The Health Care Puzzle

 

I don’t suppose Bernie’s bill to make Medicare available to Americans of all ages will become law. Not as long as Republicans control Congress, anyway. But it would be a great boon to this society.

The main stumbling block is opposition from health insurance companies. Understandably, they don’t want to lose their multibillion-dollar market.

If I had my way, the legislation wouldn’t prohibit the insurance industry from offering plans to compete with Medicare. If the government is as inefficient as conservatives insist, the private insurers should have no trouble competing against a government-run alternative.

But there’s no way the Republicans would accept such a proposal.

Do you think they would consider a compromise similar to Medicare Advantage? The government could let private insurers offer managed care programs funded by Medicare.

I belong to a Medicare Advantage plan, which gets the money Medicare deducts from my Social Security. And while it’s far from perfect, it’s a lot better than nothing.

With their failure to agree on anything remotely acceptable as replacement for Obamacare, you might think the Republicans would welcome a compromise like this. After all, Medicare Advantage was dreamt up by Republicans during the George W. Bush presidency, so they wouldn’t be accepting one of those dreaded “socialist” schemes Democrats come up with.

Of course you might wonder why Medicare doesn’t just offer managed care plans without going through private insurance companies. It would be so much simpler.

Obviously, Medicare Advantage is a boondoggle designed to benefit the health insurers who contribute so much to Republican politicians. But it helps seniors like me, too.

More about Bernie’s bill

More on the politics involved

 

Thanks for Your Prayers

 

When Sandra and I and our four indoor cats came home from the shelter, we could not even turn into our driveway. It was choked with fallen branches.

I had feared something like this. As we neared home, the detours became more frequent with fallen trees blocking the road.  Passing a mobile home park, I saw twisted aluminum scattered about.

I didn’t want to look at our house.  The eye of the storm had apparently passed right over our home (see illustration).

Every inch of the yard was knee deep in branches, twigs and leaves. The trees had taken a terrible beating.

If Irma had chewed up our trees liked that, I wondered, what had she done to our house?

Tim, our strapping young neighbor, was waiting for us. He moved me out of the way as I tugged at a massive branch and took over the job of clearing the driveway. Then he offered to string an extension cord to our house so we could have power.

Our house is connected to the subdivision behind us, not to the other homes on our street, Tim explained. So they had power while we didn’t.

I demurred at first but I am a diabetic and my insulin has to be kept cold. I thanked him and told him he was probably saving my life. Now we would have power for the refrigerator, the coffee pot and a lamp.

That was a great blessing.

When I finally worked up the courage to take a look at the house, I was amazed.

A branch leaned against the breezeway, but the roof was clear and the windows were all unbroken. The house had been spared.

As Sandra and I unpacked the cats and the things we had taken to the shelter, I wondered at our escape.  The yard would be cleaned up, the trees would recover. The two outdoor cats, which we had left barricaded in the garage with food and water, showed up for their  supper as usual.

The night at the shelter had been torture – nowhere to sleep, perched for hours and hours on the hardest plastic chair ever manufactured, with yapping dogs, failing power, blinding flashlights and the kind of snoring that would put a power saw to shame.

And the wind! It roared like a freight train. I expected the shelter’s glass doors to collapse at any moment. It was terrifying.

Sandra and I – and the cats – had endured a night of sheer horror! But it sure beat the alternative.

Our lives have been spared. The cats are safe and well. Our house is unscathed.

Our power is back and life has returned to normal. For us, anyway.

In Irma’s aftermath, floods persist in many nearby neighborhoods, keeping families from their homes. Hundreds, perhaps thousands,  are still struggling to deal with the loss of power and the wreckage of their homes.

Headlines like this remind us how fortunate we are:

Hurricane Irma: 80% without power in Polk Co., trees smash homes, vehicles

It has to be the prayers. Thank you. And, most of all, thank you, Lord.

