On re-establishing our Constitution rights…

I updated this piece due, in part, to the tragic mass murder in Arizona.  Many of the same issues and arguments I waged years ago when I first wrote this piece are still alive and altogether too well today, much to my dismay and disappointment.  Although I have given Obama (and all politicians, for that matter) much grief in the past, I must commend our President for his remarks at the memorial service at the University of Arizona this week.  His suggestion that we best honor the memory of Christina Green and all America’s children by making our country live up to their expectations is a challenge that all Americans should be willing to accept without question. I wholeheartedly believe that his speech speaks to many of the concerns I raised in this piece years ago….

There must be a sense of urgency if we are to avoid the excesses of the GWB administration in the Obama administration or in administrations yet to come.  Once an office-holder gets power, it is very difficult to reclaim the power and give it back to its rightful owners (“We, the People”).   And the GWB administration expanded executive powers well beyond that of any previous administration — even the Nixon administration — by exploiting our fear over 9/11.

It is also clear that Obama will abandon his “core” principles in the name of “getting something done.”  This has held true for every controversial issue that has come before us in the last couple of years (and before that when he voted “present” in the IL State Senate).  Since the original publication of this piece, he has gotten very little done in the way of rolling back the excesses of the GWB administration.  GITMO is still up and running because all Congress hears from their constituents is “not in our backyard;”  we still haven’t gotten FISA right; and it has recently been reported that he is considering the use of executive signing statements (a particular pet peeve of mine).  Further, the “Tea Party” and its “we’re-mad-as-hell” reactionary (rather than visionary) movement has proven to be too off-the-wall in the selection of their candidates (“I am not a witch.”) and far too extreme in their view of the role of government (besides war, there isn’t one in their view).

The only way we can get our rights re-established within the current governmental structure is to enact campaign finance reform in order to shift the power back to the people and seize it from fat-cat Big Business and their special interest groups and lobbyists.  Until we do this, Congress and the Executive Branch will allow them to “pay to play” and will not make decisions that benefit the people.

Campaign Finance Reform is the first and most critical step.

Once that is in place, a healthcare bill can be passed that benefits the people and not the insurance companies, healthcare providers and Big Pharma.

Decisions about how to solve the economy will move back from “welfare for Big Businesses” and the proper restraints and regulations that were eroded since the Reagan years (and even before that) will be re-established.

And, of course, if we re-establish the natural balance between the three branches that the authors of the Constitution intended (and which have worked reasonably well in the past), it stands to reason that our rights and protections will be re-established as well.  All the executive abuses of the past, from torture, rendition and abolishment of the writ of habeas corpus to Executive Orders and Presidential Signing Statements (where GWB made clear he thought he was above the law) all the provisions in the last few FISA amendments and the Patriot Act will cease to exist in their present form. 

We must acknowledge that “We, the People” do not have to relinquish our constitutional rights and protections in order to be safer.

Fear causes us to make bad decisions out of desperation and despair  in order to achieve superficial rather than substantial solutions.  Draconian safety measures may make us “feel better” or create the delusion that we can be less fearful of our enemies and the potential threats they present to our country and its citizens, but the trade-off of losing our constitutionally protected rights and freedoms is too high a price. 

Fear-mongering and the strident and violent words we use in our public discourse, particularly in the “chattering (actually screaming) class,” especially to describe those with whom we disagree (I’m right; you’re evil!), may score political points in the media circus, but  it also creates a toxic political environment where it is almost impossible for politicians to really work together and make the compromises necessary to effect positive change.  Creating straw men and false arguments and phony issues tends to distract and divide  us, often over manufactured, imaginary crises, rather than focus and unite us in meaningful and effective ways to address concerns that are real.

We cannot, out of fear or frustration,  choose to become reactionary rather than visionary. 

We must be careful to make changes that balance our need for safety with our right to enjoy constitutionally protected freedoms, else we may change who we are as a people. And what all this fear-mongering and strident political discourse really accomplishes is to change what is good about our society and form of government, all because of our fear and desire for safety — without, I must stress, actually making us safer.    We only have to look in our past to see how we slaughtered Indians by the millions and imprisoned Japanese American citizens in our own concentration camps because we didn’t trust people who didn’t look or live like us.

And we must pass a rule that amendments that are not germane to a bill cannot be included in any bill.

We also must demand the SCOTUS rule on whether or not an Executive Order is constitutional and binding, particularly if it includes provisions that are unconstitutional (abolishing the writ of habeas corpus, etc.).

And we must clearly establish the Right to Privacy, which will resolve such issues as abortion and homosexual marriage (and, for all practical purposes, many of the wedge issues that have plagued us since the mid-20th century).  I believe the Right to Privacy does exist.  If you look at the Bill of Rights, it is quite apparent that our Constitutional framers believed in the “man’s castle” theory which clearly establishes our inherent Right of Privacy.

Anyway, I think we must approach this issue in two ways:

First, get back control over our elected officials, who have reason to fear Big Business and Special Interests because of the enormous cost of running a successful re-election campaign, through passing campaign finance reform.

Second, we must try to educate “We, the People” and make them realize how dangerous it is to set such precedents that shift too much power to either of the three branches and shift power from the People to the government.  We must re-establish the inherent controls and balance between the three branches of government and the unconstitutional shift of far too much government power to the Executive Branch.  Even if we like and trust (or think we do), the guy in office now, we must remember that these precedents, once set, will empower any candidate that occupies these governmental position in the future. 

Unchecked power and unaccountable authority just don’t work, whether we are speaking of individuals or a political party.  We have seen (throughout the ages, and especially since 1980) that when the political parties and special interests influenced the general public in becoming more and more polarized, government powers or excesses tend to expand in ways that do not benefit the people.  And that is the real danger. 

A democracy must be “people-oriented” and “people controlled,” but without resorting to mob rule and hysteria.

Any act or action that contributes to American society by solving societal problems or preventing abuse by a government branch that refuses to acknowledge their accountability to the law of the land and to We, the People, must be effective and results-oriented in order to succeed and achieve the true goals of a democracy.  Loopholes and ambiguity lead to overburdened courts and no real enforcement. Every time we allow wedge issues to consume public discourse and further polarize Americans or sit back and watch our inherent constitutional rights and protections “flushed down the toilet” — regardless of any fear that permeates political discourse or public discourse — we move further and further way from the true freedoms that only a democracy can provide.

Abandoning our democratic values in exchange for the delusion that we are safer is the greatest “win” the terrorists could have hoped for…. and (especially after 9/11) we gave this to them out of fear.

The GWB administration was masterful when it came to fear-mongering.  They proved how instilling fear in the general population for the purposes of exploitation of the masses could successfully empower an unhealthy, unchecked Executive Branch who believed themselves to be above the law.  And we also see how the country was bankrupted by the GWB administration and its systematic destruction of the oversight and regulations that protect our industries (banking, etc.) to the point where the People are now financing with their own tax dollars poorly run companies with incompetent or criminal executive management; who deserve to be punished, not rewarded with multimillion-dollar executive bonuses BEFORE they have paid the American taxpayers back for their bailout money. These are the same executives that routinely and for a significant period of time made bad management decisions and were even criminally negligent to the point that their actions consist of a criminal breach of their fiduciary responsibilities.  And then we allow them their million-dollar bonuses while we struggle financially and are punished for their crime by having to carry the load of an out-of-control national debt.

Campaign Finance Reform is the first step

Without it, the Constitution will not be restored to its original intent; real healthcare that first protects the best interests of the People and not Big Business, Big Pharma and other Special Interest will never pass; and Big Business, the NRA and Special Interests will continue to have improper, excessive access to our elected officials, which results in the power to secretly write bills that benefit them or their industry.

Posted in Arizona shooting, civil liberties, civil rights, Constitution, deregulation, election reform, Financial Bailout, FISA, freedom of speech, Gay marriage, Gitmo, government corruption, healtcare, imperialism, incompetence in government, individualism, leadership, National Security, philosophy, political corruption, racism, separation of Church and State, terrorism, women's rights, writ of habeas corpus | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking back the healthcare debate….

OK, I’ll admit I’m venting a little….

It’s time for a little sanity and rationality. I’m tired of the angry mob ranting and screaming over scheduled speakers in the healthcare town halls even before they get a chance to utter their first word. I have read H.R. 3200 and H.R. 676 and I’m still working on reading the rest of the proposals, so I do at least know and understand what is in H.R. 3200, which is what the media has been referring to when they talk about the healthcare bill.

Let me say upfront that I do not support H.R. 3200 because it does not accomplish what I believe needs to happen for real healthcare reform, which is Medicare for All – a single-payer universal healthcare solution that gets the for-profit insurance companies out of the healthcare business permanently. Why?  Because it is the nature of for-profit insurance companies, mandated by law, that they must make a profit for their stockholders, which increases our premiums and deductibles.

The first responsibility of insurance company executives is to their stockholders, not to their insureds (patients).  And, especially in recent years, we have seen policy premiums, deductibles and co-pays rise astronomically and coverage is continually cut back further and further while insurance company CEOs continue to get hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly bonuses….

Every town hall I have seen on the tube shows people screaming at the politicians or other presenters about unrelated issues or making wild accusations like the Palin comment about “death panels,” which is not just incorrect, it is grossly misrepresentative and a completely irresponsible remark for a former Governor and Vice Presidential candidate to make.

