Saturday, February 05, 2011

Kiwis in America

My niece, Sophie, and her boyfriend, Adam, are traveling around the States and blogging about their discoveries. As New Zealanders, they often find themselves strangers in a strange land.

Think of their blog, "Back in 5," as combination free-wheeling travelogue and de Tocqueville lite.

Adam is a photographer. A professional chef, he often photographs food — deliciously.

Sophie provides the narrative and is featured in many photographs. She has done stints as a model and it shows in many of Adam's portraits of her.

Above she is in a California Costco, overwhelmed by the hugeness of it all. To the left, you can barely see her amid the Redwoods.

They are headed to Europe after their time here. Consider joining them — on-line. They're a trip!

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Constitutionally mandated health care

It seems odd but I find myself in agreement with Federal Judge Roger Vinson’s decision that the health reform law has fatal constitutional flaws.

I’m with the judge: The government shouldn’t be forcing you and me to make private purchases.

That said, the reasons for the reforms in the new law still hold true. Prior to the reforms, the American health care system was both absurd and cruel.

The Judge’s opinion alluded to the system’s injustices and outrages in more mild, but in no uncertain terms, when he wrote:

"... I must reluctantly conclude that Congress exceeded the bounds of its authority in passing the Act with the individual mandate. That is not to say, of course, that Congress is without power to address the problems and inequities in our health care system.”
Note the use of the word “reluctantly.” The Judge “gets it.”

What we need is not an “individual mandate” but the implementation of a constitutionally derived mandate on our government.

Our constitution’s preamble famously requires government to “promote the general welfare.” And by any measure, welfare includes providing the citizenry with adequate and equitable health care.

Without waiting for the Supreme Court’s inevitable concurrence with Vinson’s decision, our government should proceed to do what other nations, rich and poor, have done: Establish universal health coverage through a single payer.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

When will our own Streets speak?

Let see, masses of demonstrators take to the streets in Egypt and our government slowly and agonizingly pivots. With considerable diplomatic hand wringing, it no longer supports a leader who has taken office through rigged elections and brute police force. Hosni Mubarak has stayed in power for 30 years thanks in large measure to our hunger for oil, deals with the Israelis, and the US taxpayers’ underwriting the Egyptian military.

Okay, now that we’ve seen the light, what do we have planned for the Saudi monarchy with its own dark, US-supplied forces? Or what about our support for the king of Jordan? Or the sheiks in Dubai? And what’s the deal with propping up the patently corrupt Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan? And there's the little matter of the Israeli land grab in the West Bank.

I don’t have a checklist handy of all the tyrants and outrageous causes we’ve supported down through the years and around the world. It is a still active list. And the list is long.

Are we waiting for the streets to speak again?

Then there’s our own manipulated and questionable “democracy” where big money rules, and the wealthy and large corporations have the system rigged. We don’t call it corruption here. It’s all perfectly legal. It’s just that the laws are written by lawmakers bought and paid for by the rich. Example: The CEO of struggling Bank of America just raked in $10 million for is “work” last year. This is the same outfit the government bailed out two years ago — with our money.

If we weren’t so wrapped up in the latest entertainment frenzy (the current one, of course, is the Super Concussion Bowl — love those hits!), we might take to the streets ourselves. It has been known to happen. Two “street” actions within living memory were the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War protests. They didn’t produce permanent fixes, but they nudged things in the right direction.

And there was the original Tea Party, the one long ago that wasn’t underwritten by Corporate America.

But for now there’s more important stuff to do than shaking off a sick and rigged form of government. There’s Valentine’s day and the NCAA March Madness and the NBA playoffs. Let the good times roll!

The presidential campaign, which is starting to gear up, is always good for a few laughs too. Remember “Hope” and “Yes we can!” What will it be in 2012?

While our television and computer screens glow in the night with “Dancing with the Stars” and Facebook “news,” our American streets are dark and mute.

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