The Birth of the United States Parliament: Update

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Update:

October 7, 2013

When I first published this post back in August, I honestly thought that neither a government shutdown nor a Debt Ceiling default was within the realm of possibility in a world of rational people.  After all, I thought, in the end cooler heads would prevail.

I’ll never make that mistake again!

Now with the House of Representatives being held as political prisoners, because the GOP’s super-conservative faction (is cult too strong a term–maybe not! Look up the definition of a cult) has decided that the idea of majority rule as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution no longer applies to them, and therefore, they can stage an ideological and, therefore, legislative coup, violating both the Constitution and their pledge to defend it.  Of course, in their twisted logic, they believe they are defending the Constitution from the rest of us who are…well, just the rest of us.  The notion of majority rule can just go to hell.  They threaten to take the nation over the socioeconomic edge into a pit of unknown calamities, though, the economy crashing down around our heads is likely to be one major consequence.

After the election in fall 2012, I was thinking, ‘Okay, now we can get back to Congress doing some real business.  The next election is a long way off and I’m burned out with the 24-hour election cycle we were subjected to by the media, and anybody else with an axe to grind and a Twitter account.’  Now, I can’t wait for Fall 2014 to get here soon enough, presuming we have some semblance of an electoral process still intact, so through some miracle, this group of constitutional insurgents can get voted out of office.  Way out.  Maybe to be the new boots on the ground in Afghanistan as we pull our troops out.  I’m sure they and the Taliban would have most interesting debates over ideological sledge hammering.  The Taliban are against compromise, too.  Oops, did I just compare the tea party insurgents to the insurgents in Afghanistan?  Well, of course not.  I obviously just used the illustration to highlight the fact the tea party politicians are pathologically opposed to compromise.

Oh, and by the way, for those of you who have been Extreme Thinkover readers since the beginning, The Sniffer and I are very pleased with the Affordable Care Act rollout.  Minute by minute, Americans’ demand for access to health insurance is building as a wave against those who would still deny them that.  And as the Exchanges get the opening kinks worked out, the Whiff’ and I both have this strong feeling the initial registration and enrollment period will exceed the everybody’s predictions, perhaps by the many millions.

And all the Republicans have to present to the nation as their alternative national health care plan remains that one blank piece of paper that Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell were so smug about in January 2010 when they met with the President.  Oh yeah, and then a month and a half later President Obama signed the bill into law on March 23, 2010.  Majority rules.

Now we are closer to devolving into a parliamentary morasse than when I posted this essay:

The Birth of the the United States Parliament

Sometimes you get an insight by reading what is going on someplace else in the world. I’ll admit that’s not a ground-shaking revelation, but the insight can be a point of sudden snap-focus into what is happening right here under your nose.

In my case, this “ah-hah!” moment came from reading a New York Times Op-Ed article by Shmuel Rosner, a Tel Aviv journalist and senior political editor for The Jewish Journal. His piece, titled, “The Tyranny of the Minority” (2 August 2013) discusses changes that are taking place in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, regarding adjustments to the election laws that determine the threshold percentage needed to win a seat in body.  The specifics are not important to my point (you can read the article if you are interested), but the impact of the changes on how the minority parties will have to negotiate to have a voice caught my attention.

I contend we have in the United States House of Representatives not just the birth, but the rapid evolutionary growth of a parliamentary structure; a structure that, according to my reading of the United States Constitution, should never exist.

For some context, here’s what’s happening in the Knesset.  As the percentage threshold for winning a seat in the assembly is raised, the smaller parties that might have had just one or two seats under the old rule are now unable to win even a single seat.  Since these small parties represent minorities to begin with, such as different Arab groups, and more extreme Jewish conservative and liberal parties, they are faced with a huge dilemma.  How does a single party negotiate with one (or more) of the others to piece together a coalition that might mean compromising with a group they find politically distasteful?  And even worse, from their perspective, what if their only solution was to compromise and attach themselves to one of the mainline “Jewish” parties?

Rosner writes,

Raising the threshold was proposed on the theory that it could help stabilize Israel’s political scene by strengthening the two leading parties.  It may not: Some say it would only create more midsize parties. But at least it would fix the currents system’s main pitfall, which is to discourage compromise among all parties by encouraging the proliferation of small ones.

Huh? An image began to form in my mind sketching out what is happening in the House of Representatives as we observe the growing influence of smaller and smaller groups of politically narrowly-aligned representatives declaring that they are fighting perceived tyranny in the size and function of the Federal Government, but ironically, growing closer to manifesting and exercising a true “tyranny of the minority” over the House.

