Monday, December 14, 2009

Thanks to the "Senator from Tel Aviv"

Normally, I would be disgusted at Mr. Lieberman selling out to the right wing on yet another crucial issue. However, the emerging health care "reform" legislation has become such cave-in to greedy corporate interests, that it deserves to die on the vine. The average citizen will be much better served by having congress reboot and try again from scratch next year.

Thank you Mr. Lieberman for your opposition to the pending health care legislation, however misplaced your reasoning might be! Now if you would just rethink your warmongering policies just a bit...


Friday, December 11, 2009

Health Care Reform Turning into Debacle

Back when Mr. O introduced his health care reform proposals, a commonly-heard tidbit went something like "anything that passes will be better than doing nothing". Indeed, that rationale boosted support among many in congress.

However, the gist of current versions being debated in the senate increases the appeal of doing nothing. Big Pharma and Big Insurance have spent millions to craft legislation they are happy with, and their happiness is a worrisome sign. The system that results could be more costly and complex than ever.

The fundamental problem is simple enough, and should lend itself to simple solutions. Since everyone potentially needs health care, a universal system of spreading costs makes sense. The current distortions in health care funding, along with the numbers of uninsured are the driving force behind reform efforts. Still, it's hard to see how the present legislation will bring about any improvement. We may end up with insurance companies barred from excluding pre-existing conditions or charging more for them, but at a cost that threatens to push even further out of reach of the average citizen.

Obama has pushed hard for "cost containment", but which players are going to line up for the haircut? Not big Pharma. Not Big Blue and the other insurers - they have lined the pockets of enough senators and congressmen to see to that. So the soft targets for cuts are Medicare and Medicaid, and just how will that be accomplished? Doctors and hospitals get the haircut, just as they are struggling with increasing amounts of uninsured care. Not much sense in that; "cost containment" is just a PR slogan to sell the delusion that expanded care can be achieved at no extra cost.

Republicans have helped stir passionate opposition to "socialized medicine" by invoking rhetoric such as "rationing", "government takeover" and "death panels" to "pull the plug on Grandma". For those currently well-covered, this may have its appeal, but who would really stand to lose if the present insurance system were replaced by a single-payer entity? If you guessed "insurance companies", then you understand why they spent so much to manipulate the ongoing debate.

Why do we keep hearing that polls show support for a "public option", yet the chances of it passing dwindle with each passing day? The answer is obvious; big money talks much louder than individual voters.

Then we hear of nonsense such as annual and lifetime benefit caps reappearing in amendments with titles like "ending benefit caps". This is exactly the type of legislation that would be worse than doing nothing - a thousand page monstrosity that passes without anyone knowing for sure what the contents are (except for the lobbyists that crafted the details). If it ends up mandating expensive coverage that few can afford, the system will be further destabilized.

The simple solution? Why not simply expand the present Medicare/Medicaid system and fund it with the existing payroll tax. The tax rate could slide progressively according to income, with middle class workers and their employers paying no more than the amount now spent on insurance. This solution would require no increase in bureaucracy and still maintain the potential for "cost containment". With near-universal participation, costs would be spread among the largest possible base. Unfortunately, it would mean the end of the line for insurance companies, and that's why you won't see anything like this proposed.

And why is "rationing" such a bad idea? There is a cost-effectiveness curve that means most improvement in public health comes from the bottom 50% of expenditures, with further improvements diminishing as expenditures increase. With an open-ended approach to new therapies and technologies, costs can ultimately approach infinity. Some therapies provide questionable benefit or even prolong suffering. Should we bankrupt ourselves to extend the average life a few extra months? With the proper balance, we could be healthier and spend less.

This discussion inevitably leads to the choice between allopathic and integrative medicine. If alternative therapies could compete on cost-effectiveness with the accepted mainstream on a level playing field, everyone would win (except for those invested in the present high-cost system). Don't look for reform legislation to favor integrative medicine, since the big money will be lined up against it.

Perhaps our best hope is to wait for the present system to collapse completely, while adopting healthier lifestyles and learning what we can do to enhance our own health.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's Official - Obama is a Warmonger

It's really no surprise - he made his intentions clear during the campaign. Many of his supporters focused on the "withdraw from Iraq" promises and tuned out the "get tough" rhetoric on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thus, when Obama announced a major escalation of troop levels in Afghanistan, it caused some surprise and dismay among his supporters.

