Wednesday, August 26, 2009

THE LOVE OF MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL-EVIL

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You have to choose [as a voter] between trusting to the natural stability of gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the Government. And, with due respect for these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the Capitalist system lasts, to vote for gold - George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)

The previous quote was the introduction to an interview by the Daily Bell of Web of Debt author Ellen Brown.

What came to mind in reading this quote and interview was how much we are embedded with the past and the status quo. It brought to mind the statements and questions of Robert F. Kennedy, a man of our past who was looking and speaking of our future.

The following are some of my favorite RFK quotations that are applicable here:

All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don't. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.

Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

My dream is that someday a future generation will read articles and interviews on our capitalism, free market, economics, stimulus, and the economics of healthcare reform, and that it will be as esoteric, nontransparent, and complex to them in their time as it is esoteric, nontransparent, and complex to most folks when they read today’s economist explanations of those same economic issues and events.

The problem is the money stuff! The problem is not only should we not trust government, but free market capitalist as well. The people of America and the world are in a no win situation. The quagmire we are in can easily be dug out of over time once we understand that money is the single problem for 99.9% of our problems. Once the world understands that, and we move toward a societal system that has abandoned money, everything will be golden (no pun intended). It is that simple. Once we do that, then these lawyer-economists, armchair economist, bona fide economist, free market capitalist, and the government will be able to find something productive to do, and something of which will not be an obstacle, but will be beneficial to the human race.

Just think about it, along with so many other things, with the abandonment of money, future generations will not even know of Business cycles and central banks.

Money, in what ever form, whether It be gold, a fiat dollar, tulips, toothpicks or a Roman coin, is, has been, and always will be coercive, a hindrance to innovation and creativity, and a deterrent to probity and our evolution. The old adage that the love of money is the root of all-evil has never been truer than it is today.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

THE IRRATIONAL CONTENTIONS OF HEALTHCARE REFORM

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At the outset of this writing, I must say that money is the problem. The immediate response to that declaration usually is something like, you fool, of course it’s a money problem, but we will always have a need for money; we can’t live without it. To embrace such a notion is to say that Americans are not resourceful, risk takers, creative or inventive; these are all contrary to the things Americans purport they believe themselves to be, and that attitude is certainly one lacking vision. In due course, one day the world will wakeup to the fact that we can find ways to live without money. We will begin to abandon money. We will not reject it as impossible, we will come to an understanding that it is possible, and will be the only way we can solve problems like healthcare.

The system of monetary exchange is — in the face of advancing technology — completely obsolete. They’ve Seen the Future and Dislike the Present, Peter Joseph

… we are in the here and now capable of radically changing our society, and provide proper health care, education and basic human needs to everyone on this planet, if we would only shed ourselves of the outdated systems of the economic policies. Many people have different ideas of improving our way of life, and a lot of them make sense. Ultimately, we will have to pool these ideas, and evaluate their use in our future. Once we do this, we can initiate the transition to a society that properly reflects our current day level of knowledge and technology. Ode Magazine

It is important to keep in mind in these healthcare debates that for-profit private entities of any kind consider profit as the most important aspect of their business, and it supersedes any consideration of the services or products they manufacture or provide. It is the solitary reason they provide that service or product for sale. It’s this obsession to improve the bottom line that increases cost.

So let’s start shedding ourselves of outdated systems of economic policies and social systems, and understand that what is important in our current here and now is the abandonment of the old ways we acquire and administer healthcare.

Putting that aside, it is extremely problematic to solve any complex problem, and especially a complex money issue like healthcare, when people do not know how to read the English language; when they are ignorant of what is happening in their own backyard; when they are satisfied with the status quo; or when they accept what is essentially misinformation, or, in some cases, outright untruths.

The healthcare issues that are in contention at these healthcare town meetings and from others in vociferous opposition -- rationing, euthanasia, socialism, and cost -- are unacceptably misrepresented. In an overwhelming number of cases, they are deliberately distorting the facts. Healthcare reform is certainly important to every American, and warrants healthy conversation and debate, but deserves debate from informed, rational, and logical thinking individuals who can read and understand what is being said without illogically reading something into what they have read or heard. They need to be leaders of their views and not followers of others who want to dictate to them what to think, and control them and the debate. To do otherwise is simply being disruptive and is dangerous to honest debate.