And I am tired of hearing how anyone who does not support the verbal lynchings that go on in the town halls is suppressing free speech and being a bully. Those in attendance of the town halls who are respectful and ask the ranters to be quiet long enough for the speaker to make his or her presentation aren’t being bullies just because we want to hear what the scheduled speaker has to say before we make comments or ask questions. I’m sick and tired of ill informed idiots trying to shout the speakers down rather than have a rational, factual discussion about healthcare…..

This issue is much too important to allow special interests and those only concerned with scoring political points based on propaganda, lies and fabrications to take over the discussion. I fear that the stranglehold that corporations and special interests have over politicians (because we have not dealt with much-needed election reform and campaign finance reform) is coming back to bite us in the butt once again.

There are plenty of logical reasons to oppose any of the healthcare bills — none of them are perfect, nor will they ever be, and some of them may well be worse than doing nothing. But the reality is that there is a huge inequity in our healthcare system because of lack of access to care based on unaffordability, uninsurability (because of pre-existing illnesses) and “job lock” (having to stay at a job you don’t like because changing insurance companies could jeopardize your coverage based on pre-existing conditions). Those who can easily afford the premiums and co-pays are happy with what they have, and why shouldn’t they be? But over 47 million (and counting, since the numbers grow as unemployment rises) people have no healthcare and even more have inadequate healthcare coverage — and worse still, they often don’t know it and don’t find out until the need it.

The town hall ranters speak about “taking their country back,” but from whom?

From my view, it looks like “we the rational” need to take this issue back from “those the hysterical” that are dominating the news!  Some of these demonstrators are simply honest, but ill-informed and easily manipulated, folk being used by the right wing-nuts to score political points.  Some are right wing-nuts or special interests that are deliberately trying to confuse and obfuscate and manipulate Americans using fearmongering to reject healthcare reform, yet again, and, often, not based on their perception of the need for healthcare reform, but because it provides them a convenient opportunity to score political points against a political opponent.  In other words, any issue will do if it creates a backlash against the opposing party.

And, given the change in public attitudes regarding healthcare and the recognition that this crisis has serious economic implications in contrast with the economic and political forces opposing healthcare reform, this may be the last real chance we have for a very long time to make any progress toward solving our healthcare crisis.

At this point, we Americans who understand the importance of this issue are all going to have to stand up and claim ownership of this issue and make a concerted effort to get the debate back to what should be the real focus: single-payer universal healthcare v. for-profit insurance company-dominated healthcare. And our common goal should be working together to solve problems, not fearmonger.

It is amazing to me how many people have no idea what single-payer universal healthcare really is. They think it is socialized medicine, and it is not. It is a “hybrid” system that makes the government the insurer, reducing the overhead of for-profit insurers by about 26%, but the healthcare providers are still privately owned and controlled.

It is equally disturbing to find that many of the people making these wild accusations about what is in the healthcare bill haven’t read any of the proposals yet.  What’s worse, even our elected officials admit they haven’t read the bill(s) either, and some have already admitted they don’t intend to.  It’s hard to wrap my head around the level of arrogance an elected official must have in order to vote on a bill he or she hasn’t read.  Why do they think we put them in office?  We certainly didn’t put them there just so they’d have a media platform, and the ability to get contributions for the next campaign.

A perfect example is the “death panels” comment by Palin. There is no such thing as death panels where government officials or medical professional make life or death decisions about patients in any of the bills. What she was referring to is the end-of-life consultation provision in H.R.3200 which simply allows healthcare professionals to be reimbursed for the time they spend explaining the medical content of Living Wills, et al., to patients. These consultations are completely voluntary on the part of patients, who request a conference with the doctor or nurse practioner to sit down with the patient and explain what each provision in a Living Will (Advance Directive for Healthcare) means, medically speaking.  More about Living Wills later….

The other bill where the “death panel” charge was wrongfully made was regarding the Health Information Technology provision in the Stimulus bill: the provisions contained constitute an amendment to the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 201 et seq.).  See http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/42/usc_sup_01_42.html for complete text). There is no provision in the stimulus bill for “death panels” which would review a patient’s medical records and decide to approve or deny coverage based on his or her value to society (age, general health, etc.).  Oddly enough, insurance companies do that now in their appeals process.

The Health Information Technology section is amending a previous bill that mandates a national database information exchange with a codified format that will allow health information systems to “speak” to each other and to access medical records of individuals. All this must conform to HIPAA standards regarding privacy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_Insurance_Portability_and_Accountability_Act ).

Now, back to Living Wills and the bogus “death panels” charge regarding the H.R.3200 (commonly referred to by the media as the healthcare bill or ObamaCare) –go to the Library of Congress website (http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c111:1:./temp/~c111whxT0k:e513253), and see SEC. 1233. ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION.  Advance care planning consultation “means a consultation between the individual and a practitioner described in paragraph (2) regarding advance care planning….” and “An explanation by the practitioner of advance directives, including living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses;” and “An explanation by the practitioner of the role and responsibilities of a health care proxy [someone designated by the patient to make medical decisions should the patient become unconscious or incompetent],” and so on.

Every individual should have a Living Will (Advance Directive for Healthcare), which is a legal document with instructions on what to do should he or she (the patient) become ill or injured and is unable to communicate his or her wishes directly. The medical practicioner refers the patient to a number of resources (some funded by the government that are free or low cost), including attorneys and other professionals who can help the patient determine his or her resources and the options that are available to him or her should hr or she need hospice care or other special end-of-life services.  There is no “death panel” — no committee of government officials or healthcare professionals voting to see if grandma lives or dies.

Of all the misrepresentations made thus far, I find this the most objectionable, particularly since it is creating fear in the elderly about something which all of us need to address BEFORE WE BECOME INCOMEPTENT AND UNABLE TO MAKETHESE DECISIONS FOR OURSELVES. Shame on you, Sarah Palin, for promulgating this nonsense!

Now, if you recall, I stated early on in the piece that I don’t like the H.R.3200 healthcare bill (ObamaCare); so, you might ask yourself, why am I defending parts of it?  Well, it’s not the bill itself I am concerned about defending, it’s correcting the lies and propaganda.  In order for our country to get past the hyperpolarization and political gamesmanship that pervades the public forum, we must start speaking truthfully with accuracy and clarity about all the issues and bills – whether we like them or not.  In order to “speak truth to power,” we first must begin speaking truthfully.  If we don’t like a bill or are against an issue, we should be able to articulate truthfully the reasons why without resorting to fabrication, emotionalism and propaganda.  My concern is that we as a people have not made good decisions in the recent past, due in large part to the fact that we are too busy trying to manipulate each other rather than respectfully argue the pros and cons of an issue with truth, accuracy and clarity.

I believe that honesty may not always be the best policy, particularly if the truth does not serve your interests, but honesty is ALWAYS the sincerest form of respect.  When you respect someone, you are honest with them.  And it is time that our elected officials earned our respect by showing us the respect of being honest with us.

For those of you who are proactive in nature and responsible enough to want to inform yourselves, go to www.thomas.gov (the Library of Congress website) and search for bills using the word “healthcare.” You will come up with about 250 entries to work your way through. The two major proposals that have gotten some media attention are H.R. 3200 (ObamaCare) and H.R.676 (the only single-payer option that I am aware of), but there are about six other plans.

The bottom line is that we need accurate, complete, clear information. I believe that Obama made a mistake to not have a solid plan to discuss before holding these town hall meetings. However, these meetings could be effective if they were used to discuss possible provisions, their pros and cons, and find out from the people what they need and want rather than dictating to them what the administration thinks they need and want.

Timing is everything. Preparation is the next most important thing, and the administration blew it on both counts. But it is not too late for the American citizens to stand up and take the issue back from the special interests and insist on sanity, clarity and truthfulness. We need to get the country focused on solving problems rather than acting out in anger and ignorance, because whether you like any of the bills proposed or not, healthcare is the one, single most important issue that prevents American labor from being competitive internationally.

And it is a national shame that the richest country in the world ranks only 37th internationally in terms of healthcare — lower than all the European countries and even Cuba. As Robert Kennedy once said of America:  we can do better than this!  And we must if we want to regain our economic power and stability.

Posted in civic responsibility, economy, freedom of speech, healtcare, incompetence in government, leadership, media, philosophy, political corruption | Leave a comment

On Darwin’s evolution: Why Science and Religion can live together in harmony

National Center for Science Education
Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools, May 21, 2008
http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2008/US/861_united_methodist_church_adopts_5_21_2008.asp

At its General Conference held in Fort Worth, TX, from April 22 to May 2, 2008, the United Methodist Church adopted three resolutions relevant to the teaching of evolution in the public schools.  First, and most directly concerned with education, the UMC expressed its opposition to “the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools,” noting that “the United Methodist Church has for many years supported the separation of church and [s]tate” and that “[t]he promotion of religion or any particular religion in the public schools is contrary to the First Amendment.

