Monday, November 25, 2013
Still, it made me think about the wondrous engineering feats that were built in the past 100 years. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building, and the Panama Canal, among others, demonstrate the incredible achievements that can be accomplished when man combines his intellect with a vision for a better world.
As my trip to Virginia was solo, I let my mind wander. I imagine it was the next logical step after the industrial revolution that specific man-made wonders would be conceived and created. One might say, it was indicative of man conquering the limits of his physical world, a process that had begun with his mastering of fire.
And, perhaps it is a stretch, but I began thinking that once human kind triumphed over the physical restraints of life, it might also follow that a social revolution might occur. It seems to me that the social changes of the recent past that have resulted in more equal treatment of women, African Americans, and the gay-lesbian community are the direct result of a social revolution that has inspired man to actually apply those awesome words ''all men are created equal". I imagine that in another fifty years, race relations will have improved even further, and the gay citizens of America will be able to marry the person they love.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I think the physical revolution that has enabled man to cross large bodies of water in their car, plant flags and bring home rocks from the moon, and communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere, has necessarily run its course, or is over. I would hope that further technological triumphs will continue to free humans from certain physical dangers while opening up the world to grander discoveries. Nor do I believe in the least that the social revolution that has opened our eyes and hearts to truly treating everyone as they would want to be treated is complete. But I do think the cycle for each of these revolutions is closer to the end than the beginning.
Which leads me to wonder what the next revolution will entail. In a previous blog, I published a story about the next greatest generation. This generation perceived the threat to America, and tackled it head on, despite the fact that the threat was defined as concepts that had previously helped create the myth and greatness of America.
In that story, I briefly mention that the generation in question was posthumously known as a very spiritual generation. Not religious with its connotation of dogma, rules, use of the fear of death to promote goodness, and assignment of "evil" to those with differing beliefs. True spirituality that transcends those biases and discriminations (and fears) that promote tribalism, whether it be in the form of nationalism, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
A spiritual revolution is coming, in fact, in my opinion, has begun. Its signs are hard to discern, but they are there. I see the signs in disparate places, revealed by a variety of events, and displayed in the actions and words of a multitude of people.
I hope to provide some specific details about this revolution in the near future.
In the meantime, just a reminder that if you have a Kindle, my initial attempt at publishing is available to download. From the Kindle search menu, you can find it by searching by author, Joe Pugnetti, or title, Short Stories and Wurdsfromtheburbs.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
I finally uploaded a collection of my stories and most "hit" blogs, accessible on the Amazon Kindle network. If you have a Kindle and are interested in purchasing this literary effort, just search by author for Joe Pugnetti, or by title for "Short Stories and wurdsfromtheburbs". It is priced to sell at 99 cents!!
Regular readers of my blog know that I read two monthly magazines, Smithsonian and National Geographic. Not as well known is that I also subscribe to the Lapham's Quarterly. It is a compilation magazine which devotes each edition to just one topic. This month, the topic is Death. (If you are interested in info on the magazine, here is a link).
So, of course, with Death already on my mind since the passing of my father late last year, the passing of my uncle in the summer, and the most recent passing of another uncle this past weekend, I have dived right into this edition.
Already, I have read poems and stories, both fiction and non-fiction, which span man's perception of death from the curious who look upon dying as the last and ultimate experience of life to the famous Dylan Thomas poem in which he exhorts us to "rage against the dying of the light".
For me, I have considered death from multiple viewpoints during my lifetime. Death to be used as a revenge against those who say they love me but don't show it, death as a backdrop for stories that attempt to teach a lesson about the brevity of life, death of loved ones which releases me from responsibilities, death as a harbinger of the truth of one's real mark on life which is measured by the accumulation of joy and happiness as opposed to material gain, the fear of death because I have not said all that I want or should have said, the longing for death to discover if my conclusions about life were on or off the mark.
My recent brushes with death, also inspire me to reevaluate the need for religion. Well, not religion per se, but the comfort that certain beliefs about death can provide those left behind. I generally laugh at the phrase, non-practicing blank, where the blank is filled in with the religion in which one is raised. In my case, a non-practicing Catholic. I am amused by this phrase because practicing is generally meant to infer that the person does not go to mass, or follow all of the tenets of the particular religion. I would prefer that non-practicing refer to those people who claim a religion, yet do not practice the spirit of that religion; act in a non-Christian way, for example. I actually like to think that I am a practicing Catholic in the way I treat others, in the following of the teachings of Christ, as opposed to the rules of the Church.