More on Irma’s devastation

 

Blaming “the Deep State”

 

Why are there so many headlines about disarray in the Trump White House? Why is the Russian hacking scandal causing so much outrage in the media? Why is Hurricane Irma creating such widespred panic?

If you read the conservative press or tune in to right-wing broadcasters, you know. It’s all the Deep State’s fault.

I didn’t even know there was a Deep State until the propagandists enlightened me.

They describe a subversive network rooted in the federal and state civil services and including all of the intelligence agencies. Those innocuous looking civil servants are working behind the scenes to derail Trump’s plan to make America great again, they explain.

Seriously.

Rush Limbaugh provides an example. He says the TV alarums and weather advisories spawned by Irma are an example of the Deep State’s handiwork. The fuss is all fake, Limbaugh insists, intended to promote fear of climate change.

He explains in a recent radio broadcast:

In the official meteorological circles, you have an abundance of people who believe that man-made climate change is real. And they believe that Al Gore is correct when he has written—and he couldn’t be more wrong—that climate change is creating more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes.

And he adds:

There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it. You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.”

I’m surprised nobody has come up with the theory that hurricane preparedness is a brainchild of the retail industry. Irma has emptied the shelves at our neighborhood Publix, and I understand gas pumps are running dry all over the state. Ace, Home Depot and Lowe’s are probably enjoying robust demand, too.

But no, it’s the Deep State that’s creating all of the uproar, don’t you know?

The fact that a Category 5 hurricane is heading our way with winds in excess of 170 mph has nothing to do with it, of course.

Don’t you wonder what these conspiracy theorists will dream up next?

Rush’s conspiracy theory

More on the Deep State

 

Waiting for Irma

 

Not a leaf stirs, and the rain that drenched us for weeks has hit the pause button. Is this the calm before the storm?

At the supermarket yesterday, bottled water, canned goods, flashlight batteries and other emergency provisions were vanishing from the shelves as shoppers prepared for the worst.

Irma is still days away but we’ve seen the pictures on TV. Pictures of a perfect storm with a well defined eye and a wingspan hundreds of miles across. Category 5.

Sandra and I worry about the two outside cats, Willie and Harri. Will they be safe in the garage? Or should we try to bring them inside the house?

Will the house be safe? It’s half a century old after all.

We replaced the roof a few years ago but could it withstand winds of 175 miles an hour? And those grandfather oaks, will they hold? Or will those giant branches come crashing down upon us?

At a time like this, the threat of a North Korean nuclear attack seems far away. Trump’s antics pale. Even the plight of those poor Dreamers is overshadowed by Mother Nature’s menace.

Samuel Johnson’s words come to mind:

Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.

There’s not much we can do really. Sandbags would help of course. But it’s impossible to barricade all of the windows in the family room.

The best we can do is pray.

More about Irma

 

Why Words Matter

 

It’s not only what we say that matters; it’s also how we say it. Some words are toxic, some are benign.

Here’s an example. If someone says, “blessed are the peacemakers,” you’ll probably nod your head piously in agreement. But call the peacemakers “appeasers” and you’re likely to have a different reaction.

Neville Chamberlain will forever be known as the Great Appeaser. The former British prime minister is pilloried by historians for letting Hitler take  the predominantly German areas in the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia.

Hitler double-crossed Chamberlain and invaded Poland anyway, triggering World War II.

I wonder if Chamberlain would be known today as the Great Peacemaker if his concession to Hitler had averted the war.

So I hear warning bells when Trump says talking to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un would be “appeasement.”

Trump brags that he is an expert negotiator. But expert negotiators bargain with the carrot as well as the stick.

First, they find out what the other guy wants, and – if that’s unacceptable – they find out what he will take and decide whether they can live with that.  They use threats only if bargaining breaks down.

I hope Trump’s saber rattling is for show, and there’s some kind of contact with the North Koreans taking place behind the scenes .

As Winston Churchill – who was certainly no appeaser – observed:

To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.

Why Chamberlain was right

 

Will Trump Listen Now?

