Category Archives: Politics

The Art of the Compromise

The Book

I haven’t read “The Art of the Deal,” but I suspect that part of it has to do with the give and take that is necessary in order to achieve a deal. My understanding of the word “deal” implies that I get some things I want, and you get some things you want. I don’t get everything I want, and you don’t get everything you want. But presumably each gets enough to be satisified. In other words, a compromise.

Compromise is a lost art nowadays in our political discourse. There is no middle ground, only absolutes. There are no deals. Either I get everything and you get nothing, or vice-versa. Take the issue of gun control for example (brought to mind by the shooting yesterday at the Republican congressional baseball practice). Certainly there are some on the left who would want to ban all weapons more powerful than a cap gun and there are some on the right who see nothing wrong with tactical nuclear weapons in the hands of the mentally ill. But I suspect most people are somewhere in the middle. They don’t want to ban guns outright, but wouldn’t mind at least a smidge of regulation in their sales. However there is never any compromise on this issue in Congress. The NRA raises the “slippery slope” argument, namely that any regulation at all only leads to more and more regulation, until guns are outlawed completely, and only outlaws have guns. The slippery slope argument can be applied to any position one takes and immediately shuts down any attempts to compromise.

Why is compromise a dirty word today?  The word “compromise” as a verb as oppose the the noun has always had negative conotations. A person who has been compromised is open to criticism or even blackmail. Compromise, like the word “sanction”, is a bit of a contronym, that is, a word with meanings that are at odds with each other. How much of the conflation of the good and bad meanings of compromise is the result of politics and how much the result of imprecision of language is difficult to gauge. Whatever the reason, compromise is a bad word in Washington, and possibly in the minds of many people. The constant demonization of the other side, fueled by talk radio and biased news sources, makes any attempt at compromise a “deal with the devil.” Moreover, many people approach debatable topics from an immutable position and with religious fervor, which is understandable because their position is based on religion. Religion and compromise are not words that belong in the same sentence. Religious positions, such as views on abortion and contraception, are simply not open to debate. Thus attempts to limit abortion indirectly by increasing availability of contraceptives and sex education, though logical, fall on deaf ears to the religiously indoctrinated. The increased influence of the religious right in the Republican party has certainly contributed to squelching the spirit of compromise that once existed in Congress.

The left is guilty as well. They demonize any who criticize the tenants of Islam (tenants that are anti-gay, anti-woman’s rights, that include death for apostasy and blasphemy, and so on) as “Islamophobes” and racists. While there is, no doubt, some vicious anti-Muslim sentiment on the right, the attitude that any criticism whatsoever of a religion is forbidden only serves to shut down debate and increasingly polarizes people. It is impossible to advance the debate under these circumstances, and thus we are all paralyzed into inaction while terror attack after terror attack occurs. The mandatory “thoughts and prayers” don’t seem to be cutting it in preventing these attacks.  We need a rational debate on the ideologies that lead to terror attacks, but this isn’t happening.

Returning to the baseball shooting, it was depressing to read the social media posts on Twitter afterwards. References to Kathy Griffin’s decapitated Trump stunt and the Julius Caesar play with Trump as Caesar as instigating factors were common. I do think it is likely that such anti-Trump, anti-Republican imagery and similar violent talk on the left played into the attacker’s rationale for taking matters into his own hand. After all, the attacker was an angry man who supported Bernie Sanders. On other hand there has been no dearth of similar violent talk from the right, and if anything, attacks inspired by the right, such as the knife attack in Oregon on three men defending two Muslim teens, seem to be more common. The point that both sides must now realize is that extreme, violent rhetoric can inspire a nut from either end of the political spectrum, with tragic results.

Let’s face it. In a more and more polarized country, no one is going to get his way, at least for long. Sure one party can come into power and effect its agenda. But then the pendulum will swing, as the other other side gets angry and comes out to vote. Then the other side will come into power and undo everything. This is an incredible waste of resources and a failure of leadership. The only sane course is that of compromise, taking a middle course, and realizing that neither side has all the answers. Of course that only works if the people themselves can move towards the center, away from their protective bubbles on the right and left. I’m not sure this can happen, due to the constant propaganda from non-objective media outlets and the coarsening of discourse via social media.

In an alternative universe there may be a Donald J. Trump who authored “The Art of the Deal” and came to Washington to actually make deals across party lines. Someone who forced Republicans and Democrats to find common ground and to work out legislation that would appeal to both sides. Each side would get some things they liked and some things they didn’t like. Each side could think that perhaps next election the balance of power would shift and they could get a few more things they liked into law. No side would ever be completely happy, but neither they would be completely unhappy either. But each would be respectful of the other side, would use courteous language, and would not accuse each other of being unpatriotic or un-American.

