Friday, July 31, 2009


An email today from a progressive organization confirmed that 76% of Americans prefer single payer health care.  They were asking for money to air an ad that merely told senators that the matter was urgent.
Why not put out an add that explains what single-payer is, just in case the figures are misleading?

Most people know they want health care that covers everyone and is affordable.  Few people know how the single payer version of that would work:  It would mean that insurance companies, which exist to make a profit for their shareholders, would no longer be involved in insuring health.  The government would be responsible for paying health care bills - no profit involved.  Doctors and other health professionals would negotiate their rate of remuneration with the government on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. Same for hospitals.  The government would buy prescription drugs at bulk rates with citizens paying a fraction of what they pay now.

As negotiations drag on and it becomes clear that opponents of "government run health care" are doing everything they can to water down the plan and stall it in Congress, I say the real culprits are the media.  They've had at least two years, since the democratic candidates declared for the presidency, knowing that health care would be high on their agenda if elected, to educate the public about the various types of health care systems that exist around the world.

Michael Moore gave them a great opening with "Sicko".  Even those who recognized its relevance, didn't take up the call.  I have

lived almost half my life in countries that have single-payer health care, mainly France, which, God knows, is heavy on bureaucracy. The health care system has been called the best in the world by the World Health Organization. I can testify to it being readily available, and all-encompassing.  To be sure, everyone pays a hefty but progressive tax to fund health care, but it's an expense that doesn't figure on your budget after that.   It would be unheard up for someone to go bankrupt because of health bills.

Even now, tune in to your favorite - or most reviled - television station.  You'll seek in vain a detailed analysis of single payer - or a discussion between opponents and supporters that provides details as to the crucial difference.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beating Health Care to Death

Three things astonish me about the health care debate.  One is that it seems to be the only issue that raises red flags about future costs. The second is the myth that bureaucrats only come in government garb, and the third is the difference between a salary for an honest day's work and a profit.
Profit is taken by investors after the costs of running a business, including salaries, have been paid.  A non-profit business is one that covers its costs, including the salaries of its officers and employees, but doesn't reward anyone for simply having provided the capital. Commentators never seem to get around to pointing this out.  Even when they affirm that health care is a right, not a privilege, they don't seem to follow that train of thought to its logical conclusion, which is that there is no reason to reward anyone for providing the capital required to run health care.
This leads to the second point (counting backwards), which is that government does not have a monopoly on bureaucracy.  Anyone who pushes papers rather than creating something, whether it be a piece of art or an automobile, is essentially a bureaucrat.  The ultimate bureaucrat is someone whose papers determine what happens to you, whether you like it or not.  So when opponents of health care reform cry out: "Don't let a bureaucrat make your health choices, he's right: but private health insurers, like governments, are run as bureaucracies.  The difference is that when the health insurance bureaucrats have been paid their salaries, investors receive profits.  When a government bureaucrat gets his salary, the expense stops there.  The government doesn't make a profit on health care.  By definition, a government doesn't make a profit on anything.
That's why we pay taxes.  Our taxes are the equivalent of the capital that investors put into a private company.  Investors are rewarded with the profits the company makes. We are rewarded for paying taxes with the benefits they enable government to provide us, starting with our right to live a healthy life.
Now to the third, or first point:  There being little leeway to argue away the above facts, opponents of tax-based, non-profit health care, as opposed to investor-based health care for profit, raise the red flag of future deficits.  But they do not do that when it comes to the costs of war.  Or any other non-life enhancing expenditure.
Beyond that, there seems to be a gentleman's agreement among all parties in congress that comparing the cost of war to that of health care is taboo.
And beyond that, pointing out that we are going to war in order to secure the carbon with which to render the planet inhospitable to humans would be unthinkable.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

National Assembly to end the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

Eleven days already since my last post!    My only excuse is that I've been trying to advance other writing projects. Multi-tasking is the sign of our times, alas.
Over this past weekend about 300 people representing various anti-war and anti-imperialist groups came together in a small college near Pittsburgh to decide upon events for the coming months.  The main focus was the G-20 conference scheduled for end of September in Pittsburgh proper.

The anti-war, anti-occupation movement will be there, supporting the ousted Honduran president, Zelaya, the Haitian people who campaign for the return of president Aristide, and the Gazans in their 1400 sq. mile open-air prison.

The determination of the various speakers was impressive.  They represented groups which had hitherto not come together, putting aside theoretical or tactical differences.