 

The whole world knows the shouting match between Trump and Kim Jong-un is a bad idea. And myriad voices have been raised in an effort to calm things down. Unfortunately, the two loudmouths haven’t been listening.

But when Vladimir Putin chimes in with a word of warning, perhaps Trump, at least, will pay attention. In an article on the Kremlin’s website, Putin writes:

Provocations, pressure and bellicose and offensive rhetoric is the road to nowhere.

For reasons that I can only guess at, Trump seems to respect – even revere – Putin, So I’m hoping he will take the Russian despot’s words to heart.

Putin cautions in his article that America’s stand-off with North Korea is on the verge of triggering “a large-scale conflict.” He urges Trump to talk things over with Kim.

He writes:

It is essential to resolve the region’s problems through direct dialogue involving all sides without advancing any preconditions

I am no Putin fan. From what I’ve read, he is a bully, a show-off and a thief with innocent blood on his hands. But when he talks, Trump listens. And the world should welcome any calming influence at this point.

China’s Xi Jinping is also calling for calm. And China has a lot of influence with Kim. Without China’s economic support, North Korea cannot survive.

With Putin holding Trump back and Xi Ping restraining Kim, the world might be spared a nuclear holocaust after all.

Putin’s warning

China’s role

 

Kamala Harris for President

 

We Jamaicans are not easily intimidated. Ask Kamala Harris. Or, better yet, ask John McCain. Ask Richard Burr. They were among the Republican senators who tried – and failed – to shut her up during recent committee hearings.

She kept talking back. Yes, a woman, a black woman, had the temerity to stand up to her white, male bullies. As Bob Dylan sang so long ago, the times they are a-changin’.

Ms. Harris is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants.  Her father is Jamaican-born Donald Harris, a professor at Stanford University, and her mother is Dr Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist, from Chennai, India.

And she’s a groundbreaker. She broke the color barrier in California when she won her US Senate seat. Never before had California sent a black or Latino candidate to the Senate.

And that was par for the course for her. Ms. Harris was the first woman elected as San Francisco’s district attorney and the first woman elected as California’s attorney general.

So it doesn’t surprise me when she joins Bernie Sanders in proposing legislation to extend Medicare coverage to all Americans. Of all the so-called Democrats in the Senate, hers is the lone voice raised so far in support of Bernie’s single-payer health care bill.

I guess it takes a Jamaican to boldly go where others dare not go. And that’s what we need from the Democrats. They’ve compromised for too long. It’s time for the party to stand for something.

Ms. Harris explains she backed Bernie’s bill because “it was the right thing to do.”

Isn’t that reason enough?

More and more, it looks as if Ms. Harris would be the Democrats’ best bet in the 2020 presidential race.

A Jamaican in the White House. Wouldn’t that be something?

More on Kamala Harris

More on her Jamaican roots

Ms. Harris at Committee hearings.

More on her chances

 

The Wisdom of the Masses

 

The form of government we call democracy relies on the wisdom of voters. But when I read the daily round-up on Yahoo News, I wonder how wise America’s voters really are. This morning for example, I read an item that made me scratch my poor old, bald head.

It wasn’t the one about the internet – and media – frenzy that resulted when Melania Trump wore stiletto heels on her visit to flood-ravaged Texas. Or the one about the latest episode on “Game of Thrones.”

I’ve come to expect fluff like that. Yahoo News routinely mixes earth-shattering events with trivia about the Kardashian family’s fashion picks and Princess Kate’s wardrobe malfunctions. It’s what they do.

What brought me up short this morning was a report about Fox News.

I never watch Fox News myself, but I understand it’s the most watched cable news channel in America. So when Yahoo informed me that Fox reported a shark swimming through traffic on a flooded Houston road, I wondered who was kidding whom.

But it was for real. The folks at Fox News really thought a shark was swimming along  a flooded Houston street. Here’s what Fox News host Jesse Waters breathlessly proclaimed on “The Five”:

I’ve seen some amazing things out there just looking at television Alligators on people’s back door steps. I saw a shark on a highway swimming in the water. There’s some really weird biblical things that are going on down there in Houston.

