The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘reality’

BALD DIPLOMACY

About thirty years ago, long before we had topical treatments or the Hair Club for Men had gained its large following, a friend who was in his late twenties was experiencing a very significant amount of hair loss.  Because he was very conscious of his appearance this disturbed him and he did everything he could to comb his hair in a way to minimize the appearance of his diminishing follicular growth.

It happened that his loss occurred on the pate of his head and was nearly perfectly circular, looking almost like a monastic tonsure.  But despite his best efforts to cover this bald spot, it kept expanding.  Finally, realizing that he was fighting a losing battle, he decided to embrace his condition and look at it as a badge of honor.  The rationale he came up with was that, “If you lose your hair at the back of your head, it means that you’re a lover.”

Another friend also had a problem with hair loss.  But unlike my first friend, his hair loss occurred at his rapidly receding and thinning hair line near his forehead.  He never made much attempt to cover the loss because, other than growing long bangs, there wasn’t much he could do cosmetically.  His explanation for his hair loss was, “If you lose your hair at the front of your head it means that you’re a thinker.”

These two chaps and I had mutual friends who were a couple who loved to host dinner parties.  Both the husband and wife were gourmet cooks and an invitation to one of their gatherings was always a treat to which their guests looked forward.  The three of us happened to be invited to one of these affairs.

At the dinner I was seated between these two guys.  They had reached a point of acceptance with their thinning hair that they enjoyed joking about it openly.  My one friend made his assertion, “If you lose your hair in the back it means you’re a lover.”  My second friend asserted, “Yes, but if you lose it in the front it means you’re a thinker.”

Well, I couldn’t resist.  So, to the amusement of the other dinner guests sitting nearby I asked, “So does that mean that if you lose your hair both in the back and the front it means that you only think you’re a lover?”

Secretary of State Kerry has perhaps the fullest head of hair belonging to a human being that one can imagine.  One would think it were otherwise – because he apparently “thinks he’s a negotiator.”

In all fairness to the Secretary, it shouldn’t surprise any rational person that, despite what I deem a sincere effort, the Israeli/Palestinian talks broke down.  This is not an issue that will be easily resolved as 1500 years of history have demonstrated.  And the naiveté that good intentions would be sufficient to get the parties to sit down and make nice nice with each other borders either on sheer hubris or a total lack of understanding of the intense emotions that are involved.

The Little Engine That Could mentality is a great lesson for our toddlers, inspiring them to do things that they didn’t believe possible.  But there’s a difference between the challenges that a six year old may face and which confront adults in a very hostile, fractured world.  I’m not sure that either the Secretary or his boss, CIC Obama appreciate that fact.

In Syria, that land which crossed the “Great Red Line,” there are disturbing reports that over the last several days, chlorine gas was used by the Assad regime against its citizens.  We (courtesy of Vladimir Putin) negotiated an agreement that all of Syria’s chemical weapons were to be turned over and destroyed by the end of June.  The last (and only) report I have seen that as of the end of January, the international group overseeing that effort had only received what is estimated as two percent of Syria’s supply of such weapons.

Then, of course, there’s Ukraine – or what’s left of it.  Given our past performance in negotiating diplomatic questions, the only one at issue in that sovereign nation is whether or not we are going to award Secretary Kerry and the State Department the Clement Atlee achievement award.

There’s been a trend among some men for a number of years to embrace baldness in its most extensive form and shave their heads completely.  If Secretary Kerry took that dramatic step and shaved his locks, while it might not help his skills as a negotiator, at least he could claim that he was chic.

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“THE FOLKS”

In the last post I spoke about the latest new catch phrase, “the law of the land” which those who support the ACA use in reference to justifying Obamacare.  But there is a second term which I find equally annoying and which is frequently employed both by the President and by some on the right, notably Bill O’Reilly of FOX News and literary fame.  That phrase is “The Folks.”

Personally, I find this term rather disparaging – no matter who the speaker.  To me it is condescending, as though the President and Mr. O’Reilly are both sitting on their lofty perches, looking down on those who are, in their perception, beneath them, the “little people.”

Well, “the folks” are getting a little taste of “the law of the land.”  The Heritage Foundation has released their analysis of how health insurance rates, on average, will be affected as a result of Obamacare.  The following link will take you to their study – which shows an increase in 45 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/10/enrollment-in-obamacare-exchanges-how-will-your-health-insurance-fare

The Heritage Foundation in this study, which makes certain assumptions which may or not prove to be completely valid, simply examines the cost of currently available insurance versus what will be available on the insurance exchanges.  It is unclear whether this study incorporates the generally higher deductibles which most insurers are building into the new policies.

