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Archive for the ‘The Human Condition Links’ Category

It appears that this well-documented RawStory.com article gives us another graphic lesson about the folly of imperial adventures with its description of a recent suicide bombing.

The article describes how the CIA recruited an Afghani to act as an “informant,” (which is polite-speak for spy). CIA personnel escorted said Afghani would-be informant into a CIA facility, whereupon he detonated the bomb he had hidden on his person, killing himself, several CIA agents, including the CIA station chief, along with several “contractors” (more polite-speak for mercenaries).

The bomber was wearing the uniform of the Karzai’s Afghan National Army. He enjoyed enough trust that security did not check him for any hidden nasty surprises before escorting him into the compound.

This was despite the known success the Taliban have had in infiltrating the Afghan National Army, police, and security forces, and the corruption of the Karzai regime.

Now I don’t much care for the forces who make up the Taliban. However, they are native forces fighting an unpopular foreign occupying army.

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In this essay, when I say “Americans,” I mean citizens of the United States, with apologies to the good citizens of other countries on the North American and South American Continents who visit this site.

The real question is this: What is the American middle class and in what sense did it ever exist? And how does this tie in with idea of the “upper class”?

We Americans love to think we have no “upper class,” that we are a actually a classless society, that the USA is a democracy beholden to the will of the governed, the great “middle class.” The politicians tell us they serve the interests of this middle class, the ordinary chap in the street and in the workplace.

The popular American concept of ourselves is that when the Europeans landed in what eventually became the United States, they formed an egalitarian society. Eventually, a majority coalition of small landholders, the small tradesmen, the mechanics and artisans, the yeomen farm-holders, frontiersmen, and small burghers–in other words, the great  and broad “middle class” overthrew the tyrannical rule of the tax-happy British monarchy and instituted a republican form of government. This was a government, perhaps divinely inspired, that represented the will of the great majority of its inhabitants.

Like all narratives that great powers and empires tell themselves about their beginnings, this tasty broth contains both a dash of truth and dash of myth.

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I offer each of you personally this lovely Christmas card, now nearly 140 years after it was first created in the year 1870, as I start to write this essay on Christmas eve, year 2009.

Best holiday wishes to all my friends and visitors, you who are my brothers and sisters, who come here to Alan OldStudent’s Musings.

And Merry Christmas to my Christian friends.

Although I am an atheist, I like that Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
The courage to change the things that I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.

As one who is in the seventh decade of his life, I have seen some amazing things. I saw how a mass movement in my own country, the United States, defeated and knocked down the infamous Jim Crow laws, America’s home-grown version of apartheid. And I saw how a mass movement ended an unjust war in Vietnam.

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Reader Bob White, a Canadian resident and citizen, commented on the recently posted article: Obama’s Health Insurance Bailout Bill of 2009.

Like many Canadians and Britons, Mr. White finds the American conservative’s description of their health system strangely at odds with their usual medical experiences.

I invite any other interested Canadians or Britons (or anybody else, for that matter) to share their reactions, experiences, and opinions. And do click here to see Mr. White’s comments if you haven’t already read them.

Between April 23 and May 5, 2009, the  Nanos Research firm, (probably the most prestigious polling firm in Canada) conducted a poll that shows 86.2% of Canadians want public health care to be strengthened and oppose privatization. Although Canadians have their criticisms of Canadian Medicare (Canada Health Act), it is widely popular and enjoys  broad public support.

For example, a blogger named Sara Robinson, who contributes to Orcinus and who is a US citizen residing in Canada, weighs in on her personal experiences and impressions of both Canadian- and American-style health care delivery. You can read her blog article called Mythbusting Canadian Health Care by clicking on the title of the piece.

It’s a worthwhile read and backs up what Mr. White and the Nanos Research organization say.

It’s not just our Canadian cousins whom the American anti-reform advocates lambaste. The American health insurance apologists are even more horrified at the UK’s NHS system, perhaps because it actually is socialized medicine, unlike Canada’s system.

For the information of those outside the UK, NHS stands for National Health Service, the British health care program, and although Britons have their gripes about it, they are fiercely proud of it and resent American conservative attacks against it. And when those attacks display ignorance about the facts that are completely obvious to UK residents, many Britons find them to be particularly galling.

Consider the following:

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In the short time since the article Obama’s Health Insurance Bailout Bill of 2009 was posted, several people have commented on it, both here, in private messages, and in various other places around the web. This article is in response to some of those comments.

