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!

America the Entertained

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We Americans are undergoing a cultural transformation. I know in many respects that is hardly news. What I’ve been observing though is a confluence of streams of those changes in ways that suggest they are picking up speed, not unlike several rain-swollen rivers coming together to create a massive flood as it works its way down-stream.

It’s difficult to characterize all the subtleties of this growing torrent, but for purposes of this post I’m going to focus on three of these streams in the context of our national demand for endless entertainment. I’ll leave the non-entertaining analysis to the sociologists.

Let’s start with politics, specifically the debates by the Republican presidential candidates.  It seems to me the behavior we have observed not only by the candidates, but the very format and “rules” for these televised events is no longer a forum in any classical sense for a debate, that is, a discussion of genuine public policy positions the candidates hold on the important issues facing the nation. Instead, they have been converted into political theater, orchestrated bash and trash sessions analogous to two teams scrambling for a fumbled football, the referee-pundits at the opposite end of the field, commenting on what they think they observe eighty yards away.

The result takes little effort to parse. Read more…

My Take: Why Rick Warren is Praying at Obama’s Presidential Inauguration

Back before the election, I wrote that Americans were going to have to get used to having a smart president, a man who thinks out of a complex frame of reference. He is unlike the current Occupant of the White House, whose thinking is at the best of times unidimensional. The past eight years clearly illustrate him at the worst of times.

Don’t expect President Barack Obama to think or make decisions like George W. Bush. The Neo-con Republicans are already gnashing their teeth over having to deal with a president who can out-think them on just about any topic. But those of us who supported Obama must also change our perspective about what to expect from this president, the president. He will think and do things that surprise us. It will take a while to adjust, but soon, I hope our unease will return to the confidence and enthusiasm we felt so strongly when we elected him to the highest office in the land.

When I heard that president-elect Obama had chosen the well-known evangelical pastor, Rick Warren, to pray the invocation at the inauguration, I was, for a moment, stunned. During the campaign Republicans had a field-day with Obama’s answers at the Saddleback Forum. No one will doubt that Warren and Obama are ideologically distant in a multitude of ways. It’s a safe bet that Warren didn’t vote for Obama.

But in one extremely important respect they are alike: they are both Christians. Why is this important? It’s the whole Barack HUSSEIN Obama issue. The Far Right fabricated accusations that Obama is an undercover jihadist Muslim, ready to lead the country down the road into the arms of al Qaeda. Through the course of the campaign they hammered on this falsehood ad nauseum, and still do, for that matter. Reality is not the issue here. Their paranoid delusion is based on the same kind of fallacious reasoning that kept the world “flat” for several millennia. Millions of Americans still believe Obama is a follower of Mohammad (with my apologies to all Muslims of good faith), even though Obama has repeatedly denied it and stated unequivocally that he is a practicing Christian .

Enter Rick Warren. First of all, Obama has said repeatedly–REPEATEDLY–he would work to bring all Americans back together, that includes those who opposed him politically–and theologically. Warren is the face of a huge body of evangelical Christians, and though he has his critics from the Far Right (and the Left, of course), none of them can legitimately dispute that he is a born-again Christian by their own definition. By itself, that could be Obama’s reason to invite Warren, and it would be consistent with what he promised to do. And it is not intended to be a slap in any of his supportive constituents’ faces.

But Warren’s presence on the inaugural platform is also a repudiation of the Far-Right’s unfounded lies. The man who will be praying for the new president of the United States is a clear signal to them: Christian Rick Warren praying for Christian Barack Obama.

Jesus said, “To him who has ears, let him hear.” Actually he said it a whole bunch of times. It is sad how many in the Far Right, who profess to believe in that Jesus, have plugged their ears so their world will stay flat.

For the rest of us: Obama promised us change. This is one of them. Get used to it.

ADDENDUM: My colleague, M.S., over at Greeningwood correctly points out that although Rick Warren is giving the invocation at Obama’s and Biden’s inauguration, the benediction will be pronounced by the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery (b 1921), who along with MLK founded the SCLC. He is a beloved and much-honored leader of the American Civil Rights Movement.

The World Still Has Hope in Us

This age of instant news, images flowed from my TV, of celebrations around the world: Barack Obama had just been elected President of the United States.