Second, in the course of a statement on science and technology, the UMC affirmed, “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology….  We find that as science expands human understanding of the natural world, our understanding of the mysteries of God’s creation and Word are enhanced.”  And third, the UMC revised its resolution on “God’s Creation and the Church,” to endorse the Clergy Letter Project (founded by Michael Zimmerman) and “its reconciliatory programs between religion and science,” in which it urged its clergy to participate.

The text of the resolutions — 80839, 80050, and 80990, respectively — is available by using the Legislation Tracking feature of the UMC’s website for the General Convention.  The UMC’s General Conference is the denomination’s top policy-making body, which periodically revises church law and the “Social Principles” (related to a wide range of social and economic concerns) and adopts resolutions on various current moral, social, public policy, and economic issues.  With over eight million members in the United States served by over forty-five thousand ministers, the United Methodist Church is the third largest religious denomination in the United States.

——————–

It’s no mistake that I was raised United Methodist.  We were taught the interpretation of Genesis was allegorical, not literal, in nature, and, consequently, there was no real “clash” with evolution.  To a United Methodist, science is merely the discovery of God’s creation, not the enemy of it.  Since the term “day” was invented by man and man, himself, has changed in its meaning over time (day used to be the time from sunrise to sunset; now it is a 24-hour period that includes the traditional day and night), it seems folly to impose man’s literal interpretation of Genesis upon a superintelligent God, which is exactly what literalists are doing.  Darwin’s theory of how the world began and “The Big Bang” theory are only scientific ways of explaining how God created the universe to a United Methodist.   

“In physical cosmology, the Big Bang is the scientific theory of how the universe emerged from a tremendously dense and hot state about 13.7 billion years ago. The Big Bang theory is based on the observed Hubble’s law (expanding universe, which solved Einstein’s Theory of Relativity):  redshift (the light from distant stars and distant galaxies) of distant galaxies that when taken together with the cosmological principle indicate that space is expanding according to the Friedmann-Lemaitre model of general relativity. Extrapolated into the past, these observations show that the universe has expanded from a state in which all the matter and energy in the universe was at an immense temperature and density. Physicists do not widely agree on what happened before this, although general relativity predicts a gravitational singularity.”  (http://www.crystalinks.com/bigbang.html)

 Likewise, the concept that God’s “days” could last eons or literally billions of years would not be illogical, given that He is supposed to be infinite.  How irrelevant is time to an infinite being?  Only man is concerned with measuring time, because for man time is finite.

The recent release of the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, called Angels and Demons, broaches the subject of “the God particle” and the Large Hedron Collider:

“…a particle accelerator-an atomic peashooter more powerful than any ever built. It’s called the Large Hadron Collider, and its purpose is simple but ambitious: to crack the code of the physical world; to figure out what the universe is made of; in other words, to get to the very bottom of things….

Physics underwent one revolution after another. Einstein’s special theory of relativity (1905) begat the general theory of relativity (1915), and suddenly even such reliable concepts as absolute space and absolute time had been discarded in favor of a mind-boggling space-time fabric in which two events can never be said to be simultaneous. Matter bends space; space directs how matter moves. Light is both a particle and a wave. Energy and mass are inter- changeable. Reality is probabilistic and not deterministic: Einstein didn’t believe that God plays dice with the universe, but that became the scientific orthodoxy.”   (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/03/god-particle/achenbach-text)

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was flawed because he assumed that the universe was static – neither growing or shrinking.  When Hubble (the guy the telescope is named for) discovered clear evidence that the universe was expanding, it became clear that Einstein’s assumption was wrong.

The bigger issue here is the political one.  There has been a systematic attack on science by the so-called Christian Right against science, this being only one of the areas of contention.  The administration of GWB has declared a war on science within his administration, allowing political editing of scientific documents.

Andrew C. Revkin, “Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming”, NYT, June 8, 2005, (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/politics/08climate.html?ex=1275883200&en=22149dd80c073dd8&ei=5089).

Dan Vergano, “Science vs. politics gets down and dirty“, USA Today, Updated 8/7/2007, (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2007-08-05-science-politics_N.htm).

Council on Foreign Relations, December 2007 (http://www.cfr.org/publication/15079/political_interference_with_climate_change_science_under_the_bush_administration_december_2007.html).  Full report:  United States House of Representatives: Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, December 2007 (http://oversight.house.gov/documents/20071210101633.pdf).

Jonathan Adler, Bush Appointees Blocked Health Report Release”, The Volokh Conspiracy, July 29, 2007 (http://volokh.com/posts/1185724235.shtml).

Written Testimony of Francesca T. Grifo, Ph.D., Senior Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists; Director of the Scientific Integrity Program, Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works: Subcommittee on Public Sector Solutions to Global Warming, Oversight, and Children’s Health Protection, “Oversight Hearing on Science and Environmental Regulatory Decisions”, May 7, 2008 (http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/scientific_integrity/Written-Testimony-for-5-7-08-EPW-Hearing.pdf).

Daniel Smith, “Political Science”, NYT, September 4, 2005 (http://www.cspo.org/Political_Science.html).

And there are many more articles like these.  We know what the agenda of the Christian Right is:  they believe that science usurps their beliefs and decays their children’s thinking (a sad statement on religion in our country, I must add).  But what was the Bush agenda in his war on science?

I submit that it is the need to control information.  Much like the Roman Catholic Church during the times of Galileo (when they tortured him to make him recant about discovering a new planet), Bush, the evangelical champion, appointed himself Keeper of the Truth.  That is, the “truth” according to Bush.  This is one of the most powerful tactics used by Karl Rove on behalf of Bush in controlling the political message by obfuscation.

So, what do we do?

Well, we need to take action, and fast.  As is evident in the article I quoted here, if Texas is able to muddy the line between religion and science in the classroom, textbook editors will soon follow.  Their agenda is to sell textbooks. 

And the agenda of all freedom-loving people should be to preserve the separation of Church and State, which is a concept borne of religious tyranny.  We cannot allow this Creationist movement to poison the minds of our young people for generations to come with regard to science and the importance of objectively seeking the truth.

Posted in censorship, creationism, evolution, philosophy, political corruption, separation of Church and State | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Where does America rank in healthcare quality and efficiency?

The assault on healthcare reform has begun. For the next three years, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, HMOs and other halthcare profiteers will spend billions in advertising and more billions in lobbying to convince us that we have the BEST healthcare system in the world and that reform will ruin our system. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have claimed a reputation for quality healthcare by deceit. We are not the best in the world; we are 37th on the list behind most EU countries with government-run simgle-payer universal healthcare.

Single-payer government-managed healthcare is the only way to bring costs down. I have worked in several hospitals and clinics while in college and shortly after, so I am not speaking in ignorance.

The real problem is that insurance companies must make a profit, and to do so, they must up the premiums and deny as many claims as possible. When care is denied, it results in loss of life or loss of quality of life. Further, most insurance companies do not pay claims for preventive healthcare. They wait until the problem becomes chronic or acute, when it is too late and when the costs for healthcare go up astronomically.

The old standby fear-mongering that “a government bureaucrat will decide your healthcare” can easily be countered with the fact that WE ALREADY HAVE BUREAUCRATS DECIDING OUR HEALTHCARE — INSURANCE COMPANY BUREAUCRATSand they do not have our best interests at heart, but rather the health of the company.

If the government provides the same healthcare as all Federal employees have available to them, that is an improvement, but not the best we can do. A better solution is for the government to put us all on the same basic coverage as Medicaid, but Federally run rather than State run. The premiums for those not indigent would be lower and the defaults for emergency care of indigent would be significantly less. It would profit us in the long run by having a healthier populace but, more important to business, a healthier workforce and less overhead to figure in the cost of labor for Big Business.

This would make us far more competitive with foreign labor (with the exception of the third world countries who treat their workers and citizens as expendable resources). Real reform in healthcare will only be possible with some government control over cost. I do not believe the value of a person’s life or quality of life should be sacrificed to the bottom line.

Arius (from another blog) said:
France, Germany, and Great Britain all have nationalized health care – and they ALL spend less per capita than we do. Stick THAT in your stethoscope and listen to it.

There is a theory that competition will bring prices down. So far it has not. There is more price-fixing among medical practices, pharmaceutical companies and HMOs than there is real competition that benefits the consumer. Competition does not guarantee a low price. Examples of how government cost regulation kept prices low is when they controlled milk prices when I was young. When the regulation ended, prices went up astronomically. And then there is the breakup of Ma Belle that was promised to lower our phone bills and improve our service than’s to competition. Well, our phone bills went up immediately after the break-up and the service went down, and this has been going on for a while now. Even the introduction of the mobile phone did not improve long-distance prices for land-line service, which is why most folks use a mobile phone for long distance calls, and many (especially the young) only have a mobile phone.

Arius is right. The superiority of our healthcare is a myth. Here is a good list of resources regarding world health statistics: http://search.who.int/search?ie=utf8&si … itesearch=

The following table shows where the US ranks in comparison to other countries in terms of healthcare systems and their efficiency (infant mortality, etc.). The US in 37, behind virtually every EU country and Canada.

So, don’t pretend that we are so superior to everyone else. We are not. For the U.S. to be 37th in the world is shameful given the resources that we have.