This, however, is merely the first issue, albeit probably the most surprising one, which “the folks” will deal with come next year.

It is hard to argue that Obamacare is anything but an “ambitious program.”  And it shouldn’t surprise any of us that despite having more than three years to build a website, the one that HHS commissioned is flawed, perhaps fatally so.  We are now into week three of the “rollout” and even supporters of Obamacare are being forced to admit that there are “glitches” which some are even willing to admit are “serious problems.”

Beyond the problems of simply enrolling people in Obamacare, and if you review the increases which the majority of healthy, younger people will face in order to support those who are older and more sickly, it seems unreasonable that the underlying financial assumption that getting the young to enroll and pay more than they actuarially should in order to subsidize those with serious health and pre-existing conditions, will be realized.  That is simply a statement related to the economics of this program.

But that may be the least important reason for a person choosing not to enroll in Obamacare.

One of the much touted benefits which purportedly makes Obamacare “affordable” is the fact that some taxpayers will be eligible for subsidies.  However, the system is currently unable to compute what those subsidies will be.  Therefore, no one who enrolls can be certain what his or her net premium cost actually will be.  That, of course, provides a further dis-incentive for signing on the dotted internet line.

But let us “folks” step back from the problems in getting an effective website up and running, despite the government’s spending hundreds of millions of our taxpayer dollars to implement it, and look at the broader picture.

When I flew frequently, I remember reading an article in one of the In Flight magazines that there were certain things about an airplane which caused consternation among passengers.  One of those was getting on a flight and noticing that the ashtray in your seat’s armrest was filled with cigarette butts.  Passengers tended to ask themselves, “If they can’t clean the ashtrays, how well does the airline maintain the plane itself?”

That same line of thinking can reasonably be applied to Obamacare.  If it is essential for the success of the program that young people sign up but have commissioned a website, the primary vehicle to achieve that end, that is apparently incapable of achieving that goal, then what would a reasonable person expect from the far more important issue of taking care of “the folks’” health – and at what price?

If a person bought into the value of Obamacare as it was sold by the President and his supporters based on how it was originally presented, they must, if they are honest, be greatly disappointed in the product which we are now being required to purchase.  Of the original promises made by Obama, the only one which appears to be accurate is that those with pre-existing conditions will be able to obtain coverage.  And that is a good provision.

But the promise that “the folks” would on average see a decrease of $2,500 per year in the cost of insurance, apparently not the case for most; that people would be able to keep their present insurance if they liked it, apparently not the case for many; that people would be able to keep their health care provider, apparently not the case for many more.

A reasonable person would ask himself or herself, with this sort of a track record at its launch, what can we expect if Obamacare gets fully implemented?  But before you come to a conclusion there is yet more bad news.  Embedded into the source code is a disclaimer that “the government is not responsible for the security of any information which is posted by the user on the site.”  According to interviews I heard with five different IT professionals, the way this site was designed provides an open invitation to hackers to access our most important health and financial information.

Recently, I read that an astounding one out of four of us currently suffers from some form of mental illness, including depression.  I suspect that if Obamacare truly gets fully rolled out, “the folks” are going to be asking for a lot more prescriptions for valium. .

DARWIN AND PROGRESSIVE THOUGHT

If you are “young”, by that I mean forty years old or less, you have probably not read Charles Darwin’s signature work, “On The Origin Of Species”.  It was published in 1859 and was a record of his observations on how mankind and other species then living on planet earth had evolved from lower, less successful forms of life.

The work flew in the face of people of religious belief who held the view that mankind was Divinely created and was put upon this Earth, as is.  We had not descended from monkeys or anything else as Darwin claimed.

Darwin’s book was extremely controversial and Hollywood made a movie about it, “Inherit The Wind”. This was the story of the Scopes trial, in which a Tennessee school teacher taught Darwin’s theory to his High School students in violation of the laws of the state.

The movie was extremely well done and the cast included such Hollywood greats as Frederic March and Spencer Tracey playing the prosecuting and defense attorneys, respectively and Dick York, best remembered as Samantha’s husband on “Bewitched” playing the role of Bertram T. Cates, the movie’s version of John Thomas Scopes, the teacher who had been brought before the bar of justice.