One of the news reporters said that fireworks had been scheduled as part of the victory celebration at Grant Park in Chicago, but Obama had canceled them, himself.  America is at war, the economy is crashing about our heads.  Fireworks could come later.

Around the world, millions didn’t care.  They rushed into the streets celebrating.  From every continent, rejoicing that this very multi-continental man blended of race but utterly American would become the Leader of the Free World.  Despite what reservations they had harbored just a day ago, now there flowed an exhilarating rush of new hope from America and for themselves as well.  No government or regime compelled them to take to the streets, but they just couldn’t seem to restrain themselves.  And I thought if I awoke tomorrow and Kenya had applied for statehood, I would not be surprised.

Barack Obama.  He has not served a second in the office to which he has been elected.  But the world didn’t care.  As he stepped onto that Chicago stage, the world saw America stepping back onto the global stage with him.  The America they feared they could no longer trust; the America they feared had lost its way with belligerent disregard for the world itself behaving as a feral child lashing out in abject fear; the America they had relied on for hope even in the darkest hours of devastation wrought by tyrants or the earth’s unstoppable natural forces.  They feared that this fertile land of opportunity now suffocating under a glacier of paranoia and greed had been lost forever.

And perhaps we, too, shared those same fears.  With one exception.  For we know the power of one vote.  That is our heritage and our legacy, the flame of liberty lighting our path, each step we take as “We the People.”

I wondered.  I wondered what would those millions have been doing if John McCain, as honorable a Patriot as he is, had won the presidency?  Would the streets around the world been flooded with those exuberant crowds?  No, in all honesty, I believe the streets would have been empty.

I wondered.  I wondered what the most private thoughts of President George W. Bush were, watching on television the adulation for America’s decision bursting with joy and wild abandon from around the world?  Crowds cheering for the United States, jockeying for a moment in front of the cameras to praise America, waving our flag with pride as if it were their own.  What did he ponder, knowing that his name, indeed his presidency in those same places brought not celebrating crowds but angry hordes, wreaking havoc, tearing his effigy to pieces, calling America the worst terrorist in the world, and, burning the Stars and Stripes, words unable to express their outrage?

I know that the challenges Barack Obama faces when he takes office will be daunting.  As will they be to every citizen of the United States.  But for this moment, it’s good just to know the World still has hope in us.

This Man Most Improbable

There he stood.

Steady, solid, focused, almost relaxed.

A man changed in an instant, all the while sharing an energy for change from the well of his being,

He looked at us.  He looked into the eyes of the crowd, into the cameras.

The world watched with the expectancy of a long-held breath.

This man most improbable.

He looked into our souls, this soul of a nation,

And with words calm and articulate called to us who are blended by birth and destiny,

“One out of Many,” a nation of grand contradictions, a cord of three hundred million strands,

Woven into a rope that binds tightly a land of liberty, freedom and justice.

This man most improbable,

Strong with his own blending, resolute of mind and intellect,

And faith, more than a sextant, a magnetic force drawn by grace to the One who is Word and Peace.

There he stood, shoulders steady, voice assured, his gaze focused on a future yet to be,

The mantle, granted by We the People, he will be sworn to wear, hovering above in the clear night air.

“Yes!” this people said, reaching beyond “We can” to”We will for we are American.”

Barack Obama, President of the United States.

The world’s long-held expectant breath now matched by eyes widened in wonder,

At this most improbable nation holding high anew the torch of liberty, as one out of many

Strides from our midst, unexpected, yes, now a servant of Democracy, and her daughter,

The United States of America.

Barack Obama, this man most improbable.

Getting Ready for the Real Work: Health Care After the Election

Twenty-four hours from now we will know who the next President of the United States will be.  That will be the moment the real work for bringing health care to all Americans begins.  Obama’s plan or McCain’s?  The AMA’s “Voice for the Uninsured” or AARP’s “Divided We Fail?”

If you have been a regular reader of my blog you know that I have reservations about all of the above.  All of them have a fundamental policy flaw: they begin with trying to control the cost of health insurance, but without a clear strategy for how to first establish national goals for a healthy America.  As a result, I am convinced that these plans will never work as promised, and in the end, cost us billions of dollars as well as come nowhere close to the medical and health needs for a healthy America across generations.