Table 1. Overall efficiency in all WHO member states
                         [Country names shortened by blogger]

1   France                                 96   Fiji                                
2   Italy                                     97   Benin                            
3   San Marino                           98   Nauru                            
4   Andorra                                99   Romania                        
5   Malta                                   100  St. Kitts & Nevis             
6   Singapore                             101  Moldova                        
7   Spain                                   102  Bulgaria                         
8   Oman                                   103  Iraq                              
9   Austria                                 104  Armenia                        
10 Japan                                   105  Latvia                            
11 Norway                                106  Yugoslavia                     
12 Portugal                               107  Cook Islands                  
13 Monaco                                108  Syria                             
14 Greece                                 109  Azerbaijan                     
15 Iceland                                 110  Suriname                      
16 Luxembourg                          111  Ecuador                         
17 Netherlands                          112  India                             
18    U.K.                                     113  Cape  Verde                   
19 Ireland                                 114  Georgia                         
20 Switzerland                          115  El Salvador                    
21 Belgium                                116  Tonga                           
22 Colombia                              117  Uzbekistan                     
23 Sweden                                118  Comoros                       
24 Cyprus                                 119  Samoa                          
25 Germany                              120  Yemen                          
26 Saudi Arabia                         121  Niue                              
27 U.A.E.                                  122  Pakistan                        
28 Israel                                   123  Micronesia                     
29 Morocco                               124  Bhutan                          
30    Canada                               125  Brazil                            
31 Finland                                 126  Bolivia                           
32 Australia                               127  Vanuatu                        
33 Chile                                    128  Guyana                          
34 Denmark                              129  Peru                              
35 Dominica                              130  Russia                           
36 Costa Rica                            131  Honduras                       
37    U.S.A.                                  132  Burkina Faso                  
38 Slovenia                               133  Sao Tome &  Principe      
39    Cuba                                   134  Sudan                           
40 Brunei Darussalam                135  Ghana                           
41 New Zealand                         136  Tuvalu                           
42 Bahrain                                137  Côte  d’Ivoire                  
43 Croatia                                 138  Haiti                              
44 Qatar                                   139  Gabon                           
45 Kuwait                                  140  Kenya                            
46 Barbados                              141  Marshall Islands             
47 Thailand                               142  Kiribati                          
48 Czech Republic                      143  Burundi                         
49 Malaysia                               144  China                            
50 Poland                                  145  Mongolia                       
51 Dominican Republic               146  Gambia                         
52 Tunisia                                 147  Maldives                        
53 Jamaica                                148  Papua New Guinea         
54 Venezuela                            149  Uganda                         
55 Albania                                 150  Nepal                            
56 Seychelles                            151  Kyrgyzstan                     
57 Paraguay                              152  Togo                             
58 South Korea                          153  Turkmenistan                 
59 Senegal                                154  Tajikistan                      
60 Philippines                            155  Zimbabwe                     
61    Mexico                                156  Tanzania                       
62 Slovakia                               157  Djibouti                         
63 Egypt                                   158  Eritrea                           
64 Kazakhstan                           159  Madagascar                   
65 Uruguay                               160  Viet Nam                       
66 Hungary                               161  Guinea                          
67 Trinidad & Tobago                162  Mauritania                     
68 St. Lucia                               163  Mali                              
69 Belize                                   164  Cameroon                     
70 Turkey                                 165  Laos                              
71 Nicaragua                             166  Congo                           
72 Belarus                                 167  North Korea                   
73 Lithuania                              168  Namibia                         
74 St. Vincent & the Grenadines  169  Botswana                      
75 Argentina                             170  Niger                             
76 Sri Lanka                              171  Equatorial Guinea           
77 Estonia                                 172  Rwanda                         
78 Guatemala                            173  Afghanistan                   
79 Ukraine                                174  Cambodia                      
80 Solomon Islands                    175  South  Africa                   
81 Algeria                                 176  Guinea-Bissau                
82 Palau                                   177  Swaziland                      
83 Jordan                                  178  Chad                             
84 Mauritius                              179  Somalia                         
85 Grenada                               180  Ethiopia                         
86 Antigua & Barbuda                181  Angola                          
87 Libya                                    182  Zambia                          
88 Bangladesh                           183  Lesotho                         
89 Macedonia                            184  Mozambique                  
90 Bosnia & Herzegovina            185  Malawi                          
91 Lebanon                               186  Liberia                           
92 Indonesia                             187  Nigeria                          
93 Iran                                     188  Congo                           
94 Bahamas                              189  Central African Republic  
95 Panama                                190  Myanmar                       
                                             191  Sierra Leone                  

 

http://www.who.int/healthinfo/paper30.pdf. p. 18

Posted in healtcare, pandemics, swine flu | Tagged , , | 31 Comments

Comic boundaries and women

Comedy is a very valuable reflective and introspective tool in our society.  Comics can make us laugh at ourselves or, at least, not take ourselves so seriously.  Comics can put the world in perspective when we get too caught up in political combat to “see the forest for the trees.”  And they can speak truth to power as only a court jester can and has for centuries. 

Comedy is an art, not a legal court proceeding or a news item.  I honestly believe this cause célèbre is more of a distraction than a real issue.  We are confusing the biased and deliberately inaccurate reporting by the MSM with comedy, which is an art.  And, like all arts, art is in the “eye of the beholder.” 

The right to free speech can only be measured by how a society treats the speech with which  it does not agree or approve.  Should there be reasonable limitations?  Of course!  And there are — in factual media:  they are libel and slander law.  But in comedy, where it is clear the comments are not meant to be factual, but rather entertaining, libel and slander do not apply, or, at least, the bar is significantly lower.   And this, for the most part, is a good thing.   Comedians like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and programs like Saturday Night Live may often blur the line between information and entertainment, as Katie Couric called it on her first broadcast, “infotainment,”  but there main function is the entertain.  If they can inform in the process, so much the better.

Was Letterman making a “bad” joke?  Maybe.  Was it in poor taste?  Possibly, but he did not cross the line or even lower the bar — all these kinds of jokes had been made before about other teenager girls (Paris Hilton, Nicole Richey, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Courtney Spears, Chelsea Clinton, Amy Carter, the Nixon girls, the Johnson girls and the Bush twins) in the public forum — even as underage teenagers.  His intended “victim” was the “of age,” formerly married Bristol Palin (who he confused with her younger, underage sister Willow).

Sarah Palin, like all politicians, knew when she entered the political arena that she and her family would be “fair game” for the media, both journalistic and entertainment.  She knew that any mistake her kids made would be subject to public scrutiny. 

She also knew that, when Bristol got pregnant out-of-wedlock and underage, that, given her political beliefs and her public evangelical Christian-based positions, that both she, her family and, especially, Bristol, would be the fodder for many jokes, and, frankly, reasonably so.

When Bristol decided to make “abstinence” ads targeted to prevent teen pregnancy, certainly Sarah should have known and informed her daughter if she didn’t know, that Bristol would be putting herself in the public forum and inviting public scrutiny and public humiliation.

So the false outrage shown by Sarah and her family mischaracterizing what Letterman said was not only a bit hysterical, it was more than a bit hypocritical.

II honestly believe this is “much ado about nothing,” or, at least, almost nothing.  Certainly, it is not a measured and rational response.  Further, it distracts from the real issues facing women.

If women want equality with men in all areas, including politics, they must be willing to accept the good with the bad.  Men in politics have been the brunt of jokes and personal attacks from the MSM for centuries now, as evidenced by every president, especially Bill Clinton and GWB. 

We wanted equality, now we have it.  Suck it up and focus on the real issues that can advance the causes of women.

Posted in freedom of speech, irresponsible parenting, parenting, responsible parenting, women, women's rights | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Intolerance, political correctness and effective government

“An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent.” — Edmund Burke

Regarding the recent shooting at the Holocaust Museum, it amuses me that white supremacy, interestingly enough, does not seem to include Jews, which are often white, whether European or Arab. Jews are a “subclass” of whites which apparently don’t “make the cut” for white supremacists.

But the bigger issue is intolerance and the lack of respect for those with whom we disagree. Even more important is our lack of respect for the RIGHTS of those with whom we disagree. Who you are intolerant toward is not so much the issue.  We live in a polarized world where the extremes are constantly at war (verbally or physically) and the middle has to take a side or be considered “the enemy.” In such an environment, there can be no real progress or real stability.  How we fix this, I don’t know. But I do know it is getting worse. And both extremes — right and left — are equally wrong.

“Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.” — Confucius, The Confucian Analects, Chinese philosopher & reformer (551 BC – 479 BC)

One of the driving forces that led us to become a representative democracy instead of a “pure” democracy is the fact that our Founding Fathers were victims of persecution from the intolerant societies they had escaped. They wanted to ensure that the majority could never infringe the rights of the minority. And their belief that rights were inalienable and God-given was the foundation of this philosophy of individualism.

That’s why, when we see states voting on whether or not a minority segment of our population can enjoy the rights you and I have (to marry whom we please or to speak freely, even if it is against the government or in the form of burning the national flag), it is wrong to even consider holding a vote, or, at least, our Founding Fathers would have thought so based on how they approached structuring our government.

But because most of this intolerance is based on ideology and religion, which requires us to hate those things that are “wrong” and the people who practice these “wrongs”, it is tolerated by our society, or even accepted.  In other words, we demonize those who disagree with us.  We are not content to simply acknowledge that we disagree; we must create a mortal enemy against which we must wage war (or, perhaps, jihad?).  But this intolerance is what is really wrong, and it comes from both extremes in the political spectrum.

