Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Fred: the Netherlands Model

Hello again, everyone!

For those of you who missed it, there was a very worthwhile report on PBS's "Newshour" show tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 6) about Health Care in the Netherlands. You can find it by going to the PBS website ; on the main page you should see a header for the show--if not, click the tab for "recent shows" and, if necessary, search for Health Care in the Netherlands. In a nutshell: everyone must have health insurance; all coverage is through private insurance companies, but they are tightly regulated and (a) must insure anyone who wants to buy from them, and (b) must charge everyone the same price for the same coverage regardless of age, health condition, etc. The upshot is that, since the companies cannot compete for customers on price, which is established by agreement between the government and the companies, they must compete on quality of care. There is some kind of formula by which the government reimburses companies that have a lot of high-cost patients (e.g., the elderly, or patients with chronic, expensive conditions). But just listen to the newshour show, it takes a few minutes, you won't be disappointed. The best part: they pay about half of what we pay in the US per patient, and for better results. There is also an interesting short article that compares health care in five countries--the US, Canada, Netherlands, Japan, and Mexico. Also very revealing.
 Best, -Fred

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cal: on name-calling

Hi Fred and company.  Certainly "liar" is too strong an indictment of President Obama.  But he is apparently not possessed of all the facts, though he can be forgiven since the health care bill is seemingly not to be understood as much as simply believed. There is nothing to refer to.  But it is my understanding that it was proposed that language that made it illegal to check on citizenship status existed and that Democrats refused to allow it to be removed.  Two days after Joe Wilson's rude and disrespectful outburst the language was quietly removed.  The President was apparently misinformed.
The President also continues to insist that we can keep the health care plan we currently have. (He should say "may" instead of "can".  I don't think we "can".  The bill evidently does not propose to force anyone to change.  But, if the government plan premiums or penalties are less expensive for me as an employer I will be forced to accept the cheaper alternative.  Thus, about 25 people will be forced to change. We have a first class plan that all are very happy with. Since the government can print money and doesn't have to make a profit the usual benefits of competition will cease to exist.  The government will ultimately win.  I don't know if the President knows and ignores this reality or not.

Name calling is juvenile and demeans the debate.  (Now, I'll just take a wild guess here that just a few of the 2003 protesters carried placards that called Bush and Cheney war criminals, or worse).  Nor do I believe that the President is "bankrupting the country". Congress is doing that.  The protest was held on their front lawn, not the Presidents (It's our lawn, anyway.)

I think any President needs to be uplifted by the people.  He can't do it alone.  That's why Christians pray for the President of the United States. As I saw it there was a collective wisdom present in that 9-12 throng.  We are all different and we all have our biases.  But what there is in the country is the growing sense that something is very wrong.  Spending money that we don't have 100 years into the future is scary to people. People want today's problems solved before embarking on more economic irresponsibility. I, for one, have not heard anyone explain why we are not headed for an iceberg.  I haven't even heard anyone assert that the progressives are not intentionally steering us into one. It is very troubling to people.  And we know perfectly well that both parties are guilty.

We are the tugboat that will help guide the ship away from the iceberg. We'll do it with votes in 2010 and 2012.  It appears that the administration is not making any group very happy.  He has begun to betray the Left by doing what a administration must do.  He has alienated the Right for obvious reasons, and he is fast alienating us Independents  By being way too far left.  He'll be forced to the middle like Clinton was for his own survival. The election cycle is the reason for the rush to get things passed without due process and deliberation.

The President is beginning the shift.  He is wise to distance himself from the "racial" accusations.  He doesn't want to be the Black President who allowed the "race card" to define his Presidency.  And neither do we.  We want him to succeed and be a great President, don't we?  But he won't be if he doesn't disassociate himself from the many destructive elements who claim to represent him.  We must help him raise himself above the fringe groups that cling and claw at his coattails.  Some of the more unsavory individuals have been jettisoned.  More will surely follow.

So I am not disheartened by what I saw and see in those photos.  I am uplifted.  People can see through the malarkey.  You know what Lincoln said about fooling the people.  And who in their right mind would call for a protest in January, anyway.  All right, I know it was the sense that war was imminent. God bless those souls for speaking their mind.  Though, maybe not the ones with the war criminal signs.

Peace.  Cal.

Fred: Thoughts on Protest and a Note from your Congressperson

Hi Cal.
The pictures are disheartening to me, because they reveal the degree to which many, many people are willing to accept patent malarky rather than the unpleasant realities with which we live. Our country seems to have become incredibly polarized and many people are all to willing to accept smears about the "other side," even ones that are profoundly misleading or simply untrue.

