif. (If you have never encountered it and don't know what I'm talking about, consider yourself blessed.) I have yet to find anyone who can articulate what that means. Probably because those who use it don't have a clue themselves!

"Communion" is the root word of Community, and here I think the Catholic Church and various Quaker groups have it right: Communion is essantially found in the presecene of God. The Catholics believe the elements of bread and wine are necessary for there to be Communion, the Quakers forsake those elements and insist we have all the Communion we need by coming together in the prescene of God. Either way they agree on one thing: God being present, not the best laid plans of mice and men, is what consititues "commun-ity."

And that's really the heart of my gripe, here. We go a long ways in getting off track by insisting this or that should or shouldn't be here in the name of comminuty, which realy is another name, IMHO, for "man-made institution."

Or we can just go by what Jesus said:

Matt. 18: 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

That’ really all that’s necessary, and I have to ask: why bother with anything more? You will never have the fellowship & unity that you have in Christ by implementing rules to mecahnically foster “community” elsewhere.