Of course, you and I know the shark photo (above) is an old hoax. Sharks don’t swim along flooded streets – not even in the Bible. Watters’ “scoop” was photoshopped by some anonymous internet prankster many years ago.

But this is far from the most blatant hoax that Fox has fed its gullible viewers. The Fox folks love conspiracy theories – like the “assassination” of DNC staffer Seth Rich – and they shamelessly “spin” their newscasts to promote their political agenda.

So, I ask you, how wise are America’s voters – especially the millions who get their information from Fox?

The Fox News broadcast

The real story

The stiletto heels scandal

The Seth Rich story

More Fox News “conspiracies”

 

Is Racism Contagious?

 

I lived in Canada for two decades before coming to America, and I was shocked to read a story this morning about a Canadian woman shouting racist slurs at an elderly Filipino couple on the Vancouver Sky Train.

Canadians don’t do that kind of thing. At least, they didn’t when I lived there.

So what’s happening? Has America’s rampant racism spread across the border?

I suppose racism could be contagious. People reading about the bad behavior of others could feel empowered to act the same way.

I believe trends in America influence events in other countries, especially a neighboring country like Canada, which shares America’s British colonial heritage. I think, for example, it was the resurgence of economic-austerity theories in the US that sparked a similar “conservative” movement in Canada.

If I am right, that means Trump is not just an American affliction but a global danger. If he and his deplorables get away with their show of strength, the rest of the world could be infected with their racist virus.

Of course I know racism is already a global plague.  But if Trump’s minions continue to grab the headlines with their racist rallies, I fear racist elements in other societies will follow suit.

So what’s the antidote to this threatened pandemic?

I know it’s not violence. Fighting fire with fire might seem appealing, but it’s the worst response in this case. If we act like the thugs we deplore, we cannot prevail.

Those of us who deplore racism must make our feelings known, but in doing so, we must occupy the moral high ground without being smug or condescending.

Perhaps the Bible has the answer after all.  Jesus is quoted as saying:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

I know, that goes against our instincts. But I think it could work.

By countering contempt and hatred with forgiveness and kindness, we just might soften the hearts of our persecutors. Love begets love as hate begets hate.

It could be worth a try.

Read the Canadian story.

 

Trump’s Deplorable Base

 

It’s quite clear to me that Trump’s base is essentially racist. And he knows it. His pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio  is the latest evidence of this.

Cecilia Wang, deputy director of the ACLU called  Arpaio’s pardon an “endorsement of racism.”

And Vanita Gupta, who led the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under President Obama, said the pardon was “not a dog whistle to the so-called alt-right and white supremacists but a bullhorn.”

Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court when he refused to stop racially profiling Hispanics. And Trump said at his Arizona rally the sheriff was just “doing his job.”

This kind of comment doubles down onTrump’s defense of the Charlottesville white-power marchers.

Obviously,  he has decided to drop any pretense. He’s a racist. And he doesn’t care who knows it.

He is proudly playing to his deplorable base. And it’s making the “deplorables” even more loyal to him.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. I know there are racists in America. I know the militant white-power movement exists. And I know these ugly people support Trump.

What surprises me is the size of the racist element. I didn’t realize that more than a third of the American electorate shares the new president’s toxic prejudices. But that’s what the polls seem to indicate.

I suppose a lot of racists hid their ugliness before Trump’s rise to power. Now, they feel free to flaunt their true feelings.

I wonder how far they will go. These are not decent, civilized human beings. They’re rabble. And nothing is too despicable for them. Certainly not violence.

The history of the Ku Klux Klan and the “strange fruit” the white supremacists left hanging on Southern trees bear sad testimony to their barbarism.

Looking out the window at the rain, I wonder what’s next for America. And I fear it’s not going to be pleasant.

More on the Arpaio pardon