Friday, August 28, 2009

All a Twitter over Iran

I was amazed to see how effectively Twitter and cellphones with cameras were used to create the impression that the Iranian elections were a fraud.

Yes, it was only an impression, but it has stuck. The Twittering and i-phone images have been used by pundits and politicians to cast doubt on the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the governance of Iran.

For example, here's the introduction to the overview of a recent week's worth of special reports on Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program broadcast on NPR:

“The turmoil that erupted following Iran's disputed presidential election in June has put the Islamic republic squarely back into the headlines. But in some ways it has obscured a bigger, on-going concern for the U.S. and the international community: the question of whether Iran's theocratic regime is on its way to becoming a nuclear-armed state.”

This is the link to all the segments.

Then, you also have the Washington Post, with this story.

Who Will Stand With Iranians?
Afshin Molavi, A17 (Post)
"...protest a fraudulent election last month, braving...repressive theocrats. Iran's rulers would have...beaten and... "

(Molavi was also a guest on one of the NPR segments above. He sounds like Jerry Rubin of the Chicago Seven, all for regime change, both parties. Of course, I feel that way now about our Congress and President... doesn't seem to make much difference which party is in power.)

Twitter showed it all

Twitter showed the violence, as the media could not in this relatively closed society. I didn't find this much different than the scant coverage of violence and police brutality at the Miami and Seattle G8 conferences, or more recently the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota last year.

Yes, what happened in Iran was violent and passionate. There was death. But, I think we must look at these events through the perspective of history. Iran is going through what America went through in the 1960's. Anti-government, anti-war and civil rights protesters were killed then. Its also noteworthy that while our government tried to pin many of the demonstations in the 60's on the commies, the Iranian government has announced that it didn't find outside interference.

America's protests and civil unrest in the 1960's changed America, as government was forced to respond to the people. It was an internal matter for us, as the demonostrations should be for Iran. It sped our departure from Vietnam and helped insure voting rights for all Americans. I believe Iran's government will also be more accommodating.

Unfortunate outcomes are possible, though. While the demonstrations helped eliminate the draft, it changed our National Guard. This restructuring of our National Guard is what enabled its abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without the draft, the Chicken Hawks can protect their chicks. When control of the Guard shifted from the state and the governor to the President, it undermined state preparedness (New Orleans, Kansas, California), and gave the president an easy way to get troops into wars on foreign soil.

The Good and Bad of Twittered Reality

It's all about perspective. The good, is that through images and words via cell phones and Internet tools people can learn things that otherwise would be hidden. (This is one reason Net Neutrality is vital.) How more powerful would Kent State had been had we seen those students being killed and heard the disbelief and agony of their fellow students on i-phones? Maybe the war would have ended earlier.

Other other hand, as the Iranian experience demonstrates, Twittering can be used as a propaganda tool. Those Twittering were the college demonstrators in the streets. We were getting one perspective and our media and government ran with it.

The truth beyond the Twitter

Policy and decisionmaking should never be based on anecdotal evidence. People shouldn't be driven by soundbites, information out of context, or first impressions.

Despite all the Twittering and subsequent spin, the election wasn't a fraud. The results were in line with independent pre-election polling. This was covered in the press, but the Twittering and the images buried the truth.

History is helpful when trying to shed light on the truth

The truth is that a little more than 50 years ago, the C.I.A. worked with the British to overthrow the a newly established democracy won by the Iranian people when the old Shah died, and install his young son as the new Shah of Iran. This was done to prevent the new government from instituting its plan to nationalize the oil industry. The overthrow of the Shah had been peaceful, while the reinstating the Shah led to murder of over 2,000 writers, educators, political leaders and others involved in creating Iran's short-lived democracy.

In reaction 30 years ago, the Shah's government was again overthrown, this time by the only leadership the people of Iran were allowed to have outside the Shah and his American-financed and trained military, the religious leaders. That is where Iran is today, but it moving forward, if we let it.

The Future of Iran

America, Britain, the Saudi's and Israeli's are trying to dictate Iran's future. They do not want a free and independent Iran nor one that can meet the needs of its people. They want chaos and control. They want war, and its where we are heading. The media on boths sides, from the Huffington Post to the Manchester Union Leader are all for it. Thankfully, Obama is showing restraint, whereas had McCain and the quitter been in office we likely would be more strident.

Don't believe me? Why do you think we are building up in Afghanistan and have our troops garrisoned at permanent bases built by Halliburton-KBR in Iraq? We don't have justifiable reasons for having our troops in either country, but there we are. Just look at a map. It will tell you all you need to know.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The healthcare solution not being debated

For the strength and health of the economy we need a single-payer healthcare system covering all Americans. Call it socialism if you want, but capitalism needs it. The people that have insurance need it, as much as those who aren't insured. The problem is that no one inside the Beltway is talking about it. Too much money at stake.

Looking at the budget

When times are tough, and they are tough on Main Streets all over America, most businesses, households and individuals put together a budget. They look at their allocation of resources, how and where they spend their money and where they can cut costs or save. Our government needs to do the same.

When people stopped spending money because it was getting eaten up by high gas, Rx, and health insurance costs, coupled with Wall Street's issues with greed and the resulting economic downturn, a business owner I know, who has been an employer for over 15 years, cut his health insurance ($600 a month) just to help keep himself paid and not cut payroll. He's in the private market and doesn't have the “options” that Gov. Pawlenty and others representing the health insurance industry say exist. The “smart consumer” doesn't always have a place to turn to in our free enterprise system of healthcare. For one thing, most are covered under employer plans, not chosen by them.

The budget of the United States of America, not just the federal government's budget, is reflected in the Gross Domestic Product. U.S. spending on healthcare is 17 percent of GDP, while other major industrialized countries spend about 10 percent of GDP, and they cover every one their citizens.

These countries save by efficiency. They also save because the emphasis of their single-payer systems is prevention and treatment. In our system the emphasis is profit, and then treatment--if it's covered.

The sick thing is the immense profits aren't being made by doctors providing the care, but the HMOs and insurers who profit through policy limitations and denying people's claims. The sad thing is the people covered by insurance are paying the high costs of the emergency room visits of people often death's door because they did not have insurance and could not get early treatment for their disease. These taxpayers are also picking up part of the tab for the wreckage bankruptcy causes families due to medical catastrophes. So think about it: We are paying 70% more and getting less.

People whose nations have single-payer systems fare better in virtually every measure of health, while we rank with third world countries in such basic measures as infant mortality, 45th, just behind Cuba. These countries don't have the personal bankruptcies we have. The Main Street small business owner doesn't have to decide between hiring another employee or forgoing health insurance.

There are other issues not being addressed or discussed in our government's refusal to even raise the topic of a single-payer system. This is largely because they are bought off with our very own healthcare dollars funneled through K Street.

Even a “Moderate Republican” can understand the current system is adverse to our economic and national security, because we let 50 million Americans fall through the cracks. I ask, are you really worried about a pandemic? If you are, then we need a universal healthcare delivery system.

Keep it Simple

How do we get to a single payer system without too much disruption to the HMOs and insurance industry? We phase it in. Certainly, not through this “public option” being written by lobbyists. It is destined to be a dumping ground for high risk, high cost insureds, and “fail” because its costs will be higher than private industry.

Rather, we do it by extending Medicare, the closest thing we have to a single-payer system, to those 50 years old and older, now. Then in 10 years, drop the age to 35, and then extend it to everyone in 2025. Age eligible persons insured under a group plan could stay on those plans.

Note: Since writing my piece below, Keith Olbermann has done a nice piece on the bi-partisan shakedown.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shakedowns will continue

The current healthcare bill is a mess, and isn't what America needs. We need to move to a single payer modeled on any of several used by the other democratic industrialized countries.

This is something that United Healthcare Group doesn't want to see. After all, they just posted a 155 percent increase in profits a couple of days ago. It doesn't want single payer, and to it even the public option is unacceptable. So, if the dollars they've poured into Congress weren't enough, they also want their "facts" used.

Since the bill was introduced, the GOP has been citing studies by a "non-partisan, independent research organization," the Lewin Group. Turns out, the Lewin Group is a creature of Ingenix, which is a United Healthcare Group company.

United Healthcare Group and other HMOs have been shaking down healthcare consumers by massive profit taking and it has to stop. This plan doesn't address that or the other ills that make our healthcare the best for a few people, but not most; and double the cost of most single payer systems.

If you don't think we're being taken, one needs only look at UHG's Bill McGuire who has made well over a billion dollars off his company. He tried to take home $1.6 billion when he left his post, but getting caught for backdating options halved the amount he could pocket. HMO overhead is ten times that of the Social Security administration, and they don't have the profit motive to prevent citizens from receiving what's due them.

Shakedown II, Congress brings back moneymaker

One thing both Democrats and Republicans in Congress can agree on, they love healthcare reform that goes nowhere. They learned that back in the early 90's with the Clinton plan. It netted both sides of the aisle more money than any other issue they keep out there to keep the money flowing in.

Remember? Nothing happened, and nothing will happen now. Harry Reid and his cohorts, and Nancy and hers will make sure everyone is happy by doing next to nothing. Reid has already postponed a vote in the Senate. The cash is coming in too hot and heavy to vote. I understand Chairman Baucus has already netted about $3 million. Nice money for doing nothing!