Sure, this isn't Bush's war. Despite Al-Qaeda’s acknowledged presence in Afghanistan, Bush chose to wage war against Saddam and the people of Iraq. However, war is war, and American bombs are inflicting hell on Afghan people just as surely they did under Bush in Iraq. After suffering so long with Bush fatigue, many of us thought we were voting for change.

So why the warmongering stance from the guy we expected to reverse Bush's policies? Why indeed. What geopolitical strategy or national security interest could possibly be served by chasing Taliban fighters through the mountains and valleys of this country? Obama has been hard-pressed to deliver a cogent answer. His fig leaf invokes "regional stability" and carrying on the so-called "war on terror". So what are the real reasons our soldiers are being sent- besides protecting the opium trade from undue disruption?

In search of clues, let's review a little recent history in that part of the world.

We must recall that the Taliban were considered US allies and intelligence assets during the Soviet Union's ill-fated intervention. Bin Laden was a CIA asset with handlers assigned to him.

During the Clinton administration, a major push was undertaken by a consortium of oil interests to negotiate approval for a gas pipeline across Afghanistan and surrounding territories. In one infamous photo-op, Bin Laden sat with a delegation of Taliban in the presence of Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney was involved in negotiations as chief of Haliburton.

The Taliban ultimately turned thumbs down the deal, which is the primary reason they became candidates for "regime change". Added to this was the fact that they eradicated the poppy trade and put a crimp in the flow of narcotics from the region - don't forget that the "war on drugs" is a phony ruse to maintain control of the drug trade by criminal elements within the PTB. All that was needed was the "new Pearl Harbor" that Cheney wrote hopefully about in 2000 to provide a pretext to take out the Taliban and replace them with trusted CIA asset Harmid Karzai. The pipeline still gets blown up regularly, but the poppy crop is doing rather well now.

OK, so Obama's not stupid, so he must be aware of the real policy objectives in Afghanistan. So why doesn't he just take a stand against that nonsense, as his liberal supporters hoped and expected? Bottom line: The sad fact is that American presidents are not granted much autonomy for decision making. Oh sure, they are allowed enough latitude around the margins of policy decisions to make it look like they are in charge. The press reported that Obama mulled and chewed on the Afghan escalation for weeks, but the only question at stake was how much escalation and for how long. General McChrystal defined terms of the debate by proposing an 80,000 troop increase, so the president could appear to take the "moderate" course of only increasing by 30,000. You can be sure that immediate withdrawal was not on his list of options.

To be sure, the Afghan war is becoming unpopular, and people are beginning to ask and wonder why they voted against warmongering and still got more warmongering anyway. Obama may eventually pay the political price for this, but he must understand that this is how the system works. JFK will forever serve as the example of what happens to presidents that have delusions of actually being in charge of anything beyond choosing drapes for the oval office.

It's vital that Americans wake out of their delusion that they choose our leaders and influence policy. The Right-Left, Liberal-Conservative polemic must be exposed as a fraud. Blowhards such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O'Reilly may claim to defend our constitutional liberties, but never tackle issues of substance, such as the myriad unconstitutional actions taken under Bush. Instead, they acted as shills for the Republican National Committee and now attack anything Obama. Only true conservatives such as Ron Paul take principled stands of any kind, and of course he is marginalized as a result.

The Left is in sorry shape as well, and now their integrity is tested as Obama ramps up his warmongering, forgets about abolishing the Guantanamo Bay, and generally defends the sanctity of Bush’s dirty secrets. Will they meekly parrot the party line the way Republicans do?

One bright spot is talk show host Thom Hartman. It’s no coincidence that he co-authored a recent book on JFK assassination research. One you understand the fact that powerful forces exist within our governmental corptocracy that can take down a president at will, your view of the system will never be the same.

Let’s face it: The intervention in Afghanistan is just as illegal and based on lies as the Iraq campaign. There is no legitimate reason to send troops into harm’s way and have them return with missing limbs or worse. The so-called terrorist threat is trumped up and fabricated, and 911 was a false-flag operation perpetrated by the PTB to manipulate public opinion. The use of depleted uranium ordinance is contaminating vast areas of Afghanistan and Iraq and sentencing millions (including our troops) to premature deaths from cancer. The mainstream media (MSM) will not report on the DU issue for obvious reasons.

Hopefully, the truth is beginning to emerge.