But I digress. What I meant to say is that with the passing of their husbands, my dear mother and aunt personify the spirit of their religion in their acceptance of death. They are practicing their religion via mass, etc, but also live their lives as Christ taught. Yes, they are deeply saddened by the loss of their respective mates, over 50 years in both cases, but they truly believe that their departed spouses are now with God in heaven, no longer suffering the pains of earthly life. They truly believe in that basic tenet, that our mortal lives are a precursor to everlasting life with the creator. It doesn't matter if it is true or not, it is real for them, and so they are comforted by that belief. It makes me wonder if those who grieve so publicly and profoundly, especially those who claim a serious tie to any religion, really understand that their perception and reaction to death might be gauged by those looking in from the outside as an indication that their religion is not doing right by them, or that their perceived belief in that religion does not run very deep.
For me, I no longer think of my dad every day, as I did for many months after his passing. But when I do, my eyes still fill with tears, wondering if I was a good son, wondering if he left this world with the same love for me that he felt when he fist looked upon me at birth. I sob with the thought that I gave him grief as all children do, did not always respect his efforts to support his family both materially and emotionally. I miss his smile and booming voice. I see him in his glory at work, which I was lucky enough to experience as a child and young adult. And, I wonder if my eventual passing will evoke the same emotion in those in my life now.
One of my favorite movies about death is Woody Allen's Love and Death. His angst about this oh so serious subject permeates his movies, but none more so than this film. If I were to compile a list of five people I would most like to have dinner with, Woody would most certainly be on this list. Which makes me think that I might like to have just one more dinner with my dad. Which makes me think that perhaps, I should be more appreciative of the meals I take with those in my life now. And, not just the meals, but every waking experience I have with my children, my wife, my friends.
Which brings me to the counter culture philosophy of Ram Dass as expressed in his book Be Here Now. I suppose it was considered "counter-culture" or the philosophy of the hippies, because the establishment saw the philosophy as justification for free sex and drug use. And perhaps it did produce those activities, but what about its emphasis on the spiritual nature of our lives, the rejection of material possessions as the yardstick of a successful life, the idea that each individual moment should be lived to its fullest?
Perhaps, in the end, the comfort of a religious belief that allows the acceptance of death as the beginning of a new life, along with the perception that this life is more than just the accumulation of wealth, all filtered by the knowledge that each and every person we encounter, each and every day is the sum of our lives, and that in appreciating and loving those moments and those people is the best way to experience life, we are able, not only to fear death less, but to also live life more.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
As the story progresses, the main character played by Keanu Reeves begins to discover the truth of the death of his mentor, and the details of the secret organization which has taken control of the research. As it is Hollywood, Keanu makes the final leap to discovering the secret of the new technology, foils the plot of the bad guys, rescues the girl (a fellow scientist), and releases this new, clean, free energy to the world. The happy ending is only tempered by the fact that the main bad guy, played by Morgan Freeman, survives as well, knowing that he will begin again with a new secret organization.
As I have said, I have seen this movie a few times before. But on this particular day, I was struck by a scene towards the end, where the Keanu character, after secretly tinkering with the parameters of the experiment to make it work, now faces the two lead bad guys. He offers a trade, the technology for his life and the life of the girl scientist. He is told in no uncertain terms that he has not bargaining chips. After all, the bad guys hold the guns and the power.
What they forget, what is so often forgotten in the dynamics of using violence to get one's way, is that the idea, the intelligence behind the technology in question is greater that any gun or threat of violence. The Keanu Reeves character anticipated their dependence on guns and threats to get their way, and simply withdraws his intellect from the success of the experiment. Despite the bad guys' monopoly on the guns and power, they fail in the face of the intelligence behind the breakthrough.
The phrase "the pen is mightier than the sword" (if not the idea, which had been expressed in various earlier forms) was coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy.
Whether it be the pen or computer keyboard, ideas are the true power of this world. It is in ideas and innovations that societies are built. To continue to believe that violence, even when used for a presumably good cause, can bring about good, or result in something positive, is a reaction which chains the believer to a path of failure.
