health care reform bill: day 3

Wednesday 31 March 2010

Day 1’s post contained a lot of my thoughts on the new health care reform bill.
Day 2, I  linked to a NY Times article with multiple reactions from prominent politicians, historians, and others.

Here on day 3, I wanted to share some videos taken from a radio (and TV some places) program called Democracy Now! that I’ve connected with at different times.  It’s decidedly “progressive,” to be sure, but so is my position, so it works well c:  In addition to the effect of the bill in general, they particularly touch on my comment about the bill “further entrenching the for-profit healthcare system that rations care based on wealth,” as well as how we relate and care for those nearing death or with terminal illnesses.

The links contain video clips along with transcripts of the videos (faster to digest, but you have to read them), so feel free to pick and choose.

Tuesday, 23 March: Michael Moore: Healthcare Bill “A Victory for Capitalism” (27 minute video/audio)

Wednesday, 24 March: Palliative Care Pioneer Dr. Diane Meier on How People Struggle with Serious, Sometimes Terminal, Illness (19 minute video/audio)

Monday, 22 March: In Historic Vote, House Approves Landmark Healthcare Reform Bill (15 minute video/audio)

Friday, 26 March: Congress OKs Final Changes to Healthcare Overhaul (9 minute video/audio)

And from before the bill actually passed, Thursday, 18 March: Dennis Kucinich and Ralph Nader: A Discussion on Healthcare, Politics and Reform (complete video/audio 50 minutes, but Healthcare discussion only about half of that)

health care reform bill: day 2

Tuesday 30 March 2010

So if you haven’t yet read my take on the new health care reform bill, please click and do that now.  Otherwise, thus continues a week of blogs devoted to the health care reform bill.

Here is a collection of thoughts and comments by many notable thinkers the NY Times posted last week: A Historic Moment for Health Care?

Those featured:

the health care reform bill: a week later

Sunday 28 March 2010

One week ago, the House of Representatives approved a health care/insurance reform bill that had been passed last November by the Senate.  Since then, President Obama has signed that bill into law, issued an executive order related to abortions and government spending, and a bill to make some “fixes” to the original has passed both houses of Congress.  With all that, the topic of the past year or more, health care reform, has been adopted.

Since then, I’m sure you’ve been able to read, listen to, and watch a lot of coverage on this topic (not to mention all of the coverage that happened the months leading up to this).  You’ve likely heard complaints of those who seeks its repeal, those who are pretty happy with the results, and those who don’t think it went far enough — and any combination of those views.

In my writing on this blog, I try to be pretty balanced and pragmatic, and I hope I will hold true to that even today.  However, I also want to share with you my personal thoughts on the topic as best I can in a succinct way.  I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of the bills passed, and I’ll probably not touch on all the topics you might be interested in.  However, I invite you to leave comments, short and long, and if you’d be interested in writing a guest blog this week, please let me know and we can be in touch.

So let’s get on with it.

From what I can tell, I first have to say that the changes that were passed are better than nothing.  If this bill will truly allow 30 million more people to receive health insurance, then it’s a step in the right direction.  However, by my calculations, that apparently still leaves about 15 million people without insurance, so obviously it didn’t go far enough.  And we’ve often heard that the goal of controlling costs only works when everyone is covered, so what’s the deal there.

That being said, another issue I have with the bill is that, using a phrase I’ve also heard a bit this week, it “further entrenches the state of a for-profit private insurance industry.”  As someone who ultimately believes in universal health care provided by tax dollars, continuing on with privatized insurance companies that seek to make money off of people receiving (or not receiving) health care is a sham.  Obviously to continue on making money, insurance companies are going to pass their rising costs of coverage on to customers in the form of higher premiums and co-pays, and with no public option that is not-for-profit (they left that out, you know), what is there to truly control rising costs?  I’d really love an answer, because I don’t have one.

I personally can’t get behind a system where people are making money from health-related issues, which is why I totally disagree with the for-profit model.  I think health care is a basic right that we as a society need to get behind.  This structure and system seems unlikely to give universal coverage while keeping costs down — though I hope it will — so unless the plan is to show that the private, for-profit system doesn’t work and we truly need a nationalized system, I’m worried this will simply be an experiment costing thousands of lives in the process.