The question often posed is this: Exactly why was single payer taken “off the table”?

When the Obama administration came into office, the talk was that Single Payer was "not on the table" because some of the important "stakeholders" in health care reform opposed it and that passing single payer was unfortunately not in the cards. After all, we have to be “pragmatic” and do what’s politically possible.

Now just who were those "stakeholders"?

Why, they were those very selfsame health insurance companies, those pharmaceutical companies, and the big HMO/hospital chains who had profited by creating the malady in the first place and who now stand to gain beaucoup bucks when the proposed cure is administered! They want to benefit from both causing and curing the disease!

Well Duh! What a bleeding coincidence! We might just as well let the bank robbers design the bank’s security system!

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Right now, in the USA, a patchwork of private insurance companies pays for health care of a major proportion of American population.

To put it baldly, the health insurance companies make money by denying you coverage that you, as the policy holder, have paid for. This becomes especially true if you become really ill and desperately need that coverage, although you’re probably okay if you just get a cold.

That’s just crazy making.

Under modern capitalist management theory, corporations try to minimize the impact of what they call, in polite corporate circles, “cost centers” and maximize the impact of what they call “revenue centers.”

For an operation like an auto maker, a megastore like Wal-Mart, or a meatpacking operation, a “cost center” might be wages and benefits paid to workers. Alternatively, “revenue centers” may consist of sales of SUVs, sales of hormone-laden, additive-spiked dead cow burgers, or sales of cheap nasty plastic garden gnomes.

And in the case of health insurance companies, payouts to health care providers would constitute a “cost center,” while the collection of premiums constitutes a “revenue center.”

In other words, if you become really ill and really need medical care to save your life, your health insurance company would benefit from spending as little as possible on you, even  to the point of denying you the very coverage that you paid for. That’s about when the insurance company starts looking for some “undisclosed preexisting condition” or some other dubious reason to drop your coverage, as I explain below. The insurance companies make money by saying “no” when you need coverage, and they lose money by saying “yes” when it comes time to pay your medical bills.

That unappetizing economic fact is the most salient point to keep in mind when looking at the present political spitball fight going on in Washington.

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This is an inspiration for those of us who are senior citizens  and interested in physical fitness.

This video is of a 75-year-old UK woman doing a very energetic salsa. The video appears on the November 25th, 2009 broadcast of the Spanish-language show, Nico Y Paddy, Tu Si Que Vales.

 

Regards,

 

Alan OldStudent

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 dollarsign This morning, on December 8, 2009, Peter Shane, a law professor and author of “Madison’s Nightmare: Unchecked Executive Power and the Threat to American Democracy” posted an article on the Huffington Post titled WH Releases Open Government Directive: Transparency (Plus) Engagement (Equals) More Democracy. It is a somewhat breathless article about a supposed new openness from the Obama White House.

Regardless of how much credit you want to give to the President for sponsoring openness in government, one item jumped out to me. That is the mandate that government documents to be made public must be placed in an open format. That’s interesting and may cost Microsoft millions. Here’s why:

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Hello Brothers and Sisters,

This is a follow-up on President Obama’s speech in which he tries to explain just why he is sending more troops to Afghanistan.

He failed in giving a coherent and bulletproof explanation, although he expressed himself in beautiful language

The night before his speech, I wrote a post called Bring The Troops Home Now!. Nothing that President Obama said changed my mind, and I’ll post an analysis of his speech in a few days

The whole enterprise seems completely and horribly flawed to me. This will be a tragedy for the American people, the people of Afghanistan, in fact, the whole world.

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It is Monday night, November 30, 2009, as this is being written, and President Obama has apparently committed to sending tens of thousands more troops to  Afghanistan. This is a terribly flawed decision, and absolutely no good can come of it.

Instead of sending more troops, the United States should just bring all the troops home now from both Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is a huge difference between defeating a country in war and conquering a country. The US did not find it difficult to drive the Taliban out of state power with military action.

But conquering Afghanistan, imposing a new form of government on it from the outside is a different task.

As Michael Moore in his heartfelt open letter to President Obama says:

There’s a reason they don’t call Afghanistan the "Garden State" (though they probably should, seeing how the corrupt President Karzai, whom we back, has his brother in the heroin trade raising poppies). Afghanistan’s nickname is the "Graveyard of Empires."

Graveyard Of Empires Indeed!.

 

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