For example, it’s ignorance to believe that under private healthcare insurance or Medicare that healthcare is not rationed. Private insurance plans are now rationed based on what one can afford to spend; otherwise, you cannot receive certain treatments. The current Medicare and Medicaid system of payment is controlled with DRG (diagnosis-related groups) and in that your care is rationed where the providers of that healthcare is by private insurance firms and subsidized or reimbursed by the Social Security Administration.

For example, there is nothing in HR 3200 that embraces euthanasia. Those who say that it does simply cannot read or understand the English language. End of life counseling is common in today’s healthcare setting. It’s ignorance to think otherwise.

For example, it’s ignorance to think that America is not socialistic. It’s ignorance to think that liberals are socialist and conservatives are not. As the Humble Libertarian writes in his article, Is America Socialist? Is America Moving Toward Socialism?, … our government can control, appropriate, distribute, and dispose of its citizens' property without their individual consent? If you doubt it, then a brief review of the American government's involvement in its economy is in order: Quantity and Price Controls, Regulations, Taxes. America is socialistic.

On the issue of cost: if something is not done to restrict the cost increases, it’s going to cost Americans more and more for private insurance premiums and increasing out-of-pocket expenses or co-payments; it’s going to cost Americans, represented in the taxes they pay, more and more if the government does not control healthcare cost, which impact Medicaid and Medicare.

Barney Franks had the right attitude towards those who are vociferous, boisterous, unruly, and vile at healthcare town meetings. At his Dartmouth town hall meeting, he lashed out at a protester who held a poster depicting President Barack Obama with a Hitler-style mustache during a heated town hall meeting on federal health care reform.

On what planet do you spend most of your time? Frank asked the woman, who had stepped up to the podium at a southeastern Massachusetts senior center to ask why Frank supports what she called a Nazi policy.

Ma'am, trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table. I have no interest in doing it, Frank replied.

He continued by saying her ability to deface an image of the president and express her views is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Healthcare Misinformation

I received this email on healthcare reform

This is my response:

I am convinced that the writers of such emails, such as that of Chuck Page, do not know how to read in English. There cannot be any other explanation for it, with the exceptions that they may be simply ridiculously ignorant and/or na├»ve, or they have an underlying personal agenda that is driving them to write nonsense. It’s tomfoolery, at its best, to obfuscate facts. But, of course, unless I could read the minds of these writers, I will never know. I only know that I have read H.R. 3200 cursorily while perusing those parts that are in controversy. So far, I don’t have a problem with the bill.

His opening paragraph states, Since the last few years of my ‘working career’ included tracking and analyzing legislation at the state and federal levels, as well as testifying before legislative committees, I thought I could use those experiences gained with this bill. I suppose this statement is supposed to give him some credence for his view.

He speaks of the Hemlock Society and of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Simply read what their missions are. Of course, if you want to read into what has been written, not believing in the veracity of their statements, would not be logical, it is pure speculation, and does not hold up to examination.

He states probably the majority of our congressional leaders still do not know what they are talking about [meaning they have not read the healthcare bill: H.R.3200]. It seems to me that they do know what they are talking about when they entertain the questions from citizens in those town hall meetings on healthcare reform. Doesn’t Page understand that congressional representatives have staffs of advisors, review boards, and legal council that do read and analyze all bills presented to its members? And that congressmen and congresswomen do read substantial portions of the bill themselves.

His accusations against Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, which were based on the writing of Michele Bachmann are false. An additional source for the falsity of his accusations is from ABC News.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Disappointing Afghanistan Strategy

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Despite the desire of nations to achieve peace, they usually lack the knowledge of how to arrive at peaceful solutions. Jacque Fresco

One of the reasons I decided to give Barack Obama my vote was because I felt he would change our direction in how we are conducting our wars. Perhaps we would even have no further wars. The Iraq war would end, our troops withdrawn, and that he would initiate different tactics in an effort to end conflict in Afghanistan. I felt he had a greater sensitivity than the other candidates to solving foreign conflicts in reasonable and peaceful ways.