Rosner’s closing point was my snap-focus realization:

For a country as varied and complicated as Israel, the representation of minorities is crucial.  But for a country as varied and complicated as Israel, learning to compromise is even more important.

Bang! Substitute the words “United States” for “Israel” and what emerges is a powerful statement of what I see is the affliction that is now crippling the House of Representatives, and placing the balance of power of the Legislative Branch outlined in the Constitution in jeopardy.

Read More…

Knock, Knock…I’m Home

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Happy Independence Day (for those of you who live in the United States…and perhaps today for those who live in Egypt as well!)

I’m back and ready to resume my blogging after an unanticipated and unplanned absence.  I turned 60 this year, and with it came an unwelcome set of health issues.  I know, there are a lot of “uns” in those two sentences.  Life is just like that at times.

Extreme Thinkover and my readers have never been far from my heart and thoughts throughout the past months. There have been countless issues in the news and ideas about all manner of things that I have wanted to write about.  Now, I think I have the wherewithall to start up again.  I can assure you I haven’t run out of opinions and perceptions of what is going on around us. Some of them might even be right.

As always, if there is a topic you would like to dialogue about, either submit a comment to this post, or write me at extreme.thinkover@gmail.com.  The Contact Me link is in the header.

Let the words and ideas fly!

DW

Health Care For All Americans, Part 3: UPDATED

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Over the past few days, Dr. John and I have been having a fascinating discussion about this post from September 2008.  It is one of the first pieces I wrote for Extreme Thinkover,  before President Obama was elected, as well as at least a year before the serious work on what would become the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare” (but which I prefer to refer as “the ACA”) was being worked on.  It was also before Dr. John and I met and got acquainted.

I deliberately haven’t edited the post below, so our comments will make sense in the context in which they were written will make sense.  I think my readers will enjoy the back and forth between us, and I invite you to add your own comments, should you feel so inclined.

IMPORTANT: Read the comments starting from the bottom of the thread. It is where the discussion starts. And you may have to move up and down a few comments for our replies because of the way WordPress publishes them: by the time stamp of the comment/reply and not directly associated with a given submission.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

***************

Health Care for All Americans: Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2,  I discussed first, the assumptions needed from a medical perspective, particularly with respect  to the scope of treatment plans that would lead to optimizing the health of Americans, and second, how those assumptions would create a radical transformation in the health of Americans that would work its way through all aspects of daily life.  In Part 3, I now want to describe the logic that shows how the country would benefit.

We’ll start using my first assumption: Preventable diseases are prevented.

We could use any number of examples, but the format of the blog does requires some brevity, rather than a detailed White Paper or journal article.  I also acknowledge that the ideas I  present here have all been suggested by others, but this is how I choose to organize them.

For purposes of our discussion let’s call our example citizen, Larry.  Larry works full time for minimum wage, does not have  health insurance, and cannot afford to buy private insurance.  He also does not qualify for any government health care benefits.  Larry’s wife also works for minimum wage, but only 24 hours per week.

As long as his health holds, Larry can work and he has no medical needs.  He pays local, federal and state taxes and uses no special government services.

But let’s say that Larry gets pneumonia.  It is a very common viral strain, and can be treated successfully with antibiotics, and could have been avoided entirely if Larry had had a pneumonia vaccination.  Now he’s faced with a dilemma.  At first he thinks he just has a chest cold and he can wait it out.  Being a conscientious worker, he toughs it out and goes to work, but exposes his coworkers to the bug through his worsening cough.

By the weekend, Larry is really sick.  Over the counter cough medicines provide almost no relief, and on top of that, his cough is becoming increasingly productive.  He cannot sleep because of the cough and not being able to find a position in bed where he can breathe without effort and  pain.  Larry knows he needs to see a doctor, but having no insurance, he does not have a primary care physician, so he has no idea who to call.  Finally his breathing becomes so difficult that his wife calls  911.  Larry is taken to an emergency room by ambulance, but one on the far side of the city because the hospital closest does not like to take patients without insurance.

By the time Larry gets to an emergency room that will accept him as a patient he is nearly in respiratory arrest.   The ER doctor quickly diagnoses the pneumonia, but that it is so advanced that Larry’s life is in danger.  She intubates him immediately and transfers him to the hospital’s intensive care unit. It is four days before Larry’s condition has improved enough to send him to a “step-down” unit and two more days before he can be admitted to a medical unit room, and he is discharged two days after that.