One nationally-based organization has designed a plan that parallels my primary assumptions for health care.   That organization is the Catholic Health Association, which is the voice for most Catholic-related hospitals and other health care facilities.  Now, don’t go squeamish on me, just because you might not agree with Roman Catholic theology and doctrines relating to contraception and abortion (or even if you do).  Instead, I invite my readers to thoughtfully consider the principles put forth in what they call the “CHA Vision.”

Disclosure: I work for a Catholic hospital that supports CHA principles, but is not a CHA-system hospital.  I am a member of a Protestant denomination.

Here is CHA’s promotional PowerPoint.  (Of course, you’ll need at least PowerPoint viewer to open this)  (CHA Vision courtesy of Catholic Health Association).

chavisionpowerpoint1

As always, I invite your comments.

And be sure you vote!

AMA’s Health Care Plan: McCain’s Plan on Steroids, UPDATED

The Great Debate over how to fix America’s critically ill health care system is being microscopically examined throughout the media.  As the world anxiously watches to see if the major “bailout” surgery by the U.S. government performed on Wall Street has saved that patient, health care has returned to the crucially important attention it demands.  The question is, will the emergency care Americans need to produce a  revolution in health care be enough to save this patient?

In the time since I originally wrote this post, the presidential candidates have revised their talking points about access to health care for Americans, but their overall plans have not changed.  What has, is the public’s demand for a solution that will actually provide access to medical services while not threatening the financial survival for those who have health insurance, or the very lives of those who don’t.

One thing is certain.  The status quo is not acceptable, and whichever candidate takes the White House better move quickly to implement what he has promised.  That plan will determine the degree of medical access for years to come, virtually determine the level of health Americans will be able to achieve, and whether we will be able to compete economically and socially, through the 21st Century.  Failure to take this action would  be the equivalent of political suicide for the new president, his administration, and his party in Congress.

My hypothesis for what constitutes the most beneficial health care system is simple: Each healthy individual adds to a healthy community, which adds to a healthy society and nation, which provides for a higher quality of life and, therefore, allows those individuals to optimize their personal potential and creativity, reducing the cost of health care by hundreds of billions of dollars across generations and generating trillions in productivity.

If I can figure this out, not being a physician, one would think that the American Medical Association, combining the experience and insight of tens of thousands of doctors would have a plan for health care reform that would be medically astute, financially creative, in short, a work that reflects the highest possible standards for evidence-based patient care.  The AMA calls their plan “Voice for the Uninsured.”  Here’s the link: http://www.voicefortheuninsured.org/.  Read what they state in the synopsis: In short, the AMA advocates a clear role for government in financing and regulating health insurance coverage, with health plans and health care services being provided through private markets, as they are currently. The AMA proposal gives patients more control over our nation’s health care dollars, while increasing affordability and choice. It reflects important social values and traditions, such as assistance based on need, freedom of choice, market innovation and fairness.

When I read the AMA’s full statement my immediate reaction was “we’ve been here before.”  Look at John McCain’s proposal for his health care policy: John McCain Believes The Key To Health Care Reform Is To Restore Control To The Patients Themselves. We want a system of health care in which everyone can afford and acquire the treatment and preventative care they need. Health care should be available to all and not limited by where you work or how much you make. Families should be in charge of their health care dollars and have more control over care.

When you read the AMA’s proposed plan, “Voice for the Uninsured,” the similarities between it and John McCain’s is undeniable.  McCain’s proposal (at least as presented on his website) is very short on details, but it’s no particular problem for him because the AMA’s plan provides that detail, and so, all he would have to do is bring in the AMA lobbyists and in one afternoon it would be a done deal ready to send to Congress.

But what astonishes me is that the AMA program, despite its provisions for wellness and prevention, still focuses first on the cost and not on a coherent set of health goals for all Americans.  There is little evidence that the logic behind their plan even approaches or improves on my hypothesis.  And why is that?  My assessment is that this plan, like most others, is designed to impose as little change as possible on their slice of the industry.  It appears that the AMA and its thousands of physicians propose a plan that forces change on everyone else while protecting themselves from the amount of change required to radically and effectively create a health care system that would truly move Americans toward specific goals for health. It doesn’t lend to one sleeping well at night if you are one of the 46 million (according to the AMA) without health insurance.  My vote is that I prefer not to have the AMA be that voice for me (and I have health insurance) or for the 46 million. The AMA, looking out first for its own, fails to uphold that sacred trust given to the physician to be the healer to all who are in need.