Central to Darwin’s observations was the fact that weaker, less successful species either died off or evolved in order to withstand the brutalities of nature.  Some species were victims and others were their predators. The mere act of survival was paramount to everything else. There would be some logic in that on which we all might agree. After all, you cannot write a “Declaration of Independence” or “The Minute Waltz” or accomplish anything else if you have been killed by a stronger opponent.

The initial verdict in the Scopes trial was that the defendnant was guilty.  (That conviction was ultimately overturned on a technicality).    When the matter was finally resolved legally, it was loudly applauded as a victory for science. Those of a religious mindset were stunned that God’s Word had been legally nullified.  The case was tried in 1925.

In the nearly 90 years since the Scopes trial was heard and adjudicated,  those who are “progressives” (some of whom may actually have heard of this case or read Darwin’s underlying work) have labored hard to replace religion with science. Their efforts have not gone unrewarded. But there is a subtext to Darwin’s thesis that, ”successful species evolve to maintain their continuation.” It is the manner in which they accomplish that primary goal of survival. 

If you have ever watched Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, or read an issue of “National Geographic Magazine” you know that in any herd of animals, those who are weak or old, frail or young, are often sacrificed by the collective so that the strong may breed and pass on their superior genes to future generations. The weak and less efficient in the heard truly play a role in the collective’s well-being – as victims.

Is there a corollary between the survival techniques of other animals and mankind?  Are not those whose lives are dependent on government “entitlement” programs our weak and frail, our old and young? Would not many of these perish were it not for the beneficence of the collective?

But what if in our “brave new world” the majority were to view them as too plentiful in number and decided to cull the herd? This would certainly be rational Darwinian practice. They would be fed to the herd’s predators with no thought for the individual’s interests – keeping in mind only the objective of the collective.

When the last of the weak had been devoured, the collective might notice something that we have seen repeat itself throughout history. Their old enemies, and perhaps some new ones, will still be circling the fringes of the heard, waiting for their opportunity to fulfill their own mission of survival and looking for the weakest members among those who remain. The question that the herd must then address is, whom shall we select next as our sacrificial victims?

ON HOW WE LOOK AT LIFE (PART II)

It was early in the 20th century. Pat and Mike like so many of their countrymen had immigrated to the United States from Ireland. In their native country they had worked as farmers. But in New York City there were no farms. They were forced to seek other employment.

They found it working as laborers, helping to construct the ever-expanding sewer system that New York’s growing population required. Although they didn’t enjoy the work, they accepted it as a way to feed themselves and their families.

One day their supervisor started them on a new assignment. They were to dig up two city blocks of street – which happened to be in the “red light district.” The two men set to their task, swinging their picks at the hard clay that made up the road.

As they were at their job, Pat – pointing to the most notorious of the houses of ill-repute – noticed a man standing in front of its steps. The man looked in all directions and then quickly ran up the stairs. Pat said, “Mike. Wasn’t that Rabbi Jacobsen who went in there?” Mike looked up and in his thick brogue said, “Ah, yes I believe it ’twas he.”

Pat shook his head and said, “’Tis a scandal – a man who is a religious leader going inta place like dat. What would the members of his temple tink if dey seed him?”

Mike, the older and wiser of the two said, “Yes, ’tis a shame. But ya know, Patty – he don’t believe in the Laird Jesus. So we have to be a little forgivin’ of him.”

About an hour went by when Pat grabbed Mike’s shirt and pointed to the same house. A man was standing in front of it. He turned in all directions and then quickly ran up the stairs and through the front door. Pat said, “Isn’t that Rev. Johnson from the church two blocks over. Imagine, a Christian minister goin’ inta place like dat.”

Mike turned to his friend and said, “Yes Patty – but ya know – he don’t have da fullness of fait’. He don’t believe in da Pope as head of da Church.”

Yet another hour went by when a third man stood in front of the house of ill repute. Again he looked all around and then quickly ran up the steps and through the front door. Pat was pale and perspiration formed on his brow as he said, “Blessed Mother. Mike – I would swear ’twas Fr. McGuiness from Holy Martyrs Church going in there.”

Mike looked at his friend and with a pained and concerned expression said, “Ah, fer sure, Patty – there must be someone in there who’s at death’s door – and Fither’s come ta perform the Last Rites.”

Moral: It is what it is.

 

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