Some other generalized concerns I’ve been thinking about, in no particular order:

I heard this week that Switzerland has a highly regulated, privately run and universal health care system where profits are capped and the government doesn’t run the system directly but holds extremely powerful oversight abilities.  If we’re so worried about government f-ing things up and straying from our capitalist roots, perhaps this would be a compromise?

We must recognize the interconnectedness of health and other aspects of our lives, such as the food we eat and the lives we lead.  If we had a system where we all were in the same pool, then ultimately those with healthy habits would be subsidizing those with unhealthy habits (smoking/over drinking/poor diet/no exercise/etc.).  How do we change the fabric of society to deal with all these issues?

Our food system is built most calories for your $ is unhealthy foods that lead to diabetes and other such diseases, so changes can’t just come in the health care system itself. No one says having a beer is bad, but we need more support for other who use it excessively and in harmful ways. Also, I’ve heard that many people smoke because it works on the brain similarly to the ways anti-depression drugs work, but will all the extra complications we all know so well.  The question becomes how to deal with things like this that do affect a person’s health and would affect a system where we are all supporting one another. I certainly can’t claim to have all the answers, but it’s going to take more than this bill to change some large structures that are contributing to health issues in this country.

Another issue I have is that we (in the U.S.) have become accustomed to thinking that money can buy anything and failing to accept that we’re all mortal and will thus get sick and die. Unfortunately, until we accept that, we will continue to clamor for more medicine and medical service to keep us going, and if we have money we’ll think that should mean we can thus use it to buy more services and stay healthier longer.  Unfortunately, all the talk of “death panels” incited fear instead of a positive discussion about death itself. Should there be people “playing god” and deciding who should live and die? Well, maybe not to that extent, but we need to find a general consensus of what a good life lived looks like so we can better make decisions about how we’re using our limited health care resources.  Should we be giving a 95-year-old a hip and knee replacement if that takes away resources from a 10-year-old in some way?  I don’t think so, but we’ve failed to have open discussions on this topic because we feel entitled to certain privileges in relation to health care, especially if we have money to pay for it.

My biggest desire is that all people have access to a certain level of health care that doesn’t burden them financially. Will that ultimately mean some kind of rationing? Probably, and I’m fine with that as long as it’s happening to everyone equally. My biggest problem is that discrimination is happening in the health care system. Sometimes it’s in the form of people not being able to purchase insurance. Sometimes it’s that, with or without insurance, people are driven to bankruptcy or huge financial burdens because of medical costs.

For all these reasons I’ve listed above, I believe we need a system that treats all and is paid for by all.  In my mind, people would contribute in proportion to their wealth for the betterment of all.  Some people call this socialized health care, others call it a collective.  No matter the name, until we unite against those who continue to profit from the current system, inequality in relation to health care will continue, with some on the outside looking in.  I hope people will recognize that the fight needs to continue until this type of system is achieved.

hey, i was on New York City tv, kind of…

Sunday 28 March 2010

So I was visiting St. Luke’s, this (new to me) church in Brooklyn, and look over and see a professional camera operator!  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a positive reason for their visit.

Thieves Steal Brooklyn Church’s Pipes, Boiler But Not Members’ Faith

the neverending palestine/israel show continues! (addendum)

Saturday 27 March 2010

OK, last one:

The New York Times posted a great, concise editorial on all that’s been happening around this issue the past few weeks.  You should read it here:

Mr. Obama and Israel

It concludes:

“Many Israelis find Mr. Obama’s willingness to challenge Israel unsettling. We find it refreshing that he has forced public debate on issues that must be debated publicly for a peace deal to happen. He must also press Palestinians and Arab leaders just as forcefully.

“Questions from Israeli hard-liners and others about his commitment to Israel’s security are misplaced. The question is whether Mr. Netanyahu is able or willing to lead his country to a peace deal. He grudgingly endorsed the two-state solution. Does he intend to get there?”

(You can read up a bit more on the two sides Netanyahu is trying to balance: Conflicting Demands Test Netanyahu)

the neverending palestine/israel show continues! (pt. 3)

Thursday 25 March 2010

So while the U.S. continues to talk about the health care reform bill(s) (my comments come next week), the p/i show continues!  First, some recent news articles on the issue:
Mon 22 Mar: Clinton accuses Israel of hurting U.S. credibility (AP)
Wed 24 Mar: Israel approves new building in East Jerusalem (AP)
Thurs 25 Mar: U.S. Fails to Persuade Israel on Housing Dispute (NY Times)

On to today’s post!

Both the blogs in pt. 1 and pt. 2 on this topic talked about Israeli policy in relation to Palestine and Palestinians, and in this blog I want to focus mainly on whether or not those policies are actually positive for Israel’s future, brought about by an Op-Ed by Uri Dromi, who was spokesman for the Israeli governments from 1992 to 1996, titled “Will Israel Join the March of Folly?

Dromi begins this way:

“Barbara Tuchman, in her classic book “March of Folly,” examined four cases in history when governments acted contrary to their own best interests: the Trojans who let the Greeks bring the fatal horse into their midst; the papacy, which allowed and even brought about the Protestant secession; the British who lost America, and America, which lost the war in Vietnam.”

He continues shortly after with his thesis at hand:

“By expanding settlements instead of separating from the Palestinians while we still can, we Israelis are dooming ourselves to lose the Jewish and democratic state that has been won with so much sacrifice. In other words, we are immersed in our own march of folly. And we are doing it with our eyes open.”

I went to a session last fall that detailed some strategies for talking with members of Congress about the Palestine/Israel issue and conflict, and one of the main points to suggested to use was that a sustained people, involving a Palestinian state, was in the best interests of the the U.S. and Israel.  And that is Dromi’s point, too.  However, the current Israeli policies are running counter to that objective and leave Israel open to continued critism and possibly, in the end, it’s own downfall.

This week continued the dispute of the last two, and Britain joined in the criticism, too (see Israel Absorbs Twin Rebukes From Top Allies).

Dromi’s point comes to a head this way:

Consider the following scenario: The Palestinians decide to do nothing, just wait patiently until there is no way to divide the land anymore. The country just becomes one, binational state.

Then, assuming that the Israelis wouldn’t dare or wouldn’t be allowed by the rest of the world to run the country as an apartheid state, the Palestinians start voting in elections and running for Parliament.

Thus, the existence of a Jewish national state, which many people do desire (I’m not against it, actually; I just want justice for all), is no more.  Do you see why the U.S. needs to continue it’s rebukes?

So while the settlements in the West Bank may pose the most problems for a Palestinian state, as I said in pt. 2, Jerusalem is likely the final sticking point for any agreement.  It may be that Palestinians will not even begin peace talks until settlement construction and home takeovers in East Jerusalem cease, and with the current Israeli policy of a unified Jerusalem, can peace ever happen?

This Map of Settlements Around Jerusalem shows one reason the Palestinians are so mad.  If you click on the map, you can see a red dotted line that demarcates what Israel claims to be Jerusalem, much of which is on the Palestinian side of the 1967 Green Line.  I counted a dozen settlements Israel considers part of Jerusalem that are on what many would consider the Palestinian side of the boundary for a future state.  There are also Palestinian towns inside this boundary, and even one in the bottom left corner you can see that is planned to be encircled by the wall/barrier Israel is constructing.  (Read about that town, the village of Al-Walaja, here.)

It would be impossible to simply reverse the last 40+ years since the 1967 Six-Day War.  However, if Israel continues forward with it’s current policy, Israel as a Jewish state may soon cease to exist.  If that’s not how you want the future shaping up, I suggest you make your voice heard and do something about it.

(Also, I have here a link to another Op-Ed I thought I’d want to write more on by Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States which mainly just says that the U.S. and Israel are best buds and it needs to remain that way (especially from an Israeli perspective).  Read his take on things here:
For Israel and America, a Disagreement, Not a Crisis)

the neverending palestine/israel show continues! (pt. 2)

Sunday 21 March 2010

OK, so if you haven’t read pt. 1 yet, please do that now…

Ready for part 2?

If you’ve been keeping up with the news the past two weeks, I’m sure you’re at least semi-familiar with this whole U.S./Israel “spat,” “feud,” or whatever you want to call what’s been happening these past couple of weeks.  In case you’re not (or to get you back in the mood), here are two options:

The situation in news articles (I’m big on the AP and NY Times these days) (please click at least one — it’s time consuming to link all these articles!):
Tues 9 Mar: As Biden Visits, Israel Unveils Plan for New Settlements (NYT)
Thurs 11 Mar: Biden to Leave Mideast Amid Unease (NYT)
Fri 12 Mar: Clinton Rebukes Israel on Housing Announcement (NYT);
Clinton slams Israel on housing announcement (AP)
Sun 14 Mar: Israeli settlement action ‘an insult’: Obama aide (AP)
Mon 15 Mar: Israel Feeling Rising Anger From the U.S. (NYT);
US Israel criticism ignites firestorm in Congress (AP)
Tues 16 Mar: US envoy cancels Mideast trip, Israel feud deepens (AP) ;
US, Israel try to back away from the brink (AP)

Fri 19 Mar: Clinton Calls Israel’s Moves to Ease Tension ‘Useful’ (NYT)
Sat 20 Mar: UN Chief says Israeli settlements must be stopped (AP) (OK, so this one is a little off topic, but still in the vein of all the rest, perhaps the best to read!)
Sun 21 Mar: Israel: No building restrictions in east Jerusalem (AP)

What brought about the curious events of the past two weeks was simply an announcement of  a planned building project that occurred when Joe Biden was visiting prior to planned mediated peace talks scheduled for last week.  Then Biden, upon hearing the announcement, condemned the plan, and the spat began.  Members of Congress and pro-Israel groups in the U.S. criticized the criticism, and the back and forth began.  When you break down this whole fiasco, though, it really comes down to the issue alluded to in that last article: Israeli building in East Jerusalem.

Just as the West Bank was land Israel took control of during the Six-Day War in 1967, so were the lands we currently refer to as East Jerusalem.  While most people can understand and accept that Palestinians living in the West Bank desire this land for a future state.  However, the issue of Jerusalem is definitely much murkier, specifically because it’s hard to think of a city being divided between two countries, as it was between 1948 and 1967.  However, it is also unacceptable for either Palestinians or Israelis to give up what was under their control during that 20-year span.

However, this quote speaks volumes:

“As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv” and there would be no restrictions, Netanyahu told his Cabinet.

Later in the article we here this:

Netanyahu has always opposed compromise over Jerusalem. Israel captured the city’s eastern sector from Jordan during the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it, a move not recognized by any other country. Over four decades, Israel has built a string of Jewish neighborhoods around the Arab section of the city.

Jerusalem may, in the end, but the one sticking point that can’t be overcome.  One past plan included Jerusalem being an “international” city, belonging to no country in particular but under unified control by a body such as or similar to the United Nations.  However, with Jerusalem the current capital of Israel and East Jerusalem usually declared the capital of any future Palestinian state, we seem to have a problem.

The question is whether, knowing this and all the other issues needing to be resolved, the U.S. will show some force in using its power of influence politically and monetarily (or withholding money from Israel, as the case may be) to make true change happen.

I have more to say, but since I like to keep these pretty short, I’ll hold off for a part 3.  Before I close, though, I wanted to pull a few quotes from a NY Times feature, “Room For Debate,” which features multiple people talking about a particular subject.  In this case, the issue was titled, “Israel’s Challenge to the U.S.”  Read on, and click the article title link here for more on this topic.

From Amjad Atallah

The United States has been sending its messages with carrots and great diplomatic restraint. The current Israeli government, in stark contrast, has been responding like a petulant child, outraged that it hasn’t been able to get U.S. acquiescence to its own short-term political strategy.

There is a great deal at stake in this public and private dispute between Israel and the United States. President Obama should consider responding in a similar manner, by creating his own facts on the ground, and ending all forms of U.S. cover and support of the settlement enterprise and other policies that sustain the occupation.

From Daoud Kuttab

All attempts to appease and reward Israel for its acquisition by war has resulted in pushing peace away. If President George W. Bush truly believed, and President Obama truly believes — as they both publicly stated — that an independent, viable and contiguous Palestinian state is in the “national interest” of the United States, Washington must resolve once and for all that any Jewish settlement built on Palestinian territory forcefully taken in 1967 will not be tolerated.

Once America regains its resolve in this area, the peace train can proceed to its destination.