Fix Heath Care Right

In the grotesque world created by George W. Bush there are many issues one can speak to; however, as an 86-year-old retired physician, the issue I feel most qualified to address is our abominable health care system. Set aside, for the moment, the Kafkaesque world of civil rights and diplomatic blunders and let us discuss an issue on which we can hopefully all unite.

When I entered the practice of medicine in 1950, medical practice in the United States was a matter of pride driven by the Oslers, Hallsteds, and Kellys. Our system was the envy of the Western World.

We have currently descended to something like 26th place in the world in health care delivery. United States is the only nation in the civilized world where health care is dominated by the insurance industry rather than the benefit of the ill and the disabled. Only here does 30% to 40% of the health-care dollar go, as planned by the insurance industry, somewhere in the 1970s, to the executives and stockholders of the HMOs. Yet there is no unity in the progressive community as to a solution. There is hope, but it will be an uphill fight in view of the baksheesh paid to our representatives and senators by the insurance and pharmaceutical conglomerates, currently with the blessing of the gang in the White House.

Physicians For A National health Plan (pnhp.org) has been sponsoring a single-payer, universal, system, attested to by 15,000 physicians and currently represented by the Conyers/Kucinich bill (HR 676) before the House of Representatives. I would ask that all progressive thinkers study and support this legislation and support congressional candidates who will deny support of the “health care” lobbies. There is seemingly no hope from the contending Democratic presidential candidates. One notes that Sen. Clinton is a large recipient of the largesse of the insurance industry.

I feel shame every time I see a notice locally announcing a fundraiser in a Fire Hall to pay for a child’s brain tumor surgery, or grandfather’s cancer treatments. Here in the United States! Yet, this same public whose welfare I am concerned for will be misled by fearful distortions of single-payer care as “socialized medicine” (whatever that is), and out and out lies (paid for by the insurance industry) about the quality of care in Canada, France or Germany.

We must all educate ourselves and unite in an effort to achieve some united action on this issue.

Stephen R. Keister M.D.
Erie, Pa.

Homegrown Hysteria

The media, predictably enough, haven’t discussed this much, but on 10/23 the House of Representatives, by a vote of 404 to 6, with 22 abstentions, passed HR 1955, the ludicrously named Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. (Homegrown what? Oh, yes, ma’am, right over there by the tomatoes.) It would amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 with a new subtitle, “Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism”.

Well, what are they out to prevent? They define it, sort of. “The term ‘violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” Got that? Your congressman (unless one of the six who remained sane) thinks government has the power to prevent the adoption of a belief system. (How? Brainwashing? Electroshock therapy? Lobotomy?) He or she also thinks belief systems are adopted purposefully and that someone is capable of identifying another person’s purpose.

As for the criminal rutabaga, “homegrown terrorism” is defined as “the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” The first two examples that came to my mind were the NYPD during the 2004 Republican convention and the Jena prosecutor telling the black teens he could end their lives with the stroke of a pen. But somehow I doubt the Congress or federal prosecutors think the way I do.

So these gentry have defined terrorism not only as the use of violence for certain objectives but equally as its planned or threatened use, and, apparently exhausted by the effort of creating this much clarity, they have in effect left it up to prosecutors to decide what constitutes a plan, and who should be prosecuted for intimidating or coercing (or thinking about intimidating or coercing) which segment of the population.

They attempt to cover this by creating a commission of political appointees from various disciplines, whose purpose is “(1) Examine and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in the United States, including United States connections to non-United States persons and networks, violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence in prison, individual or ‘lone wolf’ violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence, and other faces of the phenomena of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism, and ideologically based violence that the Commission considers important. (2) Build upon and bring together the work of other entities and avoid unnecessary duplication. ...”

So the House wants to let a bunch of political appointees, who presumably have their own ideologies, provide selected information for the benefit of what would always be subjective decisions about who constitutes a threat. The resolution pays lip service to civil liberties, but its essential tendency is to arbitrary criminalize certain groups or “types” of people based on other people’s opinions. This is grossly un-American.

The resolution has gone to the Senate and at this writing is in the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. If you want more information, look it up at www.thomas.gov, and contact your senators or the committee to let them know what you think of it.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam
Baltimore, Md.

[Editor’s Note: See “Another bill assaults civil liberties” by John Nichols, page 15.]

Something in the Water ...

Otherwise, people would be busy making use of the democratic past of the ballot, where you can post your proposals and the people decide. The governor of California learned about democracy when he offered four of his proposals on the ballot. People turned out in droves to defeat them!

1) In Michigan, mass transit is essential on two counts: carbon dioxide and transportation.

2) Single payer needs no explanation.

3) Ban on agricultural and residential pesticides on the part of honey bees.

4) Ban on bottled water.

5) Instant run-off voting.

6) Proportional representation, one-house legislatures with the districts the same as congressional.

This proposal is ready to go, thanks be to Zolton Ferency, who knew exactly what was needed.

Regina McNulty
Oak Park, Mich.

Hillary NOT

I’m compelled to recall readers’ attention to Wayne O’Leary’s clear-witted essay, “The New Bourbons” [12/15/07 TPP]. His appraisal of Hillary Clinton is, I believe, brilliantly precise and correct. ...