Larry is fortunate that the hospital he is at has Certified RN and MSW Care Managers.  They work with him and his wife throughout  the hospitalization, develop a treatment plan and a discharge plan, set Larry up with a local medical clinic that treats patients without insurance, and provide his wife with food  vouchers and bus tokens so she can make the long trip back and forth to the hospital.

Despite all this, when Larry is wheeled out to the taxi to take him home, he has a hospital bill that is $250,000.  Since Larry and his wife together make too much money to qualify for Medicare, that bill rests squarely on their shoulders. He has no way to pay it back.  He will not be strong enough to work for at least another three weeks.  He will have not earned a dollar since he got sick, and won’t until he returns to work.  His wife’s income is not sufficient to cover all their bills,  and if they pay the rent, they will not have enough money to buy food.  The hospital sent home a week’s supply of medications, but after that, he will have to pay for them himself, and due to the damage to his lungs, he will need regular medications for at least six months.  Those prescriptions will cost over $800 per month.  Through the free medical clinic he can apply for medication cost support , but that can take up to four weeks to be approved assuming he qualifies.

Now multiply this basic scenario by twenty or thirty million Larrys a year. Every year. That is health care in America.

Here’s what happens.  The only good news is that Larry has survived a brush with death, ironically from a completely preventable disease.

Larry and his wife now owe the hospital $250,000.  They have no assets.  Even though they signed a promissory note with the hospital, no one is under the illusion that he will be able to pay back more than a few thousand dollars if he is a very conscientious person.

Larry and his wife owe the ambulance service perhaps $3,000.  They cannot pay it, or they will have to try to pay it off in very small amounts per year at a probably high interest rate.

Larry will lose at least a month’s income, and perhaps more if his recovery is longer than expected.  If he is very fortunate, his employer will hold his job until he can return.  In the meantime, his wife’s income is not large enough to cover their essential bills, starting with rent and food.  If Larry’s wife cannot get more hours from her current work, her only realistic option is to get another part time job, likely at minimum wage.  Whether that will at least let them pay for their basics is not certain.  It is also uncertain how flexible their landlord will be to let them catch up with their current rent.

It should be clear by now, that one simple, preventable illness has created a cascade of events that affects the economy, are extraordinarily expensive and completely unnecessary.  Yet, this is the true consequence of the current American health care system.

The hospital will have to write off the $250,000.  To compensate they will have to pass this loss, as well as hundreds of others per year, to their patients with insurance.

The ambulance company will have to spend a lot to try and recover their fee from Larry, and will pass those added expenses along to their other customers who can pay, either privately or with insurance.  If Larry doesn’t keep up with the payments, they may turn him over to collection, which will damage his credit.

Larry’s employer loses productivity from a good worker.  The company may have to hire temporary labor to fill Larry’s absence, which will be more expensive.

Larry and his wife lose essential income, which at minimum wage is marginal to begin with, and may jeopardize their ability to even house and feed themselves.

Every day that Larry does not work means that his wages do not generate taxes, local, county and federal, as well as FICA withholdings.  Multiply that by twenty or thirty million Larrys year after year and the loss is well into billions.  The impact of this loss of tax revenue and productivity is staggering on the national economy.

All this from a preventable disease that could have been stopped before it was started if Larry had had access to the most basic medical care.  Everybody loses.  The nation is weakened through attrition in ways no external threat could impose on us.   This national “epidemic” is progressive, it is close to end-stage, and we could all too easily end up with a terminal prognosis.  We may reach a point that we literally will be too unhealthy to survive as a nation.

We still have a choice.  Until the epidemic takes that away.

30 Governors Open Health Care Ghettos: October 1, 2013

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The governors from over half of the 50 states have or are considering refusing to establish Health Care Exchanges and to participate in Medicaid as provided for by the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) cynically known as “Obamacare.”  My assessment is that the consequences of this decision by the Chief Elected Officers of these states is going to in actuality create a third-tier, low quality health care environment.  Simply put, those states that offer to their residents full participation in the rights and privileges provided by the ACA, which is the law of the land, will develop in a few short years, into first-tier, high quality health care systems.  The states  that don’t, however, will within a similar number of a years see their health care, both private and public, degenerate into a ghetto of medical inferiority.

I call it…Read More

THIS President and YOU People Lost the Election. BIG Time.