As I have said many time before, I believe in the evolution of mankind, physical and spiritual. When I hear the many comments, and I hear them weekly, that society is going to hell, that mankind is doomed to kill himself and/or his planet, I generally counter those statements. Perhaps I am naïve, perhaps a glass half full guy, perhaps just living in a fantasy world. But to me the days of violence being used to obtain one's needs whether personal or national, are beginning to wane. Further, it is my hope that this realization will not be lost on the American people and our elected officials. If we wish to change the face of the earth, inspire the peoples of the third world, deflect the actions of those countries that violate human rights in the name of their sovereignty, we need to do it by example, by spiritually progressive ideas rather than by bombs and "peace-keeping" forces, and drones.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
As is always the case, the early lives of this wondrous generation of Americans was marked by ridicule from those members of the previous generations. Lazy, selfish, too focused on fun, undependable, irresponsible, etc. The same criticisms that have been leveled at every generation by its predecessors were directed at them as well. But again, as is frequently the case, when faced with the very destruction of the life they had come to love, when liberty, self-determination and freedom were at risk, they rose as one to the challenge, and with unwavering resolve, self-sacrifice and a fixation on the end goals, they brought the country (and correspondingly, the world) back from the edge of ruin.
The second biggest challenge was health care, or to be more precise, paying for health care. While the baby boomer generation had died off a generation before, the debt associated with their unprecedented longevity, the medical professions cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry to prescribe a pill for every ailment, health insurance industry greed that placed profit over patient wellness, and the overall selfishness of a generation told it was the best and brightest but could never figure out that such a title needed to be earned, all had combined to create a perfect storm of private and government debt. To make matters worse, the political will to tell the truth and address the issue was continually masked by media created news bytes which focused the passionate but uninformed electorate into a series of congressional and executive votes that created an atmosphere ripe for political maneuvering but did nothing to solve the problem.
Now, building on the positive aspects of that legislation, this new generation combined the basic tenet of individual responsibility with the understanding that that responsibility extended beyond one’s own self, beyond one’s own family. Gradually, amendments to the law were passed that focused energy on access to health care insurance for all while reducing costs for services most needed. Insurance plans were crafted that addressed individual needs yet priced across broad actuarial models.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Thoughts of those I know and have read about who seem to have very little going their way yet remain optimistic about the future and grateful for what they have, mixed with thoughts of those I know and have read about who seem to have everything in their favor yet remain disgruntled about their lives and fear the future.
What makes some people adopt the half full philosophy while others cling to the half empty perception?
I believe that I haven't mentioned that I was recently promoted to a larger store. Also, that we recently began a complete bathroom renovation, and, as a result, we haven't had a working shower for ten weeks.
The half full viewpoint on the new job notes the slight increase in pay and the exposure to the challenges of assisting in running a much larger establishment. The half empty perception notes that the drive is now 50 minutes rather than three, and that shipments in this store begin at 5:00 AM (necessitating a 3:30 AM wake up). Additionally, since I am maintaining my second job minus one shift, the half full person is grateful to have a second job to support the family while the half empty person notes that twice a week I work from 10PM to 4AM which puts quite a kink in the sleep cycle.
As for the shower, half full knows that the bathroom will be great, once it is done, and that it has been gratifying to know that so many friends and family have been willing to allow me to shower at their home, while half empty is not happy with the occasional hair washing in the kitchen sink, and purchasing/wearing extra deodorant and cologne to mask the days when a shower is not available.
As I continued to walk, more of my life became fodder for these musings. Half full is extremely proud of my two children, both in college. Half full regrets the college tuition cost.
Half full is happy to have such a beautiful, smart, loving wife who has remained at his side for 25+ years. Half full is cognizant of seeing the same face, day after day after day. (Sorry honey, just making a point).
At this point, my half full/half empty dialogue moved to the national scene. Half full realizes that the government shutdown will eventually end, and the United States of America will survive another default crisis. Half empty bemoans the selfishness of our elected officials who have placed party over country, and knows that this is just another in a series of "crisis" that our representatives will continue to create, to the detriment of America.