After the sifting’s all done, deciding comes down to a determination of shared values, and demonstrated trustworthiness. Hillary Clinton’s values seem heavily weighted in favor of corporate interests, with plenty of pandering to the ‘moral priorities’ of conservative Christians [who might trust her — at their peril ]. If Democrats want to put a Democrat in the White House, they need to support a candidate who can be trusted by all Americans. And, they might as well support one who clearly holds genuine democratic values. If our nation must endure another Corporate Republican at helm, isn’t it beyond foolish for Democrats to supply one?

Dan Treecraft
Spokane, Wash.

Top Three

I generally agree with your 12/15/07 editorial [“The Real Conservative] about Ron Paul, Kucinich and Edwards but we truly know too little substantive info regarding their attachments to Euro-friendly “economic schools” and other international treaties. I personally would not want forced government-style health insurance or their vaccines. We had it right, say, from 1945 to 1985 but it started to go global around 1970. The “watchers” and shadow workers started nipping away at our protective freedoms, our rights and regulatory controls on pernicious looting. EPA scares drove fuel up, unsafe investment protections (savings and loan Chap 7s), loss of credit-card interest as a deduction, attacking labor unions and the Import Invasion. We’d need a restrictive (in a good way) Congress if Paul especially got in or we’d throw the baby out with the dirty water.

Robert Periano
Augusta, Ga.

Challenge Corporations

With reference to Margot Ford McMillen’s “Remember Al and the Facts” [12/1/07 TPP], I also salute [Al Krebs’] genius and appreciated his “Calamity Howler’ column, and am saddened to learn or his passing away. His observations on the disheartening future of farming in our country is a topic that should be widely discussed in the national media and in the legislatures. More and more I hear about the corporations running our country. Our legislators are still being “bought off” in spite of the “K-Street” revelations.

Now, in this case, the huge amount of chemicals used in farming to increase crop productivity, what harm is being done to the foods we consume? Is the nutritional value reduced, and if so, the overall health of our population? Also, what about the plight of our farmers who have been supplying good, wholesome produce? There are so many questions. The politicians who are running for office would do well to speak to these problems.

Blanche Alpert
Sun City West, Ariz.

Bad Things

Iran’s leaders considered building an atomic bomb but they abandoned the project several years ago. “They’re still bad people,” President Bush says. “They thought about going nuclear.”

It’s a crazy world. Pakistan takes funds from its anti-poverty program and invests them in nuclear arms. Israel built a secret nuclear bomb project, using plans and data its spies stole from the US government. Now the country has a big stockpile of bombs it can’t use on its Arab neighbors — simply because any radioactive fallout might drift into Israel.

And the US? Bush builds more and more bombs while borrowing additional billions from foreign investors. Sensible people call for nuclear disarmament. Bush’s response? He’ll probably say: “No! You can’t take away weapons from good people who want to fight for peace.”

Clifton Anderson
Moscow, Idaho

Which Side Won?

Do not believe the obvious, we are told by the censors of our times — the editors of the corporate media. They will tell us what is obvious, like the demolition of the third tower to collapse on 9/11/01? Or the vanished airplane that punched a hole in the Pentagon the size of a missile without leaving a trace of evidence that such a plane ever existed in the wake of that disaster? The corporate media no longer has any tolerance for “conspiracy theories,” we are told by these guardians of what is the greatest conspiracy of them all — the complete takeover of the major media by a small cabal of 5 or 6 corporations expressing a very limited singular point of view for the edification of we the people of our “democracy’.

Hitler’s Ministry of Propaganda would be very proud to stand behind this cabal whIch is fulfilling the wildest dreams of the masters of the Third Reich, only for a new Reich here in America.

It should be very obvious by now that America has fast become a hotbed of Fascism. Conspiracies such as this are just fine with these bootlickers, however we are told by these opinion makers not to believe in conspiracy theories which just might blow their control of the media out of the water and give back control of the media to “we the people.”

Yes, Fascism has sprouted large roots here in America and comes wrapped in an American flag just as predicted long ago. And it is made possible because we are getting our information from the Fascist point of view.

Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, once said that when nations go to war they each become like their enemy. Which side won WW II — democracy or Fascism? Have we become just like the enemy we fought against? Did we win the battle but lose the war? Is it like Christ said, “Know thine enemy as Thyself”? Food for thought.

Jim Reine
International Falls, Minn.

Rotten Core Values

I am assured with high confidence that this administration is afflicted with terminal wrong-headedness. They continue to promote fear instead of hope and defend pouring tax dollars into the bottomless pit of endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (with a projected “true” cost approaching $3.5 trillion dollars) instead of funding health care, education and our domestic infrastructure. Their priorities are to defend torture, Guantanamo Bay prison, tax cuts, and pols like Giuliani who alienate the rest of the world. They are more worried about gay marriage, flag-burning, building border fences and adhering to Cheney’s neo-con agenda than about energy, education, health care, non-politicized scientific inquiry and budget deficits. America of the far right is an America devoid of the core values that have made us great.

Dale C. Stapleton
Grand Junction, Colo.

New Con Slogan

Perhaps we will soon hear a new Conservative slogan offering their solution to the problem of world overpopulation and its resultant global warming: Make War, Not Love.

Arthur Robbins
San Diego, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, January 1-15, 2008

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