There is no justification for murdering a doctor who performs a legal operation that you do not agree with, or hanging a man from a tree on a Saturday night just because his skin is black or a different color than yours, or blaming an ethnic group for all society’s problems because they work hard and enjoy success, or murdering over 2,000 innocent civilians by flying a plane into a building — all these examples are merely expressions of the same problem — extreme INTOLERANCE.  And this intolerance is based on the belief that you have the right to dictate to the rest of the world how they should think and feel and live — a sense of moral supremacy, if you will.  And it’s wrong.

But it’s more than wrong, it’s ineffective. At least, it’s ineffective if your goal is to live peaceably with your neighbors, live your life fully and raise your family to be happy and successful. 

When I was working on an IT project in Manila, Philippines, the manager of the project for which I was consulting was a racist Australian that treated the Filipinos shamefully. He actually announced in the middle of a project meeting of 70 people, many of whom were department managers and the vast majority of whom were Filipino, that “Filipinos are lazy and stupid.” I was shocked. Had he done this in the U.S. or most European companies, he would have been fired that very day. I was embarrassed and ashamed for him and to be working with him, but I held my tongue until after the meeting and followed him back to his office. I told him that he comment was unacceptable and morally wrong, but I wasn’t going to waste my time arguing the merits of his comment with him because I knew that if he believed it was wrong, he wouldn’t have said it in the first place. What I did want to suggest to him was that “It was ineffective.” The successful completion of the project depended on those people that he had just called lazy and stupid to do their job. And to insult the people on whom YOUR success depended was, in itself, stupid, or, at least, INEFFECTIVE. This concept does not only apply to that project, it applies to our nation and our world.

The bottom line was it didn’t matter how he felt about those people, he needed a good working relationship with them to be effective. This is the attitude that we need to reawaken in our society. Our democracy dependends on each of us having the tolerance and the foresight to realize that we can’t be successful as a nation unless we are tolerant of each other and respect each other’s rights — especially when we don’t agree — and work together effectively for common goals. We don’t have to agree to like each other or like each other’s ideas in order to work together effectively. Our success or failure as a society depends on this.

The greatest concern I have right now is the social trend to infringe on our God-given, inalienable right to freedom of speech and sacrifice it on the altar of political correctness. Fashion, fads and opinions change from day to day, if not moment by moment, and what is politically correct today may not be tomorrow. But once we allow any government to infringe on anyone’s right to freedom of speech today, it will still be gone tomorrow for all of us, and, if not forever, certainly for a long, long time.  As MLK said, “If one of us is not free, then none of us are free.”

“You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.” — John Morley

Silence — “shutting people up,” or, oppression —  should not be confused for changing hearts and minds, but it often is perceived as such.  We called that silence which produces the illusion of perceived compliance or acceptance acquiescence.  And this silent approval or the perception of it, is very dangerous.  This is how the Nazis moved Germany from a modern Western country to accepting the Holocaust.  The reason there is a Holocaust Museum is because we need to be reminded of how thin the veil of civilization truly is.

The greatest problem our nation has is not the economy or health care or any other issue like abortion or gay marriage — these are merely distractions from or symptoms of the problem.  It is the fact that our government is not operating effectively.  The gridlock in our government that prevents it from operating effectively is directly due to the polarization in our society and the concept of moral absolutism that prevents compromise and views it as weakness or, worse, evil.

Politics is the art of compromise. It is discernment — knowing which points are negotiable and which ones aren’t — that brings the “art” into play, and this, above all else, is the job of the politician. And until we get over ourselves and our image of ourselves are morally superior and, therefore, entitled to absolute rule, it is not going to get better any time soon.

In the long run, intolerance is a characteristic of a fool, because, just like any foible human being, intolerant people need the compassion and understanding that only comes from tolerance, and if you don’t offer tolerance, acceptance and understanding to others, you have no right to expect it when you need it from them. And you will need it, because we are all flawed and imperfect.

The fact that this shooting occurred at the Holocaust Museum should not be overlooked, because anti-Semitism is on the rise in the Western world due to the efforts of Islamic PACs and organizations supported by Muslim nations (especially Saudi Arabia). The interpretation of multiculturalism as being achieved through political correctness (by suppressing free speech) that is being sold by extreme liberals is starting us down the path of oppression. Such a proposal is before the U.N. as we speak. And, as Edmund Burke said, “Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.”

“The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.” — Edmund Burke

And you are accepting a delusion for reality if you believe silencing criticism will lead to acceptance and tolerance.  It will not.  It will simply force the critics and dissenters outside the system (underground) and encourage them to become more dangerous.  Being able to freely criticize (hopefully, respectfully so) any religion or religious practicioner or government or political party or politician is fundamental to our right to free speech that cannot be sacrificed at the altar of political correctness. To sit silently by while others practice hate speech is equally wrong, because failing to stand up for our values is effectively the equivalent of having none.

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” — Narration from Sergei Bondarchuk’s Soviet film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s book “War and Peace” which has been misattributed to Edmund Burke.

Let’s continue to remind ourselves of how easily a Western society slipped into an autocracy led by a madman who committed some of the most heinous crimes in recorded history. And, even more important, this societal descent into madness took only a short time to achieve.

“A human group transforms itself into a crowd when it suddenly responds…
   to a suggestion rather than to reasoning,
   to an image rather than to an idea,
   to an affirmation rather than to proof,
   to the repetition of a phrase rather than to arguments,
   to prestige rather than to competence.”
— Jean-Francois Revel

And, finally, we must stop having to “relearn” the lessons of the Holocaust: 

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” — George Santayana quotes (Spanish born American Philosopher, Poet and Humanist who made important contributions to aesthetics, speculative philosophy and literary criticism. 1863-1952)

Posted in civil rights, freedom of speech, incompetence in government, leadership, political corruption, racism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Gay Marriage and the Constitution

The argument over gay marriage rages on, and attempts to “define” marriage as a union between one man and one woman (i.e., the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA), are still being debated in the public forum because of the recent activities of states sanctioning gay marriage (IA, MA, etc.). 

Let me say clearly:  DOMA is unconstitutional.  Why? Because it discriminates between one citizen and another, conferring unequal rights and privileges to the majority and infringing the rights and privileges of the minority.

One of the social conservative arguments against gay marriage is that we are giving legal recognition to the gay lifestyle.  This is patently untrue.  We are not giving legal recognition to any lifestyle by allowing gays to exercise the constitutional rights they already have, including equal rights and equal protection under the law.  DOMA, however, did recognize and attempt to give special legal recognition to the heterosexual lifestyle.   This is in direct conflict with the Founding Principles of our country even if it is the history, tradition and practices of the American people.

The Founding Principles of our government are clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

“Inalienable” rights are rights that cannot be taken away by man or endowed or conferred by man to any citizen.  Likewise, the right to marry would surely fall under the “Pursuit of Happiness” principle.

http://www.defendmarriage.org/defendmarriage/fma_qa.cfm
Whether Americans like it or not, the Supreme Court in June 2003 placed the issue of marriage in the Constitution. In Lawrence v Texas, the Court ruled that state legislatures cannot treat homosexuality any differently than heterosexuality. The Court stated that “our laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, [and] procreation” and “persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.” Relying on Lawrence, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts thereafter forced that state to legalize same-sex marriage. The mayor of San Francisco and other municipalities now say that state and federal constitutions demand the issuance of same-sex marriage licenses.

The finding in Lawrence is interesting, because, like abortion,  it treats marriage as a privacy right. And then there’s the “Justice is blind” principle.  The Court should not treat any citizen differently from any other citizen, at least, not according to the Constitution.  The Constitution does not specifically support or reject any lifestyle.  DOMA is a statute, and is virtually useless in determining rights, because it is not a part of the Constitution or an Amendment ratified by the states.

http://www.defendmarriage.org/defendmarriage/fma_qa.cfm
Since the courts have construed state and federal constitutions to include a purported “right” to same-sex marriage, it is incumbent upon Congress to ensure that the definition of marriage throughout the United States reflects the will of the people. This can only be done through the established amendment process….

As Justice Scalia noted, Lawrence “dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned.” Accordingly, marriage is no longer a decision that the people of the several states can determine for themselves.

And this is appropriate, because our Founders were smart enough to know that government by public opinion poll would lead to great instability and the oppression of the minority.  Majority rule with protection of minority rights is the model they chose.  The same evangelicals and social conservatives who have been wringing their hands over “judges legislating from the bench” lo these many years now want judges to legislate from the bench and uphold DOMA, which is clearly unconstitutional.  Ah!  The ironies of life!

http://www.defendmarriage.org/defendmarriage/fma_qa.cfm
… There is not nor has there ever been a civil right to same-sex marriage. You cannot take away a right that does not exist.