 A favorite theme seems to be that Obama is a "liar," though I don't think he has lied about anything. I doubt these people were objecting when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney lied repeatedly, to Congress, to the U.N., and to the American people, about the need to go to war in Iraq. That fact, and the prevalance of mottos about "Marxism" (which is a caricature of Obama, who is surely not a Marxist) and "bankrupting the country" (they didn't squeal when Bush or even Reagan did the same) reveals that this is largely partisan rhetoric.

Much of the furor over the proposed health care reforms seems to have been orchestrated by industry groups (health insurance companies, pharmaceutical concerns, etc.) and right-wing groups that have spread a lot of misinformation, which these people have clearly bought into.

For something more reasoned, I attach a helpful memo from Bob Graves's congressman, Joe Sestak, which Bob forwarded to me some time ago--in which he answers the shrill and mostly false accusations of health care reform opponents with some un-shrill and patient explanations of what is actually in HR 3200 (at least as it was then). (webmaster's note: memo to be posted soon)

These big rallies are enjoyable--I greatly enjoyed attending the big one in January, 2003, opposing the buildup to war in Iraq, which something like 350,000 people attended. As with the one you attended, Cal, it was large, full of humorous signs, and extremely cordial--everyone from infants in strollers to octogenarians, ex-hippies to corporate execs, laborers and teachers and physicians, all united with one common concern. Our country is full of good, decent people! Our rally didn't seem to make a dent in Bush's policies, however, he ignored it--so maybe these things are mainly good for venting. One big difference between the two rallies--yours was in shirt-sleeves weather, whereas when we came up to the mall from the Metro at 9 AM it was 11 degrees!

Best, -Fred

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cal: Pictures from DC

I think this gathering should be appreciated as the extremely important historical event that it is. This is the first great conservative anti-statist manifestation in American history. The conservative movement, which developed in the post-WWII, Cold War environment has now fully matured into the most significant political movement of the 21st century. I  believe that this day could be referred to in the not too distant future as the day that changed America . This was the day the great silent conservative majority finally found its voice. 
Many of the attendees were quite meek and timid and were unsure of exactly what to expect, this being the first time in their lives theyd been involved in a protest movement. Their fears evaporated early in the day and I saw people reveling in the camaraderie , the joy and sheer civility that was exhibited at the entire event. Chants of Freedom, freedom, freedom, No more czars! No more czars! carried through the air without the slightest hint of rancor or incivility which is the norm at the leftist rallies I have photographed over the years.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cal: tea parties and problematic plans

Hi Christa and friends.  I am sorry to hear of your friends troubles with his health care coverage.  His situation certainly demonstrates the need to widen accessibility to coverage.  I’m afraid that until the issues of portability and pre-existing conditions, among other things, have been addressed, people in his position will be left out.  His like yours, as I recall, is partly due to having part time jobs or being self-employed.  That needs to change.

 I don’t think we even know if these issues are being addressed in the various bills being debated.  And therein lies the problem.  Folks expected to see a reasoned discussion on reform and instead have been faced with an undefined “plan” that was being forced through too quickly.  This was a very poor calculation on the part of the congressional leadership.  They are still stuck on the “public option”, even though it appears dead.  There is still scant discussion in the mainstream about the very fundamental factors that need addressing:  elimination of fraud and conflict of interest as in your Texas example, malpractice tort reform, portability, pre-existing conditions, repairs to Medicare and Social Security, among others which should have been the first step in the discussion.  These need to be resolved before any more careless spending is proposed.  It makes sense to us in our personal lives.  It applies to government as well.

I blame congress (democrats and republicans)) for not coming to grips on this.  They have made a royal mess of it.  And they needed to be especially deliberate in the wake of all the horrific spending that was rushed through by Presidents Bush and Obama.  Enough on that issue, though I hope your friend finds some relief.

Back to the Tea Party.  We saw that young YouTube fellow and his cameraman trolling through the crowd.  I also saw them at the April 15 protest.  They make a beeline for the most incendiary placards and exhibits and have a rehearsed method of questioning that catches the subject off guard.  Asking for specific examples is an old trick that almost always succeeds in making the subject look air headed because few expect to be interviewed and it’s hard to think under pressure.  And those who want to receive attention are drawn to the camera like moths to a flame.  Their idiocy is usually immediately apparent.  There is also the exaggerated coverage of people with a religious message or point of view as if this is not a valid part of the discussion.  Example:  the bearded fellow in the red shirt railing about the “right to life” points out that something like 46% of abortions are those of performed on black babies (fetuses?) but blacks comprise only 12% of the population.  This fellow is probably a enthusiastic Christian but he makes a legitimate point.  This fact is troubling to many black leaders.  Thought provoking whether you’re pro-life- or pro-choice. No?