As a Democrat and Liberal, half full can only shake his head at the continued distention in the GOP, with its carousel of leadership via the flavor of the month. From 2008 candidate John McCain to 2012 candidate Mitt Romney, from Sarah Palin to Ted Cruz, from Newt Gingrich to Donald Trump, the GOP has fluttered, and now seems to have failed its moderate majority in favor of the resource rich, be-elected-but-refuse-to-govern tea party minority. Half empty is saddened, knowing that a two party system is required to maintain the give and take that a democracy needs to thrive, and hopes that saner minds in the GOP will cleanse the party of those who, like my kids at age two, only know how to say no.
And finally, we have our president, Barrack Obama. Elected twice, both times receiving a majority of the popular vote as well as the electoral. Half full is exceedingly proud of the American electorate for choosing our first African American President. We are all a part of history, regardless of how we voted, and future political as well as social historians will dissect how and why we made that choice.
But half empty sees an electorate with a sagging spine. Perhaps we were ready to elect a black president but we may not have been ready to be governed by one. From those who openly challenge President Obama on his heritage, his religion, his love of country, to those who stand by and say nothing to rebuke those who cast such dispersions, lies, and hate, to those of us who voted for him but seem afraid to defend our vote and our president, seem unwilling to shout down the ignorant who fail to realize that once you legitimize such hatred of our president you can't go back when the next one happens to be one you voted for, can't retain the higher morale ground when he is besmirched by friend and foes outside our borders.
Half full - half empty. Can one choose which side one's viewpoint will fall? Or are half of us born half full while the others are born half empty?
I like to think that I lean towards half full, which upholds that we can train our mind, direct our thinking to half full if we reflect on our lives, and our perspectives, and understand the difference between the two viewpoints.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
So, that being said, I decided to join the crowd with my title in hopes that I may reach an audience that is pre-disposed to fighting the implementation of ACA.
Like all laws, ACA is not perfect. First and foremost, it requires the citizens of America to seek health care insurance through this program when they have no other source. Not because it might be cheaper, not because it might be partially subsidized, but because they have no other options. It also requires businesses with more than fifty employees, to accept their duty to offer basic health care insurance to those people who make their business successful, as opposed to reducing their full time work force to avoid the requirement. In each case, it requires Americans, as individuals and as corporations, to put the needs of the country ahead of selfishness and greed. And finally, it requires the health industry, insurance and providers alike, to place the health of Americans, especially the sickest among us, on par with their profit margins and salaries.
In my opinion, if the American people continue to seek only what is in it for them, and if American corporations continue to measure each and every decision by the yardstick of short term profit, then the program will not work.
Speaking of opinions, here is a quick caveat. From the President himself, down through every Senator and Congressmen for and against ACA, to anyone willing to air his/her viewpoint concerning the consequences of implementing ACA, it is ALL conjecture. No one really knows if it will work, no one really knows it if will save money or be a boondoggle, no one really knows if lives will be saved because more people have access to health insurance, no one really knows if our continued experiment with using a "market" approach to health care insurance will ever work. No one really knows. Opinions are just glorified guesses, so anyone who presents his/her opinion as fact might best be ignored.
But there is one thing I believe I do know. If we work together, the health care insurance, pharmaceutical, medical device industries, doctors, hospitals and other care givers, politicians on both sides of the aisle, and most importantly each and every American, if we all work together towards a common goal of developing a program so that no American is denied health care insurance, no American can go bankrupt due to their medical bills, no American must make a choice between medicine and food, then I believe we can solve this problem. If we want to continue to believe we are the greatest nation on Earth, then we must solve this problem or no longer make that claim.
So, then, the big question is, why is the GOP so intent on defunding ACA, so much so that they are willing to shut down the government? Obviously, they oppose it. They oppose Obamacare. But which portions of ACA do they actually oppose? For those reading this blog, which of these do you oppose?
No yearly health insurance benefit caps
No lifetime health insurance benefit caps
No denial of insurance coverage simply due to an error on an application
No denial of insurance coverage due to pre-existing conditions
No denial of insurance coverage for children with pre-existing conditions
An option for young adults to stay on their parents policy up to age 26
Reduction of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare
Subsidies for people earning incomes which make paying premiums cost prohibitive.
The individual mandate requiring all Americans to retain health care insurance.
If you are like most people I have spoken with, you are opposed to one or less of the above items, and most likely the mandate.
Strangely, most of the people I have spoken with have health care insurance yet resent being told (by the government) that they must purchase it. And, if we had laws that said that those without health care insurance should not be given health care services that they can't afford, I guess I could understand people who decided to throw the dice and take their chances. But we have more humane laws that require people to receive health care services despite their ability to pay, and we have care givers that concern themselves more with healing the sick, first, worry about the money, second.