Although I disagree with that logic, let’s reverse that — the same can be said of heterosexual marriage: a civil right to marry has never been specifically defined, heterosexual or homosexual.  The reality is that our Constitution and Founding Principles do not provide for unequal treatment of a minority in contrast with the majority.  Either it is a right for everyone, or no one

Distinguishing between civil unions and marriages is also a non-starter, because it again treats one group differently from another. Additionally, it must be resolved at the Federal level, because it will create a situation where one state confers the right to marry to homosexuals and other states may not recognize the marriage.  Once again, it’s either all or nothing at all.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/dixon_02.htm
Article Four of the Federal Constitution states:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Clause 1: The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”

In other words, no State has the right to ignore civil agreements reached in other States….

What this essentially means is that State Defense of Marriage Acts (DOMAs) are unconstitutional, plain and simple….

… it also is unconstitutional by virtue of the Tenth Amendment, which states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Because the Constitution does not explicitly give the Federal Government jurisdiction over marriage, the right to regulate marriage is, by default, given solely to the States to decide.  Therefore, Congress had neither right nor power to pass DOMA in the first place….

The solution, some may argue, is to amend the Federal Constitution, which is what George W. Bush endorses.  There is one problem with that:  Article Six reads:

“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

Boiled down, this means that the Constitution is barred from contradicting itself.  Thus, a Federal Marriage Amendment that would deprive a singled-out populace of any rights runs in clear contradiction to Article Four and Amendment Nine of the Constitution.  Amendment Nine states:

“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

The Constitution says in Amendment Fourteen:

“Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

What this basically means is that the States do not have a right to pick and choose the people to whom it will grant rights and privileges.  If one group of people is allowed to marry, all groups are allowed to marry. …  Plainly, it is discriminatory, and the Fourteenth Article clearly states that selective granting of privileges is not allowed in the United States.

Some may say, “Gays have the right to marry just as everyone else—a right to marry someone of the opposite gender.”  Similar arguments were made in the days of miscegenation in the 1950’s and 1960’s:  “Blacks have the right to marry just as whites do—the right to marry someone of their own race.”  Such a stance is clearly a form of hypocrisy and oppression, and has no place in the America our forebears envisioned, and contradicts the very basis of the repeal of the miscegenation laws.  Albeit slowly, Americans have striven over the years since Brown vs. the Board of Education to uphold that ruling socially; separate but equal is not equal.

One of the arguments for gay marriage is based on the special tax breaks and privileges enjoyed by legal spouses.  Perhaps the best way to “fix” this would be to remove all the government benefits and tax breaks allowed for only married couples.  Then everyone will be equal again.  This would also address the problem that single people are always treated differently in our tax code, etc.

http://www.defendmarriage.org/defendmarriage/fma_qa.cfm
Whatever the Constitution said (or did not say) about marriage for the past 215 years, whatever the history, traditions and practices of the American people confirm (or do not confirm) about the meaning of marriage, marriage is now in the Constitution. The Founders did not do it. But the courts have. Without a constitutional amendment, the judiciary – and not the people – ultimately will determine what marriage means.

If you, as a judge, consider “the history, tradition and practices of the American people” in your deliberations when reaching a decision, you are not a strict constructionist judge by definition. It is interesting that “strict-constructionist-judge-loving” conservatives all of a sudden want judges to legislate from the bench and rule in favor of DOMA, in effect declaring marriage a right only to be enjoyed by heterosexuals.  The Founders did not specifically define marriage, but they did say that all men were created equal and that the majority could not infringe the rights of the minority. So based on the Constitution, DOMA is out. 

The bottom line is that the Constitution does not assert the right to establish a definition of marriage that distinguishes between the majority and the minority to any entity — be it Congress, the several States or the people — thereby infringing the rights of the minority.  The historic and existing definition of marriage is not diminished or disregarded; it is a social construct, not a legal one.  There is no law preventing religions or social groups from using the definition of marriage that suits them within their own practices, so long as they realize it is not a legal construct that can be imposed on other citizens outside their group.

No citizen can be treated differently from another, and, based on that, the DOMA is unconstitutional.  Homosexuals can and should enjoy the same rights and privileges as heterosexuals.  And it is improper for any state to even allow the voters to hold an election to decide to infringe the rights of the minority.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/dixon_02.htm
The religious argument, however, is moot, thanks to the First Amendment, which states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  It is thus that our forefathers sought to protect all Americans from the religious zealotry of a few, or even many; only 52% of Americans claimed to be Christian of any denomination at the last Census.  Should the other 48% of the American people be made to honor a conception of the Creator they don’t agree with?  Of course not; this is why we have separation of Church and State.

Our Founding Fathers were well-acquainted with religious tyranny and, consequently, went to great lengths to avoid the possibility of creating a theocracy or a democracy wherein the majority could oppress the minority. Keep in mind, they had been the minority before escaping religious tyranny and coming to America. The spirit of individualism was in the room at the Constitutional Convention. The idea that a democracy must empower individuals and balance majority rule with minority protection, that Federal law must supercede State law without encroaching on its purview, and that, above all, the Rule of Law must prevail against the Rule of Man are all important principles that protect us even today.

But the attitude among social conservatives and evangelicals is that they want to impose their beliefs and their lifestyle on the rest of us. And this is neither acceptable nor constitutional, thank God. Those heterosexuals that don’t have strong feelings regarding gay rights are reluctant to enter the fray of public debate. I am not gay either, but I am concerned about having anyone’s rights infringed, because if it can happen to them, it can happen to me on some other issue.

MLK said it best: “If one of us is not free, then none of us are free.”

This issue may not apply to me directly on this particular issue, but the concept does. Equal rights and equal protection under the law must be precious to all of us. The Constitution is the blueprint for our representative democracy. We cannot stand idly by and watch our rights be taken from us and the original intent of the authors of the Constitution betrayed. By definition in the Declaration and the Constitution, only God has the right to confer or take away or infringe rights. As far as man is concerned, it’s not his job to decide which rights his peers have. Our rights are inalienable, and that includes everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, culture, background, gender and/or sexual preference. You don’t have to approve of someone’s lifestyle to recognize that they have the right to make their own choices.

God chose to give us free will. Knowing this, it has always amused me to watch evangelicals arrogantly work so hard to “undo” what God did by trying to limit the choices others can make, but never themselves….

Posted in civil liberties, civil rights, Gay marriage, gay rights, LGTB rights, Prop. 8 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

It’s all about the integrity of the process…

When our founding fathers wrote the Constitution of the United States, they were writing this document from the worldview of immigrants who had fled their home country because of tyranny.  Tyranny came to our founding fathers  in many forms, but most often in the form of lack of religious freedom and the enslavement of the “common” man (not nobility) primarily via indenture (debt bondage) and forced labor. 

Contemporary forms of slavery includes: debt bondage, serfdom, forced labour, child labour and child servitude, trafficking of persons and human organs, sexual slavery, children in armed conflict, sale of children, forced marriage and the sale of wives, migrant work, the exploitation of prostitution, and certain practices under apartheid and colonial regimes. As a legally permitted labour system, traditional slavery has been abolished everywhere, but it has not been completely stamped out. There are still reports of slave markets. Even when abolished, slavery leaves traces. It can persist as a state of mind- among victims and their descendants and among the inheritors of those who practised it –long after it has formally ended. (http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/slavery/rapporteur/index.htm)

Additionally, the ascendacy of individualism left its mark on the authors. 

In political philosophy, the individualist theory of government holds that the state should protect the liberty of individuals to act as they wish as long they do not infringe on the liberties of others. This contrasts with collectivist political theories, where, rather than leaving individuals to pursue their own ends, the state ensures that the individual serves the whole society. The term has also been used to describe “individual initiative” and “freedom of the individual.” This theory is described well by “laissez faire,” which means in French “let [the people] do” [for themselves what they know how to do]. This term is commonly associated with a free market system in economics, where individuals and businesses own and control the majority of factors of production. Government interferences are kept to a minimum.

Individualists are chiefly concerned with protecting individual autonomy against obligations imposed by social institutions (such as the state). Many individualists believe in protecting the liberties of the minority from the wishes of the majority. Thus, individualists oppose democratic systems without constitutional protections existing that do not allow individual liberty to be diminished by the interests of the majority. These concerns encompass both civil and economic liberties. For example, they oppose any concentration of commercial and industrial enterprise in the hands of the state, and the municipality. The principles upon which this opposition is based are mainly twofold: that popularly-elected representatives are not likely to have the qualifications, or the sense of responsibility, required for dealing with the multitudinous enterprises, and the large sums of public money involved in civic administration; and that the “health of the state” depends upon the exertions of individuals for their personal benefit (who, “like cells”, are the containers of the life of the body). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Individualism)

This is why the authors of the Constitution made sure of two things that: 

  1. The system of government they set up could be dynamic (change as needed)  with a peaceful transfer of power and well-defined line of authority and reporting structure, and
  2. The rights of all citizens, particularly the minority, could not be infringed by the will of the majority. 

That’s why we have a representative form of government with a well-articulated Bill of Rights. It prevents what we now call “government by polls,” of the Rule of Man in majority “group” form.  In a pure democracy, a vote to determine the will of the people really only reflects the will of the majority — the minority never wins unless they can build a coalition with other minority groups.  If the rights of ALL individuals in a society cannot be protected, the result is a tyrannical rule by the majority based on current public opinion, which lends itself to instability and uncertainty.