The point of a protest is to get your voice heard whether through united voices or signs.  People have only a small space to express themselves so sloganeering is king.  These folks were not violent or even angry.  Most of the signs were funny, clever, and or just patriotic.  The rabble rouser on stage repeatedly asked” Can you hear us now” (congress)?  If they were anywhere near the Mall they certainly could hear us.  I haven’t raise my voice like that since 1970.  Very cathartic.  Oh, and we thugs and troublemakers packed out nearly everything we carried in.  We left the lawn cleaner than before our arrival.  You know how those mid-western moms are about keeping it clean!  Not many gatherings of this size can make that boast.  Though I’ll bet there are quite a few spots of yellow grass there now.  The park service rigged it so that if you left to go to the  jiffy-johns they wouldn’t let you back in. Six hours of standing after a couple of large coffees is tough.  I’m just sayin’.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Christa: thoughtful protest vs. willful ignorance

Hi all,

Cal, thanks so much for sharing your report.  It's heartening to read, as I just saw some video footage from the event that really concerned me:

I wholeheartedly support the sort of thoughtful protest and free speech you've described. What disturbs me is that many others seem to have jumped into the fray with little to no understanding of the issues they're protesting for or against, forming opinions based on fear, panic, and willful ignorance rather than on taking time to look up or reflect on basic information. It makes me feel a great deal of concern for our country, as a sort of fast-food alternative to productive dialogue and informed decision-making.

Hopefully these folks were in the minority at the protest. However, from what I've seen posted in online forums, YouTube responses and other un-edited public forums in print and on the web over the past several months, there seem to be no shortage of people willing to base their opinions and votes on wild rumors rather than history, discussion, or basic facts. It's a trend that should worry all of us, no matter what side of the issue we're on. It makes me truly appreciate the level of dialogue we're able to share in this group, and the articulate viewpoints each of you has to offer.

I just got off the phone an hour ago with my good friend James, who has worked as a freelance computer consultant and a part time college administrator for many years, and have a somewhat upsetting story to share. His rates and deductible for private health insurance had nearly tripled over the past two years, and he'd called his insurance company (Allied) to see if he could get a more affordable plan. The insurance agent assured him he could transfer to a new plan with the same company, but just as he was about to switch over mentioned that it would not cover any pre-existing conditions. James happens to have had some major health problems, which is in part why he needs health coverage in the first place. Needless to say, James decided to stick with his original plan despite the cost... only to find the plan canceled due to complications with the proposed plan change.

As a result, he now has no health coverage at all.  Because of his preexisting conditions, his application has been rejected by every insurance policy he's applied for since this happened. Currently, private insurance companies have no obligation to offer their services to anyone who already has a serious medical condition. It's all the more clear to me how and why so many people go bankrupt or suffer and sometimes die without the care they need. Does anyone know what a person can do in this situation under the current plan? Any experience or resources I could pass along would be wonderful and much appreciated. In the meantime, we'll hope for the option of "required health insurance" once both parties can work out the details.

with love and respect,

with love and respect,

Cal: September 12 Tea Party

Hello folks.  I promised a report on our experience at the DC March on the Capitol.

We joined a gathering of very enthusiastic citizens on the West Lawn.  I don’t know how many were there but I have been to July 4th fireworks, concerts, Earth Day, and Vietnam War protests on the Mall and this crowd was comparable in both size and spirit.  Certainly far larger than any football stadium could hold.

As I expected, everyone was very civil (zero arrests).  Also as I expected, and no doubt re-assuring to all, was the complete absence of any racial element to the program or amongst the protesters.  There were a few vulgar signs but most were clever and concise.  There were old folks, older folks, kids, young adults, men, women of all races.  And the only sign of organization of the attendees was that people were encouraged to join others from their state of origin, though the gathering areas were never identified.

Issues included big government, excessive spending, health care reform, bailouts, and most of the protest was aimed at the Congress more than the President.  If there was one outstanding sentiment it was the mortgaging of our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.  It was clear that the protesters were there to demand the needed corrections to social Security and Medicare, illegal immigration, and the contraction of the federal government.

Speakers included a few politicians (current and former), a few performers, one or two celebrities.  No one from any of the TV networks spoke, including Fox News, though the crowd was chanting for Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

Lastly, this was not a “lock-step” group.  Lot’s of diverse points of view were represented and there was even some uncomfortable stirring and booing when some more strident views were expressed.  This was clearly NOT a right wing fringe group, but rather a frustrated and thoughtful cross section of Americans who are concerned by the nations rapid drift to socialism and growing government.

I am curious how the event came across in your areas.  I think a healthy discussion of the “fundamental changes to America” as promised by the President and pushed by the progressives might be in order.  What say you?