However, I am disappointed.

I thought the first indication of change was on Obama’s rejection of Gen. David Petraeus’s efforts to reverse his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq in 16 months. However, Obama did somewhat give in, compromising on a two-month extension of the withdrawal target date to August 31, 2010, an 18 month withdrawal target date instead, and agreeing to 50,000 troops to remain in Iraq to the end of 2011. Even so, I will give him a pass on this since in withdrawal it is important to withdraw in a safe and orderly way. Listening to the generals in this case was very important.

In addition, a lingering question remains: how many defense department contractors like Blackwater, a private military company and security firm, will remain in Iraq. They have been defense department surrogates for many military missions.

What came next was Obama’s and Gates’s change of command decision in Afghanistan. I believed at the time that the decision to appoint Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to the position of NATO Commander might have been a sign of real change in the way we face the challenges of Afghanistan.

However, it appears President Obama is not implementing a change in direction on how we confront those challenges. After all, he has committed an additional 21,000 troops with a strategy that does not significantly differ from that of the Bush administration.

It now appears there is no change. The Afghanistan strategy and tactics are nearly the same as that of Iraq. As in Iraq, our efforts continue to be focused on increasing military strength, military tactics of counter-insurgency, training and deploying more Afghan troops and police, and a major shift in military operations by forcing them into closer contact with locals in a bid to identify and befriend local power brokers in order to win them over to the government side. Suggestions have even been made that we coerce tribal leaders with bribes. All of this, from a strictly military perspective, sounds well and good, but it still reflects a heavy reliance on military hard power and in the end, it will not solve our problem.

Before you know it, Petraeus, Gates, and McChrystal will be asking Obama for additional troops beyond the 21,000. We will simply continue to escalate troop strength in an effort to win militarily without conquering the hearts and minds of Afghans, which is the essence of what should be our goal.

As Michael Ware of CNN said, and I wholeheartedly agree, Bombs and Bullets will not win that war. To win, so called, we must foster viable solutions for the Afghan people to govern their country free of corruption and war. What America is accomplishing is only more destruction and death, not just NATO and American troops, but non-combatants as well. Destroying ones country and killing its people will only cause Afghans to repel America.

It is time to stop listening entirely to the Generals. Military strategy and tactics are designed to kill, destroy, and break the organization of the enemy. In addition, its intent is to break the hearts and minds of the people, who to one extent or another support the enemy.

What we desperately need is a change of mindset from the sophomoric rally cry of winning and defeat of the enemy with military hard power to one of containment, reconciliation, winning the hearts and minds of people -- not solely their governments -- support and invest in community development and infrastructure, and developing viable economic resources. In Afghanistan, this means less concentration on central government, more emphases on soft power, helping tribal communities in education, help them to improve or develop the infrastructures of their villages, and helping them to develop an economy based on something else other than opium.

A new approach to handling conflict is badly needed, particularly now in Afghanistan.

We must acquire knowledge through empathetic listening and communication. In doing so, the issues will coalesce into a greater understanding of the Afghan people, and they of us. This will put America in an improved position to help Afghanistan and its people by giving them hope for a brighter future, and it will marginalize Taliban and al-Queda influences. It is the only way to arrive at a peaceful solution.a

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Socialized Healthcare

This post is in regard to Socialized Healthcare vs. The Laws of Economics by Thomas DiLorenzo


At the outset, let me be clear, it is not that I think that government run healthcare is free or that it’s a panacea for the healthcare problem; it’s rather that I believe private healthcare insurance has done a poor job in providing coverage – even denying coverage in some instances – that is affordable. I believe increased choice and competition can bring down the cost of healthcare; is that not in part, in principle, the ideology of free market? I do not believe that capitalist, free marketers, and private healthcare insurers, if left to their druthers will provide coverage that is accessible, affordable, and portable for everyone; if it is not lucratively viable for them they simply will not provide it.

No one can say they have looked at a plan for healthcare reform since there is no plan in place.

The plan when in place and ready for legislative action, as I understand it, is for reform. The plan is not for revamping the whole system. It is not a plan for an exclusive government takeover of the healthcare system. The plan’s main objective is to stem the rising cost of healthcare in America. Second, to the main objective, is to make healthcare, if not to provide universal coverage, at least more accessible for more Americans. Universally covering Americans and providing Americans with other healthcare options, such as a public option, will reduce cost.

For those who stick to the mantra that President Obama is a Marxist, since these healthcare plan proposals are socialistic, I must point out that what we have now is American style socialism. We now have a mix of private insurance options, and government run Medicare and Medicaid, along with the intrusion of government regulation and government support to insurance companies who participate in Medicare Advantage.

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As Tip O’Neil, the late former Speaker of the House of Representatives, once said, all politics is local.

The bottom line for me, regardless of what the proponents of capitalism, free market, private healthcare insurance, or the Thomas DiLorenzo’s and Milton Friedman’s of the world might say, existentially, or empirically if you wish, it does not measure up. It’s what I observe in my own life and community that primarily shapes my view on subjects such as the economy and healthcare. As Tip said, It’s all local.

For me at least, and I know of many others who believe that American Capitalism and American free market enterprise have not Saved America. Our system of Keynesian economics has failed us. Please note, I said American … not authentic capitalism or authentic free markets of which Keynesianism is not, i.e. free 100% of the time from government interference of any kind. Even that is speculation because we have no real world evidence that that kind of capitalism or free market would really work or be an improvement.

Many expound the Austrian School of economics as superior, but no one really works toward the implementation of its laissez faire tenets. Americans seem to expect change all in one stroke of the brush, instead of incremental change, a little at a time, over a long period of time. It has been all talk, so far.

Incremental steps toward a laissez faire system of economics with its praxeological concepts of how economic systems work would be one of the first steps to the abolition of money and the incremental changes that are needed to move forward to a resource-based economy. In the end, the abolition of money is the answer to 99.9 % of our problems. I believe long term that should be the goal of society.

Those free market folks, capitalist, and our government told us how important it was to invest. They told Americans that the interest on invested dollars would compound in value and grow exponentially over time. Of course, in an environment of probity and high ethical standards, everything being on the up-and-up, no interference, I suppose that may be true. As it turned out, many of us who had investments in our 401K’s may have been better off putting our money into a savings bank. Saving money the old fashion way. And, for many they say, thank god for Social Security; incidentally a government administered program.

The local view is that the government and Wall Street, capitalist and the free marketers, have screwed us, and they have. That being said, it would be seemingly incongruous with that view for us to put healthcare into their hands now. But what choices do we really have. It seems to me it is important to stay with this mix of private and public healthcare, and tweak it to make it work better for consumers. One way is to increase the competition with an insertion of a public healthcare plan, which is smack-dab within the principles of free market concepts.

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Many of our politicians -- except for a few like Obama and some others -- oligarchics, and Wall Street types, like most Americans have never had to face the real world life of providing for a family in an environment where the resources to do that are scarce. And, even those who at one time might have had the life of a proletariat, it was brief.

The economic mess as well as the healthcare problem is partly the result of the failure of government to understand and react to the problems of the average Joe and Jane while embracing those who are wealthy, failures of American Capitalism, and American free market, as well as the American consumer of healthcare.

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I pay $12,000 a year to get supposedly the best healthcare in the world. I have read and heard reports where some pay more for healthcare insurance than they do for home mortgage. Now, that certainly isn’t affordable for a great many Americans. Loss of a job and consequently your health insurance puts families in dire circumstance, for only until you apply, and eligibility is acknowledged, can you receive government mandated Cobra. However, for many Americans this is unattainable because they simply cannot afford its cost.