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Prelude:  I almost titled this post “The Fall of the Plutocrats’ Prejudiced Pronouns.”  What held me back, though, was the fear that if someone pronounced my clever alliteration out loud, they might get saliva on their computer/tablet/smartphone screen.  Since this is the beginning of the cold and influenza season, I decided to restrain myself in the service of good public hygiene.  Oh, do remember to cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm or your shoulder.  The viral laden droplets are far less apt to be transmitted to another when you offer that hearty handshake of yours.  And for crying out loud, stop being a wuss and go get a flu shot, too.  And wash your hands!

THIS and YOU: Pronouns of the Rich and…and…and…?

The leaders of the Right (the political and ideological right, that is), both formally and virtually, have consistently referred to Barack Obama as “THIS” president. Ann Romney, the now former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s wife, upped the rhetorical ante during the campaign by referring to the country’s population as “YOU” people, by which she apparently meant the 99% of we mere plebes who lacked any cache’ conveyed by filthy-richness have no right to believe anything beyond what we are told by those who, after all, really matter: The ONE percent at the top of the socioeconomic marble staircase. From their lofty perspective, the expectation of unquestioning subservience applies just as much to those underlings of their own party, in this case the GOP, not just the 47% of the unwashed masses who weren’t going to vote for Romney anyway because they were too busy not paying any taxes or doing anything substantive or “responsible” to care for themselves.

As one who studied the power of rhetoric during his doctoral work, I found the Conservatives’ use of the pronouns “this” and” you” revealing in the sense of standing next to a rock wall and suddenly having an invisible door open.  Casting aside all caution for fear of being swept back into the Republicanism I have been in recovery from for close to a decade, I stepped over the threshold.  What a mess!  Just don’t tell anybody.

The Republicans have been referring to THE president as THIS president virtually from the day he was first sworn into office in 2009.  I contend the use of this particular pronoun was intended to be an objectivist put-down in most cases, to be both denigrating and condescending. For some, though, it is a subtle but rhetorically obvious statement based on the racial prejudice of the speaker.  I think it can be suggested that it is the modern euphemism of the discredited term, “boy.”  In some people the choice of the pronoun is not due to conscious thought so much as an expression of a kind of group-speak, although it carries the same rhetorical effect–a sarcastic slur.  The emotional effect and intent is to place a linguistic wedge between the man, in this case, Barack Obama, and the office that he holds, which happens to be President of the United States; it is intended to communicate that in the opinion of speaker, the person in possession of, again, in this case, the Oval Office is not legitimately entitled to be there. That is because he is __________ (fill in the blank).

The use of the pronoun “THIS” as a pejorative has been rampant amongst the GOP leadership for both the House of Representatives and the Senate.  In fact, I would go far as to state that if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard Rep. John Boehner, Rep Eric Cantor, and their Senate counterparts, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. John Kyl use the phrase, “THIS president,” I’d probably be richer than Karl Rove (who loves to use the pronoun, as well), who now has nothing more useful to do than to count the fees he made off the hundreds of millions of dollars he conned from the billionaire marks to defeat not just Pres. Obama, but also numerous Democratic senators and representatives, which, as we know now, was a complete waste of money.  I’m just certain Karl doesn’t have to give back his undoubtedly very big commissions despite all those losses he suffered at the hands of the American Voter.  But I digress.  Well, I do have to ask, “Hey Karl, how’s that Citizens United thingy working out for you these days?”

As I wrote earlier in the blog regarding Ann Romney’s rhetorical use of “YOU people” the same point is evident.  With recent reports coming out of The Netherlands of how Bain and Romney are alleged to have laundered millions in profits through the Dutch financial maze and in all likelihood avoided paying tens of millions of dollars in U.S. Taxes, it appears to be crystal clear why Mrs. Romney didn’t want to have those facts come to light. Especially to YOU people!  Not only is Romney very possibly indictable for felony tax evasion against the United States, it also would mean that the ten percent Mr. Romney has claimed he has given to the LDS as required by its church rules during those years was millions of dollars short.  Salt Lake would not be amused.

With such a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads and campaign, Mrs Romney had to resort to the only weapon she had at hand, a stinging verbal rebuke of the underlings for even daring to raise the question.  We the people—or in her rhetoric, “YOU people” are not worthy to be privy to the true financial records of the Great and Powerful Oz…er, uh, Rom. I am fairly certain that to this day she believes she put the entire nation in its place—once and for all.  They never did release their true tax returns for the ten years that has become the standard for presidential and vice presidential candidates.  Romney even required his running mate, the most unfortunate, Rep. Paul Ryan, to provide those documents to the Campaign as he was being vetted to be Romney’s running mate, but it seems suspiciously apparent to me that what was good for the goose was not good for the gander.