The authors of the Constitution knew the difference between the Rule of Law and the Rule of Man.  They understood that a pure democracy was not practical.  The Rule of Man — whether by one man or a group of like-minded men —  is fickle and unstable — there is no consistency or continuity between rulers.  There is usually not a peaceful transfer of power.   Living under the Rule of Law means our founding fathers set up a system with integrity — one that could maintain continuity of government during the transfer of power and consistency regardless of who sat in the White House Oval Office or which party was in power at any particular moment in time.

The best example of how ruling by opinion polls can undermine equal rights and equal protection under the law — in a society supposedly based on the Rule of Law — is California.  I believe that it would have been unthinkable to our Founding Fathers that any state vote could infringe on a minority’s rights, as has the defeat of California’s Prop. 8, which has been held up by the California Supreme Court.

The loss of the sanctity of the writ of habeas corpus (requiring a warrant for arrest, search and/or seizure of persons or property) is the most alarming, because it also involves the loss of due process, meaning that the government (thanks to the Patriot Act) can deem individuals to be enemy non-combatants, arrest them, detain them without arraignment or trial, torture them, and even refuse to give them access to an attorney until they have signed a confession written by the government. Our current president, who campaigned on restoring individual rights that had eroded during the last administration, is now considering the concept of preventive detention, where our government can arrest and detain individuals who have not actually committed an act of terror, but are considered to be potential terrorists.  One of the cornerstones of our system of justice was the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” [by a jury of peers]. 

How can a constitutional scholar and professor not be troubled by the concept of detaining someone BEFORE they commit a crime or even make an attempt to commit a crime?

Oscar Wilde once said “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/imitates.html) In the case of this issue, Steven Spielberg’s film, Minority Report, may be closer to our new reality than we think..

When I was growing up, the Soviet Union and Red China were the “boogey-men” who committed these types of human rights atrocities.  America was the country that protested this kind of treatment of individuals.  Now we torture detainees. Now we are the “boogey-man.” I have not doubt that, in years to come, our behavior in reaction to terrorism will be deemed as a shameful time for Americans, much like our treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII.

Posted in civil liberties, Constitution, freedom of speech, Gitmo, individualism, leadership, Middle East, National Security, Oil, philosophy, terrorism, war, writ of habeas corpus | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Are America’s better days behind us?

Paddy Ashdown, in a speech given at the 2009 Guardian Hay festival entitled “The end of western hegemony” basically declared America to be “yesterday’s news” among the superpowers ( http://u.tv/News/The-end-of-western-hegemony/21f93f82-c918-4c1f-86a3-36382f2aa00b), but is this the truth? Ashdown’s obvious bias may lie in his professed faith, Islam:

Nezavisne novine. 29 October 2002. (http://www.oscebih.org/public/default.asp?d=6&article=show&id=177. Retrieved on 2007-11-23.)
”I am from Ireland, where society is divided too. In my school children were separated on Catholics and Protestants, but I said that I am a Muslim, because my father was a catholic, my mother a protestant. That’s not a reason why I was so bad student. My teachers told me that knowledge is gaining through whole life, and man is learning all the time. That changed my life. That’s why, this start of education campaign in BiH is the most important, since I came to BiH”, said Ashdown.”

This multiculturalism is a mask for Islamic domination promoted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR, founded by a Hamas leader), the American Muslim Council (AMC, funded by the Saudis, whose founder supports Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda; http://www.military.com/NewContent/0,13190,Defensewatch_100903_Wahhabi,00.html), the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA, which funds Hamas), the National Coalition to Protect Political Freedom (NCPPF, which funds Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist groups), the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council (which funds both Hamas and Hezbollah), the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS), the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), and World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). etc. in many ways, it is far more serious an attack. The goal is to establish Sharia law throughout the nations of the world, which, in effect, establishes a worldwide Caliphate, as Muslims are instructed to do in the Qur’an.

This is frightening on many levels because many extreme left liberals, blinded by their multiculturalist utopia, are suggesting that we “roll over and play dead” rather than commit ourselves to learning from our mistakes AND our successes, then moving forward cognizant of those lessons. We have reached a point in democratic societies where our attempt to be politically correct is infringing our right to freedom of speech. The recent incident with Geert Wilders being refused admission into the U.K. because they feared it would rile the Muslims is very concerning. And our friend Ashdown was very much a part of that effort to keep him out. Other countries in the U.K. are caving to the Muslims’ demands as well. We must find a balance between being respectful of others’ views and speaking our mind freely, without fear of reprisal from any government. But that is a discussion for another day….

On the other hand, we seem to have forgotten over the last eight years that being a world power does not entitle us to be a world bully. Regardless, our place in the world depends on having a strong, stable economy. And we must deal with a two-headed monster: the national debt and our failing industries that produce tangible goods.

So, what should we have learned?

First, we know that deregulation does not work, or, conversely, regulation does work. Whether financial, environmental, social or other, the times when our nation has been most stable is when we had a solid set of enforceable, manageable rules in place, a clear line of authority and agencies empowered with the authority to act. Over the past few decades, “free marketeers” and “free-traders” have been buying their way into the political scene and using their influence to convince politicians of their ideology. It is a siren’s song that we find very seductive, because we Americans are an independent, free-thinking bunch, and anything that has “free” in it sounds like it must be tailor-made for us. But this is not the case.

As for free markets, the laissez-faire (French for “let [the people] do” [for themselves what they know how to do] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laissez_faire) theory may work beautifully in a laboratory setting where all factors are easily controlled, but in the real world, it has failed miserably. Why? Because man is foible, and you can’t expect the market (run by greedy, unethical men) to police itself. Every time we tried to deregulate, it ciomes back to bite us in the butt. In the ‘80s, it was the Savings & Loan debacle and Michael Milken’s junk bonds; today it is the investment bankers, corrupt credit rating analysts, junk mortgage bundlers, junk derivatives and Bernie Madoff’s fraudulent Ponzi scheme. Hedge funds and derivatives have turned our stock market into a casino where nobody wins. There is not just one piece of deregulation legislation that acts as the dagger to the heart, but rather a thousand paper cuts that finally caused our economy to bleed to death.

As for free trade, we should have learned by now that there is a happy place between free trade and protectionism called fair trade. We are not yet living in a truly global society. America has been far too generous with our markets, with far too few restrictions, or at least enforceable ones. As a result, we find that foreign goods made cheaply, and often without the consumer protections and quality assurance we need, are nevertheless making their way to a store near you. However, this is not reciprocated in kind with many of our trading partners. This must be changed in a reasonable, rational manner to include enforceable consumer, environmental and labor standards. No more lead in children’s toys and no more poison in pet food. No more of our labor force trying to compete with slave labor and child labor in foreign countries.

But the current financial crisis is not just fixing the mortgage industry and the credit crunch or revising trade agreements, it is deeper than that. The U.S. has moved from a self-sufficient nation that produced tangible goods and services to an economy based on consumer spending, paper wealth and banking products that are parasitic and exploitive in nature. In the IT business, we call the current banking model vaporware, because our investment and commercial banks don’t really exist to provide customers with a needed service anymore, but to create a perception of wealth via derivatives, hedge funds and bundling and reselling paper.

In the ‘90s, with the IT industry in overdrive combating the Y2K problem, we envisioned an information economy, but as is the case with all bubbles, that bubble soon burst, because, in the final analysis, IT work is in large part can be a remote service at which other nations like India, Pakistan, Southeast Asia and Japan can excel and provide greater value due to cheap well-educated and well-trained labor. We have also lost our clothing manufacturing to third-world countries with cheap labor, often slave labor or child labor. We now see even our flagship industry – automobile manufacturing – losing steadily to foreign imports and on the verge of not just bankruptcy, but complete collapse.

Why?

It’s time to set some priorities. First, it is a matter of national security for us to free ourselves of foreign oil. Foreign oil is draining our economy of billions of dollars daily. A politician said during the campaign that we borrow money from China to buy oil from Saudi Arabia. This cannot continue! High-priced oil and petroleum products are the single-most factor that drives up cost of tangible goods. When the items necessary for daily life are more expensive, labor cost goes up, which raises the cost of domestic goods even further. It is a vicious spiral. Big Business and their benefactors, primarily Republicans and conservatives, try to sell us the idea that it’s all union labor’s fault, but logic tells us otherwise. Ask any union members if they would take a lower salary (if it was truly a living wage) if accompanied with corresponding cuts in prices of consumer goods, and you might be surprised to find that they would accept that. Why? Because it’s not how much money you make, it’s what your money’s worth (what you can buy with it)! that counts! And that’s why a weak dollar hits the middle and lower classes far worse than the privileged class.

We must cure our need for immediate gratification and short-term thinking and challenge ourselves to value stability and steady growth over immediate “windfall” or unreasonable profits. We need to wake up and realize that all bubbles burst, and feeding frenzies in the Stock Market generally don’t pan out, certainly not for the companies who are victimized by them. What we need is stable, steady growth, not bursts of profitability with long gaps of decline, which is where we have been since the 1980s and the Reagan Revolution with the supply-side economics and trickle-down theory. The “voodoo economics” of the 1980s that GWB warmed over in the last eight years has not worked for the 21st century thus far. Actually, it didn’t really work in the 1980s either.

How to we fix this?