The workshops were lively and well-headed. David Swanson of "After Downing Street" and Cindy Sheehan were there, and CIndy told me what we need is a  revolution. I don't know whether she is working on such a project, but I understand why she said it.

My book:  "A Taoist Politics: The Case for Sacredness" uses modern science to explain how societies get to revolutions and other bifurcations.

As I told the Assembly, there is a disconnect between our efforts to "get people back to work", or "get credit flowing" and the state of the planet.

What we should be lobbying for, and demonstrating for when the G20 meet is 4 hour working days that will enable everyone to have a job producing less "stuff" that uses dwindling resources and pollutes the planet.

Being anti-imperialist is a good thing.  But it's what imperialism does that matters.  If we eliminate imperialism and we continue in the same life patterns that it promotes, we are not going to make a decisive difference in the destiny of humans or of the planet.

This is not a circumstance where we an afford to take one problem at a time: first stop the wars, then get rid of imperialism, then consider radical changes in the way we live and work.

Imperialism rendered the plundering of the planet all the more violent, but every civilization, unawares, has done it.

Imperialism comes at a time when the planet is saying "Enough!"  The planet, as James Lovelock tells us, will endure. But it could rapidly become unfit for human habitation.

Negotiations on climate change and the elimination of nuclear weapons are, OVERALL, more relevant to the continuation of human life than the defeating of imperialism and the ending of any particular war or regime.

Bring Bush to Justice, as David Swanson urges, yes!  Get out of Afpak and Iraq,  as all peace activists are calling for, yes! But our military presence in the Middle and Far East is part of a larger plan, which is why, for us to stand down there - or in any region of the world - there would have to be a change in the largerplan: from trying to get the most oil to produce the most stuff, which will render our habitat inhabitable, to the much more challenging task, from the perspective of an over/under-developed twenty-first century, of making ourselves once again part of the environment that is the only place where we can thrive.

Chances are that if we can manage that, we will become more socialist and less imperialist in the process.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Readers will have noticed that this site has only one page and even that is incomplete.  I’m still trying to find the right host, and even with support, building a site is difficult.  My apologies.  I hope readers will be patient, as other writing projects must take priority.

Perhaps it’s just as well, because, well, what can one say about the state of the world that hasn’t already been said?  I think we focus too much on the daily story, the latest coup, the growing ranks of homeless and hungry, here and abroad.  I’m trying to find the right balance between being on the right side of the issues - or history, as President Obama said recently - and accepting that life equals disorder.

Of course we have to be on the right side of the issues!  But perhaps we can manage that better if we realize that the various dramas that are being played out are variations on one theme: that of inequality.  A moving documentary seen on public television narrated by Mia Farrow iabout Rwanda fourteen years after the massacre of Tutsis by Hutus shows how survivors and murderers - who have been released from jail - are coping with forgiveness, as they try to put their lives back together.  We have always been told that this was a tribal issue, but in the intro-duction to the documentary, I learned that the Tutsis constituted a sort of upper class of farmers, while the Hutu were herdsmen.  If you dig a little into any conflict, you usually find a significant economic factor.

A step in the right direction toward building a global economic system was recently taken by the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who called for new international institutions to regulate finance, feed the hungry and create jobs.

At the same time, a coup in Honduras leaves observers wondering: the ousted president was a left-winger, yet the coup was condemned by President Obama.  Will it eventually turn out that right-wing elements in the CIA cooperated with the Honduran military to oust a president who is supported not only by a majority of Hondurans,but by the growing cohort of Latin American left wing governments?  And that the purpose would be to embarrass President Obama?

July 4
This  morning the news is that Ahmadinejad’s side is heating up, a full three weeks after the election.  A major hardline newspaper called for Moussavi and former president Khatami to be tried in a “people’s court”.  I wrote in a previous blog that nothing could stop the situation in Iran from getting out of hand.  No one could know at the outset what the coming bifurcation would lead to. Just as it seemed that Iran could enjoy a green revolution, the flow of energy through the system accelerated to a bifurcation point that took the direction of greater repression.
Britain and the United States are too conscious of the military danger to be behind this: but Israel may be trying to force its “masters” to include Iran in its military intervention in the region, which already includes Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  They may be right to assume that the American public will continue to do nothing, as “NATO” gets deeper and deeper into a quagmire.

In case you think I"m being too pessimistic, get this: yesterday, 1000 immigrants were sworn in as American citizens in front of a castle at......  Disney World.  It would be funny if it weren't tragic: your new government is telling you right from the start that life in America is one big fairy tale.