For me, the great irony of this election is that the Lords of plutocracy put forth a mighty cry, a bunch of bucks and a candidate that had all the personality of a Madam Tussaud’s wax museum figure, and they pretty much lost it all.  I find it hard, well, close to impossible, to be honest, to have any sympathy for their plight.

The election is over.  America is still in the hands of the people who count, not THOSE people* who thought they could buy it and own it, with the rest of us being subservient to their plutocratic will.

*Sorry, just couldn’t resist that one!

Mitt Romney is Four Years Old

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I am sitting on my couch listening to Mitt Romney give his acceptance speech as the Republican nominee for President the United States.  What strikes me (as it has with other speeches I have listened to from the Republican National Convention) is that unlike scientific creationists who at least believe that the universe is a scant 6000 years old, Mitt Romney and the Republicans believe the universe is four years old.  Four years old.

Nothing in the universe existed before 2008 (shouldn’t that be year 0004?) in the GOP cosmos.  No universe, no galaxy, no solar system, no earth, no America.  It all spontaneously came into existence the moment President Barack Obama took office.

In the Republican cosmos according to Mitt Romney, nothing came into existence until Barack Obama became President of the United States. Four years ago.

That’s it.  In their cosmology all the ills America is facing are the directly the result of four short years.  Since nothing existed before that time, the Republicans and Mitt Romney believe there is nothing for which they have to take responsibility.

There is only one conclusion I can draw from Mitt Romney’s speech: The GOP is only four years old, therefore Mitt Romney is only four years old.

As a progressive and a Democrat I have news for them.  We live in a universe that is nearly thirteen billion years old, the solar system is four and a half billion years old, America is 236 years old, and four years ago when Barack Obama took office, the economy he inherited had been worn threadbare and emaciated by years of Republican living high on the hog, passing bills and conducting wars with unfunded mandates.  They are the ones who drove our economy into the ground, not President Obama.

And don’t the Democrats bear responsibility for their version of bad legislation in the past?  Of course they do.  What they don’t claim, however, is that the universe began with George W. Bush.  FDR, maybe, but not Dubya. (For the satire-challenged, that was it.)

Mr. Romney, since you are only four years old, you do not meet the Constitutional minimum age of 35 to be President of the United States.  Neither are your Republican toddler companions.  That goes for your running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan–a disciple of Ayn Rand, an atheist objectivist–along with Rep. John Boehner, so-called Speaker of the House who has raised obstructionist political shenanigans to the highest levels ever seen in the history of the Republic, and finally Mitch McConnell, minority leader of the Senate, who for the past four years–again that toddler age–has not one day done his job as a senator to govern but has dedicated is every breath to the defeat of the President.

America needs a mature adult in the White House.  That adult is Barack Obama.  He lives in the real world with a clear sense of history, both the good and bad.  And without a clear sense of history, there can be no clear sense of the future.  That is America–true Americans have never wavered from that clarity!

Extreme Thinkover Comments Require Civil Discourse

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To my dear readers:
From the beginning of Extreme Thinkover, I have set a standard for civil discourse on the blog.  I hold myself to that standard.  See the header for my statement on civil discourse.

In the past few days I received a comment from an individual that appears to fit the description of a “troll.” Trolls or trollers are persons who search the blogosphere for posts or blogsites that they disagree with for political or ideological reasons and then write comments that are usually tirades that often use profane, even lewd language attacking the individual they oppose.

In this case, the comment was a crude, ad hominem attack against the President of United States, as well as myself.

The individual who wrote the comment is a known troll who writes inflammatory comments, not just to individual blogs, but as a prolific far-right-wing spammer.  It is possible that the writer may actually be more than one person, but his style (a male’s name appears as the author of the comment) is quite consistent with other material I have read authored by the guy, so I assume that one person is responsible for the comment..

How do I know this?  WordPress provides its bloggers with a significant amount of information from those who submit comments and replies.  As a result I have access to some of this man’s track record on the Internet.

I have no problem with my readers disagreeing with me.  In fact, in my statement on civil discourse I specifically mention you are welcome to do just that.  I will not, however, approve comments or replies that violate that standard.