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As I watch the debate over health care coverage rage in Washington in the early months of the Donald Trump Dark Age in America, I’m struck by the fact that everyone on both sides of the political aisle is completely ignoring the elephant in the room.  That neglected elephant sitting idly by flopping its trunk is the option that neither Democrats nor Republicans are talking about–Single Payer Healthcare For All Americans of Medicare For All.  Democrats argue for a tinkering-around-the-edges improvement of Obamacare, not repeal.  Moderate Republicans argue for repeal and replace simultaneously, while others of a more diabolical stripe on the Far Right argue for full repeal first and a “replacement” down the road.  Nowhere is there any discussion of jettisoning the middle man private insurance part of the health care equation.  Why?  I’d argue the obvious, that politicians on both sides of the aisle are beholden to both the private insurance and Big Pharma lobbies.  Aetna, Humana, and United Healthcare are not remotely interested in low cost coverage for Americans, they’re interested in enhancing their corporate bottom line.  President Obama put some restrictions on how these profit machines operated and now the GOP is desperately trying to roll back those restrictions as quickly as possible.  Right wing extremist organizations like the Club For Growth, along with the GOP House of Representatives’ misnamed Freedom Caucus, are trying to get the federal government completely out of healthcare.  Their wet dream is for themselves and their families to have their own quality health insurance while letting the unwashed masses fend for themselves at the mercy of their states policies.  And didn’t Rand Paul say fairly recently that those with huge health care bills should lean on their church charity?  It was his Marie Antoinette-inspired  “let them eat cake” solution.

Industry lobbyists do pour into Washington like rats into a sewer to bribe as many politicians as possible while justice-seeking saints like Senator Bernie Sanders advocate for Single Payer healthcare to remove corporate profit motive from the equation.  Of course we know which side is winning and it’s not the American people at large.  Since 99% of politicians in Washington are on the take, they don’t broach Single Payer at all, wrongfully claiming socialized medicine doesn’t work.  Forget the overwhelming evidence that comes out of industrialized countries that it works and works well.  Even conservative politicians in the United Kingdom are rightly proud of their own National Health Service.  And if Americans were educated as to how well taken care of Norwegians, Swedes, the French, and the Germans are served by their health care systems, they’d be up in arms demanding we acquire true universal health care.  This is where the Right Wing propaganda wing of Amerika protests with vehement cries about how everything must be horrific by definition under socialism, especially health care.

As I listened this morning to wholesome-looking but diabolical Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan try to convince me that the GOP American Health “Die Early” Care Act would be an improvement over Obamacare, I wanted to jump through the screen like the menacing girl Samara in “The Ring” and choke the lying life out of him.  It also reminded me of that episode of the Twilight Zone decades ago where an alien species came down to earth and claimed they wanted to help humankind.  The aliens brought a book with them entitled “To Serve Man,” which earth language experts suspiciously attempted to decode, only to discover that it wasn’t a book about philanthropy, but was instead a cookbook.  Cut to Paul Ryan and his bought-off ilk trying to sell us their own version of what I’ll call the “The To Serve Man GOP Healthcare Act,” which will radically drive up costs to average Americans and reduce coverage, all while giving wealthy people significant tax breaks.  Of course GOP leaders are relying on the predictability of Americans in swallowing their bitter pill while interpreting its manna from heaven.  Tens of thousands of Americans will die for lack of coverage if the GOP isn’t stopped; meanwhile gutless Democrats who’ve been partially bought off won’t even bring up Single Payer unless their name is Bernie Sanders or Howard Dean.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, had he lived to serve out his 4th term as president, would have done his best to enact true universal healthcare through what he called a “Second Bill of Rights.”  But alas, he died before he got to fulfill his dream of extending the New Deal to provide all Americans with universal coverage.  As a result we’re left to watch a debate between politicians on the Right and the Center, with neither side remotely interested in looking at that neglected elephant.

 

 

One of my favorite Shakespeare quotes goes as follows: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Going back as far as I can remember, I’ve pondered where we as beings came from before birth and go to after we die.  After all, if you think for a moment about our brief physical existence, as Shakespeare also wrote, strutting and fretting our hours upon this stage, don’t you wonder what’s behind the veil?   There was a moment in Woody Allen’s film “Hannah and Her Sisters” where his hypochondriacal character Mickey thinks he’s dying, gets a clean bill of health, and then becomes ecstatic–until moments later he realizes that his stay of execution is only temporary, that we’re all going to die.  He then goes on a temporary quest to find out what it’s all about, reading all the spiritual literature he can.  Well, that would also be me.  I’ve been obsessed, given the fact that I’ve not lived the life I’d have scripted out for myself, with finding out what it’s all about.  My life often reflects the sentiment Daniel Stern expressed in “City Slickers” when he said that he wanted his life to be a “do-over.”

Do we have souls that survive physical death and move into an unseen dimension or are we literally our bodies?  I’m inclined to lean heavily on the former rather than the latter and the reason is more than simply self-serving wishful thinking.  Let’s face facts, in a very real sense, if we don’t survive physical death we won’t even exist to be upset about it.  If we do survive it’s an adventure I can imagine being very excited about.  Having no fundamentalist religious beliefs that instill fear, I have no worries about how I’ve lived my life and any possible negative karmic consequences.

My hypothesis that we survive physical death is based on many things I’ve read,  bizarre synchronicities I’ve experienced, appreciation for the complexity and brilliance of all things alive (if it’s Darwinism, what creative force put Darwinism into place?), and most convincingly, amazing accounts I’ve read and listened to from those who have shared near death experiences.  I fully acknowledge that surviving the deaths of our bodies seems too good to be true, and that hypothetically the dying brain can conjure up imaginings of life after death as a way to comfort us in our fear of non-existence, but what convinces me beyond a reasonable doubt that we aren’t our bodies are accounts of NDE’ers reporting what they witnessed from outside their bodies during surgery or above accident scenes or of hearing conversations that went on way away from the physical space their bodies were located at.  Many neurosurgeons are totally baffled by such NDE’er accounts, especially since during heart stoppage for only a few seconds, the brain stops functioning. Such doctors don’t talk about these phenomena readily since they have no explanation for how it’s possible and at the same time they don’t want to lose credibility with their scientifically-oriented peers.  They routinely ignore the writings of various doctors such as cardiologist and writer Dr. Pim van Lommel, NDE experiencer Dr. Eben Alexander, NDE experiencer Dr. Mary Neal, Dr. Raymond Moody, and many others who’ve been brave enough in their search for the truth to ignore the peer pressure to remain silent.

Scientists often dismiss the notion that we aren’t our bodies before even examining the evidence, which has given rise to the de facto religion of scientism, which means, according to Wikipedia, “the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative world view or the most valuable part of human learning–to the exclusion of other viewpoints.”  The credo of scientism is “if it doesn’t fit with our existing world view and we can’t reproduce extraordinary claims in a laboratory, it must not be given any credence.”

For my money the exploration of inner space should be the next frontier of a more enlightened science.  If only NDE accounts were followed up by open-minded scientists who don’t automatically discount all anecdotal evidence as nonsense, perhaps we’d be headed to a place where people wouldn’t have such a dreaded fear of what lies beyond. Frankly, science may never even get there since it might be wholly inadequate for material science to prove an immaterial reality.

I challenge readers to explore YouTube, listen to and watch as many NDE accounts as you can, and come away at least open-minded about the possibility of there being more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.  Check out channels like NDEAccounts, IANDSvideos, Anita Moorjani, Raymond Moody, Near Death Experience: Healed by the Light.

Every time I watch “my” senator, John McCain (who admittedly was a brave soldier who survived years of being held prisoner by the North Vietnamese) give advise about either domestic or foreign policy, I want to let go of a primal scream that reaches all the way to his luxurious Arizona home.   Setting aside the troubling fact that if it were up to him we’d tear up the Iran Deal and posture ourselves for a war with Iran, or that he seems like the human embodiment of a Star Trek Klingon, this man should be removed from office for one reason and one reason alone:

When MccCain ran for president in 2008 against Barack Obama and it looked like he was on the path to almost certain defeat, he picked Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate.  When I first learned that he picked this relatively unknown governor of Alaska, my initial reaction was one of worry.  “Oh shit,’ I thought, “this is an attractive, charismatic woman who’s the governor of the country’s largest state.  Obama’s in trouble.”  Then she spoke to Katie Couric and demonstrated that a) Alaskan voters should be quarantined and b) Alaska should be demoted to a US territory and not an actual state that affects legislation on any meaningful level.  To give us 50 states again we could have promoted Puerto Rico or Guam.

McCain obviously didn’t vet Sarah Palin himself.  He left it to his staff to make this reckless pick for him and then proceeded to ignore the fact (not alternative fact allowed) that she’s an idiot who can’t sound coherent even by accident.  Given American voting behavior, had Barack Obama not been such a transcendent candidate, McCain would have been president, which is disturbing enough, but Sarah Palin would have been a stroke or heart attack away from the nuclear codes as president.  Think about that for a moment.  Making matters worse, McCain has always stood by his pick and likely will never admit until his death bed that picking Palin was potentially catastrophic:  “Cindy, I made a huge mistake.  I hope God forgives me for almost making a dimwit leader or the free world.”

Therefore I don’t care what advice John McCain gives to Donald Trump on cabinet appointments or anything else.  The Arizona fossil needs to just shut the fuck up, retire immediately, and let Cindy spoon feed him Gerber’s until he faces his maker, who’ll look at him quizzically and say “John, what the fuck were you thinking.  Normally I don’t judge, but in your case I’ll make an exception.”

 

 

 

I’ve been watching and listening to Donald Trump supporters in the lead-up to the election and after the election  and I have to say that I’m completely stupefied by them.   I understand the essential philosophical differences in points of view between Democrats and Republicans. I get how someone who doesn’t like taxes and wants smaller government can be enthusiastic about his/her candidate for president (as if Donald Trump is a traditional Republican).

What I fail to get is the inspired, teary-eyed response to a man whose multitude of sins and character flaws can’t be underestimated.  From defrauding unsuspecting and financially vulnerable students at Trump University, to sexually assaulting any woman he wants to given the opportunity, to hiding the fact he doesn’t pay his fair share of taxes, Trump is clearly a man that no sane, moral, or empathetic person can be inspired by.  

So please, Trump worshippers, spare me the platitudes about what a wonderful day this is for America and the world when a narcissistic, hate-encouraging demagogue replaces a kind, decent, scandal-free president in Barack Obama, who stewarded the country from the brink of economic collapse that George W. Bush got us to. Look yourselves in the mirror and at least admit that your new-found hero doesn’t appeal to your better angels, but instead to your more exclusionary, self-interested persona.  

We’ve been hearing a lot of blather lately about how our national budget is so stretched and our deficit is so huge that we either must raise taxes or cut entitlements or a combination of both. Much of this debate pretends there doesn’t exist any solution to high health care costs other than reducing benefits to those who aren’t yet on the doorstep of Medicare eligibility. And that’s exactly the way the health insurance lobby wants it. While lobbyists spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually bribing our elected officials and successfully steering them away from any solution that would involve eradicating health insurance companies, people are going bankrupt, losing their homes, and making “Sophie’s choices” between food and rent. President Obama, who was once for “Single Payer Health Care,” now says that he doesn’t want to disrupt health care as we know it by radically changing our health care delivery system. That’s code for “I can’t do anything to successfully combat the economic clout of the health insurance lobby, so let’s just try to do what little we can to incrementally improve this broken system.”

Just what is the purpose of health insurance companies, anyway? Are they not in business to make a profit? And if that’s what they’re in business to do, what kind of coverage do they really want to offer their customers? I would argue that these companies have teams of lawyers and accountants staying up late at night–every night–trying to figure out how to make sure they provide as little coverage as is legally possible. An essential part of this plan is to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to demonize the very concept of a health care system that would be administered by state or federal governments. After all, if they can make government itself the bad guy most of their work is done for them. Tea Party members have, with the aid of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, etal, latched on to this mantra, “private enterprise is good, government is bad,” with a vengeance. Yet within the last couple of weeks polls have indicated that even Tea Party members don’t want their Medicare tampered with, whether they’re getting it now or on the verge of getting it within the next couple of decades. Soon, I hope, this huge health insurance lobby con will be exposed to enough light to expose the truth, that health insurance companies are simply the price-gauging middle men standing between you and your doctor as the real death panels preventing you from receiving the care you deserve at an affordable price. Quality health care should be a right for all citizens, not a privilege for the select few who can afford it. Perhaps it’ll take millions of more bankruptcies and foreclosures for this message to get across to the general public. Perhaps then even Fox News and Ann Coulter won’t be able to convince Americans that government itself isn’t the bad guy, that maybe Single Payer Health Care can be as effective as Medicare is to the people who currently depend on it in an otherwise financially perilous world. I know I’d rather pay a little more in taxes to the federal or state government rather than pay high premiums to insurance companies who are forever inventing ways to escape covering me. Don’t fall for the big con.

It’s sad to see Roger Federer fade away little by little, but what’s sadder is that it’s being done systematically by the tennis powers that be. The Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open have all changed their surfaces to suit the style of play that makes Rafael Nadal such an intimidating force. In other words, those surfaces have been made to emulate the red clay of Roland Garros. Grass isn’t grass anymore and hard courts aren’t hardcourts. With the slowed down and bouncier surfaces Nadal has become the king of clay, grass, and hard courts. I’m not sure that Pete Sampras or Boris Becker would even recognize Wimbledon anymore since the ball jumps off the court to a level that makes the already formidable Nadal even more intimidating. Is it really this necessary to homogenize all of the tennis world’s surfaces in order to make one player dominant?

If you think I’m simply a Federer fan who’s bitter at his slow but sure marginalization, just look at what happens on the indoor courts of at year end championships in London, or previous to that in Shanghai. The courts are very fast on that surface, and guess what, Federer reigns supreme at that round robin event. Nadal couldn’t even manage to win a match last year at those championships. If the ATP wants grass and hard courts to be like clay, why not make all of the courts exactly the same? But if we want to measure the true greatness of a player, we need to go back to making these surfaces true to their history. The true measure of a player would then be to see which of today’s greats–Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray–or somebody new, can intrude on another’s favorite surface.

I’m still in a state of semi-ecstatic shock that Paul Ryan put his head on the chopping block by advocating wholesale destruction of Medicare and Medicaid. Replacing the currently seamless care seniors now receive with vouchers of limited value? Really? He has basically gifted President Obama with campaign talking points from electoral heaven. Ryan could have offered the suggestion that Medicare or even Social Security could be means-tested, but no, he judges that Americans are center/right rather than center/left on this issue. He should have known better when it comes to Americans and the sacred programs they’ve enjoyed since the birth of LBJ’s “Great Society.” Between Ryan’s and the House GOP’s miscalculations on this issue and the inane stupidity of the “Birther” movement, Obama must feel as if Christmas has come 7 months early.