So, answer me this. Would you agree to waive your rights to health care services that you can't afford so that you do not pass along your debt to your fellow taxpayers, or do you think it best to pay an insurance premium so that if you (or a family member) does become extremely sick, you will be covered for the services required to save your life?
I have a life insurance policy on myself so that should I die, my wife and children will have the option to stay in our home, continue their education, live in the community where we have lived for 20+ years, etc. Hopefully, I will not die prematurely which means I will have wasted my money on that life insurance policy, and I will be darn happy about it!
Similarly, for those who live a lifetime of good health never having to face the consequences of a heart attack, a cancer diagnosis, or a debilitating accident, for those who are fortunate enough to never needing costly health care services, I say, what a shame! All that money wasted! Perhaps in your next life you will be less fortunate and have some type of chronic disease that justifies your health insurance premium. But in the meantime, perhaps you should visit a local cancer ward to bolster your perspective on who is suffering.
Finally, to my young readers who still believe you are immortal. Enjoy your health!!! Stay up all night, burn the candle at both ends, sky dive, travel, hitchhike across America, engage in recreational drugs and one night stands. Do it all, enjoy your life knowing that eventually, inevitably, you will grow old. So yes, you might have a few less bucks to spend today, but if something were to happen in your happy-go-lucky time of life, you won't be saddled with immense medical debt, or, should you opt to the waiver I mention above, find yourself on the short end of the medical services stick. And don't forget that you are paying those premiums now, so that us old people, your parents and grandparents, uncle and aunts, older cousins, brothers and sisters, will have the means to obtain health care insurance despite being old, or sick, or both. Hopefully, then, when your time comes for help from the generations to follow yours, they will also be as generous.
Which brings us back to ACA. What provisions need to be changed? Of course, it is hard to know since the main tenets of the law are just starting to become effective. But, as the exchanges begin to develop, as people who have spent years trying to obtain health care insurance navigate their options under ACA, as the wheels begin to turn on this massive program, we should be able to identify problems and tweak the law, just as we have tweaked virtually every law ever written, including the Constitution for those of you keeping score. But, again, we need to do it together, with the best interests in mind of the American people in the forefront of the discussion. Not through the lens of which political party can make the most points or which special interest group can get the most exemptions.
Finally, one last question. If you were to lose your job tomorrow, do you know what your COBRA payment would be? Could you afford it? Up until now, you most likely would have had to make the tough choice of dropping health care coverage in this scenario, either because you weren't able to obtain coverage on your own or because you could not afford the premiums. You were isolated and alone, and if you will forgive my obvious distaste for the health care insurance industry, you were at their mercy which is precisely where they want us all to be. Now, through ACA you will have other choices. That simple fact alone makes this a no brainer for me that we should stop trying to defund ACA, and get on the side of the American people.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
First, here is a link to the video if you are interested. It appears to be a (mostly) unbiased presentation of facts as related to the gun industry.
I also did some research about mass shootings and found this detailed list of mass shootings with "mass" being defined as 4 or more fatalities.
Finally, I looked for articles with data about gun ownership in America and found these two, interestingly enough with different conclusions.
As I have said many times before, I prefer stronger laws to control guns based on the assumption that many gun deaths, and a significant percentage of gun related violence is the result of impulse rather than a planned crime or event. People get mad, i.e road rage, domestic quarreling, bad day at the office, etc, and act without thinking, act our of passion, or just plain lash out at what is nearest. Having the availability of a gun in these situations increases the chance of a fatality. For me then, the less guns there are, the less chance they will be used irresponsibly and/or with unplanned consequences.
It has been argued that this logic does not apply to most mass killings, in that most seem planned. If we glance at the list compiled in the link above, there are not that many spur of the moment killings. Rather, the perpetrators have reacted to a specific event or have killed as a result of a mental illness. Still, I would maintain that the ease of attaining weapons with high killing capabilities, makes it all the more easy for them to fall into the hands of those with bad intentions. That being said, I agree wholeheartedly with those responsible gun owners who make the case for tighter enforcement of current laws that limit the sale of guns to those with a history of mental illness. The problem is that the mentally ill are still able to procure guns since they are so readily accessible via holes in the legal process and illegally.
For me, the most insidious aspect of the gun debate, is the gun's industries soaring profits as detailed in the video. Of course, much of the blame for why people buy guns which produces the sales and results in the profits, is our own, the people of the United States. We continue to buy in to the notion that violence offers a solution to the problems we face, whether personal or national. And then, we complete the charade with the rationale that if only we could keep the guns out of the "bad" guys hands, and get more into the hands of the good guys. I would love to see the app that a gun dealer could use to determine who is good and who is bad!!
The good news is that despite the increase in guns in America - we are #1 in the world according to the video - the rate of homicide, overall and by guns, has not increased in the past 30 years despite the seemingly endless barrage of news stories detailing gun violence and the increase in mass killing. As the gun-ownership-is-down link suggests, I am a firm believer that man, as a whole, continues to evolve spiritually and that in so doing we more and more embrace the concept that killing each other, whether for reasons of religion, land, money or love, is slowly, ever so slowly, becoming a trait not compatible with the survival of our species.
And so I hope that one day there will be a world without guns. Not through legislation, although it is a nice way to move us forward, but through the shared realization that violence, whatever its manifestation, solves little, destroys much, and is a poor choice of solutions for our problems.
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Regardless of how you say it, the events of this day will forever have an impact on the people, politics and future of America. Today marks the twelfth anniversary of that fateful day. And, as was true of all past anniversaries, memorials are taking place all across the country. We remember where we were when we heard the news, what we did as he horror unfolded, how we united in our suffering, and, to this day, how the lump in our collective throats is just that much bigger when we hear our national anthem played and recall the sacrifices made by both the victims of that terrible event and their families.
Coincidentally, we are also involved in a national debate about Syria. Despite the history of the citizens of this great country to respond to injustices throughout the world, polls indicate that we are not all that eager to get involved in punishing or otherwise addressing the horrendous treatment of the Syrian people by President Assad and his military. Would we be so reticent to slap down a bully like Assad had we not spent the last dozen years in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to a past bully? Have we grown tired of our role of world policemen, especially in face of the vengeful response of those we have labeled terrorists, the indirect assistance that these groups have received by countries like China and Russia who are supposed to be our friends, or at least not our foes, and the unappreciative attitude of those countries that claim to be our allies but are loath to contribute monetarily to the ever increasing bill we face to "keep the peace"?
Interestingly, I just finished reading an article in this month's Smithsonian about the muriqui monkeys. See link below.
A remarkable woman named Karen Strier has been studying these primates for the past thirty years, and in the process has helped focus the world of primatology on animals other than just gorillas and chimps. In so doing, she has also opened up this field of study, and in conjunction, the study of the most evolved of the primates, man, towards the consideration that competition, aggression, and territorialism, all the precursors of war, are not necessarily common among all primates. That there are other traits that primates share that are not based on violence.
In the world of the muriqui, cooperation, and physical and emotional support are the rule of the day. They do not compete for food, but share it with each other, old, young, healthy and infirmed. Males do not fight each other for access to mating rights, but are invited to mate by the females who do not appear loyal to one male over another. As a result, infant muriqui do not need to be protected from males eager to kill off another's progeny. Hugs and embraces have replaced fighting and killing.
As a believer in evolution, specifically that all primates evolved from a common ancestor millions of years ago, it is uplifting to think that our aggressive traits may be the result of environmental pressures and specific situations as opposed to the more common belief that we they are inbred and impossible to avoid, or worse, some type of "original" sin that God has inflicted upon us. Perhaps if we stopped for a second, took our heads out of the swirling sands of materialism, greed, and winner takes all cutthroat competition, we might begin to understand that helping each other, those in our direct "pack", those in neighboring packs, and even those in packs that have different customs, language, skin color, religion, is a better way towards species survival.
If we believe that primates do what they do, the good, bad and the ugly (sorry Clint) out of a desire for access to food, shelter, and sex, then we need to address what forms this desire might take, and what methods provide the most food, shelter and sex for the most people. Clearly, killing all the competitors can produce this result, but only if you are willing to accept the possibility that you, as an individual, will be killed by someone with bigger muscles, whether those muscles are the ones on a body or in the form of tanks and bombs.
But, if we decide that peace through war is the ultimate oxymoron, then perhaps we might imitate the muriqui who do not measure their wealth by how much one has more than another, but by the collective resources and happiness of the group.
Monday, August 26, 2013
I drove my daughter to college over the weekend which has now resulted in our version of the empty nest. Of course, I miss her, just as I miss seeing my son, but I am also happy that our children are progressing towards independent lives without "parental" oversight. As I have said to my wife, while we might miss the kids, we (and especially my wife) did a great job raising them and it is time to let them fly on their own with the knowledge that they can return if they need to. Let's just hope they don't!!
As for writing, I must say I have been uninspired. My interest in politics is wavering, my interest in debating issues is flailing, my interest in time in front of my computer is slight. Still...
As the Affordable Care Act begins to kick in, and despite the obsession that the Republican Party has exhibited to repeal and/or defund it rather than addressing its weaknesses and proposing alternatives, I am hopeful that the American people will realize its benefits outweigh its negatives.
Ultimately, it seems apparent to me that we need to sever the link between employment and health care insurance. Everyone needs to become more involved in the cost of their health care, and as long as we allow our employers to act as intermediaries, and allow the health care industry to dictate coverage, benefits, and choices through the filter of their profit, rising premiums and costs will remain the norm.
From what I am hearing, the exchanges that are being set up in some of the states that are ahead of the curve on this issue, are providing much more attractive premiums than have been traditionally available to individuals and small businesses in the past. If we are not ready for a single payer option (due to the wrongheaded notion that this smacks of socialism) then we need to make sure that every state in America embraces the goal of providing the means for each of its citizens to have access to affordable health care insurance.
I often ask my friends and family what contribution their employer pays toward their health care premiums and many don't know. They certainly know what is deducted from their pay, but they don't know the extent of the subsidy that they are receiving from their employer. Perhaps if that subsidy was paid to the employee, and each employee was required to purchase their own health insurance, we would be more cognizant of its cost and shop for the policy that bests suits our needs. My experience has been that most employers offer a single rate and a family rate, and perhaps a married with no kids rate. But families with one kid might find a more suitable (and less costly) policy assuming that the family rate is based on an insurance company configuration that most likely assumes 2 or 2.5 kids per family. And, perhaps a single, healthy person might find a single rate on their own with a high deductible that would better suit their situation.
During my years of employment in the private sector, and in discussions with small business owners today, health insurance costs is a big part of their overhead, a pain to have to negotiate every year, a distraction from their actual business, and an impediment to hiring new employees.
Of course, all that assumes that the health insurance industry is forced to offer group rates to all Americans, regardless of the size of their employer or group affiliation. Yes, forced. And, it assumes that all people must participate; yes I am in favor of the "Romney" care individual mandate. Or, as Hilary Clinton might say, the 1990's Republican alternative to her universal healthcare proposals. And, it assumes that employers will increase the pay of their employees in lieu of the their current health care insurance subsidy.
You see, I believe in the market place to establish supply and demand for most products and services. But, as there are exceptions to every rule, health care insurance is the exception to this rule. If you want to buy a car, you purchase the car that you can afford. But if you are really sick, you need the health care services that will make you well, despite your ability to pay. Everyone deserves an insurance plan that provides basic health care services with a catastrophic option that prevents bankruptcy, or worse, the necessity of choosing between health and death. But personal involvement in the coverage, benefits and costs of our own health care and health care insurance may be the only way to break the vicious cycle of escalating health care costs.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Next to each name is a dollar figure, the amount of money donated to each of these elected officials by a gun lobby or gun manufacturer. These numbers are not made-up and can be easily confirmed by accessing donation records and bank receipts. Happily, not all of those voting against those gun control proposals received overly generous donations, but sadly most of them did. The number at the bottom is the total donations, the amount of money it took for this particular piece of legislation to be defeated despite the overwhelming support of the American people. It represents the most recent price paid to buy our democracy.
Vote for representatives who are not afraid to sacrifice their jobs by supporting gun control regulations that will put them on the various “hit” lists that those with the money and power use to intimidate those who disagree with their agenda.
Ten days later, a group of victims of the shootings created an organization advocating the election defeat of those identified as pro-gun. A smaller group of victims attended NRA rallies as proof that more guns were needed in America.
Similarly, those with Brady scores above 50 were almost universally re-elected while 43 representatives with Brady scores below 50 lost their re-election bid.