We all heard in the last campaign that it’s about jobs, jobs, jobs…. Well, guess what! It IS about jobs, Jobs, JOBS! We must create jobs. There are two ways to create jobs:

  1. We can borrow more money, increase our national debt, exacerbate inflation and put people to work based on government projects, and/or
  2. We can find other ways (i.e., tax breaks and incentives, guaranteed loans) to encourage the private sector to create jobs.

The above is a short-term strategy to stop the bleeding of jobs moving overseas. But we also need a long-term strategy. Every time we increase our national debt, we give away a larger and larger portion of our annual budget to the payment of interest on the national debt: money we might as well be flushing down the toilet. And, normally, I would not support increasing the national debt, but this is a critical moment with a window of opportunity that is quickly closing….

The Green Economy and Energy Independence

The buzz word during the last election was the green economy. Unfortunately, this seems to be the one good idea that has been put on the back burner. It is due, in large part, to special interest groups and undue influence on politicians to maintain the status quo — the influence of Big Oil on our politicians. But the lack of progress and lethargic public support is more likely due to the fear of the unknown — we have lived with an oil-based economy for over a century now. Oil, for us, is much like heroin for a junkie; it may give us the temporary “high”/feeling of security, but the reality is that we are killing our economy with foreign oil. It seems unreasonable and unlikely that the U.S. government should start its own energy company, so it is far more likely that providing tax incentives and guaranteed loans for private energy companies who are willing to commit to creating jobs (as well as providing a green energy product and/or service).

Rebuild Our Infrastructure

The equally important issue where the solution will help solve two problems – our crumbling infrastructure and jobs – is government-funded or subsidized innovative projects that repair roads, bridges, tunnels, sewers, waste disposal and recycling, water pipelines, utility lines, etc. Our energy grid is almost maxed out. We have witnessed the tragedy of collapsing bridges.

In addition to wind energy, solar energy, nuclear energy and biofuels obtained from crops, we could address our nation’s waste disposal problems with innovative energy plants using garbage. Right now, we have barges and floating mountains of trash that are killing sea life and polluting are oceans by design simply because we have nowhere to put all this waste. And that doesn’t even cover the waste illegally disposed of in our lakes, rivers and streams.

The answer to our economic crisis need not be elegant, just doable. The problem is we have to light a fire under our politicians and convince them to grow a pair and get this done.

Pay OFF National Debt

If we regain economic stability, we must then seriously pay off our national debt. An old Tennessee Ernie Williams song was “I owe my soul to the company store.” There is much truth in that. As long as China, Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries own our debt, they effectively own us. We dare not try to enforce our human rights policies on China unless we want them to call in our loans. Likewise with Saudi Arabia and their human rights issue or their support of Islamic terrorist: should we fall into disfavor with Saudi Arabia, they have the entire Middle Eastern oil cartel at their disposal, and our oil could be cut off overnight if they so chose to exercise that power. Notice that every time we show strength against Muslim nations, particularly Sunni Muslim nations, they cut production. If you doubt that our debt is not an issue of national security, imagine waking up to a world with no electricity in your house and no gasoline to put in your car.

Peace!

Unfortunately, the Beatles song, “All you need is love!” is a utopian, naiive theory that does not work in the time of global jihad . The next component to our economic recovery is to end the war in Iraq and win the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan quickly and efficiently. Conservatives want us to believe that it is “entitlement” programs like welfare, Medicaid and Food Stamps that have bankrupted us. They even include the government-sponsored indivudal retirement investment fund called Social Security as an entitlement. This is a bold-faced lie. The Aghanistan and Iraq wars have almost single-handedly caused our national debt to skyrocket exponentially. We can no longer be policeman for the world. And we must demand that our allies take care of themselves (i.e., Germany, Japan and South Korea, in particular).

Economic Policy and Monetary Policy

The last item of business is regarding currency management. We must have far more transparency in the Federal Reserve System. The idea of creating a hybrid system that would prevent banking panics and balance privatization with government regulation was important. No one would argue that our system needs elastic currency and liquidity, but, Greenspan’s (and the presidents in office during his tenure) reliance on monetary policy to manage the economy (by raising and lowering interest rates) rather than managing the nation’s monetary supply is one of the components of the financial crisis. We have simply not had an effective Treasury Secretary in place to create effective economic policy. Managing the economy by interest rates in place of real economic policy does not work Lance Taylor’s 2004 Reconstructing Macroeconomics maintains that the sources of inflation must be found in the distributional structure of the economy. The Fed was never intended to supplant the Treasury Secretary. And one the Fed’s biggest failures in this current crisis is that it did not “protect the credit rights of consumers” or “contain systemic risk in financial markets” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Reserve_System). We need a comprehensive economic plan and policy.

Our Founding Principles

The idea that the U.S. should resign itself to obscurity is neither acceptable nor inevitable. We will have just as much relevance and power as we aspire to have, providing we back up our aspiration with perspiration and determination.

It’s not just a question of dominance that drives America, it is a question of whose values will the world respect and follow. Leadership is not solely dependent on a powerful economy or a powerful military; those are secondary to our founding principles of individual equality, freedom and responsibility, a citizen-run government and political process, well-regulated capitalism where everyone is free to participate and grow wealth, and, lastly, the transparency and integrity of our government and political system, which is the Constitution. Our present failure is due not to the weakness of our values, but our failure to observe them. We cannot allow our recent failure in leadership to cause the world to reject our values, rather, we must “clean up our own back yard” and continue to promote our values.

We have been and must continue to be the shining beacon of light in what is now a very dark world.

Posted in civil liberties, Constitution, deregulation, economy, environment, free trade, global warming, green economy, imperialism, Iraq, leadership, National Security, Oil, oil-based economy, philosophy, political corruption, terrorism, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

More about flu vaccines

What are vaccines and toxoids?

When you are exposed to a live virus in nature, your body tries to fight it by building antibodies. If your body is successful, you develop immunity much as if you have been vaccinated. If your body is not successful, you contract the disease (become symptomatic).

Immunity can be acquired naturally or artificially. In either case, the host is exposed to an antigen (foreign protein), the antigen is recognized, and the host builds a complex immune response to neutralize the antigen.

Vaccines artificially expose the host to antigens which then elicit an immune response. There are two types of vaccines: killed vaccines and modified live [attenuated] vaccines (MLV). Killed vaccines are composed of agent antigens but not living agent. Modified live vaccines are composed of non-virulent, living strains of the agent [virus or antivirulent bacteria].

Toxoids are harmless derivatives of microbiologic toxins that simulate an active immune response to toxins released by pathogens and other poisonous sources (i.e., tetanus toxoid). (http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/gerstman/hs161/hint-vaccines.htm)

Modified live (attenuated) vaccines (MLV) are quicker acting and more immediately effective.

Killed vaccines may be killed viruses, killed bacteria called bacterins, or killed toxins called toxoids that were created and killed by either heat or chemicals.

In killed vaccines an adjuvant is added to the solution of killed organisms to help it stimulate the immune system. Dead virus or bacteria are not as easily recognized by the immune system without an adjuvant. The adjuvant also holds the killed organisms at the injection site. This allows time for the immune cells to respond to it. (http://www.productionvalues.com/ProductionValues/vaccine_basics/vaccine_basics.html)

…[A]ntibodies made in response to vaccination with one strain of influenza viruses can provide protection against different, but related strains. A less than ideal match may result in reduced vaccine effectiveness against the variant viruses, but it still can provide enough protection to prevent or lessen illness severity and prevent flu-related complications. In addition, it’s important to remember that the influenza vaccine contains three virus strains so the vaccine can also protect against the other two viruses. For these reasons, even during seasons when there is a less than ideal match, CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination. This is particularly important for people at high risk for serious flu complications and their close contacts. (http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/season.htm)

How are these vaccines made and who decides which strains to put in the yearly flu vaccine? 

Each year, three strains are chosen for selection in that year’s flu vaccination by the WHO http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Influenza_Centers”>Global Influenza Surveillance Network. The chosen strains are the H1N1, H3N2, and Type-B strains thought most likely to cause significant human suffering in the coming season (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_vaccine#cite_note-102#cite_note-102).  

…[A]ntibodies made in response to vaccination with one strain of influenza viruses can provide protection against different, but related strains. A less than ideal match may result in reduced vaccine effectiveness against the variant viruses, but it still can provide enough protection to prevent or lessen illness severity and prevent flu-related complications. In addition, it’s important to remember that the influenza vaccine contains three virus strains so the vaccine can also protect against the other two viruses. For these reasons, even during seasons when there is a less than ideal match, CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination. This is particularly important for people at high risk for serious flu complications and their close contacts.  http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/season.htm)

The composition of virus vaccines for use in the 2008-2009 Northern and Southern Hemispheres influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization on February 14, 2008 (http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/vaccine_north2008_9/en/index1.html) was: 

 

The composition of virus vaccines for use in the 2009-2010 Northern Hemisphere influenza season recommended by the World Health Organization on February 12, 2009 http://www.who.int/csr/disease/influenza/vaccine_north2009_10/en/index1.html)  was:

an A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus;

H1N1 influenza-A is actually a hybrid or re-assortment of human, H5N1 avian virus and swine flu strains. 

Posted in H1N1 influenza A, healtcare, pandemics, state of emergency, swine flu | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment