Sunday, July 24, 2016

"I Could Shoot Somebody and I Won't Lose Voters."

Today's New York Times Sunday Review (July 24) consists of 19 articles.  Seven of these (37%) deal with Donald Trump.  With publicity like this, who needs advertising?

The Times, and so many of the media, continue to point out the many inconsistencies and lies he has  perpetrated since the start of his successful campaign to win the Republican nomination.  They continue to remind us of all his insinuations and insults on his way to that nomination - "lyin Ted, low-energy Jeb, little Mario, crooked Hillary," to mention a few.  And his lies - thousands of New Jersey Muslims cheering 9/11, thousands of immigrant Mexican are rapists and murderers.  And his innuendo and outlandish statements - Ted Cruz's father was complicit in the Kennedy assassination, Putin got it right, John McCain's no hero because he was captured ("I like people who weren't captured").  And many more.

We all are all too familiar with these atrocious and inciting Trumpian remarks.

What has all this done for Mr. Trump?  Has it hurt him?  Has it stopped him?  In fact it has elevated him to an exalted position.  He has captured a major political party,  and has captured the loyalty of millions of disgruntled Americans who seem to regard him as almost "messianic."  Incredibly,  he has  gone on to become the Republican nominee for President of the United States!

Trumpism demonstrates the desperation of so many American people today.  Desperation exists - whatever the reason.  It exists whether ill-founded (which it is) or not.  And when such feelings enter one's brain and one's "soul" he/she anxiously searches for a "Trump."  Lies, distorted history, or inaccuracies revealed about a demagogue are ignored, or otherwise rationalized as either not true, unimportant, or marked as an attempt to smear.  Irrationality takes hold.

It is not unlike the philosophy behind theodicy - the acceptance of a god despite clear evidence of horrendous evils.

So media, give it up.  As Trump said:  "I could shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."

And the New York Times, as well as many other media outlets, continue to provide this "wonderful father, husband, philanthropic businessman (just listen to his family's platitudes) and human being" the attention he doesn't deserve.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Obamacare and Medicare

A recent article in the New York Times (July 19) highlighted some major issues regarding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  The article was provoked by an essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association which emphasized some of the act's weaknesses.

Affordability remains a major problem, according to this discussion.  It was thought that competition would help keep premiums affordable, but this has not been the case.  The government is now considering adding a "Medicare-like public plan" to the mix.  Private companies, however, already unable to sustain Obamacare requirements, would be even more likely to leave the plan with the adoption of a Medicare option which would significantly reduce the private marketshare by virtue of the invocation of a government controlled price option.  Medicare would decrease physician reimbursement as well as hospital reimbursement.

A problem rarely discussed remains the one of physician availability in Medicare plans.  More and more physicians, dismayed by lower reimbursement rates, are opting out of Medicare.  This seems to be particularly true in urban centers.  The Wall Street Journal reported that 9539 physicians opted out of Medicare in 2012 compared with 3700 in 2009.  A recent study (2015) from the Kaiser Family Foundation surveying non-pediatric primary care physicians found that only 72% of the physicians are taking new Medicare patients, whereas 80% are accepting new patients with private insurance.

Medicare, the "safety-net" for senior citizens, is slowly losing physician-subscribers.  This, too, requires addressing.  Lowering reimbursement rates even further to bolster Obamacare will only tend to hasten this physician-departure.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Abortion not OK in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma legislature has approved a bill that makes the performance or induction of an abortion a felony, and any person found guilty of participating in this procedure can be punished with between one and three years in the state penitentiary*.  This pertains to abortions at any point in fetal development, starting with the moment of conception.  Oklahoma has ruled that life begins at conception.  The deliberate taking of this human life could, then, be considered a form of murder.

This  raises questions about penalizing the mother.  Nothing was reported about how she should be punished, or if she should be punished.  One cannot deny the fact that a women seeking an abortion in Oklahoma would be be aiding and abetting a felony.  Is that not equivalent to a woman hiring a "hit-man" to murder her child?  

And, of course, since the "morning after pill" could, if fact, be considered an abortifacient, I guess any woman resorting to such a pill to end a pregnancy could be sent to the state penitentiary for up to three years.  

Such craziness!

*Physicians are apparently exempt from imprisonment, their punishment being limited to loss of license.

Addendum:  Oklahoma's governor, Mary Fallin, has subsequently vetoed this bill.  

According to the measure, known as SB1552, a person who performs or induces an abortion will be guilty of a felony and punished with between one and three years in the state penitentiary.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

To Pee or Not to Pee - Musings on Bathroom Use

How does a woman know the sex of a person who is with her in the Ladies Room?  Chances are overwhelming that a person who appears to be a woman is, in fact, a woman.  Might it be a man?  Why not?  Even before the recent spate of transgender issues, it could have been a man with all the outward appearances of a woman.  

On the other hand, would a woman using a Ladies Room feel uneasy if a person who has all the outward appearances of a man were to enter.  This could very well be a man - but also a woman dressed as and acting as a man.  Would this be more upsetting to a woman in the Ladies Room, than a person seemingly a woman who could, in fact, be a man?

The only way we men know the sex of the person standing next to us at the row of urinals in the Mens Room is the fact that he is, in fact,  standing there next to us, not sitting there next to us.  However, were everyone to "be seated" in separate stalls - whose to know who's who (or what)?

If genitalia remain unknown, if the chromosomes remain unknown, then you can never be absolutely certain of anyone's sex.  Weren't there situations where we have all had questions as to the sex of someone encountered in the passing scene?

Perhaps the answer is a "genitalia check" by a security person before entry into a sex-designated bathroom is permitted.

But isn't that even more intrusive?  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Is Abortion Murder?

If you are the sort of person who truly believes that a fetus has rights equal to that of a fully birthed human being, then denying the fetus the full rights that apply to the fully birthed human human being does not logically follow,  Right?    Whether the "fetus" acquires these rights at conception, or at some point later in pregnancy (viability) is immaterial - at some designated point of fetal life these "human" rights are acquired.

If you are the sort of person who agrees that a fetus of whatever age has a "right to life," then a deliberate abortion of a fetus is a form of murder.  Punishing solely the actual performer of the abortion but not the mother, and others who "aid and abet" this "procedure" seems illogical as well.  Whether the "murder" of a fetus is somehow less than the murder of a "birthed" human is arguable, I guess.  Nevertheless it might, at the very least, be judged a "depraved indifference to human life."

It appears, however, that the vast majority of the American people do not agree with this.  Mothers who abort their pregnancies should not be punished.

If it is agreed that there should be no punishment for a mother who deliberately aborts her unborn child, but punishment should be exerted on a mother who kills her birthed child, then clearly fetal right-to-life is not equal to that of fully birthed human beings.

Fetal right-to-life has not reached the level of a moral imperative. And that's the way it should be.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Trump, Trump, Trump

Donald Trump, Donald Trump.  Everywhere you look, everything you read - all about Trump, Trump, Trump.  Revile him all you want - he is a success as a presidential candidate.  Deride him as often as you wish - it will neither harm him nor faze him.   He is a media-master, far surpassing other candidates and even outdistancing the media stars and media pundits.

Donald Trump is a "problem," but not the basic problem - he is the result of the basic problem.  He represents the disgruntled, disgusted middle-class American - Republican, Democrat and independent.  He has hit a sensitive American nerve - he has come out.  He has come out of the closet of political correctness and taken on the yelling and screaming popularized by Howard Beale, the disgruntled news anchor portrayed by Peter Finch in the 1976 award winning movie "Network."  "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore," he cried.  "Bullshit," said Beale.  "Bull****" says Trump!

Trump is a disaster - a demagogue, a clown, a liar, an evader, a fabricator of facts, an exaggerator ....... and more.  He is without experience, without class, without decency, without respect for others ....... and more. But despite all this - he is forgiven!  He remains the overwhelming choice of millions of Americans!  He is the "People's Choice!"  Trump is not responsible for Trump.  We, the people, are responsible for Trump!

To quote Pogo, from Walt Kelly's comic strip of the same name, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Shame on Trump ....... Shame on Us!

Let's hope we will get better than we deserve!

Monday, February 1, 2016

God and the Holocaust

The recent obituary of a prominent Jewish theologian and scholar included the challenge of reconciling the horrors of the Holocaust with belief in God.  It described how the "utter evil of the Holocaust" compelled not only Jews, but others, to re-consider and re-assess the meaning and contribution of the Enlightenment (the 18th century philosophical movement dominating European thought) which included the concepts of liberty, reason and tolerance.

It interests me that in attempting this reconciliation, the criticism is directed at the Enlightenment philosophy in general - critiquing the philosophy, but with a continued belief in God.  Attempts to reconcile earthly horrors with the existence of a God continue.  In other words, all explanations of great tragedies must be explained in the presence of the "incontrovertible fact" of the existence of a God.  The possibility that such tragedies contravene this "fact" is never a consideration.

Are there not times to reconsider certain "supposed facts" (i.e. a God) when they seem to not correspond with observed facts?  The monstrosity that was the Holocaust is such an observed fact (and of course there have been many others).  It is certainly easier to explain such human horrors in the absence of an all powerful and loving deity than it is to accept such a deity's existence.  These human catastrophes beggar the acceptance of and belief in a deity.

"Once-accepted facts" (e.g. a flat world, an earth-centered universe) disappear with the discovery of "new facts."  Can a God-fact continue in the face of the real fact of The Holocaust and the continuation and constancy of human terror and slaughter. The answer seems to be - "Absolutely!!"  But  a great deal of upside-down reasoning and rationalization is required, don't you think?.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Supporting Africa

I have been to Kenya and Uganda assisting Generis International, an organization dedicated to improving the education of children and women in East Africa.  I learned very quickly that without "boots on the ground" you will never be assured that your donations are dispensed properly.  The poverty seems vast and unending.  Generis does put "boots on the ground."  Though a very small organization, it is large in what it accomplishes.  Small ideas can bring about large realities!  Generis realizes it will not change the world, but can make it a better place for a few.  Small institutions develop a personal relationship with the people - and via these small connections they are able to insure that their donations of money and material goods are properly used and dispensed by trustworthy local citizens.  Generis purchases locally in Africa to support the local economy - e.g. school uniforms, or goats, or some sewing machines are purchased to train and educate African women and children - inspiring  hope for the realization of a better and more comfortable life.  Even pencils are known to make a difference!

Attempts by large organizations or NGO's to help are often impeded by hurdles of major proportions.  In a recent NewYorker piece (Jan 4), Larissa MacFarquhar, writing about the Ford Foundation and its current president, Darren Walker, put it this way:

"The urge to change the world is normally thwarted by a near-insurmountable barricade of obstacles: failure of imagination, failure of courage, bad government, bad planning, incompetence, corruption, fecklessness, the laws of nations, the laws of physics, the weight of history, inertia of all sorts, psychological unsuitability on the part of the would-be changer, the resistance of people who would lose from the change, the resistance of people who would benefit from it, lack of practical knowledge, lack of political skill, and lack of money."

So true.

Generis knows this.  But Generis has found the way - small in its operation, but so large in its calculated limited successes.