Thursday, July 30, 2009

WELL SAID: A Response

A response to this Conservative Action Alert Group post

Making judgments on President Obama’s presidency after less than 200 days in office is immature and irresponsible.

Using demagoguery to support ones cause or ideology by using words and phrases that incite people does not enhance the views of those who may be concerned over the policies of this administration.

Using phases such as the Socialist-Marxist anti-God crowd, Marxist’s concept of re-distributing wealth, America is Arrogant, America is not a Christian Nation, giving more to illegal's than to American Citizens, Radical Islam is our friend and Israel is our enemy, I do not share his spiritual beliefs (at least the ones he has made public) are an impassioned appeal to prejudices and emotions, and are intended to mislead Americans.

When those who may be functionally illiterate read these words and phrases they will certainly be mislead. Of course, this may be exactly the intention of this message.

Further, the use of demagoguery is intended to obfuscate and not explain the fundamental issue itself in meaningful and logical terms.

Additionally, this message contains many untruths, or what is written is out of context, or contains read into thoughts:

Marxist's concept of re-distributing wealth
that America is Arrogant
that America is not a Christian Nation
giving more to illegal's than to American Citizens who need help
that Radical Islam is our friend and Israel is our enemy
I do not share his spiritual beliefs (at least the ones he has made public)
they have attacked one of the most fundamental of all Freedoms, the right of free speech

President Obama has said publicly, repeatedly, and emphatically that he is a Christian.

I have written previously to address these sorts of criticisms. They can be read at Horatio’s Perspective and specifically here: A not so excellent letter to the President.

Beyond that, I challenge anyone to support the contentions of this message

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Animal Farm – 2009: A Response

Read the emailed article and comment, Animal Farm, here:

Now, you may think that I would have a negative view of this article because of my views on healthcare, as well as other issues -- my, at times, liberal or socialistic, if you will, view. Well, overall with some exceptions, I am not in disagreement.

However, this is where I have an argument in this article and with your comment:

The uninsured categories break down in this way:

(1) Some can afford it, but do not want it
(2) I am 18 to 25 years old, healthy, and I do not need it
(3) Some are between jobs or have lost their jobs and are temporarily not insured
(4) Children have not been chosen to be covered under their plans by parents
(5) Some are eligible for government programs, such as Medicare/Medicaid, but not signed up.
(6) 9.73 million are foreigners.
(7) 9.1 million people making more than $75,000 per year who did not choose to purchase health insurance

The bottom line: Whether the number is 45 or 47 million or any other number, or for whatever other reason a person may be uninsured, it does not really matter. Every person included in the categories listed above, when they get catastrophically ill, or are in some sort of a serious accident requiring medical care, the costs of treating them is absorbed by providers, passed on to the insured by cost shifting and higher health insurance premiums burdened by the insured, or paid by taxpayers through higher taxes. Most often treating anyone of these folks, in any of these categories, is through a hospital emergency room first, where costs are very high. That is why, whatever the number might be, it matters. They are uninsured nevertheless.

James Quinn says in his article, Affordable Health Choices Act” is the Orwellian name for a bill that will create a massive new bureaucracy, cost at least $1 trillion, cost small businesses billions more in health costs, give government the final decision on whether you are worth saving, and provide more freebies to poor Americans. This will keep the poor sedated and less likely to cause trouble for the ruling class.

In the bill, I read of life sustaining treatment and consultation; nowhere in the bill does it say that consultation would include recommendations on committing suicide or whether a decision should be made as to whether a life is worth saving.

Your concluding comment to the article: If you want to know when the collapse started all you have to do is read the declaration of independence. All men are not created equal. In fact the society could not work if they were. Everyone would want the same thing and would have the same skills and so forth. But to say that all men are created equal opens up Pandora's box because it is a small step to justifying the redistribution of wealth to make everyone equal. That of course is what happened. The declaration goes on to say that we are endowed with inalienable rights. None of this is true. You do not have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of these have to earned. But instead most people believe that because they have these rights they have the right to other peoples property so they can eat have shelter have healthcare etc. and not work. In other words they embraced Karl Marx.

Here you are talking about the equal distribution of wealth. That the money (wealth) pot would be divided up equally, and therefore everyone would be monetarily equal. When the Framers talked about equality, they were talking about equal justice for all and not the equal distribution of wealth for all.

We do have inalienable rights or rights of which cannot be transferred to another or others. What the Framers were talking about are fundamental rights, including the right to practice religion, freedom of speech, due process, and equal protection under the law, which cannot be transferred to another nor surrendered except by the person possessing them. It seems to me that thinking differently would violate Galambos’s and your definition of property.

You are saying that life is not worth saving because people do not have the right to life, and that the right to life must be earned. I do not believe that. I believe life has value, and along with that they also have the fundamental right to liberty: free from restrictions or control; right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one's own choosing; physically and legally free from confinement, servitude, or forced labor (the need to make money and taxation is forced labor through coercement in a money-based economy); and freedom from unjust or undue governmental control.

Therefore, if one has the benefit of all of the above, then they do have the right and are in effect pursuing happiness.

This in essence is libertarianism, a set of inalienable rights, which includes rights to acquire and retain property. These rights are a priori, and should never be denied.

Most people do not believe that because they have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that they therefore have the right to other people’s property so they can eat have shelter have healthcare and not work. Most people respect the law, and do work. Eating and shelter are indispensable to ones wellbeing and their health. Just based on an analysis of cause and effect, excluding humanitarianism or the forces of taxation, but environmentally, denying nutrition and shelter to those who cannot afford it has a direct affect on those who can afford it

If we are not here to help each other through life, for then what purpose is our life?

Are we here to help the rich get richer?
Are we here to increase the wealth of the nation?
Are we here to secure our own health, wealth, safety, and ignore everyone else?
Or, are we here to secure our own health, wealth, safety, and in doing so secure it for everyone?

Obvious to me, at least, the former is our purpose in life. In securing the health, wealth, and safety of all we reciprocally secure it for ourselves. The healthier your neighbor the more secure your own health, safety, and overall wellbeing will be. When folks are not healthy they are more susceptible to disease, and that will have a direct affect on your health. Wealth, not in terms of riches or affluence, but having adequate financial resources, is directly tied to health and security. If your neighbor does not have the financial ability to maintain their environment in terms of sanitation, their health through proper nutrition and medical care, or their safety by making sure they have protected their environment from structural damage, fire, and criminality, then certainly your home and environment will be at risk, also.

Healthcare for most people who have a family is costly and is a problem, and if they lose their job their problems become manifold. For single people it may seemingly not be as important, except when they get catastrophically ill or are in an accident requiring medical attention and hospitalization. For the poor, indigent, and those for whatever reason America has disenfranchised, all illnesses and accidents are major problems in terms of not only cost, but if they are employed, their continued employment is at risk as well. To the former, their life situation and wellbeing becomes a disaster.

Our growth over time as a people, nation, and world -- our evolution, which is our purpose in life -- depends on our interdependence on each other’s wellbeing. Acquiring this mindset is the only way we will ever achieve world peace.

Short of anarchy, but realistically and logically, we have no choice but to work within the political, economic, and government system parameters in place now. Many opinions over these issues of liberalism versus socialism versus conservatism and the resulting recommendations, ideas, plans, and so forth … are greater than simply their ideology and require top to bottom restructuring. We simply can’t turn-on-a-dime. This kind of change, even if we had a consensus, to be effective need to evolve over time, and certainly everything we do must be done to work toward beneficial goals for life on earth. However, Americans look at things short term, are impatient and want change by 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, rarely look at the larger scenario, lookout for their self-interest without awareness that in order to preserve their self-interest they must preserve that of others as well -- sort of like Adam Smith’s theory of the “invisible hand.”

I want libertarianism as the Framers envisioned it for my country and for the world. I would certainly agree, we have not achieved anything close to it. But, for now, in consideration of the parameters we have to work with, “socialized medicine,” as Reagan called it, or healthcare legislation, which includes a public healthcare option along with private options for health insurance, is what is viable.

If anyone is seriously under the impression that the American free market system and private health insurance can achieve universal coverage, accessibility, and at affordable cost -- never mind reduce cost -- as do apparently many Americans, Libertarians, Republicans, and Blue Dog Democrats, then I have a question for you: Why haven’t they done it? God knows they have had the opportunity.

It seems to me that the only reason an American would not support meaningful healthcare reform is that they do not consider it a problem. They are near-sighted or they do not believe it is an important issue. That is because they mistakenly believe they are secure -- looking out for their own self-interest.

The problem is money. Every contention stated here is a result of our money-based economic system. An economic system dependant on any medium that can be exchanged for goods and services, whether that is based on fiat dollars, gold, silver, toothpicks, or pebbles of sand, will prevent us from becoming an authentically libertarian society where authentic freedom reigns.

All of us should have equal rights to nature’s resources and share responsibility in protecting those resources. In a money-based economy, natures resources are owned, managed and protected only by those who have the financial resources to purchase or support them, and most often only if it derives monetary benefit for them.

A resource-based economy, if you will, must be one of our primary goals. I do not believe it to be utopian. We must take steps toward achieving a society not dependant on money. Of course, it will never happen in our lifetime, or the lifetime of our offspring, but I believe it can be done and is our future.

Monday, July 27, 2009

House Bill HR 3200

In response to this email: Subject: Page 425 of Health Care BIll‏

Read it for yourself. The house bill H. R. 3200 can be read here.

If anyone thinks that consultation and recommendations made regarding end of life decision making and care does not occur now is being naïve. It would be informative to read the end-of-life decision-making articles at Family Caregiver Alliance, and at eMedicineHealth. These decisions are being made all of the time by hospitals, physicians, patients, and in the end by insurance providers.

If insurance companies, hospitals, and physicians get involved with end of life decisions, isn’t it prudent for the government to provide counseling provisions, also.

To say, as it does in this email that ON PAGE 425 OF OBAMA’S HEALTH CARE BILL, the Federal Government will require EVERYONE who is on Social Security to undergo a counseling session every 5 years with the objective being that they will explain to them just how to end their own life earlier. Yes...They are going to push SUICIDE to cut Medicare spending! is simply being disingenuous.

As far as the 500 billion cut in senior healthcare is concerned: there are savings to be had out of cutting unnecessary services, (of which there are many – those services that are based on profit-motives and are not going to make one any healthier) not only to the elderly but all those insured. If it is a literal fact that there is a cut of 500 billion out of Medicare in this bill, why is there such a concern over the cost of this healthcare initiative?

For example, at one time, if you broke your arm or leg you would be hospitalized, and your arm or leg would be put into a cast. When I was a kid, many times the family physician would put on the cast. Further treatment or rehabilitation would take place at home between you and your physician. Today, after hospitalization, you are sent to a rehabilitation hospital or rehabilitation facility.

In the bill, I read of life sustaining treatment; nowhere in the bill does is say that consultation would include recommendations on committing suicide.

We need to stick with facts, and not read into this bill that which is not there simply to gather support for ones point of view.

If anyone is seriously under the impression that the free market and private health insurance can achieve universal coverage, accessibility, and at affordable cost -- never mind reduce cost -- then I have a question for you: Why haven’t they done it?

Here are the pertinent pages of house bill HR 3200 mentioned in this email:

SEC. 1233.

Subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), the term ‘advance care planning consultation’ means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning, if, subject to paragraph (3), the individual involved has not had such a consultation within the last 5 years. Such consultation shall include the following:
(A) An explanation by the practitioner of advance care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to.
(B) An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses.
(C) An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy.
(D) The provision by the practitioner of a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families with advance care planning, including the national toll-free hotline, the advance care planning clearinghouses, and State legal service organizations (including those funded through the Older Americans Act of 1965).
(E) An explanation by the practitioner of the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available under this title.
(F)(i) Subject to clause (ii), an explanation of orders regarding life sustaining treatment or similar orders, which shall include—
(I) the reasons why the development of such an order is beneficial to the individual and the individual’s family and the reasons why such an order should be updated periodically as the health of the individual changes;
(II) the information needed for an individual or legal surrogate to make informed decisions regarding the completion of such an order; and
(III) the identification of resources that an individual may use to determine the requirements of the State in which such individual resides so that the treatment wishes of that individual will be carried out if the individual is un able to communicate those wishes, including requirements regarding the designation of a surrogate decision maker (also known as a health care proxy). (ii) The Secretary shall limit the requirement for explanations under clause (i) to consultations furnished in a State—
(I) in which all legal barriers have been addressed for enabling orders for life sustaining treatment to constitute a set of medical orders respected across all care settings; and
(II) that has in effect a program for orders for life sustaining treatment described in clause (iii).
(iii) A program for orders for life sustaining treatment for a States described in this clause is a program that ensures such orders are standardized and uniquely identifiable throughout the State;
(III) distributes or makes accessible such orders to physicians and other health professionals that (acting within the scope of the professional’s authority under State law) may sign orders for life sustaining treatment; provides training for health care professionals across the continuum of care about the goals and use of orders for life sustaining treatment; and
(IV) is guided by a coalition of stake holders includes representatives from emergency medical services, emergency department physicians or nurses, state long-term care association, state medical association, state surveyors, agency responsible for senior services, state department of health, state hospital association, home health association, state bar association, and state hospice association.
(2) A practitioner described in this paragraph is—
(A) a physician (as defined in subsection (r)(1)); and
(B) a nurse practitioner or physician’s assist ant who has the authority under State law to sign orders for life sustaining treatments.
(3)(A) An initial preventive physical examination under subsection (WW), including any related discussion during such examination, shall not be considered an advance care planning consultation for purposes of applying the 5-year limitation under paragraph (1).
(B) An advance care planning consultation with respect to an individual may be conducted more frequently than provided under paragraph (1) if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual, including diagnosis of a chronic, progressive, life-limiting disease, a life-threatening or terminal diagnosis or life-threatening injury, or upon admission to a skilled nursing facility, a long-term care facility (as defined by the Secretary), or a hospice program.
(4) A consultation under this subsection may include the formulation of an order regarding life-sustaining treatment or a similar order.
(5)(A) For purposes of this section, the term ‘order regarding life sustaining treatment’ means, with respect to an individual, an actionable medical order relating to the treatment of that individual that—
(i) is signed and dated by a physician (as defined in subsection (r)(1)) or another health care professional (as specified by the Secretary and who is acting within the scope of the professional’s authority under State law in signing such an order, including a nurse practitioner or physician assistant) and is in a form that permits it to stay with the individual and be followed by health care professionals and providers across the continuum of care;
(ii) effectively communicates the individual’s preferences regarding life sustaining treatment, including an indication of the treatment and care de sired by the individual;
(iii) is uniquely identifiable and standardized within a given locality, region, or State (as identified by the Secretary); and
(iv) may incorporate any advance directive (as defined in section 1866(f)(3)) if executed by the individual.
(B) The level of treatment indicated under subparagraph (A)(ii) may range from an indication for full treatment to an indication to limit some or all or specified interventions. Such indicated levels of treatment may include indications respecting, among other items—
(i) the intensity of medical intervention if the patient is pulseless, apneic, or has serious cardiac or pulmonary problems;
(ii) the individual’s desire regarding transfer to a hospital or remaining at the current care setting;
(iii) the use of antibiotics; and
(iv) the use of artificially administered nutrition and hydration.’’.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A not so excellent letter to the President

A response to this email, Read here …

First, Kathleen Lyday is not the author. The author apparently is Franklin T. Bell

Second, the critical points made in this letter are not factual:

1.President Obama did not apologize for the United States, nor did he tell Europeans that we are arrogant and do not care about their status in the world.

He was telling them that as President of the United States that he was seeking a new kind of relationship with the world, a relationship that has been broken over the last eight years.

2.In a speech given in Turkey, Obama said, one of the great strengths of the United States" is that it does not consider itself "a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.

Apparently Mr. Bell is not familiar with America’s First Amendment to the Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Through the free exercise clause, it protects the individual's right to freedom of conscience and free expression of religious beliefs.

3.The Whitehouse explained that the president was shaking hands [supposedly, by some critiques, holding hands] with someone much shorter than him. In the past Presidents have been known to follow protocol offering gestures of respect to foreign dignitaries. In 2005, the Saudi King visited George W. Bush at the Crawford ranch where he was greeted by former President [George W. Bush] with a kiss.

4.Evidently, the author does not keep up with current events. If he had, he would have known of our President’s visit to the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer where the a graveyard, a symbol of America's sacrifice for Europe's freedom, is located, and would have read or listened to his D-Day at Normandy speech.

5.The bonuses and automatic pay increases were given last year in 2008, on G.W.B’s watch: Lawmakers Gave Out $9.1M Taxpayer Dollars in Bonuses to Their Staffs in 2008

6.The bonus situation with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac came into existence and approved by the Bush’s administration.

Fannie's and Freddie's regulator, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director James B. Lockhart, established a retention program when the companies were taken over by the government last fall.

President Obama did express outrage and concern over these bonuses, he said:.

But in order to restore our financial system, we’ve got to restore trust. And in order to restore trust, we’ve got to make certain that taxpayer funds are not subsidizing excessive compensation packages on Wall Street.

We all need to take responsibility. And this includes executives at major financial firms who turned to the American people, hat in hand, when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves their customary lavish bonuses. As I said last week, that’s the height of irresponsibility. That’s shameful. And that’s exactly the kind of disregard for the costs and consequences of their actions that brought about this crisis: a culture of narrow self-interest and short-term gain at the expense of everything else.

This is America. We don’t disparage wealth. We don’t begrudge anybody for achieving success. And we believe that success should be rewarded. But what gets people upset – and rightfully so – are executives being rewarded for failure. Especially when those rewards are subsidized by U.S. taxpayers.

For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis is not only in bad taste – it’s a bad strategy – and I will not tolerate it as President. We’re going to be demanding some restraint in exchange for federal aid – so that when firms seek new federal dollars, we won’t find them up to the same old tricks.

And last but not least, George W. Bush was well on his way to destroying our beautiful country. Read: The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

The economic quagmire we are now in is a result of a Republican congress negligence and of the Bush Administration’s lack of vigilance over the last eight years. Bush and his administration repeatedly said that the economy was strong and that we were not in a recession, when in fact, it was announced in the fall of 2008 that we have been in a recession since December 2007.

President Obama was handed a responsibility for the United States that was in foreign relations and economics quite a mess. We should honestly and unbiasedly critique his decisions, of course, but not unfairly, and certainly not through a personally biased interpretation, obfuscation, or being disingenuous about facts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

America’s Betrayal

Even though many consider it as morally wrong and evil, a great number of Americans embrace war. They believe that history has dictated that we always have had war, and therefore, we will always have war; a belief that war is necessary to protect us against evil. This misbelieve is one of the reasons, along with unbridled patriotism, nationalism, and unquestioning loyalty to our government, many Americans accept deception, misrepresentations, and will endure sometimes obvious and outright lies by America’s leadership on issues of war and peace.

War destroys and takes lives, not only of combatants, but of noncombatants as well. That is the factual evidence and the essence of the holocaust of war.

The immorality and evil starts in the build up to war. Americans simply refuse to believe that a President of the United States, in order to drum up support for a war would mislead, deceive, and lie to them. They tell themselves: after all, we are talking about putting America and Americans at great risk and in harms way; they would not do that if they did not honestly feel it was necessary.

When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences by Eric Alterman is a good book that informs why and when American Presidents feel compelled to deceive. The fact is America’s Presidents and America’s congressional leadership will use deception, misrepresentations, and lies that do put America at considerable risk, and Americans in positions where they will lose their lives. From George Washington to George W Bush, and particularly from folks like Robert McNamara, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell, all of them unacceptably and unnecessarily have caused the needless slaughter of countless millions of lives. The latter committed their betrayal of Americans out of their loyalty to the President.

Moreover, for those Presidents and leaders who are candid, forthright, and not belligerent, Americans will consider them weak. As Alterman states: Former President Jimmy Carter, who earned a reputation for being painfully honest in public life, meanwhile, is considered a kind of political misfit within these same media circles, in which many seem more comfortable with a politician who ignores painful truths than one who confronts them.

Many Americans consider President Obama weak because he believes that it is better to talk than to kill. One of the interpretations of this phenomenon is that Barack Obama lacks the necessary leadership skills and experience to do the job.

Time passes and memories wane; history conflates into generalities; and America convalesces from the holocaust of our wars. The young get old and most do not forget, while the young have no realistic knowledge of the past, except from the condensed version in a history book, and when they are old have their own experiences with which to deal. What will history make of America’s leadership and the consequences of their decisions?

Daily there always seems to be an existential reminder of the immorality of war. It is always with me, staring me right in the face: primarily Iraq and Afghanistan, but also Korea and Vietnam. Memorial Day is that annual day of remembrance that always brings it all home.

Recently, I made my frequent visit to my hometown’s Center Cemetery; a ride on my bicycle that always provides great reflection on the events in my life. I don’t want time to pass without recognizing the events of my life that have dramatically influenced and changed of my life. Old guys do that sort of thing. Buried there are many friends and classmates who at the time of their passing were young or old, and also, there lies Matthew Bean. One of those existential reminders.

Matthew Bean was shot in the head by a sniper on May 19, 2008, during a door-to-door search in Iraq while trying to save three captured U.S. soldiers who were members of his unit, the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, in the Sunni Triangle region of Iraq.

Matthew was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and an Army Commendation Medal, which is not much of a replacement for a man’s future and for taking all his possessions. Those trinkets are totally meaningless; our military treat Americans like children. They present our soldiers or their families with pretty ribbons and shiny, glistening medals, imbuing Americans with the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war.

Matthew Bean is typical of the young men -- and women -- serving our country. Americans have asked them to sacrifice their lives based on distortions of the facts by our government. Our leaders postulate impending doom for America if we don’t take military action, which is as an immoral action as any other immoral act one could make.

Just look at the picture of Matthew Bean, because for most of us that picture is all we have, and tell me with all honesty: Is Iraq or Afghanistan worth the life of this young man? Do not just look at this man as the object value of a handsome young man who so happened to have lost his life, after all lives are lost in war, without profoundly understanding what his family and we have lost in our community and country as a result of his death. Think of the lost contribution that Matthew may have made to make this a better country. Whatever the outcome in Iraq or Afghanistan, it will not make us a better country. It is not what has been, but what could have been if only America had chosen different courses of action. Matthew’s grave is a metaphorical marker for what could have been as well as what could be; that is the reality of war and of every Memorial Day.

Americans talk often about proprietorship. In this era of economic upheaval, it is discussed often. Americans are concerned over their ownership and right to control personal property without government interference. Yet, we without the blink of an eye allow our government to take away life. Ones life is the essence of proprietorship, and yet, in the conduct of waging war, Americans allow our government to take away legal title of a person’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

No one should ever forget, young or old, that our government is not always faithful to our wellbeing. I assure you that I will never forget.

Our American leadership have and will betray us.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Idolization of Michael Jackson: A Complex Issue

On June 28, I posted my views on The idolization of Michael Jackson.

I wrote in that post: Entertainment is an important aspect to human growth. It is important to our cultural evolution; but it has value only when that entertainment is of probity and represents good behavior. Entertainment is also an important divergence from the vicissitudes of life. However, when our lives become preoccupied by worshiping the Michael Jackson’s of our world, when we put more important issues that affect our well-being on a back burner, it, for me, becomes a very far-reaching and serious problem.

That far-reaching and serious problem, seemingly insurmountable, is clearly expressed in a posting by Chris Hedges on The Man in the Mirror.

Chris Hedges writes: The commercial exploitation of Michael Jackson's death was orchestrated by the corporate forces that rendered him insane. He was infected by the moral nihilism and personal disintegration that are at the core of our corporate culture. He was a reflection of us in the extreme.

A post by Deepak Chopra, A Tribute to My Friend, Michael Jackson, reveals the complexity that this issue or problem poses.

Michael Jackson’s friend Deepak Chopra writes: Michael Jackson will be remembered, most likely, as a shattered icon, a pop genius who wound up a mutant of fame. That's not who I will remember, however. His mixture of mystery, isolation, indulgence, overwhelming global fame, and personal loneliness was intimately known to me. For twenty years I observed every aspect, and as easy as it was to love Michael -- and to want to protect him -- his sudden death yesterday seemed almost fated.

Chris Hedges and Deepak Chopra have both written provocative views that are different, but not contrary, and are good examples of the complexity inherent in this issue. It’s a very appropriate addendum to my view as expressed in The idolization of Michael Jackson.

In conclusion, this is another example where money is the root of the problem and its destruction its solution.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

McNamara’s War

The other day my wife, my son, and I were watching a news program. The news anchor was announcing the death of Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense under John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. The announcer talked of McNamara’s accomplishments and of his failures. Part of the piece related to how the country had forgiven him for Vietnam after all of these years. After all, he had a book that rose to the top of the bestseller list, and was invited to give many lectures and speeches about his Vietnam experience attracting large audiences. However, his experience differed dramatically from the American GIs, and South Vietnamese who were on the ground in Vietnam. Out of frustration from what I was hearing, I exclaimed that I could not forgive Robert McNamara for the Vietnam War. (1)

My son said I should not place judgment on the actions of others. My son is right; I suppose that would be the Christian thing to do. I don’t judge a book by its cover. I am able to forgive another for a fault or an offense. I can renounce my anger and shed any resentment. Not hold a grudge. I can forgive and have forgiven, and others have forgave me. To forgive is a personal action one takes of an offense made against oneself. McNamara took actions that were against humanity. Those who are now dead because of his actions are not in a position to forgive. Only those who are now dead could have forgiven him. All of those who were maimed are the only ones that can forgive him. I cannot forgive him, nor is it appropriate for me to forgive him, for those offenses against others.

I also must make a judgment, for in the absent of judgment there would be no purpose of forgiveness. To forgive means that you have made a judgment of the offense and have chosen to forgive. To forgive does not mean that one should accept a wrongdoing. In my case, concerning Mr. McNamara, I do not carry any anger or resentment for his actions. I have never wished him any harm. However, I do not accept the notion that Vietnam should be forgotten and therefore forgiven.

Mr. McNamara is responsible, and every American of that era is responsible because we accepted his actions and the actions of our government at the time, for the killing of countless South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese men, women, children, and American GIs. America was responsible, not only for the loss of those lives but for the maiming of countless human beings as well. (2)

McNamara did not operate in a vacuum. Kennedy, and more importantly Johnson, their governments, the American military, and every American, as I stated earlier, are equally responsible for the horror of Vietnam; even so, McNamara was the principle actor in the conduct of that war. As a consequence, the Vietnam War was colloquially known as “McNamara’s war.”

McNamara, as well as Johnson, knowingly lied to America and to congress regarding the
Gulf of Tonkin Incident as a pretext to escalate America’s involvement in Vietnam.

McNamara, with Johnson’s approval or acquiescence, engineered the holocaust of Vietnam, as Robert Scheer in his article,
McNamara’s Evil Lives On called it, for it meets the definition of a great destruction resulting in extensive loss of life: napalm bombing, which killed and maimed combatants and non-combatants, destroyed the environment and burned down Vietnamese villages; fragmentation bombing in South Vietnam and carpet-bombing in North and South Vietnam killing millions; the use of Agent Orange which destroyed environments and so many lives; approval of free-fire zones; massacres which happened on his watch, though he was not directly responsible, he did set the conditions that allowed it to occur (i.e. free-fire zones); systematic torching of hooches (a peasant house; these were the dwellings of many South Vietnamese. These were their homes.); ordered body counts in order to measure his success -- more often than not, they were not only Vietcong and North Vietnamese troops, but also civilians.

As Robert Scheer wrote in his article: He [Robert McNamara] knew it then, and, give him this, the dimensions of that horror never left him. When I interviewed him for the Los Angeles Times in 1995, after the publication of his confessional memoir, his assessment of the madness he had unleashed was all too clear:
Look, we dropped three to four times the tonnage on that tiny little area as were dropped by the Allies in all of the theaters in World War II over a period of five years. It was unbelievable. We killed—there were killed—3,200,000 Vietnamese, excluding the South Vietnamese military. My God! The killing, the tonnage—it was fantastic. The problem was that we were trying to do something that was militarily impossible—we were trying to break the will; I don’t think we can break the will by bombing short of genocide.

Robert McNamara may have had misgivings over Vietnam, as he expressed them in his book, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, but those misgivings did not contain remorse. As Robert Scheer explained: Despite those doubts, he had continued to express public confidence that the application of would cause the Communists to make peace [obviously, McNamara never understood the essence of that word]. His misgivings amounted to disappointment that he did not achieve his objective: “success in Vietnam.” If he was only allowed to be a greater mass murderer, to create a greater holocaust, and to kill more and to a greater extent through American firepower, he then could have achieved victory. That, he felt, was his failure. That was his regret.

McNamara’s Evil Does Live On

America has not learned from Vietnam, or from any of our other wars. We continue under the McNamara philosophy, and that of General Curtis LeMay of World War II fame, to believe that using enough American firepower will achieve victory; we continue to bomb the living daylights out of our enemies, a Shock and Awe mindset; we continue to believe that the necessity of war always justifies the evil committed and therefore there is no reason to forgive and we must forget; that we should not make judgments because it all occurred in a different zeitgeist, a different time and place when things were so different that it is not possible for us to appropriately make judgment.

Well, I do judge, make the assessment, and time does not make me less concerned of our government’s words and deeds, Vietnam only intensified my concern, nor more willing to forgive Robert McNamara for his actions or the actions of my country in Vietnam. What America, Johnson, and McNamara did in the conduct of that war was nothing short of evil. It was a holocaust. I don’t blame, or make judgments upon the American GI who served in Vietnam. McNamara and Johnson had a choice, but the average American GI on the ground did not.


It was the longest war in American history and the most unpopular American war of the twentieth century. It resulted in nearly 60,000 American deaths and an estimated 2 million Vietnamese deaths. Even today, many Americans still ask whether the American effort in Vietnam was a sin, a blunder, a necessary war, or a noble cause, or an idealistic, if failed, effort to protect the South Vietnamese from totalitarian government.

Learn About the Vietnam War

The number of military and civilian deaths from 1959 to 1975 is debated. Some reports fail to include the members of South Vietnamese forces killed in the final campaign, or the Royal Lao Armed Forces, thousands of Laotian and Thai irregulars, or Laotian civilians who all perished in the conflict.

In 1995, the Vietnamese government reported that its military forces, including the
NLF [National Liberation Front], suffered 1.1 million dead and 600,000 wounded during Hanoi's conflict with the United States. Civilian deaths were put at two million in the North and South, and economic reparations were expected. Hanoi concealed the figures during the war to avoid demoralizing the population



Additional reading:
Remembering McNamara

McNamara, Vietnam, Robert Scheer,
McNamara’s Evil Lives On

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An All-Volunteer Military Force

It makes my blood boil when I read or hear the words, our all-volunteer military forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my mind, this reference to service in the armed forces obfuscates the meaning of volunteerism. It is an inappropriate definition, a euphemism, and a hijacking of the word to suit the propaganda purposes of the U.S. government. During the Vietnam War, those not conscripted were simply called enlistees. They were not referred to as volunteers. Therefore, today’s armed forces are all folks who have volunteered to serve; but they are not volunteers.

A volunteer by definition is a person who performs or offers to perform a service voluntarily (willingly, of your own accord, of your own free will, happily, gladly, freely; in law it is a person who renders aid, performs a service, or assumes an obligation voluntarily.)

To be a volunteer certainly encompasses the above definition, however, it always means unpaid service (if one is being paid then they are not a volunteer), and they are free to leave that service anytime one wishes without consequences (no one will be thrown in jail). If one was to embrace the meaning, as it has been government designated as an all-volunteer military force, then their services would be unpaid, and an enlistee would be free to leave the service at anytime he or she wishes.

Members of the armed forces simply have a job. They simply volunteer, as we all do, when we apply for work, and if accepted perform that work. Who in this world thinks of himself or herself as a volunteer when going to work? Other than the definition qualifications of happily or glad (at least for many people), the definition of volunteer is fitting, but at a job you are free to quit without legal consequence. At a person’s work, there is no such thing as individual ready reserve recall, AWOL (absent without leave), nor is there a stop-loss program (a program the Department of Defense uses to retain soldiers beyond the term of their contracts). If it was volunteerism, these words could not be associated with their service. Moreover, if their service is authentically volunteerism, words such as fragging (the intentional killing of an officer or noncom by an enlistee) and desertion would not apply.

The only difference between conscripted service and the new volunteerism is that when conscripted you are forced to join the armed services, and when you volunteer you are joining of your own free will. However, once you have joined there is no difference, you are then certainly not a volunteer; nor do you have the freedoms of a traditional job, for if you refuse to kill you are not simply fired.

In A Secret History of Dissent in the All-Volunteer Military by Tom Engelhardt and Dahr Jamail the volunteer misnomer is implicitly dispelled.

When, in January 1973, before the war was even over, President Richard Nixon announced that an American draft army was at an end and an all-volunteer force would be created, this was why. The U.S. military was in the wilderness without a compass, having discovered one crucial thing: you couldn't fight an endless, unpopular counterinsurgency war with the kind of conscript army a democracy had to offer. What resulted, of course, was the AVF [all-volunteer force], a moniker that, as Andrew Bacevich has written in his book The New American Militarism, was but "a euphemism for what is, in fact, a professional army... [that] does not even remotely 'look like' democratic America." Citizenship and the obligation to serve were now officially severed and, from the 1980s on, most Americans would ever more vigorously cheer on the AVF from the sidelines, while it would be a force theoretically purged of possible Vietnam-style dissent and refusal. Dahr Jamail

So, in fact, the U.S. Military is a professional army, not volunteers, and, not mentioned here for that’s entirely another issue, a mercenary force made up of private contractors fulfilling many of the roles – some combat, mostly non-combat and security -- that the military of yesteryear once performed.