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According to The National Priorities Project, The United States passed a landmark on May 30, 2010. On that day, the United States will have spent 1 trillion dollars on the Iraq and Afghan wars, and on June 7, 2010, the Afghan war will become the longest war the United States has waged.

Moreover, the cost of the war in Afghanistan is currently 1 million dollars per soldier per year, according to this November 14, 2009 New York Times article.

One million dollars is a large number, but one trillion dollars is an unimaginably larger number. It’s easy to gloss over when the politicians and pundits toss around these numbers.

The thickness of a dollar bill is 0.0043 inches. So a stack of a million dollar bills would be about 109.22 meters or 358 feet tall. That’s as high as an office building 30 stories tall, counting a story as being approximately 11.9 feet tall (about 3.6 meters).

But a stack of a trillion dollars would be 63,516.5633 miles (109220 km) tall. That’s 2.5 times the circumference of the earth. That’s what American taxpayers pay for the Iraq/Afghan war. And the champions of small government say nothing about this.

Did you know that the United States just by itself has a military budget greater than the rest of the world’s countries combined? Or did you know the US military budget is more than 10 times  greater than that of either Russia or China’s? (Click here for the documentation of those figures).

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For those blog readers outside the United States, the State Of The Union Address is a speech the American president customarily gives at the beginning of each year, usually in January but sometimes in February, to a joint session of congress and, via broadcast, to the USA population. It lays out what the president hopes to accomplish in the coming year, what the past year has meant in his or her estimation, what the state of the country (the Union) is. If I were the president’s speech writer, this is the speech I’d write for him.

Good evening Madam Speaker, Vice President Joseph Biden, Elected Members of Congress, privileged guests, and my not-so-privileged and long-suffering fellow citizens and residents of these United States of America:

Customarily, during a State of the Union Speech, the congressional attendees and privileged guests in these chambers interrupt this speech with many applause lines, cheers, and even a few ovations. I fear that tonight, my fellow Americans, those elected legislators and privileged guests will do precious little applauding and even less cheering.

At the beginning of my address tonight, I will give them credit, the credit they deserve. I will recognize that these legislators have worked very hard, represented quite effectively their constituents, the stakeholders present at the negotiating table that is Washington DC. They have supped at the table of American affluence. They spent many hours dealing with conflicting agendas of those who sought their ear, those who sought to influence them, those who brought them their views, their concerns.

However, they will not cheer the various points I make in this address. Their silence will be forthcoming because tonight I speak not in the service of those constituents for whom the legislators have labored so diligently, so conscientiously.

No! Instead, tonight’s speech is in service of people with a separate set of interests, the ordinary working people, the common people, those whom we understand by the term “American middle class.” That’s quite a different constituency, if you will, than those whom the mass media and the pundits have traditionally considered to be the stakeholders who matter.

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Martin Luther King died in 1968, a year of incredible upheaval throughout the world. I was a young married man with a beautiful young daughter. We lived in San Diego, California, and I was a private music teacher. It was a completely different world then. People in my town thought it was funny to call Dr. King “Martin Luther Coon.” Many were sure he was a communist.

A student came to my studio in downtown San Diego for a music lesson. He was about 16, and his father was an officer in the Navy. San Diego had a large US Navy base.

This young man broke the shocking news to me that Dr. King had been assassinated. He was quite pleased. He referred to Dr. King as “Martin Coon.”

 

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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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