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Archive for June, 2006

What’s That Definition of Insanity Again?

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A story off the wire a few days ago tells us about a study showing that non-profit health careorganizations deliver better quaity than for-profit.

One study is not ultimate and final proof of anything. Indeed nonprofit health care services are currently under scrutiny (or attack?) by Republican Senators. There may be a study out there showing that rapacious and greedy HMOs and insurance companies are improving health care. Or something.
But let’s go with the first study mentioned. Let us also note that the Unites States has one of the most profit oriented health care systems in the world. Finally, let us stipulate that the U.S. has relatively poor outcomes.

A 2003 British government study of comparative health care statistics from a number of developed countries shows that the U.S. trails many other countries in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and a number of other indicators.

Let’s quickly review:

  • The American health care system is more profit oriented than that in any other industrialized country.
  • The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world.
  • Over 40 million residents of this country have no health insurance.This means that those families have no primary care physician and if they need treatment they are more likely to seek it in a hospital Emergency Room.
  • Of all the developed nations, we have the worst infant mortality rate.
  • We have the shortest life expectancy of all the industrial nations (all of which have some form of universal health insurance).

What could we possibly be doing wrong?

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June 26th, 2006 at 10:10 am

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Blood Red World on TV

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Via the Huffington Post Contagious Festival and Peace Takes Courage comes this disturbing slideshow posted on April 2.

I don’t know when these photographs were taken, but it has been something like 10 weeks since they were posted on the Huff Po. Since then, no doubt, many photos like these have been taken in a number of countries around the world. There will be a fresh batch tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that and so on.

That’s what I don’t get. Not that photographers feel the need to take such pictures. What else should they do?

No, what puzzles me is why the world collectively allows such tableaus to be staged. Why doesn’t somebody do something to stop little kids and their mother from being shredded by shrapnel? Why don’t I do something for that matter? How can I continue to eat my three squares a day and take showers and walk the dog and feel pleasure when I look at a sky full of stars when I know for a fact that at this very moment somewhere in the world a man who never harmed anyone is being attacked with a machete, and somewhere else, soldiers are taking turns violating a school girl? And worse is happening elsewhere.

The other day I posed these questions to a friend. I was gently reminded that there are quite a few people doing something, and that the world would be in even worse shape if not for those efforts.

Which does not excuse the rest of us. But the rest of us have to live, and I will continue to live a normal life, a life in which I do not spend every moment acting to save faraway lives or to reduce the general misery.

Still, maybe there is a little something I can do…

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June 21st, 2006 at 9:46 am

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Dying is easy; Blogging is Hard

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The inauguaral post for this blog was published on June 9th last. My plan all along has been to learn the ropes and establish a rythm so that full bore, three times a day blogging would begin in early July. But I have learned a behnd the scenes reality already. Namely, that as with all compositional efforts, life can interfere with production, only in real time.

Example: just yesterday I was composing a pithy and insightful analysis of the role of the monarchy in Belgian government. What could be more relevant, I aks you.

Annoyingly though, just as I had completed this poli sci gem, and while I had left the room to relieve myself, a spider monkey somehow entered the room and gained control of the computer. The monkey had somehow insinuated him – or her – self into an online game of Texas hold ’em. I am now burdened with several thousands of dollars in gambling debts. To somebody in Jamaica I think.

The worst part is that my post was lost. Damn monkey.

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June 19th, 2006 at 5:04 am

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Energy and the Environment

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Tom Friedman was on The Daily Show recently and for about 30 seconds there he was actually making sense (i.e. saying something with which I agree). His point (repeated here ) was that we – the United States – should be conserving energy and switching to renewable energy sources. Hard to argue with, and wonk that he is, Friedman makes concrete proposals intended to bring about this result.

The public is ready for strong environmental action by the federal government. The public in fact is years ahead of the Bush/Cheney administration. And whatever arguments one may have with Friedman, his support of for changes in energy policy carries weight.

However, I have a few considerations to offer and constructive suggestions to make, and if Friedman and other lord high mucky mucks agree with me, I can only say, “It’s about time, fellas.”

First of all, America needs to begin redesigning its cities and its transportation system. Populations will have to become more concentrated, more like the ancient cities of Europe than the sprawling metropolises of North America.

We need more trains and fewer trucks and planes. For both freight and passenger transport, rail is more fuel efficient than all competing modes. ”

No single energy source will replace fossil fuels. We as a nation and a world must invest in every available source and in research to develop those that exist and discover new ones.

Neither benefits nor pain caused by changes in energy and environmental policy should be concentrated in either the developed or the developing world. This would create political instability and confrontation.

Any solution to the energy/environment conundrum has to be universal. The entire planet will be affected by climate change, just as it will by the advent of peak oil.

Having wonky ideas without a plan of action does diddly for either the economy or the environment, and an effective plan of action will not arise until a consensus is created. That would require leadership at every level of government as well as an awareness of the interdependence of all nation states economically, environmentally and politically.

Who thinks we will get that leadership from either the Cheney/Bush administration or congressional Republicans?

Me neither, but at least that Al Gore is trying to stir things up.

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June 19th, 2006 at 4:58 am

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War! Grunt! What Is It Good For?

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Everybody, I am sure, remembers the answer Eric Burdon gave to this question (“Absolutely nothin’!” for those who do not). And most Americans, it seems, agree with him about the Iraq war.

In an open ended CBS News poll done in mid-May of this year, the war in Iraq was named as the most important problem currently facing the U.S. Other polls may ask different questions or the same question differently but most come up with similar results. Let’s agree that the war in Iraq is seen as one of the most serious problems facing the U.S. right now by a plurality of Americans.

Other polls tell us that a majority of Americans see the invasion of Iraq as a mistake. An increasing number of Americans want the process of withdrawal to begin much sooner than later.

Of course, there is no movement toward withdrawal. No one is putting any effective pressure on Bush/Cheney to end or even reduce American involvement in what has become a civil war in Iraq. And the administration may have bought itself a little bit of time with the assassination of Zarqawi.

Sadly it is business as usual in the United States that the peoples will is worse than thwarted. It is treated as though it did not exist.

The people want universal health care , but legislation toward that end is not proposed nor even debated in Congress.

And the public is at odds with the Administration and the Republican majorities in the houses of Congress over the environment and global warming. Does anyone out there detect any meaningful action on this issue? How about some focused media attention? Nope, me neither.

So what’s the problem here? Why, on issue after issue, is the popular will thwarted in this manner? That is a topic I will explore more fully in future posts, but right now I will stick to questions of war.

It is not just the Iraq quagmire that has been prosecuted in the face of popular disapproval. Vietnam is the classic case of a war that dragged on long past the day the public turned against it. But it must be said that most of America’s wars have been popular with its people or at least tolerated by them. Here I mean “wars of choice” or more accurately, imperial wars. The war against Filipino insurgents following the Spanish American War was an example, along with the 300 years of wars against Indians.

Conflict and conquest are basic elements in American mythology. I suggest it is that aspect of American culture that still allows governments to get away with murder, and I intend to delve more deeply into this topic in future posts.

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June 12th, 2006 at 4:44 am

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Welcome to slothropia

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I’m sure that since I wrote the title of this post two thousand blogs went live, joining the bazillions that are already out there..slothropia is offered then as another small brick onto a very large pile. It will be a venue in which I explore topics, ideas, and events of interest to me and sometimes of significance to the world. Actually, I intend to contribute this brick to a pile only slightly smaller, consisting of blogs concenrned with politics and culture, music, cinema etc., etc. blah blah.

Or let’s make that a smaller pile still, one of progressive/lefty blogs. I am, however, slightly (only slightly) less concerned with electoral politics than some others that I find indispensable, such as Daily Kos or Atrios.

While I would place myself on the progressive side of the U.S, political spectrum, I have politely declined all offers to join the Democratic Party. I receive regularly through the mail offers to join and donate to the Dems, most of which I have declined politely (if declining politely equals shredding the received printed matter).

The Democratic Party is – how to say this tactfully- a flawed institution. It is an unwieldy coalition for one thing; its left and right wings can cooperate on certain issues and sometimes on electoral strategy and tactics, but there are fundamental ideological differences within the party that hamper its ability to generate coherent policy and messages. I suggest this condition relates to its founding by Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner who believed that all men are created equal. For over a century and a half, this party harbored both true democrats advancing the cause of ordinary citizens, and reactionary slavers, bigots and Dixiecrats.

Still we have to live in this lousy world and given the structure of American politics and the political culture here, today’s Democratic Party is the only creaky vehicle available to carry the nation in a positive direction. Yes, I tried the Nader Greens in 2000. And I would love to see a viable progressive third party. If there were a Wobblie Party I would join and work for it. But in the near term…

This weblog now enters the world completely unheralded, known only to a few friends and relations. It is largely an effort to help me understand the world I live in. If thoughts are stimulated in others I will be very glad. It’s also part of my effort to help just a little to create a world in which everyone is able to live up to their potential for joy and fulfillment.

Finally, I offer this clue as to the origin of the title of my little cyber cottage.

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June 9th, 2006 at 2:13 am

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