Some will say, what’s your complaint -- that’s cheap money for the best healthcare in the world. To those who say that, I would say, everything is relative to ones own situation. Where is the empirical and scientific data to support that contention? Value in the market place is determined by what someone is willing to pay for a product or service, but for the most part those products and services are for wants, desires, or needs; the same measurement cannot be made for necessities. (cosmetic surgery is certainly not as necessary as heart surgery) Whatever the cost of necessity in order to continue to live needs to be paid. When a decision must be made as to whether you have a roof over your head, food on the table, or the medical care for yourself or a sick child, what would be your decision?

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Healthcare is provided promptly if you have the money or a Cadillac of a health insurance plan to pay for it. But, for most, it’s not that easy, and one must wait for their care unless you utilize the services of a hospital emergency room. In Massachusetts the wait for care in the ER could be all day and all night. This situation is not because of our state mandated healthcare insurance law, as far back as I can remember, it has always been that way. Not like Canada, which in this Wikipedia article said, Studies by the Commonwealth Fund found that 57% of Canadians reported waiting 4 weeks [Americans can wait as long or longer] or more to see a specialist; 24% of Canadians waited 4 hours or more in the emergency room. [as said previously, an American emergency room wait for care can be, and often is, all day and night].

Anyone who goes to another country for his or her healthcare, whether it is Canada to America, or between any other two countries, pays those healthcare cost as well as the associated cost out-of-pocket. You must be financially secure in order to acquire top of the line care in America, or if you wish to go somewhere else for care on demand and that is less expensive.

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Mr. DiLorenzo’s statistical analysis may or may not be accurate, but, on its surface, to me it does not bear out empirically nor is it in agreement, overall, with the following data.
































Source: Wikipedia


Therefore, no matter what is said, whether it is by a libertarian ideologue, politician, economist, or other professional who oppose healthcare public plans, their conclusions are different from the facts. The truth is a set of corroborating facts that may be a priori or based on some kind of scientific analysis that can be tested by observation or scientifically (independently verified) to reach the same conclusions. The corroborating facts are that there are too many things that are factual to make what they, the opponents, are telling us as the truth. Obama said on Wednesday’s press conference, we spend much more on health care than any other nation, but aren't any healthier for it. He must be reading the same data as me.

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If the private sector can do a better job, why are they in the private sector so concerned about a law [they claim] that would eventually drive the private health insurance industry out of existence [because of competition]? Mr. DiLorenzo’s argument is bogus when he says that it would be difficult to compete with a rival who has all of his capital and operating costs paid out of tax dollars. Private insurance’s operating cost, capital, profit, and all other cost are paid to those companies with premiums paid by the consumer. A public plan is not free, as Mr. DiLorenzo explained. However, in a public healthcare plan, a tax and a premium on top of the tax pays for operating cost, capital for reinvestment back into the system, and all other costs is fundamentally no different from private healthcare insurance.

The article states, The Obama administration's claim that a government takeover of healthcare will somehow magically reduce costs is not to be taken seriously. Government never, ever, reduces the cost of doing anything. Well now, has the private insurance sector reduced the cost of anything except to take measures to decrease their cost, at times denying coverage, to increase profits? Have the shenanigans of capitalist and free marketers decreased the cost of any good and service for Americans? Nevertheless, there is no plan by President Obama that I know of to take over healthcare.

The article says … since healthcare is free [the implication being that Americans are of the mind set that it is free]. Socialized healthcare is not really free, of course; the true cost is merely hidden, since it is paid for by taxes. Americans understand that socialized healthcare, i.e. a public plan, is not free. The cost is not hidden if one wants to make the effort to lookup the data.

I have not found the word rationing as used by Mr. DiLorenzo in any public government document concerning a public healthcare option. Moreover, if one does not think that private healthcare insurance is in de facto rationed has their head in the sand.

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Statistics and analysis are fine and do have there place, but they somehow must be congruent, not only scientifically, but also with what is happening existentially, locally in the communities, on the ground, as they say; i.e what is happening to real people in a real way.

Bill Maher Explains the Healthcare Crisis, March 6, 2009

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