What am I thinking? I sound like a typical libtard snowflake.

Reacting to Terrorism in Nice

Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France
Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

Every other year Cardiostim, a major international convention for cardiac electrophysiologists, is held in Nice, France. Starting in 2000, and up until I retired, I made it a point to attend this meeting. The sessions were fun, but more fun was the chance to get away from it all and enjoy the sunny ambiance of the French Riviera. Knowing Nice quite well, it was especially horrifying to see the images on television last night of murder and mayhem. A man drove a large truck through a crowd along the Promenade des Anglais, mowing down dozens of people who had just finished watching a fireworks display celebrating Bastille Day, France’s equivalent of our Independence Day. All the details aren’t in yet, but sadly we have all become so familiar with this type of atrocity that there’s little doubt what investigators will find. A Muslim, heeding the exhortations of ISIS or al-Qaeda or some other jihadist group, decided to martyr himself in the cause of killing the “unbelievers” in as gruesome and dramatic way as possible. Perhaps the worst part of this is the palpable sense of frustration that most people (I included) feel. Since September 11, 2001, when the “War on Terror” was declared, things only seem to have gotten worse, with more and more terrorist attacks happening closer and closer to home. How can our leaders have so bungled things? What can be done to stop the insanity?

I grew up in the industrial Northeast of the United States, so predictably I am a progressive on most issues. I don’t like the evangelical social agenda and trickle-down economics of the right wing in this country. But I am exasperated with our left wing’s political correctness that refuses to acknowledge that religious doctrine is the main problem here. I’m sure if you asked the truck driver why he did it, he would answer it was his religious beliefs. For Hilary Clinton or President Obama to say that this is not the “true” Islam begs the question: who defines what is the “true” Islam? Presumably neither one of them is a Muslim, so neither one actually believes that any strain of Islam is true. If it’s all imaginary, what makes one imaginary belief more true than another? The main problem is the tendency to magical thinking in the first place, the innate gullibility of humans to accept outrageous ideas without adequate proof (a good definition of “faith”), in other words, religion. We underestimate religion as a destructive force. It has brought down the world before. The classical world of Greece and Roman was brought to its knees by Christianity. The subsequent period of religious dominance is aptly named “The Dark Ages.” And now, in the Age of Technology, with our smart phones and space probes orbiting the planet Jupiter, we again face a return to barbarism inflicted on us by the latest iteration of belief in that miserable vindictive God of Abraham.

The human race needs to grow up fast and shed its irrational religious crutches, or we are just going to continue to have our hearts broken again and again.

Memories of Van Cliburn

Van Cliburn
Van Cliburn

In the long struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union, from the end of World War II until the end of the Soviet era in 1991, there were intense moments of high drama, like the Berlin Blockade and the Cuban Missile Crisis, intermixed with moments when the icy hostility melted a bit. With both countries armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons of a power sufficient to destroy out planet many times over and a firm policy on both sides with the ironically apt acronym MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), the stakes that world leaders were playing with could not have been higher. The path that eventually led to the defusing of this dangerous situation was not direct. Certainly the final act was played out by Ronald Reagan (undoubtedly his greatest role) and Mikhail Gorbachev, but long before that a young Texan, a classical pianist, was one of the first to breach the barriers between the two countries. In 1958 he won the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow, the first American to do so. He played two great Russian concertos in the last round of the competition: the Tchaikovsky 1st and the Rachmaninoff 3rd. He won the hearts of the Russian people as well as the judges of the competition. Nevertheless they cleared their decision with Premier Nikita Krushchev. Krushchev reportedly asked them: “Is he the best?” When answered affimatively he stated: “Then he should win.” After the competition he returned home to a ticker-tape parade in New York City, and a full concert schedule. His records (LPs) were all hits, and I personally bought a lot of them. In later years he received some criticism from music reviewers for a conservative repetoire and rote performances, but at his peak he was a tremendous musician. His recordings of the Prokofiev 3rd Concerto and the Rachmaninoff 2nd Sonata are cases in point.

Van Cliburn and Krushchev
Van Cliburn and Krushchev

I first saw him perform live in a concert that I believe took place in 1966 in Philadelphia. He performed 3 piano concertos in one concert with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The 3 concertos were the Mozart number 25 in C major, the Beethoven 4th, and the Rachmaninoff 2nd. I well remember his appeararnce on stage, sitting very tall and straight-backed on the piano chair, swaying side to side with the music. Playing 3 concertos in one concert was and is quite a feat. It was rebroadcast on the Philadelphia classical music channel (WFLN) a few weeks later and I made a tape recording of the whole concert from my little transistor radio. Over the years I lost all my old tapes. I wish I still had that one. I have never heard of another recording of that historic concert.

Cliburn appeared frequently at the Robin Hood Dell concerts. These were summer concerts performed outdoors in Philadelphia. On these occasions he wore white formal attire. My friends and I attended these concerts and at the end of each concert, went up to stand in the front row to watch Cliburn give a series of encores. We went often enough to know that when he played Chopin’s Polonaise in A flat it would be the last encore of the evening. He was always generous with his encores and gracious to his audiences.

Van Cliburn died on February 27, 2013 at age 78. He played for presidents, world leaders, and for all the rest of us. He was a sorely needed bit of warmth in the midst of the Cold War. By any measure he was a great American and I count myself fortunate that I was able to see him perform in person on several occasions.

The Root of All Evil

The Tower of Babel
The Tower of Babel

Imprecise language may not be the root of all evil, but it runs a close second. The ability to communicate may be the most basic characteristic that makes us human. If we lose that capability, all sorts of unintended consequences ensue, à la the Tower of Babel.  Which brings us to the recent US Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon vs FEC, overturning limits on aggregate federal election funding.  Chief Justice John Roberts wrote “The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”   In this ruling the exchange of money has become synonymous with freedom of speech and of the press.

Imprecise speech is sometimes related to tendencies people have to overgeneralize or to use euphemisms so as not to offend.  But it can also be used to advance an agenda or just plain distort the truth.  Just as atheism is not a religion but the lack thereof, and the fact that there is a theory of gravity does not mean that gravity is just a theory,  so money is not speech.  Speech refers to words coming out of people’s mouths, and, by the slightest stretch, those same words written down. When the Supreme Court in 1989 decided that burning a flag was a form of speech, the floodgates of overgeneralization were opened.  I am not against protecting non-verbal and non-written forms of expression under the law. I think they should be protected. I can understand that it’s a lot of trouble to write a new law saying art or music or flag-burning is a protected form of expression akin to speech and expect it to get passed. It’s a lot easier just to interpret the existing First Amendment to cover these particular cases. But once starting down this path, it’s hard to know where it stops. Language becomes devoid of meaning.  Fuzzy language begets fuzzy math.  One plus one can equal three, a corporation is a person, and the exchange of money is a form of speech, protected under the First Amendment.

In the US Constitution it is apparent the founding fathers understood that money was not the same thing as speech.  The Constitution talks a lot more about money than it does free speech and does so in different contexts.  Words for money (money, commerce, revenue, tax, coin, dollar, treasury) are used 30 times in the Constitution.  Words for speech (speech, debate) are used only 3 times. In fact, the First Amendment is pretty much all the Constitution says about speech:  “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.”  It’s not as if the founding fathers ever confused the two concepts. Perhaps the founding fathers would have responded to this Supreme Court decision equating money and speech with the immortal words of Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Now that money and speech are the same, so that giving vast sums of money to politicians is just a form of protected free speech, not implying quid pro quo, I wonder if our beloved politicians, the incorruptible beneficiaries of this largesse, will ease up on the laws that prohibit gifts to others. Maybe we doctors will again be able to receive a free pen from a drug company without the suspicion of quid pro quo.  After this Supreme Court decision, how can the pols make laws regulating any donations of money or goods to any professionals, when they themselves are not subject to such regulation?

It may be that I am not crediting the court with enough guile. There may be method to their madness. Perhaps they came to this decision just to show the reductio ad absurdum of equating money and speech, with the intent to force us finally to change our non-democratic plutocracy into something more equitable.  It would be wonderful if this decision effected changes in campaign financing and lobbying laws. Otherwise we are sliding down a very slippery slope indeed.  If the Court has such an agenda I would be surprised.  It appears this latest decision is just a natural consequence to the logic (or lack thereof) of the Citizens United ruling.

The mechanics of elections are the foundation of how our government works. Why should any 9 people (let alone people like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas) have such an influence on this fundamental mechanism? But where is the impetus to change the system when those who have the ability to change it, our elected officials, have nothing to gain and everything to lose?

So that’s why I would vote for imprecise language as the first runner up in the competition for the root of all evil. The winner? Money, of course.

Amendments Don’t Kill People…

18th vs 21st Century guns
18th vs 21st Century guns

It’s a good of example of the problems that unclear writing can cause.  Can we blame the deaths of kindergarten kids on poor sentence structure?  This short bit of 18th century English prose, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, at least has the virtue of terseness if not clarity:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Is it talking about the rights of states to form militias, or the rights of individuals to possess firearms, or both?  It is the second of the ten amendments collectively known as the Bill of Rights.  It comes right after the linchpin of our rights to freedom of speech and  religion (though maybe you could have clarified the religion thing a little bit more, founding fathers), the First Amendment.  I’m not sure the amendments are listed strictly in order of importance though, as the next amendment (the Third, for those of you not keeping track) contains the rather ho-hum right to be protected from the quartering of troops in your house without your consent.  Surely the next several amendments — protection from unreasonable search and seizure (except at airports, I guess), due process, trial by jury, and protection from cruel and unusual punishment — seem a little more important than not being asked to provide Bed and Breakfast to soldiers.  So how important is this Second Amendment?  Is it on the level of the First Amendment — absolutely fundamental?  Or sort of quaint and outdated like the Third?

The Second Amendment looks like the remnant of what might have been a clearer original statement that was mauled over by a committee.  The original version of the Bill of Rights was written by the main drafter of the Constitution, James Madison, and contains this somewhat longer exposition of what was to become amendment #2:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.

This, written at the end of the 18th century, after the works of Alexander Pope and Johnathan Swift, but before the novels of Jane Austin, has all the stylistic elements of the period, such as multiple clauses linked with semi-colons and colons, and the comma separating subject and verb.  Nevertheless it does seem a bit clearer than the final result.  The order of the initial two clauses is reversed in this original version, making it clear that right to bear arms is the main point, with the militia reference being a example of why the right is important (he also throws in the religious exemption to military service, which didn’t make it into the final draft).  In the final version of the Second Amendment, one gets the impression that the “well regulated Militia” is the main point of the amendment, and the “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is in reference to forming “well regulated” militias, not to be a one-man army.  But I have to admit that, despite the confusing wording, it does appear that the founding fathers thought it was a good thing for average people to own firearms, and did not want the government to infringe on that right.

So, does my having to remove my shoes and get subjected to a see-through-your-clothes body scanner at the airport infringe on my Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure?  Yes it does.  Do sexual harassment laws that prohibit telling off-color jokes in the office conflict with the First Amendment right that “Congress shall make no law […] abridging the freedom of speech?”  Yes again.  In the Bill of Rights all the rights are stated as absolutes, in the style of the Ten Commandments, yet all have been subject to regulation.  At the time of writing, the most advanced individual firearm was the musket, which took a long time to reload between each firing.  Now we have automatic and semi-automatic rifles that can fire off hundreds of rounds in minutes.  These kinds of weapons are not simple tools for self defence.  These weapons are a public health issue (as the long string of gun-related massacres occurring even just this year bear out) and the government does have some interest in regulating the public health.  Even the staunchest gun possession advocate (I hope) draws the line somewhere, whether at automatic weapons, bazookas, or personal tactical nuclear weapons.  I think in the wake of unspeakable tragedy, we should draw the line in a little tighter, at least reinstating the ban on semi-automatic weapons.  Really correcting our gun violence problem would take a major shift in how we think of ourselves as a people; a shift that goes against the grain for many of us.  We still like to think of ourselves anachronistically as living in the “Wild West” of the old cowboy movies, where it was necessary for “good people” to “take the law in their own hands.”  This romanticized version of history, if it was ever true, seems fairly out of touch with the reality of modern life.  Or there are the folks that think the government is out to get them, and only their stockpile of weapons stands between them and government tyranny.  This is the wacko “Waco” mentality that somehow your stash of guns puts you on an even keel with the entire might of the US government.  Yes we can arm the kindergarten teachers and the movie theater attendees, and maybe things would have been different, but on the whole statistics do seem to bear out that the more guns there are around the more gun deaths occur.  Since the Second Amendment doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, I am hoping that, as the body count of innocent victims to mass shootings continues to rise over the years, people will realize that just because you have the right to own a gun doesn’t necessarily mean that you should own one.

University of Louisville Hospital Merger with Catholic Health Initiatives Rejected

After much anticipation, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear rejected the proposed merger between the University of Louisville Hospital, Jewish Hospital, Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital with the Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives.  Even though this will probably hurt all institutions involved financially, I feel this was the right thing to do.  Although some other factors were cited in the decision, the overwhelming problem with the merger was the imposition of Catholic beliefs on the practice of reproductive medicine at University Hospital.  Like most university hospitals, there is a large indigent patient population that is served by the hospital, and, like it or not, reproductive services are an important offering.  We are not just talking about abortion here.  The merger would have banned procedures like tubal ligations and prescribing of oral contraceptives.  Yes, in the sacrosanct illogical world-view of mainstream Catholicism (not to mention many Protestants), contraception is verboten even though it is probably the best way to cut down on abortions.  Anyway, the compromise position that the hospitals proposed was that patients needing reproductive services would be bused (hmm…) to Baptist Hospital East, the hospital for the wealthy Louisvillians who live on the east side of town (Louisville is still quite segregated, with marked contrasts between its east and west sides).  Among other things, the arrival of a busload of poor black folk at the predominantly wealthy white Baptist Hospital would be a sure tip-off of what these people were there for, which is a clear-cut HIPAA violation.

Recent years have seen a encroachment of the 1st amendment separation of church and state.  Government funding of religious charities, the so-called “Faith-based Initiatives” started by President George W. Bush and maintained by President Obama, are an obvious example.  Elections have become much more religious in nature, with candidates defending their religious faith, or raising their hands at a debate to say that no, they don’t believe in evolution.   We’ve gone quite a way backwards since the day that John F. Kennedy had to defend himself by saying that his religious views (he was a Catholic) would not influence his policy making in the White House.  Any candidate who said that  would get nowhere in politics in the America of 2012.  There are real doubts that a Mormon could be elected president, because, well, he’s a Mormon.

Despite the professions by the uninformed that “we are a Christian Country” (or the slightly more expansive “Judeo-Christian Country”), the founding fathers were mostly Deists, who went out of their way to set up a Constitution that would avoid the religious persecution that existed in Europe at the time.  There is no mention of God in the Constitution.  Even the presidential oath of office does not mention “so help me God.”  Despite the myth that it was added by George Washington, the first recorded use of the phrase in the presidential oath was by Chester Arthur in 1881.  “In God We Trust” was not made a motto of the United States until 1956.  It was added to paper money in 1957.  “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.  This all happened at the height of the Cold War, when the United States was pitted against the “Godless Communists.”   Here is a recital of the Pledge from the 1940s or 50s without the “under God” phrase.  The point is that the increasing entanglement of politics and religion in the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon, and I applaud any attempt to resist this, in the true spirit of our founding fathers.  So kudos to Gov. Beshear!

Shame On Us

It is difficult to imagine a human being who would not be deeply saddened by the story of Tyler Clementi. The young college student, a promising musician, was gay and was “outed” in the most malicious and humiliating manner. As a result he ended his life, jumping from the George Washington Bridge. I wonder what the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, who hold up signs saying “God Hates Fags” at military funerals, think about this. Have they so lost their humanity that they don’t care or, worse, are happy that something like this still happens in the 21st century? Or do some of them still have enough residual humanity to feel a pang of guilt when reading about Tyler’s story?

Gay people have made major contributions to the arts, music and literature. I wonder how many fundamentalist Christians who take their children at Christmas time to The Nutcracker realize that its composer Tchaikovsky was gay and struggled with keeping it a secret his whole life. Gays serve our country in the military, even though they live under the constant threat of expulsion if their sexual orientation is exposed. Other industrialized countries have no problem with gays in the military. Only the United States and the middle eastern countries have such prohibitions against gay people — isn’t it nice that we have so much in common with Iran and Saudi Arabia on social issues? Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a basic human rights violation. President Obama should have ended it by executive order on day 1 of his administration.

One of the most disquieting examples of anti-gay prejudice is the story of Alan Turing. Turing was a mathematical genius, one of the fathers of the computer age. In World War II he decoded the Enigma Code of the Germans. The Germans never realized that their sophisticated code had been broken by the Allies, and this information was used by the Allies to save thousands of soldiers’ lives and was instrumental in winning the war. Alan Turing was one of the truly genuine heroes of our time. Alan Turing was also gay. He kept it a secret, but, like Tyler Clementi, was outed, and, since homosexuality was a crime in Britain at that time, was criminally tried and convicted. He was forced to undergo chemical sterilization with estrogen injections. He committed suicide by taking cyanide in 1954. I can’t think of anything more shameful than the way this great man was treated just because of his sexual preferences.

I hope some day we can look back at our era and wonder why we would discriminate based on sexual orientation in the same way we look back at the pre-Civil Rights era and wonder how we could have had separate restrooms for “Whites” and “Coloreds.” Until that day arrives, shame on us.

The Great Depression 2.0

I think the current economic crisis was predictable and inevitable, it was only the exact timing that was tricky to determine ahead of time — similar to the situation in California where seismologists say that a big earthquake is coming, but no one knows when it will happen. Over the years there have been some obviously bad trends, including:

  • Buy first, pay more later (i.e. credit cards, mortgages, loans)
  • Failure to save money (complement of first point)
  • Risky investments to get rich quickly (e.g the stock market)
  • Failure of the US educational system to prepare for 21st century jobs
  • Transnational corporations that will use a cheaper workforce overseas
  • US government control by those same transnational corporations
  • Health care issues (more below)

Regarding health care, it seems that there are several big problems, especially in the US:

  • Advances in technology increase longevity and cost. The average lifespan has increased at least 10 years over the last few decades. There is no doubt medical technology has been responsible for this, though the cost of medical technology is great, and the fact that people live longer means that there are more years of retirement that need to be paid somehow. Big price tag here, but further inflated by the following points.
  • Medical leeches. No, not the old-fashioned leeches used in medicine for blood-letting. The modern captialistic variety: Drug companies, device companies, for-profit hospitals, insurance companies. Anyone making a big profit off of health care. Drug and device companies argue that they need money for R&D. I would be more sympathetic to their cause if it weren’t for the incessant bombardment of Viva Viagra and Cialis commercials on TV. And the fact that they sell the same drugs much more cheaply in countries other than the US. Hospitals nowadays are more interested in providing wide-screen TVs to their patients than good medical care. They too should shut up with their stupid advertising. Worst of all are the insurance companies. Their only purpose is to take your money and then deny your claims for payment. They are a totally unnecessary drain on the system! Get rid of them!!
  • In the US, businesses pay for health care. STUPID! Health care is a hot potato, no on wants to pay for it. Not the patients, not the government, and, as you will find out when you submit bills to your insurance company, not them either. How can our businesses compete on a global market when they have to pay for our health care?
  • People are sicker. Yes they live longer, but they are fatter, have more hypertension, diabetes, smoke too much, don’t exercise, eat badly, and generally just could care less about their health. So, more need for health care. I don’t think smoking should be illegal, but at least make smokers pay for their own health care through higher cigarette taxes!

I don’t know the answers to all these problems, other than to try to reverse these trends (through regulation, improving the educational system, etc.) and hope the foundering ship of the economy rights itself. Regarding Health Care, there can be only one answer: nationalize it. It won’t be perfect, but it should be better than what we have. It won’t happen though as long as our government is owned by the companies we are trying to regulate.

Subliminal Message in McCain Response to Obama Infomercial

Didn’t anyone notice in McCain’s response ad to Obama’s infomercial last night that it contained what appears to be a nearly subliminal photo of Obama wearing a white Muslim-style hat? During the ad there are a number of still photos shown, separated by a loud old-fashioned flash camera sound. One of those photos, shown for a fraction of a second only, is the Obama/Muslim hat picture. It is literally shown so quickly that it is difficult to see or appreciate, but it is definitely there, as those with a DVR can easily demonstrate. All the commentators seemed to miss it; I haven’t heard anyone talking about it. It seems to be an attempt to implant a subliminal message in the mind of the viewer that Obama might be a Muslim. Watch it yourself — I’m sure it’s on YouTube, and see for yourself. It’s just more McCain-Palin-Republican creepiness.

The Primary Season Was Too Long

I think one possible explanation for the “Palin Phenomenon” is that the whole primary process took much too long. This has been the longest election ever. You may recall it began just after the last midterm election, i.e. 2 years ago! I believe that such a long process sucked all the life out of the candidates, so that even a remarkable fresh and exciting candidate like Obama seems somewhat old-hat now. And McCain barely showed any signs of life to begin with that could be sucked away. The American people were bored with the whole process, so that a new, fresh face, completely unknown 10 days ago, generated a lot of excitement. I think McCain could have picked any unknown with the same effect. The problem is, as long as the primary season was, the time now to the actual election is very short — scarcely enough time to sort out who this unknown person really is who could end up a heartbeat from the presidency. From what I have seen of her so far, she might be one of those dolls with the string you pull in the back, exactly quoting the same lines from her convention speech over and over and over again…